Breaking Out the Summer Bike

11 03 2010

Three years ago, a couple of friends rescued a rusty old Raleigh from a dumpster,  got her working, dubbed her Marjory Stewart Baxter and gave her a second life. Sadly, they moved away not long after, but left Marjory to me to take care of. I’m so thankful they did, because she’s become my favorite bicycle ever.

Marjory Stewart Baxter and me. From this angle the tires look flat. It's the angle, I swear. Bicycle fashion shots with flat tired bikes are a pet peeve of mine.

That summer, I took a 4 week bicycle mechanics course at EBC where I learned by overhauling every part of that bike, cleaning and regreasing each nook and cranny, replacing all the ball bearings and cables, adjusting and tightening every nut and bolt. I found six different types of (dead) insects in her bottom bracket, including wasps and moths. I spent hours sanding off rust and trying to get those rusty steel wheels true, and I had a pretty good ride to show for it, until I had to replace the tires and found out that her wheels were an oddball 26×1-3/8 (597 instead of 590 for the bike nerds) size that was only manufactured for a few brief years in Canada. This meant any new tires I put on her would not be perfectly round and feel like I was hitting a bump on every revolution of the wheel, not fun.

Eventually, I ordered in some modern cheap alloy 26×1-3/8 wheels. I had to switch out the cones and lock-nuts on the axles to match the dropout widths but is was so worth the hassle. She weighs half as much as before, brakes 10 times better, fits standard tires and with a little love will glide smooth as sorbet for thousands more miles.

So this week, I’m riding Marjory for the first time since fall. How I’ve missed sitting upright on a perfectly balanced bike with a soft cushy seat, the only resistance the wind in my hair as I zip past cyclists with gear more costly than cars. Her only weak point is that her matching pinstriped fenders that gracefully save me from the puddles fit so close they leave no room for winter studs and can completely clog up with snow or mud. I’ve rode her everywhere else possible though, from mountain bike trails (as long as they’re dry) to overnight trips into the countryside, in style.

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6 responses

11 03 2010
bike911

I like your bike. I’m planning to build one for my 9 year old daughter. She likes to have a bike with a frame just like yours. I hope to find one in one of those Japanese stores that sell old bikes and then replace some of the old parts. How I wish there is a bicycle mechanics course here in the Philippines.

Good luck with your cycling!

11 03 2010
evillerider

What a wonderful way to share the love of cycling with your daughter! They don’t make bikes the way they used to, especially in kids’ sizes, so a vintage bike would be extra special. Good luck on finding her a frame!

21 12 2010
ridon

i wanted to ask what brand alloy wheels you bought. i have an old schwinn that has steel rims (also 26 – 1 3/8 tires!) and it is a nightmare in the rain. i want to replace them!

22 12 2010
evillerider

I’m not sure what brand they are. They were the cheapest, generic, machine built wheels that the local bike co-op’s wholesaler carries, and I had to do a fair amount of work on them (re-spacing, re-dishing) to get them to fit into the Raleigh frame. My recommendation would be to start at your local bike shop, as even within the last year, more and more shops have started carrying replacement wheels for these old cruisers, and they can help you modify them (if necessary) to fit onto the old bike.

Good luck! Upgrading steel wheels to alloy is IMHO the best upgrade you can make to an old bike.

23 12 2010
ridon

i will use those exact words (cheapest, generic, machine built wheels) next time. i asked one LBS and the mechanic said new wheels and tires would come out to $200 if i want to keep my current oddly sized wheels. i’m hoping to change to a more popular size (700cc) even if it means giving up my beautiful blue fenders (sigh…..).

16 10 2011
Steve Robson

I found an old Eatons folder in the dump about 14 years ago. After finding spare parts to rebuilt it, I created a stripped 3 speed folding road bike. Here is a link to see it. http://www.pedalroom.com/bike/3-speed-beater-693.

Its one crankarm is welded in so any bottom bracket work can not be done. It will be ridden until it dies. I have grown to like this bike so I do not look forward to the day it stops to work.

Nice site. Great work on your bikes!!

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