Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's been a fun ride and I've learned along the way!

I have recently been told that I made a classic mistake that many budding bicycle enthusiasts make when getting into bikes.  This is an opinion shared by many internet cycling gurus.  Even though I admit those "in the know" have a point, I don't regret my "mistake" because it was fun in the making and the past year has been one of growth and learning.

The mistake was purchasing my beloved Nora, the 1963 bicycle I bought and rebuilt, almost a year ago.  Back then I had stars in my eyes and only had my childhood experiences and love of old things as a guide as to what to look for in a transportation cycle.  In all fairness to myself, I just wanted to get back on the bike and didn't want to invest a lot of money in case my return to the pedals was short lived.

Marina the Schwinn
I enjoyed riding Nora when I first started cycling to work and still love that bike, but I realized how hard I was making it on myself when a generous friend gave me a 21 Speed Schwinn Suburban.  After fixing the gearing and making some upgrades to the bike (racks, fenders, etc.) the Schwinn became my bike of choice for basic transportation.  The Schwinn (aka Marina) was lighter than Nora, I had better balance on the Schwinn and the gearing on the bike made it easier to climb hills.  I also didn't know enough about bikes to know that Nora's frame was bent and as a result is a lot harder to keep balanced.

Even though Marina has 21 speeds to choose from, I realized that I only use about four of the different gear selections in my commutes around town and even though she's a lot lighter than Nora, she's still a very heavy steel bike.

Before long  I started reading blogs by other bike enthusiasts like Lovely Bicycle and Rideblog and learned more about different types of bicycles and cyclists.   I read about the experiences of other cyclists out there and the various bikes available.  There's a bike for every personality and journey and the selections are as varied as snowflakes.  Before long, I was dreaming of British bicycles and the bikes that caught my eye the most were the Pashley Princess Sovereign and the classic Raleigh Sport 3-Speed.  I felt both bikes would suit my needs commuting around town and running errands.

The Pashley Princess runs about $1200 retail and a good Raleigh Sport can be found on Craigslist for around $150-200 (which is high, but they're harder to find in Texas than on the East Coast). After doing research on both types of bikes, I learned that the Pashley is much heavier and harder to get up hills than the classic Raleigh (and I live in the Hill Country!) ... not to mention that the price of an old Raleigh fits into my budget better than a Pashley!  So I started looking for a vintage Raleigh Sport, circa 1969-1978.  I dreamt of finding a green Raleigh because 1. green is my favorite color and 2. the one that Velouria at Lovely Bike used to own was gorgeous!  For months I have been pouring over ads on Craigslist, drooling over Raleigh photos on the web and eyeing my husband's 1972 Raleigh with serious bike envy.

Lovely Lilly
This past week I found my dream bike - a green 1971 Ladies' Sport!  I have named her "Lilly" and my husband and I are currently working on her to make her road-ready for the miles ahead. There are a few condition issues: She needs a new saddle, there's a bad rust spot on the front fork and the gearing needs some work.  All in all, she's a beauty:  The Sturmey Archer shifter looks brand-new, the chrome is immaculate and I am fascinated by the branding that adorns the bike. The folks in Nottingham, England sure were proud of that Heron logo - it's everywhere! 

I haven't had a chance to ride Lilly yet, but I am already amazed at the lightness of her lugged steel frame and how well she fits my own frame.  More updates to come as we get to know each other better!
Marina, Lilly and Norman!
Check out the cool porteur (front) rack
my husband built for his Raleigh!

While Nora might not have been the best choice for a budding cyclist, it's the choice I made with the knowledge and skills I had at the time.  I still ride Nora, mostly when I am riding with nieces and nephews who are brand-new to the joys of bicycling, and it's still a lot of fun.  I have grown in skills and comfort level and the type of cycling I do has changed drastically from when I started this journey a year ago.  I doubt Lily is the last bike I buy (although finding a place to store five bicycles is getting to be a challenge) but she's the bicycle I've dreamt of riding for several months and I am going to enjoy falling in love all over again!
At last! His and Hers Raleighs: ready for a ride into the sunset! 


  1. That is a very cool bike. I am very close to getting rid of my old Schwinn and getting something better.

  2. You have a lovely Fuji in Kerrville, just waiting to be fixed up, which probably wouldn't take much $$. Those old Fujis are very desirable. If it weren't such a big honkin' frame, I probably would have already claimed it for my "herd."

  3. Hmmm... how much do you think it would take?

  4. how did you get the stars out of your eyes?