Thursday, July 22, 2010

Velo Inventory

Sometimes I am asked how many bicycles I have and what is the function of each. As we are building up my custom Royal H. mixte, I have been giving this some thought. I do not want to have redundant bikes and therefore I need to make some decisions. So here is my velo-inventory for the world to see - and pass harsh judgment upon, if so desired.

Pashley Princess Sovereign (Eustacia Vye)

used as:
a transport bike
age: made in 2009
unique? No. My vintage Raleigh performs the same role.
pros and cons? Pros: very stable and great in bad weather. Cons: very heavy and more sluggish than my vintage Raleigh.

Raleigh DL-1 Lady Tourist (Velouria)

used as: a transport bike
age: made in 1973
unique? No. My Pashley Princess performs the same role.
pros and cons? Pros: As fast and nimble as this kind of bike can possibly be. Cons: It is old and I am afraid to rely on it as my only transport bike.


Rivendell Sam Hillborne (Graham Greene)

used as: a road and touring bike
age: made in 2009
unique? Yes. I have no other bike like this.
pros and cons? Pros: A fast and extremely comfortable bike for road cycling. Cons: none.

Mercier Mixte (Suzanne)

used as: an errand bike to keep in my photography studio (which is in another town) for running local errands
age: made in the late 1960's or early 1970's
unique? No. My Motobecane Mirage mixte could take its place.
pros and cons? Pros: makes a great errand bike. Cons: It is old and ever-so-slightly too small for me.

Motobecane Mirage Mixte (Marianne)

used as: A light touring bike when I want to be upright, yet go fast-ish and climb hills
age: made in 1981
unique? No. My new custom mixte will make it redundant.
pros and cons? Pros: It is pretty, but not a rare or high-end bike; can lock it up and not worry. Cons: It is too aggressive for its purpose; not a comfortable bike.

Royal H. Mixte (not yet built up or named)

(will be) used as: a light touring bike when I want to be upright, yet go fast-ish and climb hills
age: frame built in 2009
unique? No. The vintage Motobecane already serves the same function.
pros and cons? Pros: Hopefully, when all built up it will be perfect. Cons: I will be afraid to lock it up and leave it unattended anywhere.

So there you have it, my inventory to date. As you can see, I "only" have 5 bikes so far, which I do not think is too insane. Okay, and a 6th one being built up. Still not totally bonkers, right?..

In terms of bikes performing overlapping roles, there are two major redundancies: the Pashley vs the vintage Raleigh, and the Royal H. mixte vs. the vintage Motobecane. The redundancies bother me, and I would like to have only one bike in each category. This would mean either selling whichever bike is redundant, or repurposing them in some way. Not at all sure what I will do yet regarding the Pashley vs Raleigh conflict. As for the vintage Motobecane mixte, she is currently in the process of being saved from elimination (or being butchered, depending on your perspective). God, I guess I do have too many bikes!

52 comments:

  1. I'd vote for selling the redundant bicycle(s) rather than repurposing them. The goal is to own fewer machines, and make one or two available for someone out there who doesn't have a nice ride yet. Share the wealth, as it were.
    I read your blog regularly, by the way, and drive a Breezer Citizen; three speeds of pure delight.

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  2. "repurposing"! That was the word I was looking for, thank you.

    I agree with you. The only thing that gives me pause before deciding to sell the Pashley, is - what if the old Raleigh fails next month? I will feel like an idiot for having gotten rid of the newer, reliable bike. But selling the vintage Raleigh instead is not an option; I love it.

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  3. This was like walking through a virtual museum of beautiful bikes. It is amazing to see them all in one post!

    I totally get your Pashley/Raleigh quandary. I cannot see any solution but to keep them both!

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  4. Is the Raleigh from 1973 or 1937?
    I don't think 1973 is that old for the Raleigh, and wouldn't expect any reliability problems with ordinary maintenance.

    It sounds like the Pashley is better in the winter, but you like the Raleigh the rest of the year; if you have the space, I would view it is luxury or slightly distinct purposes rather than redundancy and keep both of them.

    The Motobecane looks like the most likely candidate for sale, since it is not comfortable. If theft is an issue with the Rivendell, you might replace the Motobecane with a more comfortable (cheap) beater for the current Motobecan uses.

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  5. Gosh, that's a lot! Although I haven't seen any of your bikes personally, it seems that some are redundant (1 transport bike and 1 mixte). However, I would not want to dump any of them. Tough life, I suppose ;-). If ever you want to get rid of one, it might be the best idea to give it to somehow who just wants to take up cycling and doesn't own a bike yet. That way you know where it goes and might be able to keep in touch.

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  6. I'd happily take the Raleigh off your hands. :-)

    Aside from that I'm no help. My garage is a poster child for redundant bikes.

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  7. That's an impressive collection of bikes! I would suggest to sell the redundant ones. Because what would you re-purpose them into? They're very specific machines, and unless you go for an art installation or some Rube Goldberg contraption, any re-purpose would substantially change the character of the machine.

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  8. OMgoodness if you put the Motobecane up for sale I'd like first dibs please:)

    Seriously though if you have the space and you truly love each bike in its own unique way then I say keep them all:) Nothing wrong with having backups in case one is in the shop or you decide one day is a Pashley day and another is a Raleigh day etc...

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  9. Anna - I would be willing to sell the Pashley in this way, but I would not give the vintage Motobecane to anybody as a "first bike"; I'd be afraid it would ruin their impression of cycling. The woman from whom I bought the bike received it as a gift in 1981 and kept it in her basement the entire time, because she could not handle riding it!

    Stephen - The DL-1 is 1973 but is very beat up; my pictures disguise the extent of this. It looks like it was thoroughly used throughout its existence, including in winters. I agree re making the Pashley a winter bike; that is probably the best option.

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  10. girlcanbike.com said...
    "OMgoodness if you put the Motobecane up for sale I'd like first dibs please:) "


    Can you ride a fixed gear? : )
    Yes, 'tis done.

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  11. That is an interesting question:) Im not actually sure if I've ever ridden a fixed gear before but I must say that the notion has interested me.

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  12. I've heard that the proper number of bicycles to own is n + 1, where n is the current number of bicycles one owns.

    I forgot where I read this, or I would credit the creator of the formula.

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  13. I see nothing wrong with a stable of bikes as you figure stuff out. That said, in your position I would probably move Marianne to the studio and unload the Mercier.

    I think you need to see how the Raleigh does in the winter and make your decision about the Pashley then.

    I am about to put mine on NYC CL because I vastly prefer my Retrovelo. I will then only have one bicycle as I unloaded my Raleigh sports when I got secure bike parking in Manhattan. I'm excited to get a fast bike for the country, because we are now spending much more time there.

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  14. neighbortease - Wow, that is interesting news. If you'd be so kind, could you email me privately (at "filigreevelo-at-yahoo-dot-com")? I'd like to ask you a question and cannot find your contact info.

    Anon - Yes, that is clearly a good formula!

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  15. Can you lend some of them out to suitable people? I do hate to see bikes in the garage when they could be on the road, and this way you're not making a permanent decision. Of course, you have to be a bit careful who you lend them to, both in terms of matching the bike to the rider and making sure they'll take reasonable care of them, but it's a thought?

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  16. @velouria, I have emailed you my info.

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  17. This was so interesting to read! I'm inspired to do the same with my collection -- categorize and inventory, not so much reduce. I'm happy to say the crazed growth of my stable has stopped, but I make no promises that another bike won't be "saved" here or there.

    I will offer no unsolicited advice on thinning the herd nor will I issue palaver on donating other people's possessions (a blogosphere favorite, I notice).

    I will, though, say this: You bring such careful thought to your bikes and reasons for owning them that I am confident whatever choices you make will leave you a happier rider.

    But if you do decide to launch a vintage bicycle donation program, I'm pretty sure I can clear one or two more spots in my garage. I shall submit a grant application promptly, just in case.

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  18. I see no redundancy in the Pashley and the Raleigh. In fact, I think of them as a unit. What could we call them? Velacia? To venture into horribly nerdy territory and quote a favorite childhood movie, they are "two sides of the same magic." Two city bikes, yes, but you depend on one, and the other makes your heart sing. Both seem a discrete and worthy function, at least to me. Personally I have a Pashley, and am actively seeking a DL1, so I might not be the best person to comment :). I'd definitely lose a mixte, though.

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  19. The think the first step would be to get rid of the idea of scarcity. There will always be another beautiful bike. You have evaluated the utility of the bikes but not commented on their fit. Don't keep a bike even if it is almost right. Obviously your custom bikes will be designed to be "just enough but not too much." But don't keep a bike that is too precious to ride. Insure them (homeowners?) and forget about the price.

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  20. neighbortease, I am looking for a wonderful commuter bicycle and have strongly considered a Pashley, though there is not a bike shop that carries them near me.

    Please email me with your contact info, I would like to ask you a few questions: juicy.couturegirl (at) yahoo (dot) com.

    Thanks so much!

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  21. Heh neighbourtease is popular today : )

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  22. DL-1 vs Pashley

    The DL-1 is difficult to repair rear flats. It's also tough to maintain the front rod brake, and you will go through rod brake pads often unless you get a new front wheel. Since the rods are in somewhat poor condition, they need adjustment every so many miles. Also, the DL-1 brake shoes lose stopping power when it is very cold. The steel on the DL-1 is more exposed than on the Pashley, which is powder-coated for winter use. The DL-1 is more fit for summer weather.

    The Pashley is also difficult to repair rear flats, due to that ridiculously complicated Nexus hub. Otherwise, the chaincase is very easy to remove (and I feel that the SA 5-speed hub on my bike is quick enough to remove and re-attach.) The front brake and components are quite nice. Once you install the same dynamo light as on your Sam, the Pashley will be better lit than the DL-1. You don't mind the extra weight in cooler weather. It's a nice winter bike.

    Motobecane Mixte vs Royal H Mixte vs Mercier Mixte

    Now that the Motobecane is fixed, it's not as much of a redundancy. The Mercier is a good bike to keep in the studio because it was cheap, you are not particularly attached to it and it's quite comfortable as I recall.

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  23. Hmmm. A fixie mixte. That sounds like fun.

    I think the questions you are asking are valid and important. Most of us have so much stuff it ends up making us less happy, but I think I should warn you, in my experiance you cannot give bicycles away fast enough to reduce your inventory. Try it.

    You are chatting with someone and they tell you they have no bicycle(there are those people), your heart swells with sorrow and pity and you give them a bicycle. It doesn't matter if it is a nasty old thing that your spouse wants out of the house to reduce your exposure to tetnus or something marvelous and valuable that speaks of your love and admiration for them. One day soon you WILL(without fail)be offered, witness being carried to the curb, find in the basement of the house you have just purchased purchased, whatever...A BICYCLE. All these things have happened to me. Once it was 2 nice abandoned roadbikes chained together to a fence. I was fixing the furnace and the landlord asked me if I could make them dissapear without hurting the fence if he gave me $20. I think it's called the rule of cats.

    If you have to make space I say start with furniture...

    Spindizzy

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  24. unless space or money are issues and you like your bikes, i say keep them all. there may be redundancy, but every time i get on one of my bikes, i appreciate its subtle differences from the next one in the stable, even if they are both road bikes, or both upright roadsters. sure, i have my faves, but i really enjoy having them all.

    what i have found helpful in keeping track of my bikes, in terms of their differences in size, geometry, gearing and components, is a visual database:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/sets/72157624361907035/

    at first, i started keeping this simply to document my builds, but unexpectedly i found it useful in keeping track of subtle difference in dimensions and geometry, and adjusting my bikes relative to each other. for example, i have two road bikes, one of which is a perfect fit, and the other which is a tad off. by comparing the subtle differences in dimensions and geometry, i was able to simply switch out the stem of the "not quite perfect" bike with a slightly different one (longer and also taller), and now the two bikes fit me perfectly. i would never have been able to keep track of all these little nuances if not for a database. i also would not have known how to make the "not quite perfect" bike fit me better without having a reference standard against which to compare it, and seeing how the two bikes differed, on a millimeter level. the same goes for gearing. perhaps if you catalog your bikes in this manner, you may be able to better understand why you like a particular one more than another (aside from a vague "feel").

    regardless, i wouldn't even start to thin your herd until after your royal H is built up and you've had a chance to learn what you like and (hopefully not) dislike about it.

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  25. Somervillain - I mostly understand at this point why I like some more than others. The vintage Motobecane has steep angles and a short wheelbase, which I find uncomfortable even on a roadbike, let alone on a semi-upright mixte meant for light touring. The "beater" Mercier has more relaxed angles and is quite comfortable in comparison. The Pashley's sluggishness is more mysterious, and knowing its specs compared to the DL-1's has only partly helped me solve the mystery.

    As for collecting the bikes and enjoying the subtle differences... I know it is hard to believe, but I am not interested in that. I get irritated when I feel that I have too many bikes, and want to pare down. Ideally, I would have a bike that is perfect for each function, and no more than that. But I know, I know - actions speak louder than words!

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  26. LOVELY LADY,LOVELY BICYCLES,LOVELY SIGHT,THE BEST

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  27. The Motobecane is uncomfortable, nuff said. Eliminate. The Pashley is way too heavy. Eliminate. DL-1, keep. I regularly ride three bikes that are 30 to 40 years old. "I get irritated when I feel that I have too many bikes, and want to pare down." I've been in that rut for some time.

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  28. I completely understand the joy of having one for every need and no more. If you have the space, you can define purpose and need as narrowly as makes sense. I too dislike redundancy so I can sympathize about the fact that it grates.

    I have no doubt that you will figure it out, and arrive at an ample sufficiency.

    (I'd love another bicycle, but space is the dealbreaker....maybe one day if I'm not confined to the space limitations of an urban apartment!)

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  29. To echo MDI, KEEP THE PASHLEY FOR WINTER. Seriously. Could you really bear seeing the DL1 covered in a thick layer of salty slush? It will really age the bicycle, while the Pashley can cope without a problem. Clearly, it's not redundant in that way. :)

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  30. Okay than! Looks like it's Eustacia as winter bike, Marianne a fixed gear, and no one gets sold. Thanks for enabling me to keep all the bikes : )

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  31. Yes! :P I would really miss not being able to see Eustacia anymore.

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  32. To each his/her own. I've reduced down to three bikes from five and I think I'm set.

    I've got a nice road bike for long heroic rides, or "going Belgian" as they say.

    Also have a 1978 DL1 roadster for around town and just for the joy of it.

    Finally I have a "utility bike", which is something I built up with mostly salvaged pieces and parts. Its a useful bike for hauling things and also satisfies my need to experiment and constantly wrench on and/or change something. Its a wretched thing, but not junky. I call it The Black Swan.

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  33. How is Marianne taking her new status as a fixte?
    I could see her as being pretty darn fast with most of her gear-shifting bits stowed away elsewhere.

    As for the others- they all seem to have their secure sense of place in your velo-life.

    CK

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  34. i think its great that u have both the vintage raleigh and the pashley. the pashley has modern components (including great lights) and the raleigh is vintage and is faster. one can just be the back up.

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  35. Corey - Actually she's great! I rode in traffic with the Co-Habitant earlier today and just did a midnight grocery store run on my own. I think this was a good decision; she is thriving and finally feels comfortable to ride!

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  36. (Midnight ice-cream run tastes better fixed.)

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  37. "I think this was a good decision; she is thriving and finally feels comfortable to ride!"

    Thirty years of frustrated bike angst sloughed away, and she has found her place in this world. Yay! Toujours, Marianne!!

    I wonder- what has become of the Grand Dame?
    (The '36 Roadster, of course)

    Is she still in limbo, or moved to another place?

    I looked at some pics I have of a 1929 Hercules today, and thought of your wondrous old Belle.

    CK

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  38. Saint Bif, I love your taste in music!

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  39. Very nice! I like Kara's comment - feels like walking through a very cool and perfectly curated bike museum. :)

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  40. Nice overview. I feel quite unimportant, owning just one bike. :)

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  41. MDI - ice cream is groceries!

    Corey - I don't consider the 1936 roadster a "real bike", in the sense that I would never ride it. It is antique and of historical value. We have it stored away now, and if we can afford it in future I will meticulously restore it... and hang it on the wall of my future house in the country.

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  42. Marianne is (or could now be justly regarded as) 'unique and peerless' among her kind!
    I think you catch my drift. :p ;)
    L

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  43. I currently have two road bikes, one mountain bike, and a townie. The road bikes are somewhat redundant but they will serve a different purpose; I also believe in having a backup. The mountain bike I built up to take to WA to leave at my daughter's because that is what they ride out there. The Townie is more of a beach cruiser that I ride with my wife. I still want a commuter type bike and a randonneuring bike.

    I once had a Specialized Allez. I didn't ride it anymore so I gave it away to a friend who didn't have a rode bike and wanted to start riding with my son and I. No problem. Well he converted it to a single speed and then sold it. From the proceeds he bought a new road bike.

    I have regretted getting rid of that bike. It was just like the bike in "American Fliers". But, it did get my friend to start riding a road bike and he loves his road bike. Just the same, I wish I had my old Allez back.

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  44. It's an interesting addiction, building a herd with nuances of application, and finding more and more bikes that are interesting and a little different to layer on. I've been there with my own bikes and with Gravely tractors, too.

    I'm cutting back, mostly because I am unlikely to have such liberal storage wherever I land next, and I'm down to two active-duty bikes from five. I've found I'm not suffering from the narrowing of experience, which is good.

    Can the Mercier and Raleigh be made more reliable cheaply? Are they rickety in some designed-in way? If not, I should think they could be made reliable without too much work.

    My two road bikes are both over 30 years old at this point, though many of their components are newer. Both very reliable, but I will admit to tinkering with them constantly...

    J

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  45. I've found that building a herd can be very addictive -- finding new and slightly different bikes to fill even small gaps. And out here in the 'burbs, I did it with Gravely tractors, too!

    At the prospect of moving closer in (Cambridge, perhaps, even), I've started cutting way back. I have two "duty" bikes now, down from six. And my kids each have a bike, plus the trailer bike that we have one or perhaps two more seasons with before my younger cycles out of its age range. Still a lot of bikes.

    I'm gratified not to be suffering any apparent ill from the cutbacks, but it wasn't easy (emotionally).

    I found your comments about the reliability of the Mercier and Raleigh to be interesting. I've found my older bikes to be no less reliable than my newest bikes. But in fairness, I've swapped out many of their components in the name of improved functionality. It probably would not be hard to "put them right" if you so chose, though...

    J

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  46. Even though I have a soft spot for Marianne and Eustacia Vye, either or both are candidates for being "excessed." Graham Greene is a better distance and speed bike than Marianne and will be more comfortable as you ride it more, and the Mercier is a better studio/beater bike. And, now that you have a decent brake on the Raleigh, you will be able to do anything you did on Eustacia. I know how you feel about her, though: She was your first "lovely" bike. That will make her difficult to give up. And, like Marianne, she is beautiful.

    Don't worry about the age of any well-made bike, as long as it's not rusted through. Sheldon Brown used to ride a bike that was 90 years old. As John said, if you feel so inclined, you can change parts to make them more functional. You've already done that with your Raleigh.

    I also understand how you want to keep all of your bikes. I would, too, if I had the space! Well, maybe not the Dahon, but every other bike I've had was useful or attractive or both in some way or another.

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  47. I see that the issue of reliability keeps coming up in regards to the Raleigh DL-1. What sort of breakdown do you forsee that is harder to prevent or more difficult to repair than on your newer bikes? I have 2 DL-1s that are almost as old and in pretty well used condition and there isn't anything about them that seems to need more attention than most of my other bikes. If the frame isn't bent or badly rusted to the point of weakness than it isn't a safety issue, and with the exception of the rod brakes, the rest of it is just basic bike parts...Even the Sturmey Archer coasterbrake hub you just put on is not a high maintenance item.

    From someone who routinely straps himself into 60 year-old sports cars and 70-year old airplanes I think it may reward you with less trouble than you may think.

    Spindizzy

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  48. Oh dear, it's an addiction, isn't it? I certainly can't comment on thinning the herd, because I just added a sixth bicycle to my stable yesterday. Between my partner and me, we have acquired the following, in order:

    2007 Surly Steamroller (fixed gear commuter)
    2009 Brompton SL-1 (folding commmuter)
    2008 Kona Ute (heavy-duty utility bike)
    1971 Raleigh Twenty (for fun, quick errands)
    2010 Raleigh Superbe Roadster (commuter, light utility, someday light touring)
    2010 Trek Belleville (commuter, light utility, someday light touring)

    We share the Ute and the Twenty. The Brompton and Belleville are mine; the Roadster and Steamroller are hers. Though the whole point is to go car-free, we could have done that long ago. Now we have bikes for every purpose imaginable!

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  49. Quick comment...I work a fair amount on old Raleighs and your DL-1 is baffling to me. How are there rod brakes on that thing? Does the hub really say 1973? I guess the other way to tell if it isn't a 40s bike is to see if the pedals are riveted shut. Obviously you know better than me but I just can't believe that is a 1973. That said, I have never worked on a DL-1 so what do I know. Also, whatever its issues...they can be corrected. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. http://www.flickr.com/photos/williamhutchinson/sets/72157607085466389/

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  50. Hi there.....I too suffer from the one-too-many bikes syndromes...but I can't get rid of them! Anyway...I didn't know exactly where to put this comment and I don't see a contact option just to send you a note, but I finally found metal dress guards here in the states and wanted to share the link with you and your readers...here you go: http://stores.homestead.com/morganimports/-strse-212/Skirt-Guard,-Metal/Detail.bok

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  51. What handlebars are on your mixte, 'Marianne"? They are beautiful, look comfortable and look so classic. I would like to put those on my (forthcoming) mixte. I am enjoying all the info about all of these 'lovely bicycles' you blog so wonderfully about! If at some point you can include component specs that would be such a great resource for ideas. Thanks so much!

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  52. The Royal H Mixte is the most beutiful bike i´ve ever seen. Really like it.Good job with the blog!

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