Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rodney, the Distinguished Older Gentleman

Though I was very happy to reclaim the Raleigh Lady's Sports from my parents' house, doing so created a distinct velo disbalance betwen myself and the Co-Habitant. Clearly my Lady needed a Gentleman. Well, with New England being Vintage Bicycle Heaven, it did not take long for the right Gentleman to come along.

Meet Rodney, the Raleigh Roadster! According to the date on the hub, he was produced in 1972.

Rodney is a tall gentleman, with a 24" frame and 28" wheels. The Co-Habitant likes big bikes, and one of the reasons he chose the Roadster over the Sport is the larger frame size and wheels.


Original Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. Like all Raleigh Roadsters, this one has rod brakes. They look wonderful and are simple to maintain. But rod brakes make me uneasy, because they have close to zero stopping power in the rain.

The original Raleigh grips have been replaced with cork grips, which will soon be shellacked. A Japanese bell was added.

The Brooks B72 saddle had hardened with age, but it has now been treated and laced. The bicycle itself was in great shape. No parts needed to be replaced. Cosmetically Rodney looks excellent. The vintage black saddlebag was included in the purchase. CatEye Opticube LED Bike Light have been added (see front wheel).

The Co-Habitant says that the vintage Raleigh Roadster feels considerably lighter and "sportier" than his Pashley Roadster Sovereign. The Pashley, however, is a more comfortable ride (and can be safely ridden in the rain).

What a gorgeous pair of Roasters he now has, old and new! And the velo-balance in our household has been restored.

33 comments:

  1. Great bike!
    I completely approve of the bell and the grips. :)They're the same ones I have on my Columbia and I love how they work/look.

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  2. Thanks! I am a big fan of cork and leather-washer grips and can think of very few bicycles that would not benefit from them!

    The Crane bell is something my husband likes very much, but I am not sure how I feel about these. They look very pretty, but the ringing sounds a little unusual and overly prolonged -- is that just me? I will need a bell for my Raleigh Lady's Sport, so I am deciding whether this is the one I want.

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  3. Oh... and one source I found for 28" tires was Flying Pigeon L.A., FYI.

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  4. The shellacked grips are a deep fire amber, I adjusted slightly the angle of the seat and this bike is a marvel!

    It feels very stable in speed and over bumps. Not as solid as the Pashley--my tank roadster--but still very acceptable. I do feel that Rodney is my version of a sports bike. It matches my frame and weight well.

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  5. I love it. It's almost the twin to my Agatha. I just can't convince the Psycyclist to roll this way. He loves the look but claims he's been riding road bikes for too long to change now. He likes to be stretched out and feels uncomfortable riding in a more upright position.

    I completely agree with you about the brake issue. I rode Agatha home in the rain last week and I wasn't sure she was going to stop.

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  6. Doohickie, I have been admiring your 1960s Roadster! Very distinguished, especially with that light on the handlebars. Handsome!

    MDI, I think it is hillarious that you consider a vintage Raleigh Roadster with rod brakes your "sports bike" : )

    Jen, maybe the Psycyclist could get one of these and... install drop bars? Heh.

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  7. I have a Roadster on my "to acquire" list...along with probably 3 or 4 dozen other bikes I haven't even determined yet. LOL

    Love the old British steel! Yours is a stunning example. The old rod brakes teach caution and conservative riding, as well as keeping an eye out for a large bush to bail into.

    Aaron

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  8. Don't sell a British roadster short though. I was recognized on mine by someone from BikeForums.net and he said he had to work pretty hard to catch up to me (and really only did so because I stopped for a bit). The look conservative but are great for long, fairly high speed runs.

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  9. So what do you do exactly when it rains? If it's capable of considerable speed then it seems there should be more stopping power? It does not really make sense to me that the rod brakes were designed especially to withstand the English countryside, especially since it rains in Enlgand so much of the time...

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  10. I've got him sort of interested in the Trek Portland but that might be as close to style as he's gonna get. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag too. $1700

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  11. Oh my, $1700 for a Trek?.. Jen, for that money, show him the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe!

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  12. Well, Rodney is not a fan of stopping. As someone suggested earlier, it absolutely teaches one to be conservative and think (and look) ahead. Coming down a hill on Church Street in Harvard Sq in the rain, I have to test the brakes a bit before the stop sign or else risk having to take the pedestrian detour to Mt Auburn Street... :)

    ---

    I am not yet certain what to do about rod brakes and rain. They plain don't work enough to be safe. I'm probably going to eventually replace the brake shoes or talk to Harris Cyclery to see what they suggest. There is no reason rod brakes should be THIS bad in the rain, my shoe rubber is probably too oily, not grippy enough and needs service.

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  13. Rods brakes work as well as any other rim brake on steel rims in the rain if properly adjusted. There is a bike shop in the BOS area that at least one of the guys knows how to do them (don't recall the name at the moment) FWIW we currently own one bike with rod brakes, but it is still in pieces. My brides Red Hercules Skyliner has rod brakes, and oddly enough 26x1-3/8" wheels!

    Aaron

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  14. Hi Chaps, great blog!
    I remember crashing into a few hedges on my father's Raleigh roadster, those rods can lack a little stopping power. 25 years later I now ride a Pashley Roadster Soverign and my friend Jim a 1955 Raleigh Roadster. I have a couple of posts about the roadsters on my blog, here is one with a video of us on the bikes.
    http://bicycleandukulele.wordpress.com/videos/

    Best
    Nipper

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  15. I live in Texas. If there's a hint of rain, I ride one of my other bikes. Sorry, not much help.

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  16. This isn't as stylish, but add some fenders and this might do a little better in the rain. And if I'm not mistaken, it was made in Kent, WA, at the Releigh factory.

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  17. Sweet bike! Looks so much like a Pashley roadster.

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  18. Nipper, thanks for the link to your blog -- beautiful bikes!

    MDI, you need to photograph the Pashley and the vintage Raleigh side by side!

    Doohickie, MDI's other bike is a new Pashley Roadster that is absolutely marvelous in the rain, so having a bike for when it rains is not a problem. Interesting that you mention road bikes though; I have a feeling that one of those is in his future as well!

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  19. Love this bike. My "Co-Habitant" (or I guess I should say one of my co-habitants since we have three mini-habitants living with us, too) rides an incredibly beautiful bike-- a 1967 Rudge Roadster-- that served his father well in NYC and spent many years in a apartment-building basement, only to be reclaimed last year.

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  20. What a lovely bicycle! Rodney is completely charming.

    Maybe I can get your input: I'm trying to decide what grips to put on my late-60s Raleigh Sprite: cork grips or the leather sew-on elk-hide ones at Velo Orange (http://www.velo-orange.com/elsecibigr.html).

    Any compelling reason to choose one over the other? Do you guys find the cork comfy? (I rode 15 miles today and the original plastic grips left my hands hurting and black-smudged. They must go!)

    I can't afford the Brooks leather ring-grips, unfortunately, since I have to replace the b-66 seat...

    Best -
    - Kristin in Chicago

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  21. I wonder why you have to replace the B66 seat? Is it far too gone to restore? Neatsfoot oil and Brooks Proofide (and sometimes creative lacing...) can bring back many scruffy-looking Brooks seats, unless they are cracked at the nose or spine, of course.

    I never tried elk hide grips, but have some experience with cork and Brooks leather washer grips. Cork is softer and more damping, but leather washers provide more friction so you don't need to grip as tightly. If your hands tire and hurt because you squeeze so hard, you might want a grip that's not smooth. I imagine elk hide is somewhere in the middle, less slippery than cork, but not as grippy as the Brooks washers. Ultimately, I think a lot comes down to what look you prefer, and whether you're willing to shellack the cork--if not, get the elk hide.

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  22. MDI -- keep in mind that the elk hide grips need to be hand-sewn onto the handlebars, so they require even more DIY than shellacking cork or wrapping tape. They are usually sold in a kit with needle and thread.

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  23. Hi again, Kristin here.

    Thanks for the input on grips! The idea of hand sewing kind of appeals to me, actually, since I'm fairly crafty. But I might take the easier route and go for shellacked cork grips, especially after looking at your recent tutorial. (They look great, incidentally.)

    Oh, and the B66 s saddle must be replaced since it is non-existent: the bike was sold to me with a cruddy modern, plastic seat. Apparently the Raleigh Sprite came with the B66 originally - so I suppose I'm using "replace" creatively. Anyone out there have an extra one lying around that I could buy? ; ) I plan on haunting ebay to see what turns up...

    All the best -
    - Kristin

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  24. K-

    Personally I prefer to support my local shop, Harris Cyclery, but there is a seller on ebay who sells Brooks saddles on the cheap. I do not remember the name of the seller, but MDI knows so hopefully he'll chime in. If you're buying the B66, consider the B66 S, which is the same thing but slightly shorter and wider, designed for female sit-bone placement.

    If you are crafty, then you will definitely enjoy the elk hide grip project. VO sells them for drop bars and city-bike bars, and swears that they are easy to install.

    for drop bars:
    http://www.velo-orange.com/elsebarco.html

    for city-bike bars:
    http://www.velo-orange.com/elsecibigr.html

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  25. Yes, I was definitely thinking of the S / female version of the B66.

    Most of my local bike shops just carry the racy looking unsprung Brooks... but I haven't been to the Chicago Dutch Bike or the Copenhagen shop yet. (I'm afraid I won't be able to control myself and I'll walk out with a Pashley or Velobris and a pile of debt.)

    I'll have to document & share pics if I decide to try the city-bike elk leather grips...

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  26. I don't know, buying a seat is sort of a personal experience. You shouldn't order a Brooks seat you've never tried online. You need to really feel it in your hands for a while, play with the sprngs, examine the leather. Maybe even look through a pile of them until the choice solidifies.

    If I was for some reason replacing the B33 that came on my Pashley with another B33, I would not need to make choice and could possibly simply buy at a lower price on Ebay, but... you see, Harris is one of the largest stockers of Brooks products in the US and paying them a little bit more really makes sense to me. I know that if I ever have a problem with anything, Harris is there for me. I don't want to build a relationship with a bunch of online stores, nor do I think that it can be done. If you have a local official Brooks dealer that charges fair prices (Harris does!) please consider supporting them so that they can keep ordering the nifty limited edition Brooks items and other toys that you may want to see in the future.

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  27. Thanks again for the input. I'll look locally first for my saddle needs.

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  28. My Raleigh is rusting to death. I feel like such a bad bike owner. No garage by the sea.

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  29. Love the blog. Looking for a vintage steel upright roadster in the greater Cambridge area, and I know that you said "New England [is] Vintage Bicycle Heaven"-- where are the best places to look? And do you do most of your rehabilitation yourself, or do you go to Harris Cyclery?

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  30. Craig - You have two main choices here basically: Craigslist and Old Roads. Old Roads is a vintage bike shop in the basement of the Cambridge Antique Mall, and they regularly have two or more roadsters when we come in there. And Craigslist is - well - you know. If you browse this, you can sometimes find Raleigh roadsters sold at ridiculously low prices. Sometimes they are junkers, but sometimes they are great and the owners just wants to get rid of them. We do some of the rehabilitation ourselves, some at Harris. With time, we are learning more and doing more ourselves.

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  31. Love this blog! I've been into old bikes for 20 years and English roadsters for the last 10. I have a soft spot for the DL-1 and currently have 4 (including an all-chrome model with a 22" frame and 26" balloon tires) even though my little short legs can barely reach the pedals on the 24" framed monsters.

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  32. in regards to the brakes on these bikes--
    i have a DL-1 just like this.... with rod brakes and all. no, they do not stop in the rain. i solved this problem! i laced a Sturmey Archer TCW tri-coaster onto the rear wheel. i have the same three speeds, the same rod brakes, everything is the same, the only difference is the torque arm on the rear hub. now i have THREE brakes and i can stop!

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