The silliest bike I’ve ever ridden

So I’ve gone and bought another bike… I haven’t been blogging lately but I have been riding, though a change of working arrangements means I’ve been stuck 70 miles away from my bikes most nights so I’ve had a pretty dismal September. I kind of knew this would happen at some point. Anyway, to solve the problem and ease my bike withdrawal I speculatively bid £30 on this and happened to win:

It’s a 1987 folding BSA, and apart from a genral neglect and the odd bit of superficial rust here and there it’s in reasonable condition. Now it’s all been serviced and regreased, has new brake cables and everything works as it should. The wheels are the same 20 x 1.75″ size as most BMX bikes on steel rims, with a 46 tooth chainring driving a 17 tooth sprocket on a Sturmey Archer AW 3-speed hub. It weighs an absolute ton, but folds small enough to fit on my rather small car’s back seats. Might come in handy when I have to park at the far end of the enormous factory car park!

So far I’ve ridden it about five miles, and it’s a curious experience. I haven’t ridden too far as firstly the tyres aren’t in the best condition and also the saddle won’t go high enough making it a little tough on the legs. Riding it puts me in mind of when I used to do little jumps in the garden on an old bike of my sister’s that was way too small for her let alone me. I got it up to 22mph but obviously it’s not really designed for speed and I wouldn’t want to go much faster! The small wheels make it a little twitchy but I soon got used to it. The low centre of gravity makes handling rather different too.

There’s a few bits and bobs to add, first on the agenda being tyres. The BMX size gives more choice that the original Raleigh 20’s 20 x 1 3/8″ size, and I’ve got some nice whitewall Schwalbe Road Cruisers to fit along with some new inner tubes. There’s also a couple of rudimentary lights, basically in case I happen to get caught out after dark, and some clamp screws that are in nicer condition than the originals, although they’re from a Raleigh 20 which has a slightly different fixing system so we’ll have to see if they actually fit. The last piece of the jigsaw, at least for now, will be a longer seatpost. It’s a 25.4″ diameter and will probably need to be a good 350-400mm long for me to be able to ride comfortably. This creates a little worry in my mind, as there’s a danger the bike’s frame won’t be able to take the extra leverage. 

You can see from the top photo that the bike mainly consists on one large bent tube welded to the headtube, and that this bent tube narrows to accommodate the seatpost. This means there’s only a very short section of frame holding the seatpost in, and I’m concerned about this acting like a fulcrum and ultimately breaking. It’s a clear design flaw that the original Raleigh 20 didn’t have, as it had a separate plain-gauge seat tube welded to the down tube to form an ‘H’-shaped frame. 

Which idiot thought this new design was an improvement, apart from the accountant? If I had enough overlap, and was prepared to be a little brutal, I suppose once I’ve got the height right I could drill a hole through the seatpost and the thicker part of the seattube and stick a bolt through to minimise any rocking, but I’ll see if I can come up with anything less drastic before that. I haven’t got the longer seatpost yet.

Oh well. As for my riding, I’m afraid after such a strong July things have slipped a bit in August and September. I only managed to ride every other day in September, and by a narrow margin it’s my worst month of the year. I did do a couple of dashes out to Aston and back on Major Tom, and he’s running pretty well now I’ve got used to the saddle and shifted the bars a little closer, though the front derailleur is sticking a bit for reasons as yet undiscovered – I haven’t really had the time at home to even look. I’ve got a replacement freewheel for the rather cheaply manufactured original Maillard, a much better made Suntour ‘Perfect’ with the same 14-26 range of sprockets, but again haven’t had time to take it to a shop to get the old freewheel removed, which would probably be cheaper than buying a new tool for a one-off job. 

Crichton’s running well as ever, and I did finally get round to tightening up the rear hub cone nuts that have been a tiny bit loose ever since I got it. My problems with 2nd gear have magically disappeared. I rode just over 5.8 miles on Crichton today in the pouring rain, and I suppose now the late autumn and winter is approaching we’ve come full circle. Crichton’s now relinquished the big-ticket rides to Major Tom, being used for little trips to town and times when it’s wet or dark. 

The new bike, by the way, is called “Goldfinger”. Not terribly imaginitive but I had Shirley Bassey’s famous Bond theme stuck in my head while I was fixing it up. I thought about calling it “Fold-Ginger” but it’s just too much of a mouthful. So Goldfinger it is.


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