Friday, September 30, 2011

How We Roll in Greater Boston

JP Twins and His Raleigh Marathon, Lexington MA
It amazes and delights me to see so many people on beautiful, functional and unique bicycles in the Boston area - from refurbished vintage finds to locally built custom frames. A mere two years ago this was far from a common sight, but today I might be stopped on the street and asked things like "Hey, are those Porteur bars?" by a complete stranger. People recognise me on occasion as well, as do I them - which is always funny. "You're Lovely Bicycle!" "And you're the girl who parks her ANT in Harvard Square!" After that we don't know what else to say, but we are both ridiculously happy. Yesterday I had another such encounter, and this time I had my camera out.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
On my way home from Lexington I had taken a detour to photograph my mixte in a field at sunset, when out of the corner of my eye I saw the glow of a dynamo-powered headlight. As it moved toward me - gliding across the grass in the fading evening light - I could make out shellacked bartape and a rider clad in what was almost certainly a vintage wool jersey, astride a gigantic lugged steel bicycle.

JP Twins and His Raleigh Marathon, Lexington MA
Turns out it was JP Twins - whom I had never met before, but have known for some time as a reader of this blog. And that with him is an enormous Raleigh Marathon (what is that, a 65cm frame?..), which he has transformed into an all-weather long distance commuter, Boston style.  Behold:

Modified Raleigh Marathon
A vintage frame with character.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
Nitto Noodles, Cane Creek levers, shellacked cloth tape, brass bell.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
Single speed conversion.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
Two chainring sizes, just in case.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
Dynamo lighting with the wiring neatly zip-tied to the fork.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
And of course, full fenders, rear rack and a set of panniers.

Modified Raleigh Marathon
30 mile commute? No problem. This is how we roll in greater Boston. What about your town?

25 comments:

  1. Ha! If you ever want to run into this guy, just take a ride on the Minuteman! It's like his official address!

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  2. This makes me so happy. I have a Raleigh Marathon mixte, which I love dearly. It's at the opposite end of the size range from JP Twins'- probably the smallest size they offered. It's wonderfully comfortable over longer distances - 30-50 miles feels good. A coworker who is determined to upgrade from aluminum to carbon fiber was shocked that I would ride "that old thing" for such long rides. But his reason for switching to carbon is that he's convinced it's the weight of his bike that is causing him pain. For me, however, that is not the case. The marathon is indeed a great all-weather commuter. Mine is 12-speed, and I find that big cog in the back gives me just the right range to get up all the hills in my neighborhood. Other than adding lights, I haven't made any modifications to my marathon. It's just so sturdy and functional as it is that I haven't gotten around to it, with other bikes needing more attention.

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  3. Thanks for the write-up velouria!

    It was a pleasure to meet and talk to you as well. i hope you made it home before the downpour!

    a few minor clarifications:
    * the smaller chainring in front is just a remainder from moving this crankset from my Fuji. I wasn't sure if a 46 chainring was best, so i didn't disassemble it, in case i wanted to go higher or lower. now, it's just there because i'm lazy.
    * The frame is a 27" frame (68.5cm) and was a fairly standard size for many of the 80s frames: Panasonic, Raleigh, and even the occasional Fuji. they are still pretty tough to find though!
    * and lastly, the commute is only 21 miles each way. :P

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  4. Oshkosh Wisconsin -

    One way to roll is with a Raleigh DL-1 converted to single speed. VO porteur bars, Nitto Technomic stem, Brooks B17 black, cream Schwalbe Delta Cruisers, Planet Bike fenders. The perfect bike for the Slushball Rally held on the coldest day in March. Is there a way to post pics or no?

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  5. The most common commuter here in LA is easily the male immigrant worker on a department store mountain bike. Long ignored as they are relatively quiet, politically speaking, certain areas are beginning to see bike lanes based on their needs. There's no subculture or romance built around their riding as it is a result of economic necessity rather than any sort of fetishization.

    Beyond them, I don't see many unifying aesthetic cues among the commuters here. I suppose that the popularity of high-vis vests is soaring.

    -Matt

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  6. somervillain - I rode up and down the Minuteman trail on the way to my rides nearly every day over the summer and had never ran into him before! Maybe it was the timing.

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  7. "The frame is a 27" frame (68.5cm)"

    !!

    But yes, I imagine those being common for English and Dutch bikes.

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  8. But yes, I imagine those being common for English and Dutch bikes.

    that's the crazy thing. I seem to keep finding the super tall taiwanese and japanese bikes. who knew?

    somervillian, the path is pretty empty most of the time that i ride it, believe it or not.

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  9. I remember seeing a very tall Fuji once, but I didn't think it was typical at all for Japanese bikes. Interesting that you keep finding them.

    Yup the trail is pretty empty after September - glorious!

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  10. 'which he has transformed into an all-weather long distance commuter, Boston style.'

    Never cycled in Boston but I see this 'style' used by dedicated commuters in many towns and cities. Ten years of commuting in Eugene and Portland, visiting and riding with friends in Chicago and San Francisco, and now eight years in StL makes me think that lot's of us must have bought bikes in the late 70's and early 80's -- which were all lugged steel frames -- and we just kept them going with various modifications along the way. Now they're scratched, patched together, simple, and used in all conditions. Speaking for myself I've never thought 'vintage,' I'm just thrifty :) Commute distances over all these years has ranged from 5 to 25 miles in each direction. It's fun to see 'regulars' out there, and often a brief 'hi' or a wave exchanged along the way.

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  11. That bike is great, and looks like it serves its purpose well. Similar to my commuter bike, it's just nice enough, but not too fancy to cause constant fear of theft. I love the vittoria randonneur tire too. Those things are nearly flat proof. Oops! I probably jinxed myself!

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  12. Here in Newcastle Australia, there is not a huge number of transport bike riders and they are mostly on cheap mountain or hybrid bikes, just using them as a cheap form of transport to get around. However, there is a small number of fixie riders, girls on pretty bikes, and riders on restored vintage bikes and all those numbers are growing. I also notice that when I ride my vintage loop frame I get many comments on how nice or original it is, so there is also an appreciation of the aesthetics of bicycles.

    Whenever the local government builds a new "shared path" (they are all like that over here - made for both bikes and pedestrians), everyone flocks to it for various purposes. Then there is much local debate about how the bikers/pedestrians should get off it as the bikers go too fast and scare the pedestrians and the pedestrians wander/have iPods and can't hear bike bells or have kids and/or dogs which are hazards to cyclists.

    The land here is a mixture of hilly and flat and you can get to most places on a flat path or road if you want to, some cyclists would commute 30 kilometres each way but commuting distances would mostly be shorter than that.

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  13. Thanks for a most enjoyable post. It lit me up. I have a 1983 Raleigh Record Ace.

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  14. A wonder that frame doesn't flex without a second top tube. Rivendell would be using 3 on a frame that side.

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  15. "the popularity of high-vis vests is soaring..."

    Thankfully there is almost none of that here!

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  16. "love the vittoria randonneur tire too. Those things are nearly flat proof."

    Any experience with those vs Panaracer Paselas as far as speed goes?

    Anon 9:16 - Don't be ridiculous. They would be using an extra diagonal tube.

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  17. Man, that Hunqapillar is GORGEOUS!!! If only I went off-road enough to justify it...

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  18. Most people in Seattle commmute on newish road bicycles-- it is very common to see Surly LHTs and cross checks set up as commuters. Many people also wear lycra, hi-vis clothing, clipless pedal shoes, etc. while commuting. Silliness. That stuff is not for me.

    Occasionally I see something really out of the ordinary: today I found myself drooling over a Bilenky bicycle set up as a porteur commuter parked near me at work today (at a very large university-- I have never see this one before at this rack). I was hoping to see its owner, but no avail. It had pretty shiny SS couplers, Rohloff rear hub, nice 650B set up, with hammered honjo fenders. This is far from the norm around here...

    I also have to say this very same day, my bicycle was spared componentry thievery. 4 bicycles were parked outside my apartment building last night, and 2 of 4 were missing parts this morning. I am thinking that my bicycle was spared due to its vintage character and parts. And I do feel very lucky, that this particular thief did not seem to know what a Brooks saddle is. Vintage is good and not too attractive to thieves. Works for me!

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  19. "The most common commuter here in LA is easily the male immigrant worker on a department store mountain bike. Long ignored as they are relatively quiet, politically speaking, certain areas are beginning to see bike lanes based on their needs. There's no subculture or romance built around their riding as it is a result of economic necessity rather than any sort of fetishization."

    Well put and thank you for the reality check Matt. This is also the case here in Asheville, NC. And, I imagine in most cities throughout the country. I volunteer at a non-profit bike co-op and see such an influx of low income and homeless folks. People who are totally stoked to get ANY bike, as long as it goes and stops.

    I've definitely noticed an increasing bicycle presence here in the last five years. More bike lanes and good media. Good folks on city council this year doing what they can with limited resources and poor infrastructure.

    I'd say people here are much more inclined to have geared bikes over fixies or SS- Simply due to practicality, as it is very mountainous.

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  20. That is an awesome bike. I love that you wrote about a cheap, stylish and patinaed (sp? or is that a word?) vintage commuter that wouldn't cost much to set-up and run. Although I don't and probably couldn't run fixed gear, this bike is aesthetically very similar to my Nishiki and the same vintage. 21 miles blows my measly little commute away. What a beast! Thanks for the post I enjoy reading about happy commuters finding kinship on the road. I'm so lonely out here...
    Peter

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  21. "Any experience with those vs Panaracer Paselas as far as speed goes?"

    I've never used Paselas, so I can't comment on speed comparisons. However, I have used Kenda skin-wall tires, and Schwalbe Marathons, and the Randonneurs seem to be right up there with those in terms of rolling resistance. All my tires have been in the 32mm range.

    The Paselas were my next choice, but I just liked the Randonneurs better for some reason. I later found out the U.S. home office for Vittoria/Geax is in Oklahoma City, so I'm glad to have supported a semi-local tire company.

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  22. Whoa, 42 miles everyday on a single speed. VERY cool. Nice bike to do it on too.

    Spindizzy

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  23. Spindizzy - I am going to try doing 30/day on my new fixed gear starting tomorrow. Need to change the front chainring from 49 to 44 though.

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  24. Here's where I would go into great detail about how I'm setting up my fixie to commute to my new job if it didn't require admitting it's only 8 miles. Round trip. I'll have to figure out the distance in feet or inches and see if that helps ;)

    Spindizzy

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