It’s been a bit since I’ve written about my Raleigh Crested Butte vintage mountain bike. Actually, I’ve barely ridden the bike over the past few months, as I’ve been mostly riding the XO-3. But there’s been a few changes to the bike as of late, and now is as good a time as ever to talk about ’em!
In the fall I went ahead and got dynamo lighting set up on the Crested Butte. No, it’s not what you think: I didn’t get a dyno-hubbed front wheel installed. Nope, I went old school and got a bottle dynamo installed. A bottle dynamo? Aren’t they noisy, eat your sidewall, go out when you hit a bump, go out when you stop, work horribly in the rain, and give feeble power output? Well, maybe the olden bottle dynamo units you remember from your Huffy you bought at Kmart in 1977.* But I got myself a modern unit, an AXA HR bottle, one that can be found on many a European citybike. And attached it to modern LED lights, like the basic B+M headlamp and taillamp.
And what’s the verdict? The setup works good! The power output of a bottle dynamo is the same as a hub, 3 watts, so the lighting is just as bright as it would be on a hub generator bike. Yes, there is noticeable drag and the tell-tale whirring noise when the dynamo is on, but it’s not as bad as you think it may be. And no eating away at the sidewall, either. A lot of that is due to its mounting position: It’s mounted to the canti post on the rear wheel so the positioning is pretty stable, haven’t noticed any slip. (Most of those crappy bottle dynamos you remember were mounted via clamp, which meant the bottle would slip. If you look at Euro citybikes, they have a bottle mount tab built into the fork.) As for rain performance, I’ve been using it since October through a good amount of rain. I notice no difference in performance.
So if you’ve been thinking about using a modern bottle dynamo for bike lights, I say go for it! The key thing is it’s going to work best with a canti/V-brake bike, using the special mount that works with the brake boss. Unfortunately, getting a decent bottle dynamo State-side is tough. I know that Peter White sells a B-M unit for about $40 but that’s all I could find. Mine was given to me by Mr. C. of Chester Cycling (thank you!) who got it directly from the Netherlands. Quite the convoluted supply chain there!
The other big change is tires. I’ve rocked the Rubena City Hoppers in brown (think of them as a low-rent Schwalbe Big Apple/Big Ben) since buying the Crested Butte in October of 2012. They were fine, durable tires (only one flat from what I can remember) and looked good. But they were starting to look a little long in the tooth. And I get weird about tires: after a year or so I feel like getting some new ones, try out something different, etc. I was thinking about something similar to the Continental Speed Rides that I have on the XO-3, a tread that has a little bit of “aggression” but mostly for pavement. But instead I scored some CST Metropolitan Palm Bay tires in brick (think of them as a low-rent Schwalbe Fat Franks) for cheap.
The CSTs definitely look close to Fat Franks, though the tread pattern is a bit different. And the brick compliments the brown color of the frame, more so than the brown City Hoppers. The biggest difference, though is the width: the Rubenas were 26″ x 2.0″, 52 mm wide. The CSTs are 26″ x 2.35″, or 60 mm wide. There was a few hours of futzing and swearing in the installation,** and I almost gave up. But I got it to work (also aided by the help of the local bike shop, UpCycles.) Still, the clearances are very tight, and I had to remove the cafe lock for now. And while the maximum pressure rating is 60psi, I have them running at 35psi, anything more, and things would definitely rub. But the whole point of big fat tires is low pressure, right? And the tires definitely give it a cush ride.
As for saddlebag, the old black Carradice Nelson Longflap that is usually on the bag is out for repairs, so instead I mounted the green Lowsaddle Longflap that I bought from Nicholas/Gypsy By Trade. It’s supposed to be just temporary, but I do like how it looks with this bike, so the green bag may stay. It has less capacity than the Nelson, but the front basket is so big, and heck, maybe I’ll get a bigger basket! And the Lowsaddle needs to see some adventure. It’s probably not going to see as much epic adventure as it would with Nick C, but oh well.***
Other than that, no changes. The Crested Butte is pretty much “done”. Why mess with it more? It’s the most “original” of the vintage bikes I own, it still has the original wheels, brakes, derailleurs, crankset, and pedals. I’ve swapped a few things, like the handlebars, and consumables have been changed at least once, but why change all the good stuff? It was built well with the bestest stuff of its era, so unless those things break or wear out, I’m not going to change them.
Like my other primary bikes, the Bridgestone XO-3 and Raleigh Wayfarer, the Crested Butte is an “all rounder” that can do many things, one that I could pull out any day and meet the challenges of my life. While not optimally set up for touring right now (and the geometry doesn’t lend itself to being the best touring bike), I have used it for bike camping, and wouldn’t hesitate using it for that purpose in the future. And while it’s supposed to be a “mountain bike”, it’s set up to be more of a city/utility/”commuter” bike with its swept-back bars and big basket. But I wouldn’t hesitate riding it on some rough trails, either. If anything, it’s the closest thing I have to a “cruiser”, with its very laid back angles and very fat tires. From time to time I think about finding an old mid-century American balloon tire bike, and maybe I still will if I find one cheap enough. But the Crested Butte is the next best thing, and a bit more functional to boot. It’s served me well for a year and a half, and will keep on serving me well in the future.
*These ones are still available today.
**Mounting the tires on the rims was laughably easy, getting everything else to work, not so much.
***Nicholas’s commute to work is more epic than all of my bike tours combined.