Friday, April 30, 2010

Natural Habitat

English Roadsters were designed for long country rides, and there is nothing quite like experiencing them in this setting. My Raleigh DL-1 in particular seems to thrive on long distances and can pick up speed to an amazing degree if you just give it an open road.

The Co-Habitant is a strong cyclist and he likes to go fast. When we are on equivalent bicycles (for example, both on our Pashleys or both on our Motobecane roadbikes), I have a hard time keeping up with him unless he intentionally controls his speed for my sake. However, when he is on his Pashley and I am on my vintage Raleigh, I can keep up with him perfectly. The Raleigh DL-1 is a powerful and well-designed machine despite its sweet "old timer" appearance.

And the vintage Sturmey Archer AW 3-speed hub is downright magical. First gear is excellent for uphill cycling in mildly hilly areas. Second is my versatile go-to gear for flat terrain when I want to go at a conservative speed. And third gear allows me to pedal downhill, as well to increase speed after maxing out second gear on flat terrain. I have honestly never felt the need for more gears on this bicycle, and don't understand why none of the modern 3, 5, 7, or 8-speed hubs I have tried have the same great feeling.

If my devious plan to install a coaster brake on this bicycle works out, it will be so perfect that I am almost afraid to think about it lest I jinx it. For now, we dream as we watch the sunset.

28 comments:

  1. Great photos, it looks so relaxed and happy! My Lady Jane has a Nexus 8-speed hub, and I believe that 6th gear works almost like a single speed... it's a great exercise for my thighs :)

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  2. Posts like this make me envious! I wish that I could find a DL-1. I would love to try one out in this very hill area. I'm keeping my eye out for one, but it seems as though Raleigh didn't make it this far south. I'll have to import one from the north I suppose. :) Looks like you to had a fun ride!

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  3. indeed, the DL1 looks quite at home in these photos. interesting about how easy it is to go fast on these. i find this true with my DL1, i can go much faster than on my dutch bicycle, even though the dutch bike is about 5 lb lighter! the only downside, as you mention, is that bikes that go fast also have to stop fast, and this one can't... :-(

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  4. I too am amazed at how a 99-year-old bicycle design can be so speedy, and also dismayed by the braking aspect of things. I hope your coaster-brake option works out well.

    Nice light in those photos.
    The pic of you on the DL-1 radiates velo-happiness.

    Corey K

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  5. Amy...check this out ;)

    Ladies DL-1 on ebay

    Velouria...please stop praising the DL-1 and making it so popular and desirable!! Just see now how many of your readers now want one?!! It's never going to be the same hunting down the DL-1 again. I'm just happy I found mine long before you started writing about the DL-1s virtues :)

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  6. Amy - I laughed upon reading "import one from the North" : )

    RidingPretty - In New England I know if at least 2 "secret sources" for these...

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  7. I just found mine wandering the streets in a depressed town in Maine and it agreed to hop onto our bike rack and travel to Boston...

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  8. Velouria...Well that's a relief that you have "secret sources"! ;)
    Now everyone is going to be pressing you for those secrets...

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  9. I wish they'd bring back the C-R SA three speed. It's fairly flat round my part and the regular three speed is too widely spaced.

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  10. Well, keep us tuned in with these great updates on the Dl-1. I've got mine now thanks to your heads up and it's going to be an intriguing guest bicycle and fun neighborhood ride. My sister who I'm trying to get into bicycling conceded she liked its looks, which is a start. It's in the shop now for reconditioning and new Brooks and 22t cog. Your missives and tech detail like the info on how the three-speed works keep me happy while I'm waiting not so patiently for mine to come back from the lbs. Thanks! Jim

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  11. Amy again - I forgot to mention here (though I wrote this earlier when describing my DL-1) that I lowered the gearing on this bike by replacing the standard rear cog (I think these come with 17-tooth cogs?) with a 21-tooth cog. Otherwise climbing hills would not have been fun.

    Steve - What I don't understand is why it was necessary to change the original SA hubs at all. Everybody loved them.

    MDI - I think you don't appreciate your DL-1 enough. You better show it some love, or it might decide to run away.

    Jim - Thanks for sharing about your bike and I hope you enjoy riding it when it is done! If the coaster brake project works out, I will post painfully detailed account of it and hope that might be of help as well.

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  12. great pics! seems like the weather is getting better eh?!
    like that 1st picture of ya - very cute ;-)
    cheers - m.

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  13. Have you considered a front Sturmey-Archer drum brake?

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  14. Thanks Meli! I was feeling good after a week of bad weather and bad health.

    Anon 9:58 - I did consider that. But the only ways to install it would be to (a) replace the handlebars and rod levers with standard handlebars and caliper brake levers, which I felt would ruin the historical aspects of the bike, or (b) figure out a way to connect the rods to the hub, which is no easy task. On the other hand, the coaster brake option will allow me to keep everything exactly as it is - the rods brakes and levers can stay as a supplementary braking system. Also, I prefer coaster brakes to hand-operated brakes, so it seemed win-win.

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  15. The photos are awesome! I also liked your comment about the carbon bikes on DFWPTP!
    Peace :)

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  16. Riding Pretty: Thanks! I had actually come across that one and was keeping on eye on it. But with shipping it's more than I've got saved right now.

    I've got some friends stationed around the county keeping an eye out for one, so you never know where I might import one from. ;)

    Velouria: I remember reading about your rear cog change. It's something that I had considered doing at one time to my Hercules (it's got an 18T), but with riding it about 50 miles a week I've built up enough muscle that I can get up some pretty steep hills in first. Actually, last week one of the local Lycra guys stopped me (in his car) at the top of one of those hills to check out my bike (he sat up there and waited for me to huff it up). His jaw dropped when I told him that it's just a three speed. :)

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  17. Now you have me waiting impatiently for my chance to ride my new to me DL-1! Only 3 more weeks until we meet! Thankfully the first ride will be in the flat part of the Midwest ;-)

    Aaron

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  18. Amy - That is a familiar story! I was actually able to keep up with a road cyclist the other day while going in 3rd gear (and, admittedly, pushing myself).

    Aaron - Looking forward to hearing about it once you get it!

    In general, I think it's great that more people are getting vintage DL-1s and actually riding them. It creates more demand for the rare parts required for this bike, and perhaps suppliers will respond.

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  19. I love 3rd gear! I find that I try to stay in it as much as possible. To me it's the most comfortable gear. On some good flat ground you can really get some speed too. Also, I've found that I can really creep along when you need to.

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  20. Velouria: I have the same experience on my 1956 Hercules with its Hercumatic 3-speed (equivalent to the SA AW gearing) that I've ridden more or less continuously since it was new. Just seems to get me there virtually as fast as my newer hybrid (now getting less and less road time) but more comfortably.

    Wife, by the way, accompanies me on another, “much newer” lovely wheel - a '78 Peugeot mixte.

    Will

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  21. I couldn't agree more about the three-speed hubs. Your part of the world is hillier than mine, I'd wager, but three speeds is precisely right for me and our valley. First is for climbing what passes for hills, third is for descending them, and second is for everything in between.

    So nice to see you enjoying your bike again, still, anew. Just think, if your other projects were on schedule, you might not have had this magical time with the Dl-1.

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  22. This is something I love about my Raleigh Sports - the 4-speed hub seems magical like that, and seems to fit my riding ability exactly perfectly somehow. It's nice having cable-operated rim brakes on it, as it offers a bit better braking than the rod-operated rim brakes.

    I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to stick a Sturmey Archer rod-operated drum brake on the front of your DL-1 (they still make them) and install a new rod up to where it meets the rods that are attached to the handlebars? Seems like that could be a fairly simple modification. We have the rod-operated drum brakes on our DL-1, and they work great.

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  23. Amy - I like to mostly go in second, just so that I can feel that there is one more in each direction in case I need it : )

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  24. I can't understand why the magic of the old roadsters and the Sturmey 3-speed has been lost... surely we still have the technical specs. Did we forget how to put the craftsmanship into them?

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  25. @ Step-Through...not too many people are willing to pay the price for them. Raleighs were expensive bikes in their day, think ~$600 or so today. They also had fewer possessions and quite often the bike was their main form of transportation. T

    here are many bikes out there that still have the magic you just don't see as many of them due in part to the proliferation of BSO's (Bike Shaped Objects) from the big box stores.

    Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately if you want one, most people would rather waste their money on something that looks like a bike with forty-eleven speeds, rather than spend their money on something of quality that they can actually use and enjoy.

    Aaron

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  26. They still make the old AW three speed hub, with only minor changes to the original design from around 100 years ago (and AWC, same but with coaster brake). They also make a more modern design with no brake, coaster brake or 70mm/90 mm drum brake. They are not commonly built into new bikes but the stuff is still out there.

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  27. Hi, I just found a raleigh dl-1/tourist on craigslist. It looks like a 70's one and it doesn't have the chaincase, but looks mint. It is likely to be gone before I get to it. They are asking $300. Is that too much? I was supposed to put $300 towards a new/used camera this weekend, but now I see this. I also have an old road mixte bike that I was supposed to get parts for this weekend. ooops. For a few years I have been thinking finding a bike like this and putting drum brakes on and maybe a new rear internal hub if the 3 speed range doesn't cut it(I live on a mountain :O). The rod brakes are so exquisite but kind of scary? I had long been dreaming of this kind of bike for an all weather commuter. and I love raleighs.
    What do you think?
    I really enjoy your site and it's nice to know there are other people with my tastes and obsessions.
    Heather moondriad@yahoo.ca

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  28. I saw this beaut on ebay UK just now... a high spec special build ex-police Raleigh from the late 1970s

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=250832799087&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT#ht_750wt_1139

    I don't intend to bid myself, but classic Raleigh lovers might well want to place a bid. If this one is what it claims to be, it's special. I wouldn't normally post links but there's bound to be someone on this blog who thinks this one is too good to miss, and you can be sure that whoever buys this won't be selling it again anytime soon.

    I'm watching it and making a little bet with myself that it will sell for at least £300.

    I have no connection with the seller, by the way.

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