1974 Raleigh copper International 700c conversion. Panaracer Pasela 700×35 tires on Sun rims with Shimano hubs. 1980’s vintage Shimano long reach side pull brakes operated by (relatively new) Shimano BL-T400 Nexave levers. 1980’s vintage Shimano front double derailer and long cage rear derailer. Nitto Albatross bars. Suntour Bar-con shifters with “Raleigh” impressed into the rubber (a rare find). Vintage Sugino AT crank (required 127mm bottom bracket [Shimano cartridge]) with 24-42-46 chainrings (half-step + granny). Shimano 7-speed “K” 13-34 7-speed cassette with smallest two cogs swapped out with a 12 and 14 to make a perfect half-step ratio average of 9.5% (Cogs = 12-14-17-20-24-29-34). Sachs PC70 chain with powerlink. Esge double legged kickstand. B67 single rail sprung saddle. To finish this bike, we will be adding a Nitto Dirt Drop stem and some cork grips, along with some Velo Orange or Honjo aluminum fenders, perhaps a Nitto front rack and Spanninga Retroled light. No doubt this bike will at some point receive a Carradice Nelson Longflap and, for touring and errands, some of our favorite Dumpster Love Panniers.
The folks at C.H.U.N.K.666 have welded retired bicycle frames into a three tier home brewery. Why didn’t we think of that?
Summer is in full swing, so winter excuses be damned. We issue readers a challenge: Make it a point to run a few errands per week on your bike (or, decide that you will run errands by bicycle two to four days per week). Put a cyclocomputer on your ride and use it only when you are running errands or riding your bicycle when you otherwise might have driven (like to the store, the dog park, the doctor, a friend’s house for a potluck, the corner market, heck–even the DMV). One good way to really get into this is to buy a cyclocomputer for an enthusiastic (noncompetitive) friend and issue them the same challenge. You will find yourselves comparing mileage quite often; and the success of one rider will often inspire the other to ride more often. A friendly rivalry will develop. Actually, it is less of a rivalry–more of a support network. Like two friends quitting smoking together–except in this case, smoking = driving.
Back to the point. Most middle aged, non fitness cyclist riders in hilly country like central Virginia average about 9 to 10 miles per hour, whether laden with groceries or not. Rider/commuters in flat areas average much more–like 14 mph. During rush hour in Charlottesville, VA, a bicycle commuter can easily do a 6 mile round trip errand in about the same time as a car (sometimes much faster, sometimes just a little slower–that depends on what part of town you live in and where you are going).
At the end of each month, catalog your bicycling miles and do the math on how much money you have saved by cycling. Earmark the money and do what you want with it, rejoicing that you did not spend it on gas (like put it in the bank/retirement account, or in the vacation fund, or buy some fancy beer, or save up for that tattoo you always wanted, or treat your partner to a nice dinner (you can save even more money by making that dinner yourself)).
It should be noted that errands are done best on a bike with rear rack + bungee cords &/or rack + bags &/or rack + milk crate, or front basket. Rider-worn backpacks work fine, but your shoulders will be bent out of shape after a few miles. Truth be told, fenders are a plus, too, since many of us live in sudden (and brief) thunder storm territory. They are light and affordable these days, and once you put them on your bike, you will wonder why you didn’t put them on sooner. Again, they are light these days. Proof: hold your bike in your hands and stand on a scale (note weight); next, hold your bike, stand on a scale, and sling a package of fenders over your shoulder. Note the difference in total weight. Do a percentage difference calculation, even. See what we mean? They are light, and you will find yourself riding in all weather and remaining clean while doing so.
Send us your monthly data and we will happily publish it.
Dumpster Love Homemade Panniers
(by the Putrid Peddler–not an affiliate with Velo Apocalypse, but a great job on some homemade panniers. Also mentioned in our Homemade Bicycle Panniers article on the articles page. Click the link below to access a pdf file of instructions.
Click for full pdf instructions: dumpsterlovepanniers
(click on the thumb for a few more pictures).
Half-step gearing is not dead. We love it, and in these days of indexing and 10-speed rear cogsets, continuing to buck the industry standard still makes retro grouch sense–that is, at least, if you are a retro grouch. We are. Sadly, we are in a quickly-shrinking minority. It goes without saying that former champions of half-step gearing, among whom are (i.e., used to be) Rivendell Bicycle Works and Frank Berto (based on his article for the Rivendell Reader #14 nearly 10 years ago), seem to have given up on promoting one of the more venerable means of customizing your bike for YOU and rejecting the will of the industry standard giants who manufacture parts for their financial convenience and (like the computer industry) try to convince consumers that the gear they bought yesterday is immediately out of date. But that rant is for another post (how’s that for apophasis?–or praeteritio?).
Anyhoo, if we may jump ahead a bit, purchasing Shimano K 7-speed cassettes and Sugino XD cranks is a lot like buying orgainic brown eggs at the supermarket (which we all ought to do). You are sending a message to the industry that factory farmed product is unacceptable (the organic) , and you are preserving genetic variation (the brown). Also, you are supporting an affordable price point product (that, in the case of the XD cranks, looks great as well). Good all around.
Back to the point. We like 7-speed cassettes, which can be used on an 8-speed hub if you add a spacer (like, for instance, one of the spacers from your scrapped cassette (or buy a 4.5mm spacer from your local bike shop). If you take the former route, just drill out the mounting rivets and set one of the spacers of the 8-speed (or old 7-speed) cassette behind your new 7-speed cassette.
Why do we like 7-speeds? Well, straight chainline setup is a snap and parts are affordable. Our preference is to use HG70 cassettes and a SRAM PC-870 chain (though the cheaper 850, and the more costly 890 chains are great, too.
If you don’t know what half-step is, you might want to quit reading now and just go ride your bike. But if you must know, it is a ratio formula where the average of the percentage of difference between your rear cogs is calculated, and your largest two chainrings are set up to provide half the average percentage of the rear. This eliminates duplicate gears so commonly found on cranksets that have 10 tooth jumps between the large rings. To illustrate, a 42-46 half-step double up front with the cog setup we describe here provides 14 usable gears with no duplicates (a triple will provide 17 of 21 usable gears). Conversely, a 36-46 double with a standard 8-speed 13-30 or 12-28 cogset would provide only 10 gears (12 with a triple)–the rest would be duplicates. Dumb.
There are some downsides to half-step. Not many, but some. First, you should get rid of your indexed shifting at the front derailer, but if you need that (or even indexing in the rear), you are probably at the wrong site or reading the wrong post on this site. It is also necessary to set your front derailer slightly higher than factory specs, especially if you have a triple front mtb derailer. With a half-step triple, you can use a road double front derailleur just fine (especially if you use a Sugino XD crank with a 46-tooth large ring. A modern road double is designed to cover a 42-52 range, so you will have to lower the derailer a bit to get it close to the 46 toothed chainring (though it will still be a bit high), and the long drop in the rear will allow the use of several gears from the third granny ring (if you have one). Second, some people, the late (and formidable) Sheldon Brown being one of them, maintain that half-step gearing with 6 or more cogs creates a situation in which the chain is deflected at too great an angle. This is not wholly untrue, but we believe that modern chains allow for far more deflection than those of yore. Moreover, once you get down below, say, 40 gear inches or so, you will be going up a pretty steep incline, so it is more common for a rider to appreciate wider low range shifts, and therefore the tendency to use the “bad combination” of the large ring with the large cog is seriously minimized (note, too, that the same gear can be obtained on the 24/17 combo, and this combo has an acceptable chainline). It must also be mentioned that many riders use all three of their chainrings on all of their cogs; but that smacks of their not having a clear knowledge of bicycle gears and how to properly use them. Still, these riders get through their shifting sequences with impunity, so even the chain deflection argument is mollified by this fact.
Back to gears and how to get a great (nearly perfect) 7-speed half-step + granny. You would be best to have:
- A Sugino XD crank (or 74/110 bcd equivalent, like an old Shimano Mountain LX) triple (these usually have 26-36-46 rings (sometimes they come with a 24 instead of a 26);
- A 42 tooth 110 bcd chainring;
- A square taper bottom bracket (you can read up online or go to your local bike shop to find the appropriate width for your bike);
- A Shimano “K” 7-speed cassette (cs718);
- (Optional, but necessary if you want a perfect half step): A spare Shimano cassette with a 12-tooth small cog and a 14 tooth second cog (again, totally optional. You might as well start with a stock K cassette and then decide if you want to upgrade to a perfect half-step later);
- A new chain (always put a new chain on with a new cassette–doi!). Get a SRAM chain with a powerlink;
- (If you have an 8-speed hub), a spacer–either a proper one ($$) or a recycled spacer from a 7- or 8-speed cassette. If you have a 7-speed hub, forget the extra spacer. You don’t need it. You might need to fool with the bottom bracket width to get a perfect chainline from the center ring to the 4th cog, but that is your job. You can also read our page on modifying a Shimano bottom bracket to give it infinite adjustment (see Phil-Woody bottom bracket under the articles page).
OK, if you are going to go with the two cassette approach, you will need to remove the rivets from both cassettes. From the back side, unscrew (some are bolted, others riveted) or drill out/grind off the rivets and use a narrow punch to drive the three rivets from the cogs (once you get the rivets started, you can grab them from the front with pliers and wiggle them free. Plan on swapping out the stock 13-tooth cog for the 12, and the 15-tooth cog for the 14. Now you are ready to go (at least in the rear). Or, you can just put on the stock K cassette and not go through the expense of buying two cassettes or hassle of drilling rivets out (more on the single cassette below).
For the chainrings, remove the 36 and replace it with a 42. Done up front. Install your bottom bracket and get your new chain and front derailer set up.
Now to ratios and gear inches. if you go with the two cassette approach, you will get a rear cog percent average of 18.95%. A 42/46 front chainring combo will give you (drumroll)… 9.5%, which is a perfect setup. For your granny, if you use a 24-tooth innermost chainring you get (with 700cx35 tires) a low of 19.3 gear inches and a high of 104.7 (which is really higher than you probably need). A 26×1.5 tire would give you 19–95.3 inches (so you could even stick with a 26 toothed innermost chainring if you ride on 26 inch wheels). If you go with a stock K cassette, you get a little duplication on your 42/15 and 46/17 combos, but that duplication is right in the 60+ gear inch range, which is where the majority of people spend most of their time while riding. Your top end will be in the 88-ish inch gear range, which is a good usable high gear for most of us. Still, if you want over 100 gear inches, get a spare cassette and pirate the 12 and 14 tooth cogs from it.
Here are the stock K (left) and perfect modified K (right) gear charts (click on the charts for a larger image):
Remember, with a 7-speed setup, you should not use the 46/34 combo (which is duplicated with the 24/17 [and you would probably want to be in the 42/34 or 42/29 anyway]), and you should not use the 24/12 or the 24/14 for fear of both chain deflection and chain slap, should your derailer not be able to take up all the slack in the chain.
Here are the parts required for the upgrade mentioned in this article:
Shimano K cassette, SRAM PC850 chain, and (optional) 12 and 14 toothed cogs (note: 12 toothed cog must be the outermost cog on your second cassette to replace the 13 on the stock K cassette:
Here is the backside of the cassette. This HG70 cassette has small bolts that can be unscrewed with pliers:
Now to address the naysayers. First, they will say that the jumps in the rear are too far apart. Not so. Many modern bike, especially mountain bike, cassettes (whether 7- 8- or 9-speed) have 13-15-17-20 or 13-15-17-19 cogs somewhere in their sequence, so you are not departing from the industry standard there–you are just getting rid of duplicate gears throughout your system–and you can still just stay in your middle ring and use the gears as the cassette is set up (which is to say, ride it like the incognoscenti do) and you feel like anything is out of the ordinary. Know, too, that with a 46 tooth large ring up front, you don’t need an 11 tooth small cog in the rear–the 11 toothers were designed for compact mountain triples whose large chainring has 42 teeth. Second, which is on the same topic of supposed too-large jumps in the rear, go for a ride with a few people and listen to the shifter clicks of the roadies or mtb’ers who have indexing with closer ratio cogsets. They often shift twice in the rear in immediate succession–this suggests that their rear cogs are actually too close together for practical use (and they are ending up with 18 to 30% shifts in the rear as a result, depending on the cassette they use). The percentage jumps of our preferred cassette set-up, at 18%, feel natural, and immediate double shifting is much less frequent. Third, the naysayers will claim that you have too small a jump up front and way too large a jump from the inner to the middle chainring. Well, you will have a small jump up front, but again, you have eliminated duplicate gears; and you will have a big jump into and out of the granny, but we do not find the 18 tooth jump up or down to hold our front derailers back, so the point is moot. Fourth, doubters will say that the shifting sequence with half-step is a PITA (i.e., shifting at the rear and at the front back to back). Again, with our 7-speed combo, the cog jumps are not out of standard percent range for many bikes on the road with 7- 8- or 9-speed systems. The PITA claim goes back to the days of 4- and 5-speeds when there were huge jumps in the rear and it was necessary to follow up a shift in the rear with a shift in the front (an example would be the classic SunTour 14-17-21-26-34 5-speed freewheel with a 48-52 front combo (and very old front derailers were designed for very small jumps in the front.
With complaints against half-step debunked, we’d like to mention, a few more benefits half-step has to offer. First, if you tour, particularly on flat terrain with shifting winds or gradual grade changes (think Kansas), you will be able to dial in a perfect gear, and you will be staying in that gear for miles and miles. Second, larger cogs (like a 13 tooth small) wear much slower than smaller ones (like 11 teeth), so you get more longevity from your gears. Third, most of your cruising range will be in the high 60’s to mid 70’s gear inches on your 17 and 20 tooth cogs, and these cogs are in the center of your gearing system, so your chainline will be at minimal deflection (which means less chain and cog wear, as well). Finally, you will have customized your gearing for YOU (and the recommendations in this article are by no means the only way to customize your gearing), and not let industry fads dictate your riding experience.
Just a quick note:
There is a page explaining the dating codes on vintage Suntour components here. Very useful.
I got turned on to this unusual 1963 bicycle safety film years ago. Something had me thinking about it this morning, so I thought I’d pass it along. The only thing I object to is the implied message that monkeys cannot ride bicycles safely. Not all non-human primate cyclists are created equal! Perhaps the stereotype is rooted in philology: Don’t monkey around on bikes. Click on the thumbnail to watch the video on YouTube.
Critical-Mass does not work, it just makes motorists (even more) angry. “One less car” stickers do not work, because angry motorists would prefer you to drive a car than to have a cyclist slow them down (a whole 15 seconds). “Share the Road” signs do not work, for 1) people do not like to be told what to do (unless it is by corporate advertising [e.g. “just do it,” “think different,” etc.], 2) people think they are doing someone a favor when they share. The fact is that motorists often appear to hate cyclists, whether commuters, recreationalists, or racers. In my opinion, the only real way to gain respect, or at least some granule of courtesy from motorists is to do one, some, or all of the following:
- Get out & (try to) ride often, preferably in “civilian” clothes, on “civilian” bikes, regardless of the ride’s mileage (errand or sports ride)[or is it, “ride smileage?”]–you heard that pun here first, by the way. People on bicycles should look like just that–people on bicycles.
- Claim more road and do not fear the car (as long as you are seen): If the pavement is in rough shape, or if there is no bike lane, or if you are almost at a stop sign, or you are on a right hand turn (car front/rear wheel radii are asymmetrical, and you can get clipped on a right bend), or if you are on a blind hill, etc., etc.. The fact of the matter is that drivers do not want to hit anyone, they only seem to want to almost hit you. Killing a (wo)man on the way to work will ruin anyone’s day and a hit-and-run will most likely cost tens of thousands in therapy (and/or legal fines);
- Be communicative with cars (no, not with “the bird,” or a “What the F***?!”). Unlike motor vehicularists, it is possible for a bicyclist to hear cars coming in the both directions. If you can safely wave cars past (i.e., you are confident you will not cause a head-on collision), do so, and motorists will (somewhere deep down) appreciate it. Try giving them an “OK to pass” arm swing (with the back of the palm facing them), and as they pass, try to wave courteously. Hope, however, that they do not honk their horn to say “hello,” or “thanks,” or “I ride a bike, too,” or “I had a bike as a kid,” etc.. Horn use near a bicyclist is inconsiderate and LOUD (if you do get honked at a lot, carry a portable air horn, and blast it in the passenger window when you catch up to the car at a stop light). Also, on the same primary topic, feel free to communicate with cars when things are not cool, like when there is a car coming from the opposite direction, or if you have a really slow (or timid) cyclist ahead of you, or if it is simply not safe to pass due to any number of reasons. This is best done by claiming more road space, dropping your left arm down and out (left arm in the U.S.A., Mexico, Canada, etc.), opening your hand with the palm back, and sort of pushing or pressing back with your arms a few times in a firm, confident way. This is the closest a cyclist can get to saying, “don’t even try to pass right now.” The circumstances might not be wholly understood by one driving a car, but the motive of the message is to guarantee the motorist’s (and the cyclist’s) safety. Most people get the point.
- Be communicative with motorists, redux (for when they are simply too angry & aggressive). Feel free to flip them the bird, call them names, pull out a squirt gun, slap their potential “involuntary manslaughter” vehicle with a convenient object, etc. I think most of this can be avoided by claiming more space, so the driver has to fully commit to, say, crossing a double yellow with the threat of a head-on collision. These redux communication techniques might lead to some sort of altercation, and should it come to that, I recommend attempting to diffuse the situation by being friendly once everyone is out of the car and off the bike. You can explain the bird/word/slap thing on being “really scared” at how close everyone was to each other, like “I thought you were so mad you might accidentally hit me,” or some such victimized nonsense. Try to get an impatient driver to imagine how (s)he would feel if it were their child being put in jeopardy by a car veering inches close at a speed over four times as fast as they, etc.
- In the event of an altercation, appeal to the universal experience of cycling or being the parent of a child / loved one who rides a bike (see the end of #4), If you have a clear view of a license plate, make/model of the car, and description of the driver (try to get them to say their name), and they strike you (or spit on you, or throw food at you), do not do anything. Remember the information. call the police, and have them booked on felony assault. This will be far worse then you deciding to kick their ass on the spot, should you be so lucky to kick their ass. If you are in a life threatening situation, reach for the pepper spray you reserve for rabid dogs and give them a sample–but only in extreme self defense. If you assault them physically, they can try to sue you. That is bad.
- Try one of the two following novel techniques to give drivers pause (or invent your own).
Note: Be sure not to wear your Ipod!
Or maybe make a sign like this:
The point is to trigger angry drivers’ sympathy, guilt, or whatever. No one really wants to kill a bicyclist; but even more so, no one, but no one wants to hurt a deaf person on a bike, or to hit a fellow “farmer” on a country road. These suggestions are courtesy of Velo Apocalypse, but I have actually seen another good one not of my own design: a recumbent rider in town with a “Senior Citizen” sign taped to the back of his seat. Very cool. He got lots of space, even in the morning rush hour.
A client had me do some work on her Trek 1450. I noticed that the handlebars were wrapped incorrectly, and that the tape itself had been cut into two pieces per side. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!.
Fortunately, I had some spare tape on hand, so I rewrapped the bars gratis. I posted some photos with some captions. You can see them by clicking HERE.
The rest of the bike was in fine shape. Minor front hub regrease, b/b adjustment, headset adjustment, handlebar alignment, bike wash, etc., were necessary.
One of our clients read about some homemade panniers on our articles page and decided to use one of the examples as inspiration for his own panniers (click here to see the inspiration) and (click here to see his 1974 Raleigh Super Course fully loaded with his homemade panniers and Carradice bags). The German alpine backpacks that are (optionally) modified are available unused from Cabella’s for about $20.00 each + circa $11.00 shipping for four (so it works out to about $90.91 with shipping for a bike’s worth of panniers). Granted, we can get awesome bicycle-specific bags from Delta (Delta Compact or Delta Expedition), but the military surplus bags are so cool and bad a**, we’d probably recommend Cabela’s bags even though we will never see a dime for it. Moreover, these bags are a rather acceptable match for the green Carradice seatbags. There are myriad ways of mounting these bags over a rack. We recommend as little modification from stock as possible, because these packs could fill a host of non-bicycle purposes. Those who are not comfortable with sling-over design and bungee cords can get Jandd or Ortlieb spares for mounting panniers. No,we have no interest in linking to those companies’ spare parts pages.
We have some extra parts left over from some Raleigh Twenty conversions over the years. Those into the Twenty scene know what tends to get replaced when these bikes are upgraded with modern parts. The leftover parts–from bottom brackets to handlebars, pedals, cranks, original red-wall tires–are often important pieces to those wishing to restore beat-up Twenty bikes back to their original state. We have some of these remnant parts. Email us if you are looking for a particular part, but only expect a “yes” or “no” email response (or no reply at all). We will not answer queries if you are looking for Raleigh Twenty frames, fenders, racks, chainguards, wheelsets, integral bits that usually stay with conversions, etc.. If, however, enough customers were interested in obtaining a basic Raleigh Twenty-inspired frame, we might be able to find a local framebuilder to take on a large-scale project, perhaps with C&C couplings in lieu of the original style hinge.
1) Mid-1980’s Bianchi Premio;
2) Mid-1980’s Trek
In the works is a new 700c conversion project: a 1974 copper Raleigh International (serial # WD400….). Parts changes are the predictable usual: Weinmann 750 long reach centerpull brakes, Sugino triple crank, adjustable quill stem. I also dug up some cool parts from the archive. 1980’s Shimano derailleurs, etc. Photos eventually up.
I’ve been working with a client on converting a 1974 Raleigh Supercourse to 650b (ISO 584mm/ E.T.R.T.O. 584mm). When acquired, the bicycle had already been altered with non-stock parts, and was then subsequently turned into a fixed gear with 27-inch wheels. The current owner wants to turn the bike into a touring capable, all purpose “country bike,” and he is certainly doing a good job of doing so.
For Johnny Cash fans, this has been a “one piece at a time” type of legitimate “salami slicing” project (see pic) using parts old and new. Converting the bike from fixed back to 12 speeds was easy enough using wheels and (Suntour) parts from a thoroughly trashed 1980’s Fuji (the smallest bicycle I had ever seen with 27″ wheels). Since getting it on the road, the owner has installed:
- A Sugino XD600 crank (26-36-46) with used cup-and-cone 122mm bottom bracket,
- Silver SKS fenders,
- A honey brown Brooks B-17 saddle,
- A Kalloy 26.4 Laprade-type seatpost (note the uncommon seat tube inner diameter!),
- Used Nitto dirt drop stem,
- Nitto Randonneur handlebars,
- Suntour bar-con shifters. The best shifters ever!
- 650b wheelset with Sun CR18 rims, stainless DT spokes, and Nexave hubs,
- Panaracer Col de la Vie tires with 26×1.1–1.4 MTB presta tubes,
- Shimano 7-speed “ac” cassette (11-13-15-17-21-24-28),
- Odyssey BRC33 bmx brakes,
- Carridice junior saddlebag mounted as a handlebar bag,
- Carridice Nelson Longflap
- Nitto/Rivendell front rack.
Nota Bene: Despite what you might read on 650b conversions of vintage Raleigh bikes, Dia-Compe 750 centerpull brakes will NOT work with this particular project (and presumably, other Super Course frames of the same year, because the ‘750, despite its adjustment range, does not have enough reach to engage on the 650b rim. There is a way around this: fabricate a clamp and drop-bolt system, but for the moment we are sticking with the Odyssey brakes. The fact is that the brakes slow, and eventually stop the bike. Isn’t that supposed to be what brakes do? More serious injuries (not to mention taco-ed wheels) are caused by locking up the brakes and ending up in an uncontrolled skid (= perpetuating momentum without slowing) or airborne highside (if you turn the bars) -vs.- not stopping fast enough–that’s a fact. The same is true of motorcycles.
Bicycle commuting and maintenance. Retro grouch stuff. 650b conversions. Raleigh bicycles and Raleigh Twenty. Internal hubs. Dynamo hubs. Sturmey-Archer. Shimano Nexus. Dia Compe 750 brakes. Tektro 556 brakes. Sugino cranks (xd500, xd600). Cloth handlebar tape. Shellac. Nitto. Pine tar soap. Phil Wood bottom bracket alternatives.