This is the bike that got me started. About 3 years ago, abondoned in a Halifax a Raleigh winner, 21 inch 1980's racing bike was rescued from the big scrapheap in the sky. The wheels were knackered but nearly everything else was in reasonable condition. It was a simple 5 speed with a friction shifter mounted on the downtube. I've not got pictures of the original bike because this precedes the discovery of blogging, but I looked almost exactly like the photo below. Try to imagine it with bent, rusted wheels, no bar tape, threadbare cabling and a shreaded saddle.
This was about the time I was first attempting to commute on my Trek Navigator hybrid and moderately failing at it. The most noticeable thing back then was being overtaken by blokes on road bikes who zoomed off into the sunset, leaving me to wonder if a road bike was the way to go for tackling a 30mile daily round trip. In the middle of wondering this I diverged and got a Brompton which solved all my woes and meant the reason for rescuing this Raleigh became a bit null and void.
When thinking of what to do with it, I came across the FixedGearGallery and was hooked.....they are all so very clean and pretty. I could just create something sleek and simple as a project and forget about whether it would actually get used for anything or not. So I set about stripping the bike down into its constituant parts and attempting to prep the frame for repainting. (This is easier said than done when you haven't yet discovered angle grinders and cup brushes). The idea was very simple. Clean/refurbish almost every existing part and fit a brand new wheelset with a flip-flop hub. The wheelset was £75 off ebay, so including new tyres, tubes, brake pads and paint/laquer it cost roughly £120 to build over a period of a few weeks, but could easily have been done in a weekend with a bit of effort.
£120, coincidentally is about how much this bike would have cost in the early 80's when it was new. The Winner was a lower end Raleigh race model, but low-end presumably had a slightly different meaning back then and even as early as 15 years ago when I got my low-end Raleigh MTB. Nowadays, buying the cheapest on the market will no doubt mean a horrific monstrosity weighing in at more than my Nexus (that takes some doing), with forks on backwards, & parts already rusting before it's loaded into the shipping container in China. But previously low end didn't mean crap, it just meant not as posh as the higher end stuff. The components where all still good quality kit and the frames were still hand crafted by the same blokes who, I suppose, might also lug together a bike costing 5 times the price.
Fixed gear however is hopelessy impractical for me and would be downright bloody dangerous at times around Manchester's drivers. So it has remained a pretty garage ornament for the most of its existence. I had been planning for quite a while to build a new rear wheel using a 3 speed hub for this bike, but last week I dusted it off and fitted a BMX 18 tooth freewheel orginally from the B'twin Vitamin. This increased it's useability massively, but I still didn't get on with the drop bars very well. Like the fixed cog, a very low thin set of drops just destroys my confidence on the road, knowing that unpredictable drivers are lurking behind every corner. So the next post will be about how I solved the handlebar issue on this bike and finally made it into something that gets a bit of use on sunny days.