It’s the central irony of my bike-liking life: As soon as I take the time to praise a particular bike, it goes away in some sense. It was just a few months after praising my Raleigh Crested Butte, my longest-serving bike, that I sold it due to “irreconcilable differences.” And at the beginning of the year I talked about how much I love my Raleigh Superbe. Yet most of the year I have not ridden this bike. A lot of this is due to the newness and versatility of my Brompton. But it’s mostly due to mechanical failure.
In early March I took the Superbe for a ride. As I was climbing the SE 53rd hill on the west side of Mount Tabor, I felt the rear wheel slide out of the dropouts and start rubbing against stays. At least that’s what I thought it was. When I got off the bike I examined the wheel and it was still in position, bolts tight. Uh oh. I called Emee for a rescue and when I got home I removed wheel. The axle fell out, broken in half. Apparently this doesn’t happen that often.
I could get the axle replaced, and probably will at some point. But I went for the quick fix: take the wheel from the recently mothballed Robin Hood and swap it. In theory this would be easy, as they are essentially the same thing. But there was a small difference: the rear cog on the Superbe was 23 teeth, the cog on the Robin Hood 21 teeth. I didn’t think this would really be that much of an issue, but the chain was now too long and dragging against the kickstand. I could either change the cog or shorten the chain, but I didn’t feel like dealing with cog and I don’t like dealing with chains. So I put it aside for the moment, to come back to it eventually.
“Eventually” translated into this month. It was just too easy to ride the Brompton instead for around-town utility or switch to the Bantam for more adventure. But eventually I started to miss the Superbe and had North Portland Bikeworks do the dirty work.
And man, it’s been good to be back on the Superbe. It’s a fun bike to ride, and feels different than the other bikes I own. And damn, it’s just such a classy machine. There’s something about a vintage British three speed that can’t be emulated, no matter how much other bikes try. It’s by no means a light bike (so much hi-tensile steel) nor is it exquisitely crafted–Raleigh pumped out bikes just like this one by the millions. There are some three speed “purists” who think that Raleighs produced after the early 60’s are crap. Whatever. When it works, it works.
I just have to remind myself not to let it take four months to fix the Superbe if it breaks again!