The long strange trip of my Crested Butte

Remember when I was trying to sell the Raleigh Crested Butte? Yeah, me too. Now just a half-year since the attempt, not only do I still have the Crested Butte, but I’ve done a lot of stuff to it, some of it twice! Ay yi yi. If I wasn’t so gung-ho about selling the bike after getting the Bantam, I would have kept everything as-is, and saved myself quite a bit of cash. Live and learn.

When I decided to keep the bike, since the front rack was already stripped, I decided to try out a rear rack since I had never had one on here before. The generic “mouse trap” style seemed to work for a bit. Then I did the Ainsworth camping trip and loaded the rear rack up. I came to realize that I didn’t like this rear setup. The main reason is that because the geometry on the Butte is so slack, in order to avoid heel strike with panniers (even with such long chainstays!) I had to have the rack real far back, so that the bags were just behind the axle. This created a “wag the dog” feel when riding. Add to that the added weight ended up pushing the rack down into the fenders (due to wonky setup) causing rub.

The shop suggested that I go with a front rack. Ugh. Didn’t I just get away from that on this bike? But I thought about it and realized that both the Raleighs were set up the same way, which I didn’t care much for. (Mostly because I’m weird like that.) But I also realized how useful having some sort of front load capability would be.

Now the Bantam Rambleneur has a small front rack, and can hold a small front basket. But the emphasis is on “small”. And the Schwinn Heavy Duti has a giant front basket, so there’s that. But the problem with the Heavy Duti is that it’s a single-speed coaster brake bike. To make it more useful for day-to-day use would be to get a front brake. But any way to make that work is not going to be cheap, and it’s still a heavy single speed bike. So why not get a front load handler on the Butte? It would be useful, and utilitarian.

So this time around I decided to do it a little differently. Rather than a front rack with basket, I wanted to get a more platform/porteur style rack. The problem with porteur racks are they ain’t cheap. Unless, of course, the rack is made by Wald, the classic American steel basket and rack manufacturer. I had been eyeing their 257 rack, the “pizza” porteur, for some time. Basically, it’s like they took the 157, the giant delivery basket, cut off the front and the two small sides, leaving the back and bottom. (In fact, the design is based around couriers who did exactly that!) Of course, because it’s Wald, it’s steel and weighs more than other porteur racks. But it’s also lots cheaper, and I really don’t mind the weight. (If anything, it means the Crested Butte is ready for the Heavy Hill Bike Challenge!)

And I really like this rack. Yes, it’s not light, and the first day that I had it, I had to get used to all the junk in front. But after that, you don’t really notice it much. (Except when you get off and the front flops around. I need to figure out a wheel stabilizer!) And man, having a nice big platform on front is very useful! Not long after getting it installed, I did a run to IKEA and loaded it up, including putting an area rug on there. It did the job.

The other back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth thing is the dynamo lighting. If you’ve followed the whole chronology of this bike, you’ll know that I started with battery lights, then went with a bottle dynamo setup, then switched that over to the XO-3, so back to batteries, then I got a front dynamo wheel, then sold that when I was getting ready to sell the bike. When I realized that I wanted to keep the bike, I decided to go back to a bottle dynamo, since I had a Spanninga in the parts bin and a basic B+M lying around, augmenting it with the Spanninga Pixeo fender light that came from the Wayfarer.

Well, the Spanninga dynamo was crap, and it didn’t take long before it got beat up and stopped working. Also, it did wear down the sidewall. The problem was that the Spanninga uses a small plastic “runner”, the rotating bit that runs along the sidewall of the tire. After fighting with this setup for a couple weeks, I decided to take the plunge and order the reliable AXA HR sidewall dynamo. This is what I had on the Crested Butte in the first place! It uses a larger rubber runner, so that the contact with tire is minimized. This also reduces the “whirring” noise (and drag) associated with sidewall dynamos. It works great! (I also got a better B+M headlamp from a bike shop that was closing.) And I took the Spanninga rear tail light that was on the Raleigh Wayfarer (RIP) and put it on here.

What else did I do?

  • I got new fenders (mudguards). The old Planet Bike Cascadias served me well for over three years, but they were cracking and getting long in the tooth. So I opted to get some SKS fenders. The big reason is because they are the widest fenders you can find for 26 inch wheeled bikes, 65 mm wide. The old fenders were a little close to the tire on the sides, so this was to alleviate that issue.
  • New handelbars! The Civia Duponts were OK, but I wanted something with even more back sweep to alleviate fit issues. So after much deliberation, I decided to get the Nitto Bosco bars in cromoly. Man, these bars really come back! It makes the ride A LOT more comfy, and I’m not stretched out like I used to be.
  • New tires! I realized how sexy cream tires looked on this bike, so I went back to that. The Rubena Cityhoppers are always reliable, so I went with that. This time I went with the basic version (no extra puncture protection) since they are SO MUCH CHEAPER than the ones with it. I added some Stan’s in the tube to alleviate flatting issues.
  • I got some tuning up, too. New brake pads and a chain are the big things there. The Deore rear deraileur isn’t in the best shape, but I’ll ride it until it wears out. The shop also extended the rear rack a bit, as I was getting a bit of heel strike.
  • The Brooks B68 went back on. Since this is now my most upright bike, it’s best to have the widest saddle on it. Also, I threw on an ABUS rear wheel “cafe” lock.

Alright, that’s enough! The Raleigh Crested Butte has been reborn as a supremely utilitarian and supremely comfy “daily driver”. And it looks classy to boot! Who would have ever thought this bike was once a mountain bike? 😉

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2 thoughts on “The long strange trip of my Crested Butte

  1. I’m really jealous of this build! It’s exactly what I need around here but have been having a hard time finding. How do you find it to handle with a big front load and that old mountain bike geometry (which I assume is quite high-trail)? I once had a KHS hybrid and it was almost unrideable with the same porteur rack that I love on my old Centurion, so I’m a bit wary of buying an old MTB without knowing ahead of time how it will feel.

  2. Ahh, my old friend the Butte. Of course it goes without saying that if the bike had been a bit (lot) bigger, it would have wended its way back to its homelend and my shed! Although I remember the size was a major factor in the selling de cision. Anyho it’s great to se it back in use, being a versatile and well-used bicycle. If I even chieve my ambition to take a holday in the US of A, I will have to bring Claud to meet him! (Beth, and others in PDX are keen to have a go on Claud anyway!).

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