Friday, February 8, 2013

The Raleigh

Larry - People ask all the time, "How do you prepare your body for such a long distance, multi-day ride?" My answer is the same one legendary cyclist Eddie Merckx famously said in response to a question as to how to become a great racer: "Just ride a lot".
We love riding. It's what we do. It's not a chore, it's a pleasure. We expect to have 500-700 miles in our legs for 2013 before pushing off on THE BIG RIDE on May 1.
Though the tandem is our preferred ride, we each have single bikes that get ridden with regularity. Actually, I have several different single bikes; a mtn bike (ridden very little), a 'race' bike (my club ride), a touring bike and the Raleigh.
The Raleigh is a 1976 Raleigh Super Course Mk II made in the Carlton factory in England that I bought new. It was my first real bike. I had just finished school and had my first real job. I paid something like $350 1976 dollars for that bike. My father thought I had lost my mind.
I did my first century on that bike and countless other rides. It was my only bike for many years. We lived in an apartment and didn't have a secure outside place to store it. It lived at the foot of our bed. Not my wife's idea of a great decorating accessory.
The Raleigh started life as a 27'' wheeled 10 speed with down tube shifters and a water bottle cage that hung over the handlebar stem. The cog was probably a 13-23. I didn't have a clue about bikes. I just knew that this bike flew over the ground like no bike I had ever ridden before. And I'll always proudly remember that beautiful spring Sunday afternoon of long ago when I slowly cruised by a young kid standing on the street corner who exclaimed in a hushed tone of reverence, "Wow, a Super Course!".
Well, as the years churned along, newer, shinier bikes started coming into the stable and the Raleigh was ridden less and less. It started looking a little forlorn sitting in the corner of the basement with its tires rotting. What to do? It was an old friend deserving of better. Answer: Change it! Make it a unique standout in my cycling herd!
And so, now several years ago, the Raleigh was reborn into a fixed gear commuter and its usage took a big jump. We live about four miles from my office and most of it can be ridden on the local greenway walking/bike path. When the weather's right and my appointments permit, I commute on the Raleigh. It makes coming to work so much better. I arrive invigorated instead of jangled. The Raleigh's still got that great Reynolds 531 steel feel and the fixed gear part, after a short getting used to period, is special - a one with the bike kind of feeling.
The Raleigh's place is now secure. It may have seen its last century, but, in a way, it's even better now than in those tie dyed bell bottomed '70s.
A not so sure Baxter with The Raleigh

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