my bikes, society of three speeds

My Raleigh Superbe at (almost) five years: A superb bike!

Taken with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s 35mm film camera. (Film: Kodak Gold 200)

My Raleigh Superbe is soon to be a member of my Five Year Club, bikes that I’ve had for that time period. The Crested Butte and Schwinn Heavy Duti have passed those milestones, the Bantam will soon. I got my hands on the Superbe in September of 2015, though it wasn’t road worthy until the following spring. Since then, I’ve done a decent amount to, and a lot, with this bike.

Currently it fills the niche of my daily driver for commuting and utility. In fact, looking back over the past month, I’ve used the Raleigh Superbe for nearly all my day-to-day riding. The only times I pulled out a different bike was the Bantam for the trip to the cabins, and a fun day ride with the Robin Hood path racer. Both of those bikes are “fun” bikes, mostly, so when I just need to run errands and get stuff done, the Superbe is the logical choice.

Taken with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s 35mm film camera. (Film: Kodak Gold 200)

Of course, I do have two other bikes that I can use for utility purposes. I haven’t ridden the Crested Butte since the fateful day the seatpost snapped. I’m a wee bit scared of the bike right now, and I also need to do some adjustments to get the fit/positioning right again. The Heavy Duti is also waiting for a few things, but I’ve been too broke to get it done. So they sit, for now.

And while the fact that my other bikes are either not optimized for day to day riding or in mothballs, this doesn’t mean that I grudgingly use the Superbe for my needful tasks. No, I enjoy using the bike! It’s a classy three speed well equipped for urban cycling. That rear rack can hold a lot, and the upright riding position lets me take in the view.

Speaking about that rear rack (a Pletscher Clem sold by Rivendell), I’ve gotten back into the whole pannier thing. After a few years of pretty much just baskets and Carradice saddlebags, it’s a nice change. I can see the convenience of pulling up to your destination, quickly removing the bag, and then putting it back on when leaving. With strapped-in saddlebags, there’s no quick off-and-on (unless you are using an auxiliary quick-release system), which tempts me to leave ’em on, which can temp a would-be thief.

Philosophy pannier.

I’ve mostly used the Carradice Kendal panniers I got in 2018, but last fall, I got another pannier. This one is made by a now-defunct Portland maker called Philosophy. They made some really solid, well-thought, and smartly-designed bags that weren’t cheap. But they ceased production around 2012. There’s barely any mention of them on the web if you’re trying to look, so they might as well be a ghost. Because of that, it doesn’t seem like people sell them for the prices they deserve, so they go for cheap. I think I got mine for under $40 plus shipping! And I also found a similar one for Emee. So, if you see one come up on eBay, get on it!

The Raleigh Superbe has firmly established itself as my day-to-day bike. I couldn’t ask for a better one.

4 thoughts on “My Raleigh Superbe at (almost) five years: A superb bike!”

  1. Hi Shawn, great post. I have been looking for one of these for years, but it hasn’t worked out yet. Unfortunately, I seem to be between sizes, the smaller size is way too small, and the large model is a bit too tall. They seem to sell for big bucks here in your old stomping grounds on the east coast.I may give up and try to resurrect my old Triumph which needs a new hub.

  2. Hi Shawn – what brakes are those on your Superbe? I occasionally think about ordering the long reach Tektros on the Rivendell site for my Raleigh. The original brakes don’t stop as well as I would like, and I had pounded the mounting bolts back to a straightish shape, which leaves me wondering about their integrity. However, since I’m not sure if the brakes will clear the Raleigh fenders, or really reach the rims, and I’m too impatient to measure, I just haven’t done it. Yours look like they have plenty of room. I suspect they’re the Tektros. So as long as they haven’t changed dimensions on the Superbe between ’52 and the time your bike was made, it looks like it might be worth a shot. With all the salt and cinders on the road, my Raleigh is mothballed until winter is truly over to spare the steel fenders. I’m on the Happy Little Three Speed Bicycle, with its plastic fenders, most days, but on a snowy day like today, it’s the Xtracycle with the studded snow tires, which, ahem, is not a three speed.

    1. Hey Paul–The brake on front is a Tektro 559. I went with a Dia-Compe centerpull (vintage) on the rear. 559s work but can be tight, and I think they may be tighter on the older ones. If you are worried about clearance, finding some vintage centerpulls might be a better option. It’s hard to really tell until you do it, though.

      And don’t forget how much pads and rims come into play. The original Raleigh brakes were not the greatest, but modern brakes are only going to do so much on steel rims, esp. if it’s wet outside.

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