Raleigh Crested Butte: The exit interview (of sorts)

The Raleigh Crested Butte has left the stable. This top-of-the-line in 1984 mountain bike served me (mostly) well for almost nine years. It was the bike that made me love vintage mountain bikes and plush 26″ tires. It’s also been the bike that I personalized and modified the most over the years, though its last iteration saw it look pretty similar to how I first had it set up in 2012.

It’s a bike that I loved a lot. Heck, after doing some stuff to it in March I reaffirmed my love for it. Yet now it’s gone. What gives?

The biggest reason I sold the Crested Butte is that it doesn’t fit me right. It’s something I noticed (and have mentioned) from Day One, but the other things about the bike (nice cromoly frame, decent components, cush ride) made me ignore it as much as possible. It wasn’t so bad for short rides, and the plush ride quality when I got on helped me ignore it for a bit. But ride the bike long enough and I would notice the “too short, yet too long” geometry that plagued many of the early mountain bikes. I did all I could do to make it work, like a super-long seatpost and Nitto Bosco handlebars which are high up and really swept back. But it still isn’t enough. “Dressing up” the bike somewhat hid this, but when I stripped the bike for sale Emee noted how short the bike was for me.

The long seatpost and unsure-sizing led to the structural failure of the seatpost on December day in 2019. I was mostly unhurt and so was the bike (though it did cause me to lose my rear dynamo light.)1 The post was easily replaced, and eventually in a fatter size in the hopes that a similar failure wouldn’t happen again. But the psychic scars remained, and it was difficult to obtain the same joy in riding the Crested Butte after the accident, no matter how hard I tried. Any little thing would make me worried.

And over the past year I’ve come to realize how redundant the Crested Butte was in the fleet lineup. My custom Bantam was built to be the balance between my Bridgestone XO-3 and Crested Butte (with the touring functionality of my Surly Long Haul Trucker also thrown into the mix.) The August day in 2015 when I received my built-up Bantam immediately made the Crested Butte redundant. After a half-hearted attempt to sell it, I kept it because I liked it too much, and after stripping it down for sale I then rebuilt it up.

I made the Crested Butte the bike in-between the Bantam and my Raleigh Superbe: a city/utility bike that could be pressed into adventure role if need be. But the Bantam does the adventure thing so much better, and the Superbe is a great city bike. I thought that having this redundancy was good, especially if one of the other bikes needed repair. But what it did instead is make me have to choose between too many similar bikes, and maintain a larger fleet than I needed. It also made me do foolish things like choose the Crested Butte over the Bantam in situations the latter bike would be better suited for. This caused me to avoid embracing the Bantam for far too long and save it for “special occasions”. In reality the Bantam should be used for more everyday stuff too, but as long as the Crested Butte was around it was hard for me to do that.

So I decided it was high time to let the Crested Butte go and pass it to someone who would appreciate it. I removed some of the nicer bits and bobs from it and transferred it to my other bikes (namely, the Heavy Duti got the dynamo front wheel and Wald 137 basket, the Raleigh Superbe got the Brooks B68 and leather grips). I’ve done the whole “sell a loaded bike for less than I should” route, not anymore. But the bike at the end was set up decently, and the new owner has a nice commute-ready bike. All they need is a lock and a front light, and they’re good to go!

Will I miss the Raleigh Crested Butte? Heck yeah. I had a lot of fun with it over the past nine years. It was the longest I had ever owned a bike. It looked cool and rode nice. I personalized it over the years, making it possibly the most “me” bike I ever owned. But at the end of the day, it’s just a bike and I needed to let go. Maybe I’ll find another vintage mountain bike, one that fits me, and dress it up. But right now I like the idea of having a fleet of four.

For photos of the Raleigh Crested Butte through the years, please see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.

Golden. Mt Tabor, 30 Oct 2020

1 This was because the wire for the rear light wrapped around the fender stay. This stay scraped along the pavement during the crash, cutting the wire. I decided to forego rewiring and mount a battery light instead.

6 thoughts on “Raleigh Crested Butte: The exit interview (of sorts)

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  1. All good reasons to pass the bike onto someone else. Totally understand your reasons. Same scenario with my Trek Antelope: at the end of the day, it didn’t fit, but I still miss the incredible functionality of the bike.

  2. I had a 1981 Pugeot 10-speed that didn’t fit me as well as it should have. I bought it in 1989 in PA, and sold it it 2015 before I moved to Hood River. I kind of still miss it, though. It was a good bike, even though it was showing its age, and my back hurt sometimes when I rode it. A week after I sold it, someone stole the recumbent trike with which I had replaced it.

  3. Ah-ha! Everything explained. Duplication in the fleet is okay if you’ve got the storage space (hard for us apartment dwellers). Would you have kept the bike if it fit properly? It’s so hard to let a good bike go, but I’ve never truly regretted selling any of the ones I did. Whenever I see a bike like the Crested Butte, I always think about you.

    1. Hey Rodney! I probably would have held onto the bike for another year or so if it fit, maybe to get to its ten-year anniversary. Still, the whole “seat post failure” would loom in my head.

      For me, it’s not a matter of physical space, as I do have space for more bikes in my house. It’s mental space. Five tests my mental capacity. I like having my fleet maintained and I am no bike mechanic nor entertain ideas of becoming one. I do like doing some basic stuff from time to time, but after a decade of “fiddling with bikes” (esp. the Crested Butte), I don’t have the energy to deal with that stuff. As it is, I put off that kind of stuff until I can’t ignore it. So to keep my fleet in order, I bring the major stuff to the bike shop, and that costs money. Less bikes means less to maintain.

      Ideally I’d like to consolidate the fleet even more. If I had the money, I’d love to get another custom built, a fat-tired hub-geared city bike, one that split the difference between the Crested Butte and the Superbe. That would be years away at that point. Perhaps I could find a mountain bike that fits and convert it, but I also don’t want to spend the time and energy on that right now. So for now I’ll make do with what I have. And I still have a lot of good bikes!

  4. Owning more than one personal bicycle is a delicious dilemma. I run 4 operational bicycles and have resisted any more. Over the years have weaned out all the bikes that didn’t fit proper. Over the years what fits proper as a definition has also changed and the bikes I own now fit much better than at any time earlier in my life. Seat post failures are no good at any time and I’m with you on selling your fitment issue to someone else who might not have that issue. I only miss the Rans Gliss recumbent with rear suspension. I miss that rear suspension at times when riding rough roads on my Ryan Vanguard. You have a great fleet of bicycles.

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