I’ve made up a rule for my Craigslist trawling: The $50 rule. If I see a bike that fits a need or desire of mine and it’s $50 or less and not a piece of shit, I may pursue buying said bike. This way I don’t end up spending too much money on a bike, money I shouldn’t be spending right now. And the $50 figure is a guideline; if it fits the bill and is advertised for $55, then yeah sure I’ll go for it.
One of the types of bikes I’ve been searching for under the guidance of this rule is an old mountain bike. (The reason why I was looking for a mountain bike will be expounded on in the next post.) Something mid-eighties through later nineties. It has to be steel, it has to be rigid. No suspension, no aluminum. Now there were a lot of mountain bikes made in the 90’s, many of them rigid-frame steel, so I knew at some point a non-department store MTB fitting these parameters for around $50 would pop up. I just knew I had to be patient.
Early in September, I came across a listing for a Raleigh mountain bike, a M40 model. This was the blurry Craigslist photo:
Looked promising. Frame may be a little on the small side, but mountain bikes tend to size smaller than road bikes, so it should be workable. After some email back and forth with the seller, we met up fatefully on the 11th in Northwest. I took it on a spin around the block a couple times, checked the various things that need checking, all that jazz. Everything seemed good. So without further ado, I handed the gentleman $40* and rode the knobby-tied baby home.
When I got home I did some research on the bike. While I love Raleighs (obviously!**) and know quite a bit about old Raleigh three-speeds and other vintage models, the more modern models (especially Raleigh USA models) are a mystery to me. From what I figured out via Bikepedia, the particular M40 I bought was a 1993 model, the first year this model was offered (and ironically, the year I graduated high school.) The MSRP was $308 (inflated for inflation, this would be $472 in 2011) making this an entry-level bike for its era. The componentry speaks this: Shimano Altus C20 and Tourney with some other no-name parts. Nothing fancy, nothing covetable. Whatevs. There were many of these bikes during this era, dependable transportation.
|The M40 on day of purchase: Sept 11, 2012. Note “saddle”.|
One of the most striking things about this bike, however, is how restrained it is for the times. The frame geometry, while not “road”, hasn’t morphed into the “slanted top tube” now common on MTBs. Yes, the frame is a shade of turquoise, but the graphics are small and out-of-the-way. Compare this to any mountain bike a few years later, where everything screams “Extreeeeme!!!” like a Mountain Dew ad, because obviously anyone on a mountain bike had dreams of entering the X Games. And most interestingly, the rear dropout is horizontal vs. the standard vertical on most mountain bikes, meaning I could convert this bike to a single speed (or hub gear) if I really wanted to.
|This wasn’t the big selling point, honestly.|
|The Raving Bike Fiend at work.|
The first major change was the tires. Knobbies for city riding? Unh-uh. I was going to put “street” tires on, but what kind? And how wide? Common wisdom would be to throw 1.5 inch tires on, since this seems like a common “street” width for 26 inch (559 mm) wheels. But why would I want to do that? All of my other bikes are 35-37 mm (1 3/8″) wide, why not go fat? So I got myself a set of Rubena V99 Cityhopper Tires. Rubena is a Czech-based tire company just making inroads to North America, and their quality is supposed to be good. At 2.0″ (52 mm) wide, the Cityhopper is their take on Schwalbe’s Fat Franks. And me being me, I had to get them in brown. I think they look rather nice. I also threw on some black Planet Bike Hardcore fenders.
|The Civia Dupont bars. Classy.|
The other major change was handlebars. The original bars were very mountainbikey, which I didn’t like for either fit or look. My big debate was whether I should go the dork route and get trekking (“butterfly”) bars, or something swept back. Swept back won out in the end because of feel (the trekking bars would be too forward) and style. I found a set of Civia Dupont bars at A Better Cycle which I got for a song.
A lot of the other things that I added to the M40 I had laying around, either because I haven’t used it yet or they came off another bike.
- The cheap plastic pedals were tossed and replaced with alloy grippy BMX style pedals that had seen duty on the LHT.
- The rear rack (Jandd Expedition) also came off the LHT, since I’m not currently using it.
- Shellacked cork grips from the Worksman Cycle Truck.
- Crane alloy “hammerstrike” bell from the Raleigh Wayfarer.
- Minnehaha small saddlebag that’s seen duty on a lot of the bikes.
- PDW Radbot rear light, one of my remaining battery powered rear lights since I’ve gone all dynohub.
- Salsa Anything cage I picked up off CL a month or so ago.
- Oh yeah, that leather saddle! It was last on April’s Raleigh Sports before she put her Brooks Champion Flyer on there. The saddle was originally on an old CCM Roadster, courtesy of The Raving Bike Fiend. It’s probably seventy years old. I don’t know how long it will last, so I’ll ride it as long as I can.
- Cygolite Metro 300 LED headlight. I don’t know if this bike will ever “go dynamo”, and I could always use a good battery-powered headlight. More about this light soon.
- Velo Orange handlebar bottle cage mount with Klean Kanteen bottle cage.
- Greenfield rear triangle kickstand. I intended to use the spare Pletscher twin-leg kickstand, but the tight clearance in the area where it would mount (mostly caused by the pulley from the front derailleur***) negated that option. (I doubted I would need the Pletscher for any bike in the forseeable future, which is the reason why I decided to sell it.)
- Shimano Tourney shifters. The M40 came with Rapidfire shifters, which broke within a week of use. I was hoping to go with old-school friction thumbie shifters (very Retro-Grouch), but the bike shop was out of them, and this was the next best option. Front shifter is friction, rear is indexed.
- New cables because of the bars.
Overall, the Raleigh M40 is a fun, yet functional ride. It’s far from perfect, and I will still have to do some more work when the time comes. It is a tad on the small side, but I’ve got it configured so it’s comfortable for me. As for why I wanted a mountain bike and what I plan on doing with it, you’ll have to check back in for the next post or two!
Big thanks to Keith for all your help on the M40!
*Originally he wanted $65 but he lowered the price twice without me even asking, the second time because the original saddle basically disintegrated.
**And no, the reason why I pursued the bike had nothing to do with the Heron logo. It just happened to be the bike that fit the bill at the appropriate time.
***It’s a bottom-pull derailleur, but the cable is routed via the top-tube, hence the pulley. Yes, it makes little sense.
****I didn’t include the price of the Cygolite Metro 300 headlamp into this figure because it’s intended to be used on multiple bikes. And when you really look at it $160 is pretty low for the amount of new stuff I bought. Let’s just say I know how to get some sweet deals. The perks of living in Portland for twelve years!