A Raleigh Superbe

I have an as yet to be named new to me bike!


She’s an early 1970s/late 1960s Raleigh Superbe 3spd. Made in Nottingham, England but found her way to me via kijiji.ca. She was purchased by the previous owner at the Trinity Bellwoods vintage bike show & sale (7th photo down in the post is a picture of my Superbe!) Dandyhorse also has a nice article about the show, one year I hope to actually remember in time to book that day off work! So, after a week of commuting the previous owner found this was not the right bike for her. I can so totally relate to that! Finding your perfect bike is a tricksy business, especially if you are new-ish to bikes. You can read all the reviews, press releases, fancy bike blogs and test ride until your arse is black & blue, but none of that will give you a true sense of a bike till you have ridden it for longer than the roughly 20 minute ’round the block test ride you can take at a store. Unfortunately, there isn’t to my knowledge any sort of bike service like this unless you have a super nice friend who is willing to lend you their bike, so we muddle through as best as we can and hopefully learn a few things along the way.

When I first started looking for a bike I was smitten with the look of the English 3spds, but my lack of bike mechanical knowledge at that time led to my incorrectly thinking a new bike would be less hassle as I was learning how to negotiate city riding…this turned out not to be the case. As with all things, in hindsight, I should have just bought a damn vintage Raleigh from the get go!

Since that first Trek loop-frame bike with the front shocks & 26 gears, I have run through a series of bikes as it took me a while to figure out what I like in a bike. Road bikes, I discovered, are definitely out!  The riding posture is all wrong for me & I feel rather vulnerable on those thin tyres. (By the by, if you know anyone looking to buy a vintage road bike, I have a Norco Avanti that could use a home that will appreciate it!) Through a process of elimination, I discovered I like a nice lugged step-over frame bike with a 3-6 speed internal hub & rear rack for my panniers that allows me to sit comfortably, see where I am going & by consequence allow the observant motorist (yes that is a dig!) see me. In a nut shell, a vintage English 3spd has what I want. These bikes are amazingly stable due to their weight (not too heavy or too light) and a very sturdy build! Like English vintage cars, their mechanics are particular yet straight forward in their maintenance. The Sturmey-Archer internal hub does require a little bit of thought when shifting gears;  you need to stop pedaling, shift gears, then start pedaling again. Not sure why, my Dad could explain it, all I know is that’s how you do it unless you want to rebuild/replace your internal hub.


My as yet to be named bike is in pretty much original condition (the tyre pump is not stock & am uncertain about the headlamp), she has a few scratches on the paint, but for a 40+year old bike, she rides better than the modern 3spds of  similar design. The grips will need to be replaced & I have already ordered a set of new/old stock (NOS) or what is sometimes called “dead stock” grips via Ebay. The Superbe came with a dynohub that powers a front headlamp & rear light. The electric wires & rear light are missing so I am currently on the hunt. Although, I wonder if my Dad doesn’t have something suitable squirreled away…&  yes, this fascination with English built modes of transportation is most likely a genetic condition of which my Dad & I both suffer, but really let’s be honest, we don’t see it as a fault & it’s our respective partners who are probably the ones suffering by having to put up with us!

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While giving the bike the once over for any serious damage, I noticed the front wheel lock…with the key snapped off in it! Drag! A quick perusal of youtube provided me with a few “how to remove a snapped key” videos & ebay pointed me to a seller in England with NOS blank keys from the Raleigh factory which he can cut to fit the lock! I just have to send him the serial number stamped on the side of the lock! How cool is that?!


I might add a Handbag Hugger to the front instead of a basket. They just make more sense, look classic & don’t throw off the steering like fully loaded front baskets can. The saddle which is original, is quite cracked so I have replaced it with a similar style saddle I had in the garage.

Vintage English 3 spd bikes have quite a few advocates online, the most well know is Sheldon Brown who sadly died in February 2008. His website, which is still being maintained is an amazing wealth of information for the care & maintenance of your English 3spd along with other cycling information. He was also a huge fan of the Raleigh Twenty  and wrote extensively about them too! Lovely Bicycle has a great review about the Superbe and even more importantly she has a brilliant post with advice for buying a bike on a budget. I recommend reading that post if you are considering buying a bike, as you will end up with a far better quality bike by following her $.02 than if you were to buy a modern 3spd bike.



Making of a cyclist…

I was going to post a well overdue crafting post as there has been a lot of that going on, but something way more thrilling happened around here just this afternoon…



This has been a while in the making. Last Summer we bought him a bike that came with training wheels and he was alternating between “getting it” and being thoroughly frustrated by biking.  This Spring after being teased by a friend (the little jerk!) about still having training wheels on his bike he asked for them to be removed. One fall was all it took for him to decided he didn’t want to learn to ride. I didn’t push the issue, so he found himself scootering along the side walk to school while Abi & I rode our bikes on the road, which frustrated him even more as we could go faster but he refused to ride his bike without the training wheels being put back on.

Instead of putting the training wheels back on, I removed the pedals from his bike, essentially turning his bike into one of those expensive balance bikes. We spent about 2 hours TOTAL putting around the block while Liam figured out his balance, then he asked for the pedals to be put back on…and then he was off…


He is still a bit wobbly when stopping and starting, but spent a good bit of time riding up and down our street, gaining in confidence then rode around the block.



Family Bike

I love my bikes, I don’t ride it as much as I like but MAN! DO I LOVE MY BIKES! I love going out with my kids on the bike even more!

I have this plan to cycle more once I’m done with school and, fingers crossed, have a job that is a decent bike commute. My vision involves me riding the kids over to daycare then heading off to my work on two wheels. But there is a slight snag I have hit…the kids are really getting a bit too long for the trailer and with leg space at a premium, squabbles are becoming an issue which makes riding a less than pleasant adventure. I need an alternative plan, sooner rather than later so the hunt was ON!

There are a tonne of options for carrying one child, there are options for carrying two smaller kids, but once you get to the stage my kids are at, things get a bit tricky and expensive. If we were in Denmark or Holland, there would be more options avaliable to me…I’m very jealous of both their cycling infrastructure and Family Bike designs.

Ideally if $ were not an issue I would love to get a Bakfiets

(image from Workcycle website)

Or a Moederfiets style bike like the PackMax Duo,

(image from De Fietsfabriek website)

or a Surly Big Dummy complete build with a Peapod LT for Mr. Liam & a Stoker Bar and Footsies for Mz. Abi from Xtracycle

(image from Surly website)

As all these setups would have run me clost to $4K, they are not viable options.

Next up for consideration were the Radish and Madsen bikes, both of which would have fit the bill but again the price tag and the fact that neither bike are avaliable in Canada so would require shipping form the US killed that option. I’m also not a fan of buying a bike without being able to test ride it.

My quest to have both kids ride with me was looking like it either wasn’t going to happen or would be a serious hit to the pocket book! I sat down and looked at what biking I was going to be doing with the kids to get a better idea what would be the best for that situation; essentially I would be riding three blocks to daycare with the kids, not a huge haul. Abi has a bike of her own which she loves to ride but she is still too small for keeping up on the big long hauls. I also really didn’t need the cargo carrying capacity, I have a seperate trailer for that. So after some more research I came to the conclusion that ideal solution would be to have Mr. Liam in a childseat on the back of Neville (who has had some mods since that photo was taken, must get an updated one for ya’ll) and to find some sort of “third wheel” set up for Mz. Abi…the bike seat was easy to find, the option for Abi…not so much. All the third wheel options for children in North America attach to the seat post of the parent bike, thereby making the use of a child seat impossible. There had to be a solution! Turns out there was and like all well thought out family biking ideas it came from Europe, the FollowMe Tandem!

(image from Clever Cycles website)

This thing is brilliant and perfect for my needs! By the time Abi has out grown the need for it Mr Liam will be ready to graduate from the seat to his own bike! The only problem I have encountered is that Clever Cycles in Portland is the only place I can find them for sale in North America. So I’ll be watching the exchange rate like a hawk all summer and saving up so we’ll be ready for our fall commute convoy.

I’m so thrilled to have found the solution I was hoping for and it won’t kill the pocket book! Both kids love going for bike rides and it gives me that hope that they will grow up to be life long cyclists, now if only our city would get on with being civilized and get some logical bike lane action like they have in Copenhagen!

Because the kids will need an education!

That is what I keep reminding myself as to why I should not order one of these:


(Fully ganked the image from antbike)

I LOVE this bike! It appeals to me on multiple levels! I love the Makers philosophy about cycling and the design just rocks my world!

But most of all I love the paint job on THIS one:


(more gankage from antbike)

Those red rims are sexy to me in so many ways! Make it a step-thru frame in that odd aqua I saw that vintage Maserati painted with those red rims and there could be some trouble!

Meet Neville

He is Nigel’s sportier older brother. Think of him as a sort of Edward VIII and Nigel as George VI without that unfortunate abdication situation.

Neville came to me via the Community Bike Network who I highly reccomend for getting your bike from. They accept donated bikes which they fix up and sell to support their various initiatives which really becomes a faboulous win-win situation: you will get a really great deal on an older (and often better made) bike with a nice little bit of good karma because your purchase will help CBN to run stuff like the Bike Gift.

BTW, CBN also offers a really great women’s only bike maintenance course called Wenches with Wrenches, I’m so signing up as soon as my schedule let me!

Here’s a parting shot of Neville’s super nifty stem mounted friction shifters:

These are going to take some getting used to as it’s not obvious right off the bat that you have switched gears but according to a very experienced cycle tourer at work they are a better shifter and make you look way more Serious Business.

I swallowed a bug, it was very gross.

Now that the allergies have been beaten into submission and my balance is quite improved I got back in the saddle and resumed my commuting to work by bike.

My morning commute was going along swimmingly until I was cruising down a slight hill and encountered a bug which caused a slight choking fit. Luckily no one was around to witness my hacking and coughing fit. It was super uncool.

The homeward ride was plesant enough until that last little bit. There is a slight incline/hill just as you come up to Warden that just takes it out of me. I have yet to get off and walk the bike up it, instead I choose to crank my way along in 1st gear, all the while being passed by the residents of the Nursing Home on the corner.

There and back!

Today I rode to and from work, taking Bloor/Danforth both ways and I discoverd a few more things…

Bloor/Danforth really SHOULD have a bike lanes.

My tushie is not nearly as tender as I expected but a pair of padded bike shorts are in my very near future.

Riding home after a rather annoying day dealing with dorky/mean people aloows one to decompress and not bring the crap from work home and totally possible after an 8 hour shift on my feet.

All this riding is cutting into my knitting time.

Making the Headwinds Submit!


It was 6.78 miles of obnoxious headwinds and annoying road construction but I biked it ALL! For the ride home I split my commute between the subway and riding as the winds were stronger.

Incase you can’t tell, I’m chuffed.

The total ride was about 45 minutes (the same as my commute on public transit) and now I’m curious if it would go faster without the headwind?

I discovered a few things during my ride:

Weleda’s Everon Face Balm is a godsend for windburnt cheeks!

I need some clothes that “wick” sweat away so I’m not a mess of sweat and stink when I arrive.Good thing I packed a change!

There is an old man who lives on Jones Ave who can currently bike circles around me!

Screw you Headwind!

And since I’m at it Falling Brook Road can bite me along with all those other jerky hills I have to ride/walk up to get to my home!

I spent the better part of my day riding around on Nigel, doing some visiting and errand running. In total I biked just over 10 miles or 16 kilometers (which sounds way more impressive IMHO). The knees are a wee bit sore along with my tushie (Brooks saddles are quite litterally a PITA). The Martin Goodman Trail was a really nice ride except for that stupid head wind and the swarms of high end strollers who refused to give me room to pass even when I gave them a few bell rings to let them know I was coming.

I braved Queen Street East and found it more comfortable to ride on than Gerrard, for some reason the drivers really like to buzz you at the Vic Park intersection.

So my next goal is to ride to work taking Danforth/Bloor and to build up to regularily commuting to work by bike. I’m quite fortunate and by proxy my workmates that I have shower facilities in the locker room at work.