New Wheels

K and I have a pair of matching six speed bicycles. I bought mine first in 2005 and some months later, got a second one so we could take rides together. They worked well until February 2007, when the spokes started breaking. As the problem progressed, I was able to move some spokes around and use a spoke wrench to "tune" the wheels and keep them straight with fewer and fewer spokes. Finally, too many were gone and I had to put the bikes in storage. I have new stainless spokes to install now, but that will take some time, which I haven't had in abundance since we took up sailing. I will get those bikes back in order, since we have a pair of them and its fun to ride together.

Meanwhile, in January of 2008, I bought a Yamaha hybrid-electric bicycle which has been a good work horse for carrying loads of groceries, garden supplies, etc. from town some 12 km away. It became my main means of transportation, which is not what I intended. I do have one problem with it , which is that although one has to peddle - it isn't an all electric bike - it doesn't make me work hard enough. As a result I have gotten further out of shape since owning it. (I can't blame the bike for that entirely, but it certainly played a part). Since starting a new diet/exercise program I have lost about 5 lbs. As my main means of transport is the bicycle, a new bike is also in order. One which will give me more exercise and hopefully address some of the shortcomings of the six speed.

All along I have been looking for an ideal bike. The six speed has good points for my use - fenders to keep me clean and dry, rack for carrying items, and seat and handlebars that offer a comfortable heads up posture - .ie. a good city bike.

The drawbacks, aside from lousy spokes, are that it is heavy - about 35 lbs - and has a narrow gear range that limit speed and hill climbing ability. Not surprising in a city bike, which normally would be used for short commutes and errands. I do ride in the city, but I also ride ten to twelve kilometers to and from the city and sometimes up some fairly steep hills.

I didn't need a road bike either. I wanted a combination of the two. Fenders, rack, and comfortable posture, but lightweight and with a wide gear range. No one seemed to offer such a machine - until recently.

My new wheels are built by Raleigh (founded 1885 in Nottingham, England). This model, the Club Sport, is only offered in Japan. Nowadays, Raleigh bikes are no longer made in the UK - mine was built in Taiwan - but they are a very good quality machine with Brooks saddle (established 1866 and still made in England) Shimano gears, Shimano Altus shifter, Shimano brakes, Sugino aluminum crank, and Araya aluminum rims. The wheels are quick release type, which is handy if I need to repair a flat or want to put the bike in the back of the Honda Insight.

It features a nostalgic look that I like a lot, down to the old style pin striping and logos on the frame. It has my required fenders, kick stand, small front rack and a very comfortable handlebars with a posture that is in between the low drag head down road bike and the upright city bike.

As for the gears - it has 21 speeds with a much broader range than the old bike. The shifters are on the handlebars and very easy to use with clearly marked position indicators.

The weight is not as light as I would like in my dreams, but I'm sure a much lighter bike would cost a whole lot more money. Still, it is 5 lbs lighter than the old one.

I've added a Cateye speedometer, Cateye (ultra bright) tail light, and a headlight. I may add a small handlebar bag for such things as my camera if I can find one that both looks good and is affordable. For carrying items, the small rack on the front works OK, but most things will go in a backpack. [For major loads, I will still use the Yamaha which has a big rear rack, panniers, and front basket.]

I've only had the Raleigh for a week now, but so far I'm very happy with it.

Be safe out there. Happy bicycling.


Don Snabulus said...

Congrats on your new ride. It is unfortunate that the 6 speeds had spoke problems in such a short time. They must have been engineered incorrectly.

Now that I have a decent chiropractor, my non-electric (acoustic?) bike gets most of the use. I no longer have a commute, so most of my riding is for fun now. I have a rail line turned back paths that is safe and scenic.

I wish you well on your new fitness regime. You will feel better getting out and working them lungs.

Arkonbey said...

Nice ride! Interesting that it has a front rack and not a rear rack. Just curious: are the tube valves presta, schaeder or that special Japanese one that I've heard about?

I'm slightly jealous. A (very small)part of me would like to be urban again so I can get a cruiser like that; my off-road racing bike just doesn't have such a 'cool factor' on pavement...

I hope you learned that spoke tensioning is best left to professionals with a truing stand:)

Things can go south awfully quickly when dealing with spokes.

Pandabonium said...

Don - badly engineered or cheap metal.

Glad you're riding your acoustic bike and getting to do it for fun. Turning the old rail lines into pathways was a good idea - those rights of way may be needed for trains again someday.

I'm stronger and leaner every day. :)

Arkonbey - thanks. one can put a rear rack on it - the threaded attach points are on the frame. With a step through frame a rear rack can carry a lot, but with a diamond frame, I'd have to swing my leg over whatever on it. If I want more carrying capacity than my backpack, I might add panniers.

Like virtually all bikes in Japan and much of Asia, it has Woods/Dunlop valves. A real pain to get the pressure right.
Spokes are a pain, but don't have any pros nearby to do the job, not to mention the cost. Rather not pay much for work on a cheap bike.

Then there was the mute who walked into a bike shop, picked up a wheel and spoke...

HappySurfer said...

Cool machine. Congrats!

12km is pretty far to me but then again if it's enjoyable or for a purpose, distance is nothing, eh?

Unfortunately, our roads here are not safe for cycling. :(

Pandabonium said...

Thanks, Happy Surfer. No worries, as oil depletes, people will be forced to choose between walking, riding bicycles, or public transport. Your air will be clean again and bicycling made safer. This will be sooner than most people think. ;^)

Martin J Frid said...

The bike looks great - did it come with a British bowler hat and a tweed jacket?

About oil depletion, I wonder how road maintanence will shape up in a couple of years. Asphalt is mainly tar, which could become a problem too, no?

I'm always mad when they tear up a nicely paved road to put down some new pipes, and then the repair work leaves the road uneven. For us one two wheels, it really makes a difference when the asphalt is smooth or not.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - "Always keep your bowler on in times of stress" - Emma Peel to John Steed in The Avengers, "The Forget-me-knot" (1967)

I do have a bowler of sorts I wear when riding.

Oil prices and shortages will definitely affect road repair - not just the materials either. Those big paving machines, rollers, graders, etc. all run on liquid fossil fuel. I expect this will take some time as cities shift priorities around to try and cover their bases, but over a time, all but the most crucial roads will revert to gravel.

FH2o said...

Nice. Of late I'd been hooked on cycling as well and I commute to work once or twice a week on my folder - a Dahon Speed P8.
Raleigh is a very famous old brand here and that's one smart looking Raleigh you have.
It's a pity not too many people cycles in Kuching.

Pandabonium said...

FH20 - Thanks. I've been enjoying riding it a lot. You're doing some bicycle too now, eh? That's great. That Dahon is a handy folding bike. I just saw one on the road today.

Well, no wonder more people in Kuching don't ride bicycles - Petronas sells gasoline for cars so cheap. But that will change. Next year, Malaysia will become a net importer of oil (it already is for natural gas) and the price will have to rise.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I keep telling myself I should get a bicycle and start riding around a bit. My kids are definitely one up on me in this department. Okay if I name you and Don as my official inspiration if I do?