A classic ride from ’68

I was raised in a car-loving family. From my father, I learned the valuable life skill of being able to identify many cars by their headlights at a distance of 1/4 mile.  I remember when my dad would get home from a business trip and go over the tally of different cars he saw while driving on the highway. “Let’s see,” he’d say, raising his glasses to his forehead in order to take a closer look at the small piece of paper where he’d written down his findings. “I  saw 10 Thunderbirds [the car he was driving], 5 Corvettes, one old Galaxie, 27 Tauruses, [etc].” My dad worked as a statistician and economist for many years, so it’s not too surprising that he kept himself entertained on long drives by counting cars. Of course, this car obsession was passed on to me and my brother. To keep in touch these days, my brother and I send cellphone pictures of the interesting cars we see. Sometimes we include notes about what’s going on in our lives, but more often it’s just the car.

Brother sent me this pic of a typical ride in the gaslamp district of San Diego

You may have hydraulics - but how about 2 hoodscoops and a superflous roofscoop? Pawtucket: Represent!

That’s one souped-up Dodge Neon, hey? I saw another Neon the other day with an “M” logo affixed to the middle of the trunk. For those of you not in the know:

Proper logo placement would be on the passenger side of the trunk, not the middle. How gauche!

This is used on BMWs to indicate that the driver is more of a douche than a regular BMW driver. The M  stands for “More douchey.”

I tried to whip out my camera to take a picture for my brother, but I was no match for the extra performance that the ebay-purchased M badge imparted on the trunk of that black Neon. It was almost as fast as my brother’s M3.

I went to a car show the other day down at The Steelyard. Once again, I should have taken more pictures. It was a car show – people want you to admire their cars, right? Clearly they wouldn’t have been bothered by me snapping away. There was a real variety there – some classic convertibles, some new performance cars, a few hot-rods, even a few low riders. The one picture I took pretty much sums it up:

A study in contrast

On the left is a Factory Five GTM. Essentially, it’s a kit car – the company provides the chassis and aluminum body and the buyer has to provide an engine and drivetrain – it’s designed for a Corvette engine and Porsche transmission. Now that I think about it, this is similar to cycling enthusiasts who buy a frameset and then build up a bike around it. You can either pay a shop to put it together, or put it together yourself. On the right is an early-90’s Caprice Classic with custom hydraulics. Oh, and it’s a Station Wagon. In the way back of the wagon, the owner has the full hydraulic system on display.

I may have mentioned earlier that when I was about 13 or 14, my dad bought a 1963 Ford Galaxie convertible. I don’t have  a picture readily scanned, so here’s one I pulled off of the internet:

The thing was gigantic. It could hold six passengers (sorry, no seatbelts – they weren’t required in cars until 1964). It could also carry two cellos (in hard cases) in the trunk. Our family owned a 1981 Ford F-150 at the time. It’s a full-size truck, but the Galaxie was actually longer. It handled about as well as could be expected of such a heavy beast, that is to say – not very well. The V-8 had a nice burble to it, but there was certainly nothing “high-performance” about it. Oh but it was a delight to drive on a warm spring evening with the top down. Essentially, I was raised to love classic cars. I’d always hoped to own a classic convertible before I turned 40 (that way it wouldn’t be a mid-life crisis purchase, right?). Instead, I’ve given up on car ownership, so now I own this:

That’s a 1968 Raleigh Sports. Lugged steel frame, 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub, made in Notthingham, England.

intact head badge

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been trolling craigslist to see what’s out there. I came upon this Raleigh, and it seemed to be within easy biking distance. I arranged to take a look at it (coincidentally on my birthday) and took off from work on a hot & muggy day.

East Bay Bike Path on a muggy day

I took a good look at the condition of the frame and wheels – it all seemed to be in pretty good shape. As you can see from the picture below, it’s lost its front fender at some point in the last 42 years, not to mention the saddle and grips.

After inspecting it for damage, I took it for a short spin. The upright posture was a huge change from riding my Cannondale hybrid. And I found it quite… pleasant. One problem though, I couldn’t get the hub to shift. It seemed to be stuck in a very high gear. I got back to the seller’s house and flipped the bike over. While pedaling, I pulled on the shift cable. The hub changed gears, so it seemed to be a simple lack of cable tension. After a little price negotiation, the bike was mine! Now, how to get it home? The seller agreed to swing by my house with it in a few days.

As has been noted elsewhere, it may be called “sports,” but there is nothing sporty about this bike. It’s heavy and upright, great for getting around town at a slow pace. I took it to work last Thursday, and from there to Recycle-A-Bike for a meeting. Before the meeting, I ran into Douglas, one of the RAB volunteers. He took a look at my dangling shift cable and got out some tools. 5 minutes later, I had 2 gears! I had been dreading the ride up College Hill, but it was far easier with the lower gearing. I wasn’t spinning like I usually do on the Cannondale, but I was certainly riding at a reasonable speed.

I took it to work on Friday as well. Spouse left at the same time on her Rocky Mountain hybrid. I was able to keep up with her (although she wasn’t trying very hard). It was another scorcher on Friday, perfect weather to grab some iced coffee. I prefer to get my iced coffee from Seven Stars because they add the extra little touch of making it with frozen coffee ice cubes. The problem is that it’s a too far from the office for me to get there by foot in coffee-break time, and I don’t like carrying a drink while riding my bike. However, across the street from Seven Stars, there’s small LBS #2, which carries bike cup holders! Check it:

That’s all for now. I’ll write a full review later. Oh, and I bought got a new road bike last week as well. I’m too excited about it to write anything just yet.

The End

7 responses to “A classic ride from ’68

  1. Fact-check! “Spouse left at the same time on her Rocky Mountain hybrid. I was able to keep up with her…” While this is technically true, it should be noted that the shared portion of our trip was almost entirely a steep downhill interrupted by multiple stoplights. – your loving spouse

    • Yes, multiple stoplights are the great equalizer to all vehicles whether they be lightweight performance hybrid, 42 year-old Raleigh, or 2010 Audi A5. That’s why in the city, it doesn’t matter so much what one rides.

  2. Cool acquisition, and I am so envious of that bike trail!

    The Sports is sporty in comparison to the statelier and even more upright Roadster with 28″ wheels, rod brakes, and full chaincase : )

    • Thanks, LB.
      The three main trails in RI are quite enjoyable. They all end about 15-16 miles from my house which makes for a good casual trip. The EBBP ends at a nice destination (Bristol), while the other two just sort of… end.

      I’m sure that I’ll quickly spend more in accessories than I spent on the bike. First, a fender, next a rack, then a better saddle. I’m not so concerned with “restoring” as I am in just keeping it in usable condition, so that will help keep the expenses down.

  3. Pingback: My god these motorists with their complete disregard for the law. « Car-Free in PVD

  4. Pingback: The Indignity of Walking: Armored Car Edition | Car-Free in PVD

  5. Pingback: A Month on the Raleigh | Car-Free in PVD

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