The return of the Crested Butte, an almost new bike?

Oh, the Raleigh Crested Butte has had such a long and strange saga. When I got it in October 2012. It was a garage queen, everything original and hardly used. I did some minor tweaks and adjustments over the years, like racks, handlebars/stem, and tires, but for the most part the “bones” of the bike have remained surprisingly unchanged. Before now, the only real parts changes besides maintenance based stuff like brake pads and cable was the freewheel and shifters. The bones of the Crested Butte were good: high quality components (mostly Shimano Deore) from the dawn of the mountain bike era.

But late last year, I realized that the bike was going to need a major overhaul and update to keep it going for another four years. I realized that it was going to cost me A LOT of money, but I like this bike so much, and I didn’t want to go with “whatever” componentry, I wanted stuff that would be good and that I would not mind looking at. So before the New Year holiday I dropped it off at Velo Cult. And three weeks later (delays mainly due to getting parts and some weird issues) I picked up the bike!

And what did I have done?

  • Brakes: While the high profile circa 1984 Deore cantis looked cool and provided great stopping power when they worked, they came out of adjustment easily and were uneasy to adjust. I decided to go for some (mostly) no muss/no fuss V-brakes, Tektro M530s, which work good and look nice. The only issue was due to springs and the posts on my bike (oh, early mountain bikes) which was averted by Jeremiah at Velo Cult basically making custom springs.
  • Brake levers: V-brakes mean new levers (or travel agents). I went with Tektro CL740 levers, which look A LOT better than those standard Shimano ones (you know what I’m talking about!) I originally wanted silver, but the distributor sent black instead. Since they looked fine and I didn’t want to wait even longer, I went with them.
  • Deraileur: Yeah, the Deore “deerhead” rear deraileur looked cool, but was worn out. I got a Shimano Acera which looks appropriate but not as cool. (The front deraileur has not been changed.)
  • Freewheel: The Suntour Perfect was no longer perfect, so I got one of those inexpensive Shimano 6 speed megarange freewheels (TZ30) with 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, and 34 teeth cogs. (The pie plate finally got removed!)
  • Crankset: While I didn’t really need to replace this, I did it to give the bike a better chainline, since when the chain was in the small ring on the triple, it came within a couple millimeters of the tire. (And I had to make sure that the tire was never wider than 52 mm, or it WOULD rub.) Originally I had hoped to just convert the nice extant Takagi Tourney triple crankset to a double to alleviate this issue (and to finally give appropriate space for a twin-legged kickstand), but it wasn’t enough. The only way to provide enough clearance would be a new crankset. Though I REALLY didn’t want to spend the additional money, I also REALLY wanted to make this all work. So I went with a Sugino XD2 double (40-26), which while not cheap, looks really nice (I had the triple version on the Long Haul Trucker) and also has the bonus feature of a chainring guard. (Chain won’t come off in front! Less chance to get a nice chainring tattoo!) And yep, the new crankset provides the needed clearance, so…
  • Kickstand: I had them install my Pletscher twin leg on there, which makes this “porteur” bike more functional.
  • Wheel stabilizer: I also had them install the VO stabilizer for added stability while parked, though I should also carry a strap so I can “lock” the front wheel for extended periods.
  • Other: New chain, bottom bracket, and cables/housing were all needed as part of the process. Also, I had them overhaul the wheels. I guess the only thing that didn’t get overhauled was the headset!

So it’s almost like it’s a new bike! The last time I so thoroughly overhauled a bike was the Long Haul Trucker back in 2012. And man, when I gave them my credit card it almost felt like I was buying a new bike. The grand total for all parts and labor? A whopping $486, and that’s after a substantial discount.* I must admit, there was that tiny moment of regret when it all came together, and wondered if it was really worth it.

img_20170122_122340.jpgBut over the years, the Crested Butte has become the “go-to” commuter and utility bike. While it’s originally a mountain bike (and a top of the line production one for its era), the slack “Excelsior” geometry was on the verge of being outdated even in 1984. Shorter wheelbases and tighter angles are better for “real” mountain biking. But these “issues” make it a great around-town riding bike, a “Cadillac” ride that may be comparable to some roadsters. And I have set it up with all the bells and whistles of a city bike: fenders, dynamo lighting, wheel lock, porteur rack, swept back bars, comfy saddle. It works great for that, which along with how nice it looks, makes me love this bike. So it is worth it to throw a bunch of money at it from time to time, so long as I don’t have to do it all again for a couple more years!

And here’s the real heart of the matter: In the four years of owning the Crested Butte, through trial and error, I’ve really made the bike “mine”. While I could find another vintage mountain bike or early hybrid or even similar modern bike (like a Rivendell Clem Smith Jr.) it would still be a process of “getting it right”. Why dump a bike that I love and love to ride to start the process again? (Well, I guess “because it’s fun”, but I really need to stop starting bike projects.) And I’ve done the “dump the bike” process before, after I spend a good amount of time, money, and energy to “get it right”, like with the Bridgestone XO-3. While I did get something better in the process (my long-suffering Bantam), I should have held onto that bike for at least another year (at least until the Bantam was ready). Live and learn.

And thankfully, thankfully, all the time and money invested into the redo of the Crested Butte seem to be worth it! Riding it home from Velo Cult on Saturday, it rode like a dream. It shifted and braked beautifully, and all the noises and squeaks that were present before the work were mercilessly gone. It definitely feels faster and less clunky. The 40-26 double is taking a little bit to get used to, and I do lose a bit of the “high”, but it’s plenty good for the style of riding I do on this bike. I used to do a good deal of shifting between middle and large chainrings, now I can just keep it in the big ring for the most part. So I am happy that I did all the stuff to it.

Now I just need to work on the Bantam…

*If I went and purchased parts on my own, I probably could have saved some money there, but since I wasn’t going to do the labor, I figure it’s always best to let the shop do any ordering, unless for some reason they can’t.

16 thoughts on “The return of the Crested Butte, an almost new bike?

Add yours

  1. That was a bargain freewheel, I just paid double! I was so grateful to find one in stock and use my charm to get the old freewheel freed. I have searched current Uk new options and like you have decided to put some money into restoration of an old faithful. I shall be rereading for a few clues as to what I should do like the crankset with guard and the parking device, both would make life easier. I am also looking at folding pedals to make storage easier. Really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Not too bad when you take out the labor cost…I did a quick addition and that alone looked like $190ish. If you look at it as $500(rounded) over 4 years and add in the utility you get out of it, you’re doing okay. I am a big proponent of fixing your own stuff though. I’ve got basically a full shop’s worth of tools myself. Get in touch with me if you need stuff like this done and don’t mind hauling it out to Hillsboro. I work for food when it comes to helping people out with bikes. I’ll also let you know if it is something I’d rather not tackle (like the spring issue for the brakes).

    1. Thanks for the offer! Yeah, I always tell myself I should learn to do more bike stuff. In fact, I think I say that here a bit! But in this case, I was more into the idea of a shop doing the work, since there were so many variables and unknowns. I’ve done major bike work with friends before, and it never goes as smooth as hoped. There’s always an issue that arises when something we thought would work, doesn’t. Then there’s a mad scramble to the bike shop to see if we can get a part that works. That spring issue would have flummoxed a lot of people, for example.

  3. I always enjoy seeing how others fix up these older mountain bikes. I understand your pain regarding the outlay of money, but I think it’s always worth fixing a bomb-proof bike that rides like a dream. This bike will see lots of rainy commuter miles and is your station-wagon (remember those?). I love what you’ve done to A:make your life easier (v-brakes) and B: improve the functionality (double-kickstand, simpler gearing). I will be interested in your impression of the wheel stabilizer once you’ve had time to test it.

  4. Now THAT is a bike! If I may ask, what is that on the inside of the seat stays behind the brakes?

  5. I admire and applaud your efforts to give this bike new life. It sounds like you, and the pros at Velo Cult, came up with an ensemble that works well. I’m sure there is a special kind of reward that you enjoy as a result of seeing this through. Enjoy!

  6. Well done keep that old Raleigh Rolling! I switched to V brakes on my handsome devil after having issues getting the canti’s adjusted and I have never looked back

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