Monday, December 13, 2010

Something Special

Having a special bicycle is not about following the latest chic trend. It is not about hunting down a frame made of famous tubing. It is not about obsessing about period-correct components. And it is not about trying to evoke a specific country of origin. It's really about focusing on your preferences and your needs. Only you can make your bicycle uniquely yours.

My fellow Bostonian C.P. - or "cycler" on Biking in Heels - has done an impressive job in this regard.  Her bicycle, Gilbert, is completely and utterly hers - and very special. CP comes from a family of cyclists and has ridden a bike for as long as she can remember. But it was not until she lived in Italy as a young adult, that her love of city bicycles with step-through frames was ignited. Upon returning to the US, she brought a vintage Italian city bike with her, and the rest is history. An architect by profession and a DIY enthusiast by nature, C.P. enjoys wrenching on her own bikes and now owns a modest stable of vintage ladies' models from the 1930s through the 1970s.

As her ultimate bicycle for transportation, C.P. wanted something that handled like her favourite vintage bikes, yet was as clean and reliable as a new bike. And so her project began. She rescued a 1970s Raleigh Lady's Sports frame and fork, and had them repainted a colour she loved. She bought a suitable chaincase and had it painted to match, along with the fenders. She built modern wheels with alloy rims around a Shimano 8-speed hub in the rear and a Shimano dynamo hub in the front.

Gilbert's set-up includes handsome and effective lighting,

cushy cream tires,

front and rear racks for maximum hauling capacity,

Nitto "Albatross" handlebars with city brake levers and a classic bell,

a wheel stabiliser,

and, last but not least, this fantastic fishing creel basket, made of wicker with leather accents. For the holidays, the basket is decorated with battery-operated Christmas lights. Eccentric? Delightfully so! I imagine this style of basket is quite useful for storing small to medium objects within reach, secured by the closed lid. One thing that never fails to impress me about Biking in Heels, is the amount of stuff "cycler" is able to carry on that bike. This has included: a stack of shipping parcels, large plants, household appliances, and building supplies - most of these, of course, on the rear rack and not in the creel basket. While the Raleigh Lady's Sports was not specifically designed as a utility bike, it seems that Gilbert cab haul pretty much anything.

Given the way Gilbert came into existence, it is difficult to categorise him. The bicycle is no longer a vintage  Raleigh 3-speed, yet it certainly isn't a modern bike either. But why categorise him at all? You will not find another like him in any catalogue or bicycle blog. Gilbert is C.P.'s personal bicycle, and he is unique. Visit them both at Biking in Heels.

26 comments:

  1. Thank you for telling us about this blog. I checked it out and it is delightful!

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  2. That color, which I like, almost makes the bike look like a piece of pottery.

    Reading about C.P.'s bike--and your bikes, Velouria--reminds me of why I haven't bought an off-the-rack bike in more than thirty years. Whatever bike I ride has to be mine because, over the years, I've developed my own needs and preferences. Anyone who rides for her own reasons and in her own way for any amount of time (and isn't simply a racer wannabe or trend-follower) will learn what she truly likes and want nothing more, or less, than her own bike.

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  3. Justine - That's one thing I love about powdercoat; the yummy, glazed look. I also think that on this bicycle, it makes the (normally jagged) Raleigh Sports lugs look smoother and more elegant.

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  4. Thanks for introducing us to Gilbert. A fantastic bike that brings back memories of far away places for me. My first telescope, given to me in 1965, was a Gilbert and I have owned telescopes ever since. Gilbert chemistry sets and microscopes were fascinating to me as a kid. Now I use a microscope every day at work. Add to all that the creel which conjures up images of fly fishing on a beautiful trout stream...
    Yes, Gilbert is a special bike indeed! Cycler has a bike with Personality and you cannot beat that!!

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  5. A steering stabiliser! Every bike that carries weight in a front basket attached to the fork or bars should have one of these. I was so pleased when Velo Orange started carrying them. Nothing more irratating than having the wheel flop to the side and the bike fall over when the basket is loaded. Not even a Plescher 2 legged stand can prevent that from happening.

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  6. I love Gilbert's headlights. Makes "him" look like "he's" got eyes.

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  7. Gilbert is super cool. I love the mismatched dual headlights.

    P

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  8. The fishing creel front basket is brilliant.
    Gilbert is very well executed, a good example of how a vintage bike's looks and performance can be improved upon. Biking in Heels is an excellent blog, as well.
    Thanks!

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  9. Absolutely love the adorable headlights. Such a great bike and I am a fan of the blog, too.

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  10. This bicycle just captures the imagination. Beautiful! I am so loving the lights on the basket.

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  11. I love the headlights as well. He has a face : )

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  12. Twin headlights all the way!

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  13. It flat amazes me that more don't know about , or use, a " wheel stabilizer" since they smooth out the ride so well.

    I've tried to find one online but have come up dry. If I could only get a real good look at one I could make my own if I have to. But alas no luck there either.

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  14. Anon 7:03 - The Pletscher twin legged kickstand makes wheel-flop more likely than a normal, single kickstand. That is one reason I no longer use it. I like the wheel stabiliser too and might get one.

    MDI -They are actually asymmetrical : )

    Walt - Velo Orange sells it for $10 here. It is out of stock, but will probably be back in 1-2 week's time.

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  15. Velouria, Many thanks for the link to Velo Orange. I placed my name on the waiting list.

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  16. Velouria, This is the double leg kickstand I use on all my bikes (3)
    so they don't fall over. Like my Worksman bike they are robust and very unlikely to fail.

    http://www.crowventures.com/magento/review/product/list/id/3/category/32/

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  17. Wow, haven't seen that one before - and the price is great. I brought a Heebie double kickstand from Austria, which works spectacularly, but sadly I got the wrong size for the BB height on the bike where I want to use it.

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  18. Cycler sure brought Gilbert to life. A charming bike and a charming restoration project and story.

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  19. I modified my Hebie centerstand for use on my Pashley Roadster - the legs were too short for the extremely tall BB.

    I removed the plastic feet, tapped threads in the tubing, and installed stainless steel carriage bolts with nylock nuts to lengthen them by about 15mm.

    A smear of epoxy on the threads for insurance - they've never moved.

    A properly trimmed double Pletscher with steering retention (I LOVE the Batavus twist-lock system, see their "Personal Delivery") is quite a stable thing, in my experience, though!

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  20. How was the chaincase attached - I haven't seen any 70's sports with the hole in the chainstay. Did C. P. Cycler tap a hole for the chaincase?

    Stephen

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  21. Northern Mike - They come in 3 different sizes, but I mistakenly got the medium when I should have gotten the large. Ideally I'd like to find a way to exchange it or trade with someone who has the larger size. Your modification does sound ingenious though!

    Stephen - I didn't think that she had to make modifications for the chaincase, but I could be wrong. Maybe she will chime in and let you know.

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  22. Awww, Gilbert is blushing! Thanks Velouria for the lovely photos. If I'd known you were going to post them I'd have given G a bath first!
    Stephen, the chain case is from Yellow Jersey in Madison and I did tap a hole in the chain stay to hold it on. The frame has brackets for a hockey stick, but I haven't found small enough L brackets to use them to hold the full case.
    Someday I hope to retrofit the non-edeluxe "eye" with some kind of battery powered Led, am looking for something I can fit in the "eye socket"

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  23. I really like the battery operated Christmas lights on the basket. If I wasn't such a wus - not able to ride when the temp drops below 45 degrees - I might consider doing the same thing. Unfortunately, no one will be able to see them with the bike hanging in my basement out of the cold, and I don't have a basket anyway.

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  24. love it. i am of the same mind.

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  25. That is special - I love the Nitto bars and cream tires, unexpected touches on an older bike like that. A beautiful and unique bicycle!

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  26. I was considering modifying or slightly modernizing my "daily driver" '58 ladies' Sports as well, haha. I was torn between keeping it original, rusty, and operating tolerably well or giving it a new transmission, wheels, and handlebars as those appear to be the worst parts of the bike.

    As a car guy, I don't care about originality on common classics so I suppose I could add just a few personal touches to my bike as well like Cycler did. Gilbert is such an appropriate name too, haha.

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