A New Acquaintance... and a New Career?

Today I would like to share with you that I have officially become a Bicycle Photographer. As you can imagine, this translates to a life of fame and glamour - and will finally enable me to quit my dayjob and live as a full-time artiste. Okay, perhaps I am getting just a little ahead of myself. But I have recently been asked to photograph someone's bicycle collection, and I am excited to be working on this project.

A.T. (aka "somervillain") is a vintage bicycle lover who lives in the Boston area. He is an occasional commentator on this blog and a member of bikeforums. Based on the photos of my own bicycles that he has seen me post, A.T. invited me to document his and his wife's vintage collection. So far we have only done one photo session, and I post a few of the images here.

The star of these photos is A.T.'s 1950s Raleigh DL-1 Roadster - the same bicycle as the Co-Habitant's Rodney, but older and with a full chaincase, as well as dynamo-powered lighting (front and rear!).

I must say that this DL-1 is in better condition than any other I have seen, particularly the chrome parts. When I first saw this bike from a distance, my thought was that it must be a modern replica. Of course up close all the signs of wear and age are visible, but its condition is none the less terrific.

Those who like vintage Raleigh 3-speeds know how rare it is to actually have that dynamo headlight attached to the "Heron" mount and working!

Here is a close-up of the headlight, handlebars and rod levers. The roses are distracting here (roses in November?), but it's the best close-up I have of this area.

Incredibly clean and shiny rod brakes.

Front dynamo hub.

Dynamo-powered tail light mounted on the left seat stay. What a pleasure to photograph all this stuff!

Rear Sturmey Archer hub. Notice how clean it is! A.T. did all of the work on this bicycle himself, including assembling this hub - remarkable!

Vintage Brooks B66 saddle, NOS Roadster saddlebag, rear rack.

Here is the entire bicycle again, from the non-chaindrive side. I should explain that I can't take digital photography seriously (as opposed to film photography), and therefore own no professional digital equipment. These photos were all taken with my tiny point-and-shoot camera. I could have done a much better job with proper equipment. Any suggestions? But there I go, getting ahead of myself again.

A few have already asked me about the location in these photos. All I can say, is that it is my secret magical bike photography spot, and the same "nice" neighborhood discussed in this post. It is ridiculously scenic and resembles England, which is why I thought the vintage Raleigh would look especially at home against this backdrop. I hope you enjoyed the photos of this magnificent bicycle and thank you A.T. for the permission to post these. Additional pictures of this bicycle can be viewed here.

If you have questions about this Raleigh DL-1, please contact the knowledgeable and friendly somervillain.


  1. Wow, what a great opportunity! The bike looks gorgeous and I'm sure the other ones do too. Even with your little camera, the quality is pretty good. Haven't used many high-quality digital cameras myself, but some of my friends are quite happy with their Canon SLRs.

  2. ooh ahhh,

    This is an inspiration to me to get scrubbing on my chrome again. Maybe if I end up coerced into watching V with the Scientist, I'll do that to keep from getting too wigged out in the scary bits ( I have a very low tolerance for scary).

    It's great to see a DL-1 with a rear rack. I've been looking for examples of a vintage rack on one, and not seeing much. A.T., is that one is original or an aftermount?

  3. What a beautifully-restored DL-1. Clearly a lot of love and elbow grease has gone into making this bike look so good. You can see it's been used and enjoyed over the years but with a lot of respect.

    Your photos are great even with a little digi compact. Obviously you have some control over what you're able to do with the camera as there's good use of depth of field in these photos. After all, it's the composition and exposure that counts, no matter how expensive and complicated the camera is.

    I use a Canon 30D D-SLR with IS lenses for serious stuff myself but keep a Panasonic Lumix in my bag for the everyday. The Lumix gives me the options to control aperture and shutter speed, which is the minimum requirement for me even with a point and shoot. The Canon.... it's great but it gets heavy after a day out and about.

  4. How fun! I'll have to come back and see the rest of the collection.

    That is a gorgeous bike, and nice to see someone with similar taste - I recently got this 1952 Raleigh Sports, obviously with the light missing (though I've since got a light and attached it to the dynamo hub). It has its original wide-range 4-speed Sturmey Archer rear hub (but no rear light).

    We also just added a 1980 DL-1 Roadster to the fold: http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=20121377%40N00&q=raleigh+royal+roadster&m=text

    It has rod-operated hub brakes, but uses a tire generator for the lights (front and rear). Not in quite as good shape as the Sports, but still a gorgeous bike.

  5. This is a perfect bike. I I love it so.

  6. oops, forgot the first link: http://www.portlandize.com/2009/05/new-old-raleigh-superbe.html

  7. Thank you for the comments and camera suggestions!

    Portlandize - Thanks for stopping by and you have no idea how informative your comment is. I have a 1972 lady's frame DL-1 that I would really like to convert from the traditional rods to rod-operated hub brakes. Your DL-1 with rod-operated hub brakes tells me that I should be hunting around for parts from a 1980 model.

  8. He chose his photographer well. Might he be persuaded to tell some of what he knows about the bikes' past histories?

  9. What a great read your blog is! I have just spent a few days on a UK forum and really, what a waste of time. Turned out to be a load of lycra clad racer types... anyway one thing I did find was a post about cleaning chrome. Quick and easy results can be had by scrubbing with silver foil and coke (must be the real thing). Well a couple of days ago I swapped a mandolin for a vintage ladies raleigh suberbe (D1??) a new bike for Mrs Nipper. The thing was filthy, so after a good wash Mrs Nipper set to with coke and foil and in no time had clean shiny new looking chrome. We were both stunned by the results. Thought I would mention it, don't know if you have tried it?


  10. Nipper and Steve - Thanks : )

    I do know about the coke and foil, or lemon juice and foil- but I have not yet decided whether I want to get rid of the rust on my own DL-1. (Perversely, I kind of like the aged look and the colour of rust.)

    I think the owner of the bicycle would be happy to provide some info; he will probably soon chime in. Boston is filled with these; we are so spoiled!

  11. thanks to all for the comments on my DL1, and special thanks to filigree for graciously offering her photographic skills to someone who can't photograph to save his life!

    after following filigree's photo documentation of her recent foray into vintage bike collecting and refurbishing, and especially after seeing all the same familiar backdrops that i enjoy from being in the same neighborhood (but the beauty of which i simply don't have the eye to capture in photos), i had to find a way to get filigree to photograph my bikes! luckily, it seems we've forged a sort of co-operative effort, which she can discuss further if she wishes.

    @ cycler: yes, i *believe* the rack to be original, or at the very least it is an english rack of appropriate vintage. i have seen them quite a bit on old english rudges and philips, and to a lesser extent on the raleigh roadsters.

    as for the chrome: most of it has not been scrubbed, but simply wiped down. when i got the bike, it had decades of black oily sludge built up, from years of constant oiling (it was common practice to just squirt oil into the headsets, bottom brackets, and hubs and not concern oneself with the oily runoff!!!). the sludge was all over all the chrome hardware and preserved it remarkably well! the frame paint itself is a mixed bag: it has random areas where someone touched it up with a rattle can. the chaincase itself looks like it's been resprayed a few times. but somehow it all blends in fine with the rest of the bike and the sections of old patina that remain.

    i should point out that the bike had actually been badly abused. the original rear wheel was taco'd beyond repair, and the hub and bottom bracket bearings were shot from heavy use. the bike now wears a 1980 rear rim, and there are other hardware parts that are not original and appear to have come from newer DL1s. but since both hubs were marked 1951 and most other cues point to that era, that's what i'm going with.

    one aesthetic issue i'm grappling with is the tires. i originally bought new schwalbe delta cruisers, in black, and after installing them the bike just didn't look right. the tires made it look too "new". i don't know why, maybe the proportions of the tread and sidewall are different enough from the old roadster tires and i was zoning in on it. so, for now the DL1 is wearing old roadster tires, which are far from ideal and downright unreliable. on the other hand, filigree has the exact same delta cruisers, but in creme, and they look incredible! so i may just have to borrow that visual cue from filigree's style book and go for the DCs in creme. what do you all think?

  12. somervillain - The nice thing about the cream Delta Cruisers is that they immediately get dirty, making them blend right into the vintage look. One note to all: the 28" version of these tires is available with and without reflective wall. For a vintage Roadster, get without, or it will look ridiculous.

    Your rack is different from some other DL-1 racks I have seen, in that it actually looks good on your bike. The others tend to have a weird up-tilt at the back that bothers me.

  13. Why do vitage roadsters look so good with scrims of autumn leaves swirled around their wheels?

    He could hardly have picked a better photographer.

    I hope your "career" aspiration works out. It's got to be more lucrative than poetry. (There's something I know from experience!)

    If you never make money from your new venture, think of something Robert Graves once said: "There's no money in poetry, but then again, there's no poetry in money."

  14. lovely work; I am not familiar with the Lumix that Catherina recommended above, but another choice for a point & shoot is Canons G series (G8, G9, and I think it's up to the G10) which also offers full controls over the aperture and shutter.

    IF you do intend on getting serious about it I would certainly suggest you go for an SLR of some sort...

    What with your interest in things vintage bikes, perhaps a classic medium format of just a good 35mm SLR camera would suit you best. What with the advent of the digital age, many a very good classic camera have become radically affordable in the used market and perhaps are due for a renaissance as bikes seem to have become.

  15. Justine - Somehow I choose so many things to focus on that are bound to make me spiritually rich but financially destitute. But that's all right. In these harsh times, Somerville has become a closed barter economy, and perhaps my photo skills can be exchanged for loaves of bread and bicycle work on the black market.

    Astroluc - Heck, in an ideal world I would use Daguerreotype. We do have many film cameras and use them for our art projects. We take our time developing and printing, and we allocate funds for the very high costs that doing so involves. But when I photograph bicycles I take hundreds and hundreds of shots, and I want to look at them right away - so the film method would not be suitable.

  16. I understand... my multiple film SLRs gather dust for the convenience and ease of my digital point and shoot. :/

  17. This is quite so exciting. All of our DL-1s can meet and have a serious velo-get-together. I am looking forward to the DL-1 co-op.

    I don't know much about vintage bicycles, but having tried so many (including road variety) this past summer, the DL-1 Roadster is the perfect compromise between many variables that complete the riding experience as I imagine it. For example, an established DL-1 collector even shared that he used DL-1s extensively off-road before the time of modern MBs. What can a well-maintained DL-1 not do? Fast and light for a relaxed bike, much more agile than contemporary Dutch bikes and modern English Roadsters (I am looking at you, Pashley) the DL-1s occupy an interesting niche.

    I also wish Mike Flannigan would chime in his thoughts on the DL-1 fork, for example.

  18. MDI - wait, you also think that the male DL-1 is more agile than the male Pashley? I thought that you vehemently disagreed with me on that.

    And by the way: A.T.'s DL-1 (24" frame with the hubs, lighting, rack, bag and full chaincase) is still considerably lighter than your Pashley, so it's not just a matter of your Rodney not having a dyno hub, etc. I had no trouble lifting his bicycle and maneuvering it for the photo shoot, and I cannot do the same with your Pash.

  19. MDI, i couldn't agree more with the DL1 being more "agile" than a typical modern (and old, as well) dutch bike. i can't even think of going fast on my 26 year old dutch bike, as it takes what seems like minutes, not seconds, to get going at a clip that's faster than a walk. overcoming the rotational inertia of those stainless steel rims takes real work, as does making them stop once they do get going.

  20. My Pashley is 50 lbs + 15 lbs of luggage. I assume his bag was empty? I would ***guess*** that my DL-1 is 40 lbs empty sans braked hubs/dynamo/lights.

    Regarding agility--the Pashley empty is still less quick to get up to cruising velocity than the DL-1 empty. I don't know why, and, more importantly, I don't know if this is due to the 3-speed hub being lighter and having less rotational inertia or due to the more sport seating position. Either could influence the end-result. However, the Pashley is capable of a considerably higher top speed and is more stable and less vibration-prone (until the DL-1 got Delta Cruisers, which would--no doubt--improve the Pashley's ride feel as much). I am sure that equipping the DL-1 frame with heavy SA hubs and hard-rolling Marathon Plus tyres would take the snap right out of it. This is a very complicated matter, clearly!

  21. Re the DL-1 fork: from what I understood from Mike Flanigan, it:
    (1)has a dramatic rake (over 100mm if I remember correctly?), and
    (2) was possibly made in a way that cannot be replicated exactly given the materials and methods available today.
    Do correct me if I got some of that wrong.

  22. how much do mike flannigan's boston roadsters weigh? does he use chromoly or hi-tensile steel tubing?

    without actually stepping on a scale with my bikes, i'd guess my DL1 with accessories weighs in at about 40 lbs, and that my union weighs in at about 50. this is with stainless rims (30% heavier than steel), drum brakes which are heavier than rods or calipers, and heavy vinyl dutch pannier bags (probably 5 lbs alone). the frame tubing on my dutch bike is smaller diameter than the DL1's, but it could be thicker gauge, so i wonder whether the bare frame itself is similar in weight to the DL1's. in the end, i think accessories and components contribute a lot of weight.

  23. yes, the rake is insane on these roadsters! but makes for an oh-so-smooth ride (at the cost of responsiveness, but who cares about that when you're parading through town, sitting high and waving at the commoners?)

  24. As others have said, the compositional eye and depth of field make up for the softer lens and smaller resolution in your digital camera. Nice job. (gives secret art-guy handshake)

    Somervillian, I am officially pining for my own DL-1 now.
    (My neighbor's 1980 24" roadster just might be the best fitting bicycle I have yet ridden.)

    By the way, Veloria, Rigida makes a 28" x 1.5" single wall alloy rim in both polished silver and in black with a gold stripe on either side of the center ridge. Unfortunately, they only come in 36 hole versions currently.[url]http://www.theoldbicycleshowroom.co.uk/26-x-138-vintage-westwood-rim-52-p.asp[/url]
    These might make a nice build with rod-to-drum-conversion brakes for your DL-1.

  25. I thought dynohubs were a relatively new invention. Obviously I was wrong. :)

  26. Well, I am a poet, so I'm not about to criticise you for making choices that leave you "spiritually rich but financially destitute." I live the same way, and it works out more often than (and in ways that differ from) what one might expect.

  27. @zweiradler: I thought so, too. But no: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/dynohubs.html

  28. @corey k:

    i had a pair of those rigida black w/gold 36H westwood rims... gave them to a friend with a rotted out gazelle in desperate need of wheels. are you sure they are alloy? these were steel...

  29. Such lively discussion!

    The BR is made of 100% 4130 Cro-moly [no Hi-ten steel]. The BR is part True Temper butted [TT & ST] and non butted True Temper [HT] tubing and also 4130 Aircraft straight gauge tubing [stays and DT]. The curved ladies frame has a straight gauge top tube [can't roll the butted tubes and it needs to be thicker].

    The frame weight is around 5 lbs or less. Complete bike weighs 43 lbs [this is with dual racks and wheel lock, pump...everything].

    I can make a light frame at 4 lbs and the lightest at 3.5 lbs

    Just so you know an Azor Dutch bike [55lbs] or Pashley [50lbs] weigh much more.

    I can make a complete internal gear bike weigh much less around 32 lbs, but it will have less equipment and will cost much more, but that is an option.

    As for angles. The DL1 has the same angles as a Dutch Azor and the like. Double 66 angles with 100mm of fork rake. All of my Roadsters have had 71 HA with 50mm of fork rake and the seat tube on a mid size would be a 73 [range on all sizes from 72 to 75]. I have always sold on the idea that my bikes were lighter and sportier than the average Dutch or Pashley bike...and it is, with the top tubes longer and bars more level with the saddle.

    I still think my Roadsters are a great design and great riding bike...however now after getting involved with these DL1 bikes I am very intrigued.

    I believe that the DL1 works so well for a variety of reasons. Weighing 15 or so lbs lighter than a Dutch bike is a big one! It is funny for me to be talking about this, because I have felt so bad that my bikes over years have gone from a fixed gear Roadster with a D-Rack and Honjo fenders, Brooks saddle that weighed 22lbs to a 43 lb bike with all the Dutch gear...only to discover that Ducth bikes are just HiTen steel 55 lb bikes, that sell for $1,800 or more [$2,500]. [yes, I know you can buy a crappy Dutch bike for $700 to $1,200, but those are not worth buying].

    I am interested in making a copy of the DL1, but with hopeful improvements.

    I will have more to say about this later, but I need to get back to work and stop looking at this great blog :)

  30. I had an opportunity to ride my DL-1 for a few blocks today after a prolonged pause. Well, having exclusively ridden the Pashley for about a month the DL-1 steering feels just weird to me. It's like you're holding the bars behind the wheel, so extreme is the fork angle. I also think my headset needs maintenance now for some reason. I probably sound like I can't make up my mind, but the Pashley vs DL-1 situation is getting even more complicated every moment.

  31. MDI - and you came to this conclusion after riding the bike with a cotter than needs replacing for 2 minutes? This might seem crazy, but I suggest that we get it in working order first and then you can compare. The head tube on my lady's DL-1 is not very responsive either, but I actually like that about it - such a smooth, stable, stress-free ride in traffic.

    What I find weird about my Pashley is that it combines steep-ish angles and a sporty responsiveness with a heavy sluggishness. When a bike is both slow to accelerate and too responsive, it makes for an awkward combination.

  32. Mike - Thanks so much for all the information you provided. I did not know that even the regular (non-Light) Boston Roadster was Cro-moly, and I suspect others did not either!

    You make a good point about the more expensive Dutch-style bikes, and I think a lot of it depends on marketing and presentation. Historically, neither the Gazelle Oma-style bike nor the Pashley Princess were luxury items - they were sturdy beater bikes. But the image of this sort of bike has been revamped and repackaged for the luxury goods market.

    For a number of reasons, I think that it would be a mistake for an independent artisan framebuilder to place themselves as part of the "Dutch bike" industry (therefore inviting being judged by the standards of these bikes). Instead, it would make more sense for independent builders to differentiate themselves from the whole Dutch bike thing, educating the public about the unique aspects of their custom handmade bikes that add value to them compared to the other options...

  33. To Nipper and all other interested in cleaning chrome check out green clean. Here is an example of my DL-1 which was cleaned using this method. I am urged on now to photograph tight close ups of my DL-1's chrome to show just how super shiney and pristine it really is!

  34. This post has taken some interesting turns!

    Somervillain- firstly, I am a serious fan of the cream Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. My wife's black 1960 Hercules has been shod with them since August '08. (They were the first set sent to this area, apparently.)

    Though it is damp here much of the year, and there is a vast carpet of highly tannic Redwood feathers that turn *everything* tea-colored eventually, they have held up well and still look presentable with a weekly wipe-down.

    As for the Rigida rims, I'm only going by the listing I linked to. I've never seen them in person. I found the listing on the Rigida site, though, and they indicated alloy there, too. Hmm.

    ANTMike, I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I would love to see a high- quality variant of the DL-1 come back into production. I agree that setting yourself differently than the Dutch Bike folks might be to your advantage here. As a custom maker, you can offer choices no production shop can approach.

    Corey K


  35. Filigree...Oh My Gosh, your blog has turned into a mini C&V Bike Forum with a DL-1 thread. AND since I of course have a DL-1 this is ever so convenient.
    Thrills and chills I can get the latest DL-1 news right here!

  36. "MDI - and you come to this conclusion after riding the bike with a cotter that needs replacing for 2 minutes?"


    Please, please update us about the repairs when you get them done! I think I need to have my cotter pin replaced too, but there is so little information about this online. Will you guys take it to Harris Cyclery to have this done? Will they replace both pins? How much (cough) does this usually cost?

  37. Mike - "only to discover that Dutch bikes are just HiTen steel 55 lb bikes, that sell for $1,800 or more [$2,500]". A large part of the blame for these high prices should go to the current exchange rate between Euro and USD, and the cost of a sales organisation in the USA. An Oma as offered in the USA would cost at most 600 Euro over here, so 900 USD. There are bike factories that build CroMo bikes in the same vein that cost easily twice as much (see for instance www.utopia-velo.de) at half the weight.

  38. Wow, Anton.... your bike is gorgeous! And after all these years (we're acquainted from other venues), I get to put a face with the name.

  39. thanks paul! (doohickie is a fellow bike collector and proud 1966 DL1 owner).

  40. Wow, I don't know how I missed this post the first time around. Gorgeous pictures! That is some bike. You know the people who own these bikes will be interesting before ever meeting them :)

  41. This is a gorgeous bike. What fun to have the chance to check it out so thoroughly & document it for the rest of us.

  42. Lucky cyclist who found not only this vintage Raleigh but you to celebrate it so lovingly. The difused daylight and simple backdrop offering elements of both nature and the built environment are your choices and more important than the camera used. That said, the small p&s sensors and lenses capture lots of context via depth of field. DSLRs give their best bokeh when fitted with wide-aperture lenses. Compare the work of Facehunter (Canon G) to The Sartorialist (most likely a Canon 5D + 80mm): two different approaches, yet lots of respect for each other's talents.

  43. I was interested to find your old (2009) blog as I too have just purchased (though have yet to receive) a ladies 28 inch wheel loop framed vintage Raleigh bike with full chaincase and (from what I hear) original headlamp and rear light both powered by (Raleigh Patent) Dyno Hub Three; complete with its original Dry Cell Battery case and respective Brookes leather seat and Brookes luggage carrier. I have since been advised (from a few boffins on oldroads.com :) that its what is you would categorize as a DL-1 and from what I have seen of it its in a gorgeous condition as yours is :) Sue (UK)

  44. Hi everybody, I have a simple but not easy for me, I just started in the Raleigh Bicycle world, the question is: All the Raleigh Sports bike comes with 3 speeds system or Can you get a simple gear on it? I'm talking at 50's Raleigh Sport.
    Thanks for the help. Regards.
    (maybe I'm doing the question in the wrong place?)


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