Ten Speed + Delta Cruiser Creams = Budget Country Bike

To my mind, the main feature that makes the venerable ten speed bicycle a far more practical real world road bike than its modern descendent is tyre clearance. An average modern road bike will take accommodate a maximum tyre of around 25mm wide – some, more by luck that good jugdment, might squeeze in a 28mm, but only just.

Plenty of clearance under those Weinmann 500s for 35mm tyres.

Ever since acquiring my late eighties Peugeot ten speed, I’ve been keen to exploit its big tyre potential – I’m a firm believer in the dictum that states if you’re not racing, you should fit the plushest tyres that your frame will allow. Doing so will dramatically improve comfort, protect the bike and rider from road shock and open up new routes on more varied surfaces. With big tyres on your road bike, that enticing gravel road shortcut is suddenly a real option.

With the Delta Cruisers in place, the Peugeot feels right at home on this sort of 'road'.

I was always aware that the clearances on the ten speed would allow plusher tyres than the 23mm gumwalls that it was specified with back in 1987. Indeed I’d been running 25mm Specialized All Conditions with 35mm fenders, with no issues at all. However, lately I began to think of bigger tyres, initially pondering a set of 28mm hoops – assuming that this would possibly be the biggest tyre that would fit comfortably.

It was then that I had the brainwave of seeing if my 35mm Schwalbe Delta Cruisers (in cream) would fit between the Peugeot’s slender stays. If nothing else, the experiment would set some outer limits on tyre size.

Cream tyres and blue frame - pleasing, at least to my eye.

And so it came to pass – I was dubious yet hopeful as I uninstalled the fenders and removed the skinny 25mm tyres, before slipping the gorgeous cream Delta Cruisers onto the Weinmann rims. At this point, I was hoping against hope that they would work, purely on aesthetic grounds – the wide cream tyres looked amazing on the vintage polished aluminium rims and slender Maillard QR hubs – I would be gutted if they didn’t work.

With some trepidation, I slipped the rear wheel back between the dropouts, aligned it and snugged up the QR. So far so good, plenty of clearance at the brake bridge, between the stays and under the chainstay bridge too. However, the real test would come when the tyres were inflated to a working pressure. I attached the track pump and began to inflate – 30, 40, 45, 50 psi – and lo! still plenty of room (around 8mm each side and over 1cm beneath the bridge)! Praise the Lord! Fat tyre compatibility had been verified.

It was a similar story at the front end, with around 1cm clearance beneath the Weinmann 500 caliper (regarded as a ‘short reach’ brake in its day but now firmly in the ‘medium’ camp). OK, there’s no chance of fitting a fender now, but the benefits in terms of ride, practicality and looks are well worth the sacrifice.

Spring has indeed sprung in Croxteth Park and even on an Easter weekend, it's possible to find a 'solitary glade' such as this. Pug and I pause for a photo.

My first proper ride on the newly shod bike was a revelation, made all the more pleasant by the UK’s currently sublime spring weather. My test ride location was Croxteth Country Park, my favourite destination for a local spin on the paths, gravel tracks and hardpack trails. Today the park was alive with families enjoying the Easter weekend. However I could still find that counterpoint of solitude in the park’s farthest reaches – at one point I seemed to be riding through a dreamscape – a secluded bluebell wood with blossom descending like snow from the branches above, the birds in full spring tune and the smell of wild garlic heavy in the air. Rolling along on the ultra plush 35mm tyred Peugeot in such a scene was a little slice of cycling heaven – the bike is still responsive, yet has an unstoppable, steamroller feel.

I think I may have unwittingly created a retro country bike – a quick, lively, sporty bike that will eat gravel roads all day long.

Anyone else out there created a budget country bike from a ten speed?

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45 Minute Escape

Croxteth Country Park is my favourite destination for a quick escape

A few days ago I had one of those sublime, snatched-from-nowhere rides. I had an hour to spare before the children returned from school and college and the evening ritual of food, TV, baths and chores began. Time for a ride.

The day had been cold (1 degree Celsius) and magically dry and clear so I head out towards Croxteth Country Park to see how the woodland trails were. I had a hunch that the season and the weather conditions would work some magic. And I was right.

My favourite local trails are usually difficult to ride for most of the year. In the summer, they’re usually overgrown with brambles, nettles and suchlike. During the autumn and winter, they’re usually too muddy to ride without having to clean the bike for an hour after every ride (which sort of defeats the purpose of a quick ride).

However, today was perfect. The ground in most parts was frozen solid and the vegetation had died back for the winter. So wrapped up in three layers and thick gloves, I swept around the trails as if it were a dry dusty summer’s day, only taking care for glassy areas of sheet ice. It’s been a year since I rode some of these paths, but it’s amazing how their every root, dip, rise and sketchy section gets imprinted in the memory.

Late afternoon, winter sun, not a soul about.

I came home refreshed and later on, read Chris ‘Pondero’ Johnson’s wonderfully inspiring piece on the Micro Tour – a chance to snatch some of the pleasures of touring in just a few hours (like an S240 but without the sleepover!). I think next time I escape, with a little more time to spare, I’ll pack the coffee flask (or maybe the Esbit stove and Billy-can) and a snack, find a stump and brew up.

Ressurectio at Ladybower

About a week ago, on a top secret work assignment, I was lucky enough to go to Ladybower Reservoir in England’s Peak District. For those who don’t know it, the Peak District is the area of the Pennines between Manchester and the urbanised areas of South and West Yorkshire. I went to the  Upper Derwent Valley section of Ladybower, which comprises three separate expanses of water  held in check by three mighty dams. The area was made famous as the place where WW2’s ‘Dambusters’ practiced with the bouncing bomb.

Nowadays it’s a place of peace, and on the day I went there, the lower reservoirs were shrouded in mist, with only the upper end of the Derwent Valley emerging from the chilly gloom into bright, warm winter sunshine. As you can imagine, I felt duty bound to take a few pictures.

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Waxing Lyrical; Whipping Twine, Chain Lube and the Tale of the Lost Mudguard Eye Nut

It’s funny how things happen in threes. There I was, this morning, sitting, drinking my coffee, wondering what my blog post would be today. Then an hour later, after my commute, three interconnected things come along, all at the same time; handlebar twine, chain lube and a lost mudguard eye nut. But what’s the thread that twines this trio together? Well, it’s wax.

Waxed cotton twine on brown cloth tape with four coats of amber shellac.

Twine

I’ve been experimenting with twine for a while; a few weeks ago I shellac-hemp-twined my handlebar tape ends, but, after living with it for a few days, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Hemp twine can be pretty ‘hairy’, meaning that something that’s meant to neatly finish the bar tape ends up looking messy. However, the other day, and quite by accident, a roll of waxed-cotton twine came into my possession. A nice cream colour makes a nice contrast with the dark brown cloth tape. However, the killer feature for me is the waxed finish, which makes the twine adhere to itself and its sub layer. The wax finish also makes the tying-off more secure and will also make the twining water and dirt-proof. Some folks don’t like waxed twine because it doesn’t take shellac well, but I see no need for shellac on the waxy stuff. Its main use is in nautical circles, where it’s used to ‘whip’ rope ends, and also to bundle wiring in electrical installations.

Lube

Late yesterday afternoon I received a package from my friends at Green Oil, who, for some years, have been marketing their excellent range of environmentally friendly lubes and bike cleaning products, which use plant-based (rather than petroleum-based) ingredients. Their latest product is something that’s been missing from the shelves forever – ‘White’ liquid chain wax; a beeswax-based dry chain lube, which claims to protect and lube the chain in all weathers, and doesn’t attract road grime. Now, waxing chains is nothing new. Grant Peterson described the process of paraffin waxing chains in one of his fabulous Bridgestone catalogues and he wasn’t the first; it’s been a popular practice with master-mechanics for generations. However, this is (to my knowledge) the first beeswax-based (and therefore non-petrochemical) wax lube available, which is great news. I’m looking forward to degreasing my drivetrain, White-lubing the chain and seeing how it performs over the coming winter. Expect a full test in a few months – in the meantime I’ll keep you posted.

Nuts

And finally, on the way to the station, I noticed an annoying rattle from the front end of the bike. Before I could locate it, one of my mudguard eye nuts had worked loose and rattled onto the road. They’re special 8mm nuts with an extended ridge at the back which tightens into the ‘eye bolt’ and grips, the mudguard stay, keeping the mudguard properly adjusted. I cussed, shook my head and put up with the annoying rattle all the way to the station (I hate annoying rattles). No biggie though; I’m pretty sure I’ve got a spare in my nuts and bolts tin at home. However, what I plan to do is use a little candle-wax on the threads to stop the new nut rattling loose (another top tip courtesy of that clever Mr Peterson). And let’s face it, there are worse things in the world than rattles (but not many).

Back on board, shellac, twine and Carradice Camper Usefulness

Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...
Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...

It was with unbridled joy that I climbed back on board Resurrectio for a dreamy ride down into town and along the waterfront yesterday evening. You know, one of those rides were the wind always seems to be behind you and you just want to keep on rolling. I left the house with the intention of maybe riding down to the Pier Head to take in the sights; the Three Graces glowing in the evening sun, the sleek Isle of Man-bound catamaran, rolling gently on the current, the photographers setting up long exposure shots as the sun set. But I just had the urge to carry on, brisk but never hurried. I cycled through Albert Dock and along Otterspool promenade, blissfully traffic-free, all the way to Aigburth before cutting home through Wavertree; all in all, a ride of about 15 miles, by my crude reckoning.

The ride also gave me a chance to take some snaps of my convalescence handicrafts.

Here’s my twined and shellacked bar-tape trim – hemp twine and two coats of amber shellac.

Here’s my twined kickstand – looks nice, in a rustic sort of way, and protects my cranks from knocks.

How about my gear-cable keepers? Much nicer that wrapping the cable inside the tape for a few turns, to my eye.

And here’s my twined aluminium water bottle. This took a lot of hemp twine and a fair old amount of shellac. Grips nicely in the bottle cage and turns an overtly sporty looking item into something altogether more nostalgic.

Here’s a picture of the whole ensemble, glowing in the evening sun (that dipped below the Welsh hills across the Mersey just a few moments later).

And finally, here’s a picture that follow up on my recent Carradice Camper Longflap review, to illustrate its usefulness and load carrying ability. Today I was faced with the prospect of carrying laptop, charger, two video cameras, digital SLR, lunch, commuting gear/tools and a large heavy duty tripod back into work. The quitter in me was reluctantly saying ‘take the car’ but then I thought “Wait a minute…”

So it was; camera bag on back, laptop, lunch and commuting gear in the Carradice, tripod trapped and strapped under the generous lid. All this and there was no need to deploy the Longflap. Once underway I didn’t notice it was there (just had to remember not to squeeze between tight gaps on the way to the station!

Feels good to be back on the (newly beautified) bike.

Further Reading – Rivendell Reader 42

Always a beacon of sense and judgement in our crazy times, the latest Rivendell Reader, #42 is out now (in fact it has been for a fair few weeks).

Formerly a perk for Rivendell members, the Reader is now freely available as a chunky PDF download or for the first time, hosted as one of those online bookish things here.

Clickety click on the pic to open the online Reader

The Reader is always like wandering through an antiquarian goods and chattels emporium, owned by a bicycling guru. It’s a little dusty, pleasantly anachronistic, thoroughly relevant and always able to take you by surprise. There are bike related and non-bike related posts: In this issue there’s stuff on market economics, bodge repairs, beausage (live by that word, friends…) and a New Jersey janitor with learning difficulties who’s cycled over a million miles – a real life, bicycling Forrest Gump. Plus in every issue, there’s a small piece on the typeface used  – in #42’s case – Hoefler.

It’s a bumper 70 pages, so pour yourself a cuppa, feet up and enjoy…

All Hail El Resurrectio!

My Plain Jane commuter bike has been crying out for some detail ever since I sourced the frame over a year ago. I’ve wanted to decal it up for a while, but didn’t want to misrepresent the bike and apply Surly stickers (nice as they are) or the like. Originally the frame came from an early 1990s Saracen hybrid, but Saracen decals didn’t go with the image of the rest of the bike.

Country bike before decals

So I was rummaging around the www.rivbike.com and came across these excellent Resurrectio decals, which are expressly made for bringing an old-but-good frame back from the dead.

The stickers come in two varieties, one for under laquer, one for over. I chose the over-laquer version and after a few emails to Riv’s shipping guy, Vaughn Dice, the stickers were on their way from Walnut Creek, CA, to Liverpool UK.

Applying the decals was a little daunting, as they could easily rip and were pretty much a one-hit affair. Thankfully, Vaughn sent me a link to this excellent How-To, which saved me a whole lot of trial and error.

I think that the result is excellent – the cream and gold of the decals tones perfectly with metallic British Racing Green of the frame.

I give you El Resurrectio

A big thanks to Riv for an excellent product – now when someone asks me what type of bike it is, I say, “Why, sir, it’s a Resurrectio”.