A Fine Little Breeze

My current home of Edmonton isn’t very windy by the standards of the place I grew up. When the people here get worked up about how strong the winds are during a storm, I’m most often underwhelmed. Are trains blowing off the tracks? Are truckers driving down the highway two-abreast to try to stay on the road? No? It’s not that windy, then. Go to Wreckhouse during a Southeaster and then we can talk about wind.

On other hand, we do get  intense winds here in Edmonton during summer thunderstorms but they usually only last for less than half an hour. When a breeze settles in to stay a while it is quite the occasion. And then there are tornados on the prairies as well – something I hope to never see.

Given all that, our recent day-long storm with gusts exceeding 100 km/h was a pretty big deal here. I rode to work in the morning on my Raleigh Superbe through a steady downpour and with a strong tailwind. The storm kindly expended most of its force while I was snug inside at work listening to radio reports of the storm damage, power outages and fallen trees. By the time I was heading home there was only a stiff headwind with driving rain that fizzled out as I rode.

The were were certainly a lot of branches and twigs stem across the asphalt. I decided it was probably safe to dip down onto the Mill Creek paved trail for a short distance and see if there was any storm damage. In what was likely less than a kilometer of riding I had to get past about eight trees fallen across the path. I forgot to count at the time. I didn’t take any pictures due to the rain, but the next day on my way to work I took one shot before detouring back to street level.

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The city announced that all River Valley trails we closed for the day, but the foresters put in a hard day’s work and almost all the paths were reopened by time time I was headed home.

All in all, I do have to admit that it was a fine little breeze we had.

 

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Three Speed October Challenge: Week Three Finale

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1965 CCM Continental

Challenge complete! It was warmer this week, most of the early snowfall has now melted and the normal autumn weather felt like a reprieve from a winter that hasn’t officially arrived yet. I found the time to get my third three-speed bike into service to ride for the challenge and met my additional personal goal of riding each bike at least three times during the three weeks.

The last of my bikes to be used in the challenge is the first three-speed I ever owned. I bought this 1965 CCM Continental a few years back from the Raving Bike Fiend. It’s a lovely old bike that has only seen light use since I acquired it. Unlike the Superbe or the R20, and for reasons I can’t quite pin down, this one insists on being ridden at a leisurely pace. I’ve mostly used it for relaxed family rides or as a show bike for group rides.I rode it for the 2011 Edmonton Tweed Ride. I dressed it up a bit for the first 2012 Edmonton Steampunk Bike Ride. On the more practical side, I rode it to work one frigid winter morning when it was so cold that the freehub on my winter bike was freezing up – no need to worry about that with the Sturmey-Archer three-speed.

The bike has front and rear lights intended to powered by the dynamo built into the AWG rear hub but I’ve never got around to wiring them up properly. It has steel rims, a one piece crank, fantastic high bars and weighs about 40 pounds. The bike is a bit small for me and as nice as it is to have some Made in Canada content in my little bike fleet, I think I will soon sell this one. I hadn’t ridden it in all of 2016 and I don’t believe I rode it more than once in 2015. With this October Challenge I was glad to have a reason to shuffle it out from the back of the bike pile in my garage, dust it off and ride it for a few days.

Day Three: Tuesday

On Sunday and Monday I played it safe and commuted on my winter bike but by Tuesday the conditions seemed suitable for bringing out a three-speed again for the 20km round trip to work. Road construction caused me to detour onto a short segment of footpath.

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On the way home I stopped to take a few pics of the rapid progress that’s been made on the new footbridge that’s part of the city’s funicular project. Given the foul weather on the previous Friday I had been cranky about the lengthy detour this bridge construction forced me to take. However, now that the hill is open again and I can see how much work they got done over the course of four days I have to be impressed with the good job the workers seem to be doing.

That evening I also completed a second qualifying ride when I rode my Raleigh 20 on a 5.5 km round trip to Kingsway mall to run an errand. I didn’t stop to take any pictures but I did notice just how much more nimble and zippy the R20 is compared to the CCM.

Day Four: Wednesday

On Wednesday I rode the CCM to work again for another 20km roundtrip. On the way back I stopped at the southside Earth’s General Store for supplies. My bike was in good company at the rack with a Kuwahara Super Tour and a Norco Eurosport Tri-A with an appealingly gaudy pink & white splatter paint and added moustache bars. After leaving the store I indulged in another beauty pic of the CCM and a riding bike selfie. (Remember when they were called Panda Shots?)

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Day Seven: Saturday

I managed to get one more qualifying ride in on the CCM with a 8km roundtrip downtown to visit the bank, shop for supplies at the downtown farmers’ market, and drop in at Bikeworks North on the way home. I couldn’t let the entire October Challenge pass without getting tweeded up at least once so I dug out my Harris Tweed for this ride.

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It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon ride under a bright blue sky while breathing in the crisp autumn air. While downtown I snapped a few pics of the recently completed Kelly Ramsey Tower. The original building was badly damaged by a fire in 2009 and was eventually demolished. However, much of the original facade was salvaged and reassembled as part of the new building. I often feel ambivalent about projects that preserve the only exterior of a building but in this case it was well done to save something from the aftermath of the fire.

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After popping in to Bikeworks to say hi to the other volunteers I rolled across the avenue to the Hungarian deli to buy a couple of links of their medium-hot sausage. This little unassuming shop has lots of interesting products and is also my source for jars of thick, tangy rosehip jam.

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That was my final ride for the October Challenge – it was lots of fun to get out and ride these pleasing and practical bikes. During the challenge I rode my Raleigh Superbe seven times with six qualifying rides totaling 106 km (66 miles). I rode my Raleigh 20 four times with three qualifying rides totaling 30.5 km (19 miles). I rode my CCM Continental on three qualifying rides totaling 48 km (30 miles). Of all the rides only one was strictly a pleasure ride – the others all qualified as utility rides.

Thanks to Portland’s Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League  & Society of Three Speeds for creating the challenge.

Three Speed October Challenge: Week One

The first week of the Three Speed October Challenge has wrapped up and I’ve done some respectable three-speedin’. On each day of the week I managed at least one trip on an appropriate bike. Not all met the requirements of the challenge but I will present them here anyway because in accordance with Rule#3 of The Society of Three Speeds I did indeed ride my “my three speed bicycle with pride and immense enjoyment.”. 

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Raleigh Superbe

The main bike this week was my 70’s era Raleigh Superbe. I do so love this one – for me it represents a perfect realization of one type of bicycle design. It’s no lightweight, coming in at about 45 pounds, but it has a wonderfully smooth ride and strikes that elusive balance between responsiveness and stability that is so valuable in a practical machine intended for transportation and recreation. This bike came to me in nearly factory-new condition, with pristine bronze-green paint and all thoughtfully specified components in fine working order, including the hub-dynamo driven front and rear lights. The only additions I’ve made to the bike are new tubes and tires (having replaced the cracked originals with some spiffy new Rubenas) ; a Brooks B67s saddle;  Kool Stop Continental brake pads for a bit of assistance with the steel rims; an old double-legged kickstand; and a cheap alloy bell (soon to be replaced with a nice brass Crane). Riding this bike is a true delight and makes this October Challenge no challenge at all, really.

Day One (Sunday)

Sunday’s ride was an easy 10km round trip to pick up my son. Towing the trailer with the Superbe was a snap, although with the lesser braking effectiveness of the steel rims I wouldn’t want to do this in the rain. I don’t know how many more trips there will be with the trailer anyway, as by springtime I expect I would have to fold the boy over twice to fit him in there.It’ll be the end of an era.

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Day Two (Monday)

Monday’s ride was a 20km round trip commute to work on the Superbe. I didn’t have much time to dawdle and took no photos.

Day Three (Tuesday)

Tuesday’s ride was another 20km round trip to work on the Superbe. I zipped in briskly  on the morning trip but took my time on the return and allowed myself the pleasure of riding some of the gravel trails and sampled the fading autumn splendour of our urban forest. My ride took me over and under bridges and I stopped to take several pictures.

I stopped to look at the construction progress where the City will be demolishing the old pedestrian bridge and replacing it with a fancy new one that will accommodate both pedestrians and the trains for the new LRT line. While I support the new public transit project, I will very much miss the old bridge which offered a peaceful place to linger as one crossed the river. The new bridge, while much more visually striking, will offer, at best, a practical way to get across the river. I don’t see it being the pleasant social hub that the old one was. On this day, the area was a proper hive of activity, with a stream of trucks delivering the boulders being used to construct the berm that is required for tearing down the old bridge.

On the way up the hill from the construction sight I stopped in at the Chinese Garden. I hadn’t been there in quite a while and was pleasantly surprised to see new carvings of the Chinese zodiac installed. These look quite tamper proof and should last longer than the previous ones that suffered badly at the hands of vandals. Behind these statues you can see the little bridge over the water-less pond. I don’t know if the City ever intends to fill that pond but the bridge will remain a somewhat pointless object to me if they let it remain dry.

Day Four (Wednesday)

This day was another 20km round trip commute on my Superbe. Once again, I was racing the clock in the morning but had time to enjoy the ride on the way home. This summer brought more rain than I remember experiencing since I’ve been in Edmonton. It seemed like there was a least a shower per day and many heavy downpours. The greenery in my garden thrived, but the trails in the river valley and ravines experienced accelerated erosion and many trails have been closed. The Superbe offered a civilized and refined ride over some mild singletrack and I was reminded how little difference there is between the common old standard of 26 X 1 3/8 wheels (650A) and the new bike-industry darling of 650B.

Day Five (Thursday)

On Thursday I was on a very tight schedule and didn’t commute on a three-speed, opting instead to ride a faster bike. In the evening  I did ride the Superbe to my weekly volunteer shift at Bikeworks. I’m not actually sure of the distance for this trip, but as a round trip it likely exceeds the three mile requirement of the challenge. I didn’t take any pictures but on my return home after dark I was able to enjoy the warm (if feeble) glow of the original headlamp and bulb on the bike.

Day Six (Friday)

Friday’s ride was another 20km round trip commute but this time on my 70s Raleigh 20 Three-Speed folding bike. This bike has appeared in the blog before but I will comment that it is a rugged, fun little bike that moves fast, maneuvers well and is a surprisingly good choice for hauling cargo. I’ve laced new alloy CR18 rims onto the original hubs making it speedier and also enhancing the effectiveness of the brakes. In gesture of cultural solidarity I’ve installed a lovely old French Ideale saddle on this utilitarian British bike (actually it’s there because it looks good and is comfy to sit on).

On the morning ride to work it was quite chilly at -5°C and there was a heavy frost on the ground. I resisted the urge to stop and make a frost angel in the grass. Lately my commute has been plagued with routes closed due to construction and nonsensical detour suggestions on the part  of the city. At one point I carried my bike up a short flight of stairs instead of taking the ludicrously long official detour and observed from the tracks in the frost that I wasn’t the first person to make that choice.

On the way home I stopped for a scenic bike picture against the background of the river valley.

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Day Seven (Saturday)

The view from my window Saturday morning showed fine Christmas weather outside which is unfortunate because it’s actually the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

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I spent a good portion of my day sipping piping hot tea and playing guitar but eventually I did stir outside and rode my Superbe to Bikeworks. While there I cut some spokes to length and used the spoke threader to roll new threads on them. These are for the new wheel I’m building for my winter bike and I felt perhaps I had delayed this project too late.

A massive group ride had been planned for that evening (one to two hundred riders expected) but it was cancelled due to the weather. That was sad and disrupted my plan of bringing out my third three-speed bike to end the first week of the challenge with a flourish.

Thanks for reading (or skipping ahead) to end of this week of challenge. Next weeks riding will include at least some snowy riding and hopefully one more three-speed bike.

Three Speed Challenge

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Here I am, recently awakened from blog cryosleep by Shawn Granton to participate in this year’s Three Speed October challenge from The Society of Three Speeds. There was a challenge last year as well, and I even did a ride for it, took lots of pictures and then failed to document it via the blog. I will be more diligent this year.

This year’s challenge requires riding a three speed bike three times a week, for three calendar weeks, with trips of at least three miles. And since I have three of these sorts of bikes I’ll add another personal criteria to the challenge: I’ll ride each of the three bikes at least three times each. That’s a lot of threes, friends.

The riding has already begun.

 

 

On a Wheelbuilding Roll

A nascent wheel.

A nascent wheel.

I don’t think there’s much reason for most cyclists to learn how to build a wheel. In general, new factory-made wheels are reasonably priced and not much (if any) money is saved in comparison if you have to buy a rim, hub and spokes for a build. In my case, I also have ready access to very affordable used wheels at Bikeworks, our local community bike shop, which gives me even less reason to build a wheel from scratch.

On the other hand, if you have an interest in bike maintenance, wheel building is a fun and satisfying skill in its own right. Also, if you are the frugal sort and have a stockpile of used rims, spokes and hubs salvaged from dead wheels, then building one can be quite economical. Finally, depending on what sort of bikes you find yourself riding there may not be suitable wheels readily available to purchase. For this, my 6th wheel build, all those factors were at play, most especially the last one – 16″ wheels with Sturmey Archer 3-speed hubs aren’t that common.

I had the rim and the hub. I didn’t have the right length of spoke for such a tiny wheel but I did have lots of salvaged straight gauge DT spokes. Since Bikeworks has a spoke threader, I thought I’d have a go at cutting the spokes to the right length and threading them myself.

Hozan Spoke Threader in action.

Hozan Spoke Threader in action.

I’ve never used this machine before, but online instructions made it seem simple enough. In practice it was a simple, though very tedious job. It was made more time consuming by the fact that the thread rolling heads seem to be somewhat worn. After cutting and threading the required 28 spokes, I was hoping that I had calculated the required length correctly, because if they turned out to be too short I might have have to sit down and have a good cry.

Almost a wheel!

Almost a wheel!

Happily, the wheel seems to have come together nicely. I still have to bring it back to the shop so I can dish and true it, but it looks like everything will work out.

Any readers who can correctly guess what sort of bike this wheel is going on will receive a real bicycle-related prize of dubious value, mailed in a more or less prompt fashion. You’ll need to identify at least the brand and also model or approximate era of the bike. People with a knowledge of the contents of my garage are prohibited from entering the contest. E-mail your answer to tuckamoredew at gmail dot com.

 

Small-Wheeled Summer

Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

Summer has passed, leaves are falling and cool autumn weather has arrived. Rather than looking ahead to the approach of winter, I’m consoling myself by retreating into memories of this summer’s rides. Since I was a terrible blogger during those months, you can come along for the review.

I did pretty good job of showing all the bikes some attention (I love you ALL, my bikes. I really do). Today’s post looks at my late 70s Raleigh20 3-speed folding bike. The R20 is a really fun little city bike. It’s sturdy, maneuverable and (with the stock gearing) surprisingly fast. This year, I treated the bike to a set of MKS Lambda pedals that came in as a donation at BWN and rolled those 20″, 451 wheels through many kilometers.

Sheltering from a shower.

Sheltering from a shower.

The low height of the Pletscher rack on the R20 makes the bike stable even when carrying a fairly heavy load and I loaded it up on a number of shopping trips. The rack only has two supports, not as sturdy as most current racks, and it swayed a bit under the heaviest loads. I may have been skirting the edge of destructive testing on a few occasions.

That's more than 40 pounds of water - destined to become homebrew.

That’s more than 40 pounds of water – destined to become homebrew.

At the Downtown Farmer's Market with a heavy load of foodstuffs.

At the Downtown Farmer’s Market with a heavy load of foodstuffs.

Back in June, the R20 had as chance to spend an evening in the company of its peers. The Raving Bike Fiend organized a group ride on folding bikes and there were 4 people riding Raleigh 20s of assorted ages. In fact, as nobody at all showed up on a modern folding bike, it turned out to be a vintage bike ride as well. Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

 

Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

 

The whole group.

The whole group.

There were two 80s era Dahon V bikes, as well. I have one of these in the garage at home, but I rarely ride it.  Although they do fold up into a considerably small and tidy package, I was never fond of the ride quality and the general creakiness of the folding connections. The steering is twitchy enough that I was sometimes nervous to take one hand off the bars to signal a turn. By contrast, the R20 is very solid and feels much like a regular sized bike.

Dahon V Folding Bike

The RBF demonstrates the fold.

The RBF demonstrates the fold.

This is good advice, as if you do press this button the bike steering will be free to fold. In fact on two occasion, this happened to me while riding my Dahon V, without me even touching the button. Another reason I'm leery of these bikes.

This is good advice, as if you do press this button the bike steering will be free to fold. In fact on two occasion, this happened to me while riding my Dahon V, without me even touching the button. Another reason I’m leery of these bikes.

There were three other old folders, each with interesting features.

Evilleriders Portabike, converted to fixed gear and a veteran of more than one winters riding.

Evillerider’s Portabike, converted to fixed gear and a veteran of more than one winters riding.

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Also from Evillerider's fleet,  this one with a two-speed kickback hub.

Also from Evillerider’s fleet, this one with a two-speed kickback hub.

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This one has the best name. I forget where it was made. Eastern Europe?

This one has the best name. I forget where it was made. Eastern Europe?

My camera stopped working just after we started riding, so I don’t have any pics from then on. We cruised around the edge of the river valley, stopped at a pub for a beer (where the manager asked the RBF to remove his folded Dahon from the table), stopped at my favourite local playground in Borden Park where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset, and finally did a bit of parkade exploration downtown.

I’d say my R20 has no reason to complain of lack of attention this summer. We commuted and rode recreationally,  through fair weather and foul, by night and day. I will include one parting photo, taken on the soon-to-be-replaced downtown pedestrian bridge on the way home from a friend’s birthday party. In the instrument case is my resonator mandolin.

R20 and mandolin

Mystery antique bike tool – can you guess its purpose?

Mystery Bike Tool

Mystery Bike Tool

Hanging out at our local community run bike shop, Bikeworks North, has given me many opportunities to glimpse the diversity of bicycle technology new and old. While it’s neat to occasionally see somebody wander in with a skookum carbon fiber bike (that cost more than I could sell my internal organs for on the black market), what I enjoy most is getting to see some of the odd avenues that bicycle manufacturers have wandered down in the past.

I freely admit that it doesn’t take much to impress me. As a 40-something year old whippersnapper who has really only been sucked into the cycling history vortex in the past couple of years, I have a lot to learn. The internet is, of course, a wealth of easily accessible information but you can’t beat the opportunity to actually to see something in person.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be in the shop when an older gentleman brought in the tool shown in the opening photo. This fellow is 85 years old and operated a bike shop decades ago. I didn’t catch when he shut down his business, but judging by the NOS parts he donated during an earlier visit, it was likely in the early 80’s. He commented that as a small shop he couldn’t compete with the volume discounts that the suppliers started offering to the big stores. It interesting to chat with him about the cycling shops that have come and gone in Edmonton long before I moved here.

On this day, he had brought in an old bike tool and he challenged the volunteers present to guess what it was used for. I was well out of my depth here. It was looked to be double-ratcheting, tightening something with both the up and downstrokes of the lever, which reminded me of a cider press I rented once. However, I couldn’t guess what would require that on a bicycle.

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Here is the other side of the tool.

He also brought in a child’s CCM bike dating from the late 40’s or early 50’s. This was nifty to look at all on its own. In the photos below, an observant reader might be able to spot a clue to the intended use of the tool.

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This use of the mystery tool dates back to the dawn of cycling and something of its sort was used with the iconic penny-farthings. I imagine it wasn’t much used by the 1940s but was still a requirement for working on children’s bicycles as well as for baby carriages. Still stumped? The next photos should clear things up.

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Pneumatic tires have been around since the late 1800’s but before that solid rubber tires were used and were tightened onto the rim by means of an internal wire. The mystery tool was used to tighten the wire. While the cushioning effect of the air-filled tires made them immediately popular, the durable and puncture proof solid tires remained in use for some applications. Even today you can still buy modern varieties of airless tires. The photo above shows a tire that wasn’t properly fit to the wheel.

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The tire material was sold in coils and you would simply cut off the length you needed for a particular wheel.

My wife doesn’t share my bike interests, but is tolerant when I pester her to look at something I find interesting. When I showed her the photos of the tire machine, I was surprised when she said she had seen one before. Her grandfather was a cobbler in Saskatchewan who also repaired bike wheels and she remembered seeing a tool like this in his shop. She had also seen the coils of tire material there. When I mentioned that these sorts of tires had been used on baby carriages she said that there were carriages handing from the rafters of his shop.

I snooped around the internet for a bit, and while I didn’t find an example of this particular type of machine being used, I did find some examples of different machines being used for the same job. Here is a video of one in use.

I doubt I’ll ever have occasion to use a device like this but it was fascinating to learn about this old style of tire. Maybe I need to add a penny-farthing to my small fleet.