Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Have You Been...

Since the end of the summer, I've received a number of concerned inquiries about "Velouria," my vintage Raleigh DL-1 Tourist (and for those who have only begun reading this blog recently, I am named after this bicycle, not the other way around). Though admittedly I have not featured her for some time, I assure you that Velouria is alive and well. She resides in our photo studio just South of Boston, performing the under-documented but crucial role of "studio bike." And here are the pictures to prove it.

For those unfamiliar with Velouria's history, she is somewhat of a "frankenbike," albeit a darling one. I acquired the 1973 Raleigh DL-1 in the summer of 2009 and over time proceeded to subject her to a number of modifications. These have included: an aftermarket chaincase and dress guards, cream tires, a Brooks B18 saddle, a custom rear rack, and an updated rear wheel with a coaster brake hub to supplement the pitiful braking power of the rod brakes.

Why do I feel the need to mess with a vintage bicycle in this manner? To tell the truth, part of it is simply the compulsion to experiment, to customise, to turn objects that belong to me into "creatures." I am not saying it's a good habit necessarily; but it's how I like to do things.

There was also a practical reason for all the modifications: I loved the ride quality of the DL-1 so much, that I was highly motivated to make it as functional as possible.

But ultimately, my love for this bicycle is also what made me move it to the photo studio after I (literally) found the vintage Gazelle in the end of last summer. At the risk of sounding cruel to the Gazelle, I am willing to run it into the ground. It is a great bike, it handles wonderfully, it is admirably designed, but my feeling toward is appreciation - not "love." The vintage Raleigh, on the other hand, feels almost like a pet. I just can't bring myself to ride its already battered and rusty frame on the salted roads in the winter, or even to leave it for hours in the rain in the summer. "Let the Gazelle take the abuse and spare the Raleigh," says my heart. And so Velouria became "studio bike" - ridden occasionally, but not too much.

And if you've noticed that these pictures are a little different from my typical bike photos, that is because they were taken inside the studio itself. We will soon be doing a couple of photo shoots for a local framebuilder, so we're practicing. When it comes to product photography in a studio setting, every object requires a different approach to lighting - and I would say that bicycles are fairly complicated as far as these things go. They are enormous, they have both matte and reflective parts, and they cast a variety of unusual shadows. Oh, and don't get me started on the kickstand thing; we are still working that one out!

Of course, the trouble with this type of product photography is that it brings every single detail of the object into sharp focus - not exactly the most flattering approach when it comes to vintage bikes!

But after all, "Velouria" is not just any vintage bike.  She is mine. The scraped paint, the rust, the solidified crust, the dented fenders and even the bent rodbrake levers are, oddly, all part of what makes me cherish her. She may no longer be the most frequently featured bicycle here, but she epitomises the theme of this blog perhaps more than any other bike I own.

38 comments:

  1. Great post and great pics. It is so good to see Velouria again!

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  2. Where did you find the full chaincase, I would really like to find one for my DL-1

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  3. What a Lovely Bicycle.

    I'm glad you are keeping her in such fine fettle without succombing to the desire to "Restore" her to some un-naturally perfect state. My British car friends have a term for over-restored sports cars and motorcycles, They refer to them as "boiled sweets" over there, shiney things in bright colors that appeall to our desires to make everything perfect. They also consider this approach to be a mostly American thing.

    I really admire your bike.

    Spindizzy

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  4. I enjoyed these pictures very much. Amazing work on the rack; it looks like it always belonged there.

    Does the Co-Hab ride his gentleman's DL-1 with the same frequency?

    I wish you had the same blog, but about photography. :) Then my internet experience would be complete.

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  5. lukeofny - It's from Yellow Jersey. They have it in two sizes, for 28" and 26" wheel bikes.

    Fjelltronen - He is not as crazy about his DL-1, preferring his modern Pashley overall. If I also had a blog abut photography, I probably would have no time left for actual photography : )

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  6. I understand this perfectly, as I have my late mother's old Raleigh 3-speed, in excellent condition, set up very similarly to this. I like the "girl's" step-through frame for ease of riding in street clothes. You know, of course, that you could "run it into the ground," but it would take a long time ...

    href="http://affordableluxuryblog.com"Affordable Luxury Blog

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  7. Spindizzy - That's the funny thing; people often don't understand why I "baby" the bike yet won't "properly restore it" - meaning things like polish all the components and repaint the frame. It's hard to explain why not, but maybe it's because I feel that it would somehow destroy the spirit of the bike. That doesn't make too much sense, given that I think using an aftermarket chaincase and replacing the rear wheel is okay, but somehow it does makes sense to me. And it jives with how some of my European friends approach vintage bikes. It goes with the whole approaches to restoration thing.

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  8. We still have the original rear wheel (inc original SA hub) from the DL1. It looks quite interesting without the rubber bits and very much unlike what modern wheels look like today. The rod brake grooves, some rust specs here and there. The fact that it's steel. Almost antique. Maybe we should hang it somewhere (but carefully, so it doesn't take the wall down).

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  9. I was wondering when we'd see her again! It's interesting because I also have a DL-1(from 1978) but she doesn't speak to me in quite the same way, and feels very much like a sturdy, non-nonsense workhorse of a bike to me. I'm far more attached to and more likely to "baby" my other bike which is a 1985 Raleigh mixte frame, and which was my daily transport bike until I bought the DL-1. I'm now favouring the Dl-1 instead for my commute, pricipally I think for the smooth ride - potholes, what potholes?

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  10. My Gazelle is a tiny bit better over pot holes, so it wins in that respect. But it is also maybe 10 lb heavier! I would love to find a 1979 DL-1, for my birth year : )

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    1. I have a 1979 Mixte Dl 21 for sale...
      email me at
      ozz@bikewizardbyozz.org

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  11. "people often don't understand why I "baby" the bike yet won't "properly restore it""

    Because there's a difference between taking care of your things and turning them into fetish objects?

    Or something like that.

    I just noticed that Rough Riders gave you a shout out. Kewl Beans!

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  12. I like this bike, just the way you've done it. I have a regular frame DL1 that I'm slowly rebuilding. So you have 3 brakes. Do you find yourself relying on the coaster, or do you activate all 3 at the same time?

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  13. Dave - 90% coaster, with the right (front) handbrake used just for a second when coming to a complete stop, or to prevent the bike from rolling at intersections. The left (rear) handbrake I no longer use at all. This makes it pretty much no different from how I use the Gazelle, where the front drum brake is fairly weak.

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  14. Dave--We got replacement pads at some point, but there is too much wear/bending in the rods and too much deformation elsewhere in the system. Not enough grip strength is transfered into direct pressure against the rim. My DL-1 is similar, but I haven't had the time to mess with it as much. I personally dislike coasters, so one option I considered was installing modern drum brakes and connecting them to rods. Cycler over at biking in heels tried that approach, but I think she reports it's not as powerful as she would like.

    One trick we were taught by a DL-1 collector is to bend the rods downward, which allows for more travel and can generate more pressure against the rim, but the problem with that approach is that my grip eventually bends them back.

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  15. ^ I meant bend the "brake levers" part of the rods.

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  16. @MDI

    My DL-1 was rod & drum when I got it, but the power didn't transfer to the brakes as well as cables (especially the rear wheel). I eventually just replaced the handlebar and rods with a North Road and some cables. It is less authentic but it turns it into an amazing daily transportation bike.

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  17. Maintaining the rod brake Roadster look was high on our priority list, and the coaster brake is almost invisible. It certainly makes the bike appear to only have the original rod brakes from the drive side. The vintage hub 3 speed coaster interfaces properly with the existing shifter and is visually identical to the stock hub, except slightly wider.

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  18. Velouria, I didn't know you did "bike porn" photos so well !!

    The photos of your bike here are really, really great in that it shows the old girl at her very best.

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  19. Walt - Thanks, though it's the lighting that really makes shots like this work, and lighting is the Co-Habitant's specialty (="MDI" above). I prefer outdoor photos, but he is the studio expert. Composing and clicking the shutter is a piece of cake once he gets the lighting dialed in.

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  20. Gorgeous! Do you find that the full chain case causes much friction/rattling? I'm on the fence with swapping out my DL-1's original chain guard with the full chain case. While I love the concept I also love how absolutely quiet my bike is compared to some 3-speed Raleighs.

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  21. MFarrington - The chaincase on the DL-1 does cause rattling, which is my one criticism of this bike. I initially thought this was inevitable with metal chaincases, but the one on my Bella Ciao is almost 100% silent. I wish there was something I could do about the DL-1's rattling.

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  22. Velouria, the chaincase on my DL1 (original 1951 Raleigh case) is silent. However, it is very sensitive to adjustment, and being off by as little as a millimeter can cause chain rattle (but even then, it's only when riding over bad bumps).

    One reason for my obsession about details like this is that I'm very sensitive to rattling noises. I can't stand them!

    I don't know if your chaincase has any adjustment range to play with. Mine doesn't, but it's made from extremely thin metal, so it's bendable. A little nudge here, a tap there, and it's all good.

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  23. The thing is, that I am unable to tell what is causing the rattle - it sounds like it's everywhere, as opposed to a specific area. Should I try to push the metal outward, so it's further away from the chain?

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  24. I think chain slap is somewhat lessened if you tighten the chain. I do that on my Pashley, but not all hubs are happy with the chain being very tight. Perhaps it's best to warn everyone considering buying a Raleigh-style metal chaincase that none of them are as silent as Gazelle's nylon chaincase. You'll probably get some rattling. Pashley's plastic chaincase is somewhat better, but still slaps every now and then, it's just a different sound than against metal.

    This makes Bella Ciao's chaincase all the more impressive, although that chain is TIGHT. :)

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  25. Really superb photos. I admire your skills greatly.
    I like the way you feel about your DL-1. Very nice touch. :^)

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  26. I peruse classifieds for Raleighs from time to time and see a fair number of Raleigh Sports and Superbes, but have yet to come across a DL-1. Perhaps Raleigh didn't export many to the states. With the rod brakes, it looks like an older design than the Sport/Superbe. Is it a larger bike with a more relaxed geometry than those other Sport?

    Good, old Raleighs are getting increasingly hard to come by in these parts (Portland, OR). A nice example could easily fetch $300.

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  27. Thanks Jim : )

    arevee - They are probably more common in Boston than elsewhere, but the DL-1 is not necessarily older than the Sports. They were manufactured through the mid-80s, rodbrakes and all!

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  28. Yeah, the vinyl chaincases are all silent; the one on my wife's Union has never made any noise. But they are a pain to remove and install!! Worse than a metal chaincase. As MDI mentioned, chain tension has something to do with it. Tighter chains will slap less.

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  29. I'd considered trying to find a vinyl chaincase for this bike, but I think it would ruin the look. And yes, they are fun to install : ) I thought the chain was tight enough when we checked, but could be wrong.

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  30. Like everyone else here, I'm tickled to see Velouria again! I still feel that she is the original "lovely bike."

    Re rattling: I have two Raleighs with chain cases: one of them rattles and clunks constanly and drives me nuts, the other is virtually silent. I wish I knew why, and I'm sure that it is something that some minor tweaking might solve, but somehow I never get around to it.

    I'd be curious as to why there are so few DL-1s around in the US? I'm guessing the weight difference was a factor and the brakes of course, but I'm surprised that the smooth "Cadillac" style of the ride didn't make them more popular here.

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  31. If you want to quiet your metal chaincase, here's a trick. Go to the auto parts store and buy an aerosol can of undercoating or pickup truck bed liner spray. 2 good coats on the inside will turn an overbearingly loud chain into a whisper of sweet nothings in your wind deafened ear. Try it(lots of masking tape though). It works on the inside of your washing machine's sheetmetal case too.

    MDI, I've wondered about the rod actuated drum conversion too. Everyone complains about the lack of power... someday I'm going to see if one could modify the linkage to increase the amount of travel at the drum/arm. In my ignorance me thinks tis likely...

    Velouria, the his-n-hers DL1s I inherited from my folks are 1979 models and are not as nicely detailed as the earlier ones(not that they're nasty or anything, but...). I'd like to offer to trade you my ladies for a 1964(my birthyear) mens DL1 with full chaincase, British Post Office over-the-bars rainslicker and Army issue rifle rack to fit the Enfield SMLE jungle carbine(Oh yeah, I'll need one of those too)... But then I'd be stuck with 2 mens bikes. And my Mum would probably never forgive me.

    Spindizzy

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  32. I am so happy to see Velouria again. She is so photogenic! My lady DL-1 is awaiting some serious upgrades/changes which is involving complete new wheel builds. At first I was just going to do aluminum westwood rims with dyno front and rear new SA 5 speed hub-- it is hilly, dark, and wet much of the year where I live so this seemed to make sense. In the meantime, I found some rod stirrup to drum linkage parts on ebay (I think there is a listing still up for more of these if anyone is interested: http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-BICYCLE-ROD-BRAKE-COMPONENTS-NOS-/260728325548?pt=UK_sportsleisure_cycling_bikeparts_SR&hash=item3cb49e85ac). As packages coming from overseas to the USA has come to a screeching halt or has become exceedingly slow, I still do yet not have these parts in hand. They should, however, help increase the pulling force on the drum as they pull using the fork as a lever.

    I still don't know that I want to do an enclosed chain case. I worry about the rubbing, and I tend to get chain slap even on my hockey stick chain guard. I find it difficult to get the rear wheel under good tension in its current state, and I have already stripped one rear axle nut trying to make it tight. Hopefully, my new wheel/hub won't have this problem.

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  33. Thanks for the heads-up re: rattling. I'll think twice before swapping, for fear of ruining the eerily silent thing I've got going now.

    And yes, the DL-1 is iconic in a weird way, because people seem to think it is "old" because of the rods. This past summer I was riding downtown and passed up what appeared to be a Schwinn swap meet and I still heard someone point out to "look at the old DL-1 she's riding". The bike gets noticed because it's in that weird roadster category which people still recognise as distinct from "Dutch."

    Anyways, as you can tell, I'm a huge fan of the Lady Tourist. ;) Mine was a chance Craigslist find from a lady who was too tall to ride it (which is worth mentioning because of the lack of adjustment capabilities in the handlebars). They're around but, from what I understand, it is harder to lay hands on a gent's model.

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  34. Velouria (the bike) is iconic. She could be pictured in the dictionary opposite the definition for "stately".

    And photos 6 & 7 look like she's peering out of the picture frame to have a look at *us*.

    Nice work, and good to see the lovely gal again.


    I'll have you know that Herself gasped slightly upon seeing the pictures. I think I know what we'll be shopping for, come late spring.

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  35. Thanks to everyone who liked the pics. :)

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  36. Just last week I made my 1961 Lady's Raleigh Sports rideable. My boyfriend had recently started making a Raleigh Wayfarer rideable, so we had Raleigh bike ride date. We ended up riding over twenty miles on our Raleighs.

    I hadn't been on that bike in almost a year, and before that I had rarely ridden it. I forgot how awesome this bike is. I've ridden it everywhere for the last week, my poor road bikes get a turn at feeling neglected. :^)

    On the way home from yoga/the store/a friend's house today, though...I really wish I'd taken a road bike! It was insanely windy and it's uphill all the way home. Uphill. Into a headwind. On a bike with a totally upright posture and a three-speed hub. I spent most of it in first gear and it was exhausting!

    But...the Raleigh is the bike I was riding when I fell in love with cycling (was there one bike that did it for you?). Even when I wasn't riding it, I couldn't bear to get rid of it. The day I was coasting downhill on the way to a party and had the epiphany that I loved bicycling and wanted to do it for the rest of my life...I could never give up the bike I was riding when that moment happened.

    Because I'm a sentimental dork.

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  37. looking for qty of trad dutch bikes to buy 20/30 e mail benhayes@hotmail.com

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