Monday, February 11, 2008

Stylish, but not so practical

I got a flat Friday on the front tire of the 1961 Raleigh Tourist I occasionally use as a commuter, and it taught me a lesson about how things have changed for the better in bike design.
I love the Raleigh. It's an internal 3-speed with 28-inch wheels and a fantastic, comfortable geometry. I've thought, even since I fixed it up after finding it wrecked and abandoned near the newsroom, that it was a model of how biking had lost its way -- becoming too much about high-end athletic competition and not enough about having convenient, low-maintenance, enjoyable transportation. Then the flat happened and I realized there were no quick-release hubs. So I pulled out a socket wrench. Then I realized the tire wouldn't come off without first removing part of the antiquated rod-powered brakes. So I had to get another wrench. Washers bounced everywhere as I took off the fender connections and finally got the tire off. Total change and patch time, about a half hour, compared with 10 minutes on my mountain bike.
So... good things have happened in the biking industry. I'd love to have good brakes and quick release hubs on my Raleigh. Still, I'd miss the stylishness of it.

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