Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wheels Of Steel

I now possess two scooters, half a car, a skateboard (somewhere) and four bicycles. The latest addition to the fleet is this late 1980s Raleigh Winner, which came thanks to the generosity of a nice chap I 'met' on a cycling website. He'd owned it for 20 years, but as a new dad it was surplus to his requirements. He didn't even want paying, but accepted a donation to his nappy fund.

The Winner is an example of a once-ubiquitous style of bike, the affordable, friction-geared, hi-ten steel 'racer'. Comfy, with fittings for mudguards and rack - and expected to last a lifetime. These are the bikes you see being ridden to factories in 70s newsreels about industrial strife. The bike you rode to work, the same bike you rode out to the Dales at the weekend. I had one as a kid - a beautiful and sleek Raleigh Medale. New bikes of this type don't really exist anymore. The late 80s mountain bike boom that saw the Medales and the Winners off has ultimately led to a sort of race to the bottom. A typical 'everyday' bike for the masses is now something like a £70 Asda MTB-alike weighed down with pointless (and useless) suspension and plastic brakes. Find one of these or a steel racer in the back of a barn in 20 years time and see which one is still rideable.

Apart from the rear tyre this Winner is 100% original. Brakes will be the first upgrade. Sidepulls, funky chrome wheel rims and 'suicide' levers add up to a somewhat alarming experience when approaching junctions or descending even the gentlest hill. After that will be some decent wheels and tyres. In Spring I'll convert it to single speed. Not having gears should get me off this post-Christmas fitness plateau i'm currently sat on. By next autumn I should have lungs like a shire horse.


Affer said...

Old bikes seem to have a certain longevity that others (from you know where) don't have.

THIS is a project my son is (proud to be) working on....

TIW said...

An excellent project it is too. Hard to overstate how useful a bicycle is in many regions of the world. They're not exaggerating when they say a bicycle can transform a life.