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the maiden voyage: bike bells, hub oil, and a new basket

August 18, 2010
Shadow Photographer

Yesterday I took the Raleigh Sports on its first adventure around town. I rode all around the city for errands and visited a couple of the local bike shops; both to gather information and accessories and because I needed an excuse to log a bunch of miles for a test ride. The good news is that this bike rides very well and I found myself not having to stand up to peddle on hills that previously required that on the cruiser.

The bad news is that the brakes don’t work as well and that I do miss having coaster brakes. I find coaster brakes particularly useful when stopping at intersections that require signaling. It’s nice to brake with your feet while your arms steer and signal. This is especially the case when coming downhill into an intersection and you’re both trying to slow the bike down while wanting to notify cars of your next turn.

But other than the brakes, I have no complaints. I’m settling in with the bike nicely and am looking to outfit her for daily commutes. First came the easy upgrades; a bike bell, a basket, and some basic maintenance.

The very nice owner of my local bike shop took some time to look at the bike with me and to advise me on some initial maintenance steps. He instructed us to oil the hub (something several of you noted as well) and to also oil the brake cables. We still don’t know how to get the oil into the brake cables but we found the small opening in the hub and used a syringe to squirt motor oil inside of it.




We read on a couple of bike forums that it doesn’t take much oil and that one knows when the hub is full because it will start leaking. My bike took three syringes full of oil before it began to leak. We’re pretty certain that the last time these hubs saw a drop of fresh oil was back in 1980 when the second owner took them on.

In addition to oiling the hub, we want to treat the Brooks leather seats. Any thoughts on good products? Does it have to be a Brooks made conditioner?

I also did a quick clean up job using brass polisher on the handlebars and other brass areas. Amazing what just a bit of polish and scrubbing action will do.



I also added a very loud bell and a wire basket unto the rear rack. Because the rear rack is the original Sports rack, it comes in a curved shape that is incompatible with modern panniers or baskets that clip on to the rack and hang down to the side of the wheel. It’s made for panniers that drape over the top of the rack, saddle-style, or for baskets that sit on top of the rack. I opted for a simple wire basket for now.

basket case

I have a list of things to do as the semester begins and I need to be returning to my writing and lesson planning but my mind has been consumed by facts and questions about these bikes. I even dreamt about this bike and about questions posted on bike forums. Hmmm…the symptom of a disorder to come perhaps? Or am I already knee-deep in it?

Many thanks to all of you who have chimed in with all of your helpful tips and suggestions. I really appreciate the collection of knowledge that gathered in the comments section of my last post. Here are just a few of those tips:

    Charlotte of Chic Cyclist recommended the Continental KoolStop salmon brake pads, so I will look into finding those (ASAP).

    Dave Feucht of Portlandize told me of for original or more obscure parts. He also recommends the Busch & Muller Lumotec Retro headlight with an AXA HR bottle/tire generator lights that keep with the look of the bike (this was something I had the most difficulty with when it came to the local bike shops. They pretty much scoffed at any lights that were not modern LED contraptions).

    N. mentioned that my saddle could use some tightening and directed me to this site for more information.

    Many of you noted that Sheldon Brown is the man on vintage Raleighs and I concur; it’s where T. and I have been digging for answers to all of our questions thus far.

    G.E. also added this site as a useful resource on vintage Raleighs.

Slowly but surely we are gathering information and thinking of things we’d like to do for the bikes. T. is disappointed that the original 5-speed hub was converted to a 3-speed and we’re wondering about restoring the bike to its original 5-speed gears. The work we do will be spread out over a considerable period of time as we lack both the expertise and the financial holdings to confront these projects head-on. But as I write about the process, I look forward to learning more about vintage bikes, bike restoration and maintenance, and simply the mechanics behind these beautiful machines. And I continue to appreciate your thoughtful comments and helpful tips!

21 Comments leave one →
  1. G.E. permalink
    August 18, 2010 03:30

    It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with these new-to-you bicycles. How exciting! I love the rear basket with the flowers too.

    As for the leather saddle proofide, I know that some people insist that you use the Brooks stuff, but I have used another brand on my Brooks saddles (Obenauf’s Heavy Duty) and I haven’t had any issues. Seems to break the saddle in fine and protect them as well. I think it cost me $4-5, so it was a definite savings over the Brooks brand. I’m sure there are other brands as well that could be used.

    • August 18, 2010 03:38

      Thanks, G.E.! Good to hear that you’ve used other leather treaters and it’s been ok, that’s what we were thinking as well.

  2. Janni permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:09

    Herzlichen Glückwunsch zu dem schönen klassischen Fahrrad! Damit zu fahren ist schon so eine Art “Denkmalpflege”, oder?

    Dein Vermissen der Rücktrittbremse kann ich verstehen – man gewöhnt sich aber schnell an Handbremsen. Die Sturmey-Archer-Schaltnaben gibt es aber wohl auch wahlweise mit eingebautem Rücktritt, vielleicht bietet sich einmal einAustausch an.

    Aus Sicherheitsgründen solltest Du aber wirklich darüber nachdenken, die Stahlfelgen gegen solche aus Aluminium zu tauschen. Die Bremswirkung bei feuchtem Wetter ist völlig anders und wesentlich besser!

    • Janni permalink
      August 18, 2010 12:12

      Für passendes Zubehör solltest Du auch auf der Homepage von Busch + Müller nachsehen:

      Moderne Halogenscheinwerfer und antikes Aussehen müssen sich offenbar nicht ausschliessen.

  3. August 18, 2010 13:04

    Janni, danke für die Tips! Ich hoffe mehrer wesentlichere Änderungen machen zu können, wie die Stahlfelgen mit Alufelgen zu ersetzen. Das wird wahrscheinlich noch ein bisschen dauern, aber Licht und Bremsen brauche ich jetzt. Bremsen haben wir gestern bestellt und heute werde ich mal sehen, wie viel es kosten würde die Retro Lichter von Busch u. Müller zu bestellen.

  4. Mona permalink
    August 18, 2010 13:53

    I am saving up to fix the braking and gearing problems on my vintage ladies Raleigh Sprite 5-speed. The steel rims are the culprit, so I am going to have alloy wheels built with an eight speed internal hub and coaster break. It will be expensive, but I will need the extra gears for the hilly part of Virginia where I live. These bikes are just so classy and beautiful and ride so smoothly I think a renovation will be well worth it even though I can buy a nice modern commuter bike for the same price.

  5. August 18, 2010 16:18

    To get oil in the brake cables, I think you’d have to disconnect one end of them them, and then just drip oil down into the casing (syringe should work for that, too).

    I’m going to be doing that soon, as I have a new rear brake cable for my Raleigh coming in the mail in the near future :)

    If/when you end up looking for panniers, Linus (they also make bikes) has some nice canvas ones that work really well, and are the drape-over-the-top type. I have the black ones on my Raleigh, and even though they are un-treated, I’ve left them out in the rain all day to come back and find the inside dry, because the material just absorbs a lot of water.

    Have fun!

    • G.E. permalink
      August 18, 2010 22:24

      Dave… that is good to know that the Linus bags work well. I was looking at them and considering them for my own bike. Not sure if you’ll see this, but do you happen to know what sort of weight capacity they have? I’m just curious if they can handle heavy duty loads, or if they’re better suited to lighter items?

      • August 18, 2010 22:31

        I’m not sure exactly what the weight capacity would be, but they are pretty sturdy canvas, I bet they would hold quite a bit of weight. I would guess I’ve carried somewhere in the realm of 50lbs with them previously (groceries with cans and glass bottles).

      • G.E. permalink
        August 19, 2010 00:23

        Perfect! Exactly what I was looking to know. Thanks much! :)

  6. August 19, 2010 15:14

    Dave – thanks so much for the pannier tip! I have held off on buying panniers because I won a set through Trisha and Dottie’s Summer Games and I’m still waiting on those to arrive. They’re also the kind you drape over the rack so I’m hoping they will fit on the bike and will work for me. If not, I’ll look into the ones you recommended.

    I also ordered those brake pads that you and Charlotte mentioned and I’m excited to have better working brakes soon.

  7. August 19, 2010 17:47

    I think coaster brakes also have their drawbacks, so I feel ambiguous about them: they are great for braking, but if one has to full stop a lot, then it’s rather uncomfy (getting the pedal in the right position to start again etc.). I’m sure you’ll also do fine without. Or modify your bike. But I don’t think it actually makes much of a difference after a while :).

    • August 19, 2010 21:52

      Thanks, Anna, I hope you’re right. I hope that all too soon I will get used to this and my legs won’t pedal back on autopilot.

  8. August 20, 2010 13:52

    One thing I can offer about keeping your hands free to signal while stopping or slowing is this: Try switching the brake cables (no small order on these bikes, I know…) so that the right-hand lever operates the front brake. You can use your front brake to do most, if not all, of your braking, and this leaves your left hand free to signal. I made this switch five years ago and it has worked very well. I keep my bell on my right hand side, too, for the same reason.

    Sheldon Brown has some great advice about this here:

    Also, regarding your saddle — the leather conditioner is used mostly to keep a sheen on the leather. Don’t expect it to soften the leather too much (and don’t use very much, or it _will_ soften it); softening the leather can cause the saddle to sag or, essentially, age prematurely.

    Great looking bikes. I had wondered from Flickr if you’d got new one.

  9. August 21, 2010 14:26

    What the rack lacks in modern functionality, it more than makes up for in style and your wire basket certainly solves the problem. I like raised rear store baskets and compartments because it is so convenient for those times when you are a bit hungry at a stop light and need a convenient location to store a ham sandwich or bag of Oreos. The basket I put over my handlebars only accommodates by Coach bag and there is simply no room for other critical items. Go You!

  10. August 21, 2010 15:02

    I use the Brooks Proofide on my Brooks saddles. They get done about once a year, I put a heavy coat on the underside and leave it, put a medium coat on the topside and wipe off the excess. It helps if the leather is warm.

    I oil my cables by taking them loose on one end, hold them up and dribble oil down the housing. I use Phil Wood Tenacious oil. Another option is to upgrade to the more modern stainless steel cable with Teflon liners in the housings. I don’t normally do this, but if a cable is bad and needs replacing no harm in doing it.

    Also as pointed out I typically switch my brakes so the right hand controls the front brake. All but one of my bikes is currently set up this way. I started doing it years ago when I was playing bike polo and also rode motorcycles.

    You will be hard pressed to find a bike as simple to maintain or as durable as the old Raleighs. I have one that has been in my possession for almost 30 years and is pushing 40 years old. It was used as a daily rider in all weather for 10+ years and has well over 30,000 miles on it. It is being reconfigured with baskets front and rear to be used as an in town bike.


  11. September 1, 2010 20:15

    i’m loving your bikes, I also have a Superbe, Sports, Clubman and 2 twenty s.. fine steel wool polished mine up pretty good… i have to get the Continental KoolStop salmon brake pads for all my steel rimmed bikes. consider yourself lucky to have gotten one with a pump, they don’t work that great but they are cute!

    • September 1, 2010 20:26

      Xander, I don’t actually use the pump but I’ve kept it on for that quaint look :)

      Your bike collections sounds awesome! I have a Grand Prix to reveal soon ;)

  12. Tawanda Pawlik permalink
    November 27, 2012 12:03

    Wire baskets are great since they are lightweight and porous.”

    <a href="My own website


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