First I must share with you I have this bug for old things and I don't mean from the 80s or from the disco era. There's a voice inside that occasionally whispers things like "you gotta get that old Westinghouse oscillating fan" or "that vintage 'Louis Armstrong Hot Five' LP would add nicely to your collection." The other day, the whisper returned, this time luring me towards a vintage Raleigh 3-speed bicycle (1964 to be exact).
Call me nuts, but 27-speeds are about 24 speeds too many. I walked into a bike shop the other day tapping on each bicycle, searching in vane for one bike that was made of good ole' American steel (or Japanese for that matter). When I asked, the response was "we don't cater to those bikes and why would we when carbon fiber frames make your bike float and plus, steel is overrated anyway." --pause-- "Whoa dude, is that an old school Raleigh? I dig your ride man!!" And with that, I contently exited the shop on my non-carbon fiber ride with my selection of three speeds, I pedaled onward, content with my recent purchase. So why the "whoa dude" response if steel is overrated? I'm glad you asked, allow me to demonstrate the whoa dude factor:
Whoa Dude Factor #1: Chrome Bezel Headlamp
You'd be hard-pressed to find chrome (or any kind of metal) bumpers on automobiles today. The same goes for bicycle accessories like lights, but not on this steel machine. Note the switch on top - this is to toggle between a long and short beam. One illuminates closer to the front wheel while the other sends light further out. Oh and if you push the side button, the face swings out to reveal the guts and a spare bulb inside (or stow away a choice non-conductive item inside). And you ask, what size batteries does it take. Well, I'm glad you asked...read on.
Whoa Dude Factor #2: Bottle Generator (Green Power)
So the million dollar answer is "no batteries required." That's because the headlamp (and smaller rear light) run off a bottle generator conveniently located on the front fork. Push a lever, and the generator moves over where the top turning wheel meets the sidewall face of the front tire. When the bike moves, the generator wheel moves creating electricity to power front and rear lights. When I'm at a stop, there is no light and the intensity of the light is directly related to my speed (faster = brighter, slower = dimmer). It also provides a good workout on hills since there is a bit of drag created when the bottle generator is resting on the sidewall. End result: no more chicken legs.
Whoa Dude Factor #3: Broken In Leather Saddle
Raleigh partnered with Brooks to install their leather saddles on each and every one of their bikes. When well taken care of, a Brooks leather saddle will outlast anything else on the market -- just don't get it wet or leave it oz`ut during a heavy downpour. Note the two horizontal slots on the back. This design is to receive a tool bag or travel bag with straps to carry a few choice items on longer trips. I found an old Czech ammunition bag that works well for carrying a few of my "choice items" to and from work. Since I didn't utilize the slots, I could add a second bag if I wanted. But I've ordered a vintage rear rack instead to put pannier bags and carry lots more (already planning a trip).
Whoa Dude Factor #4: All Steel Fenders
That's mudguards for your British lads and lasses. On rainy days, I can still bike to work thanks to these generously wide steel-reinforced fenders which are a staple of the Raleigh 3-speeds. On the front, there's even a chrome tip for an added touche d'elegance. Apparently the white stripe has a history to it. It was part of regulation in England to make the bike road-ready and more visible when mixed with traffic. I couldn't find any supporting documentation so I'll let you make up your own legend.
Whoa Dude Factor #4: Quackin' Ducks
Hear those ducks a' quackin'? Take a close look at the front chainring and you'll see three ducks turning head over head when pedaling. Interestingly enough, the front badge contains a duck head as part of its emblem. Try finding any sort of handmade artwork on modern chainrings. Does anyone out there know the significance of this bird? At second thought, maybe they're swans, storks or egrets. Wait, do they quack? That'll mess my title up. If you know anything about the history of the badge or the bird, e-mail me:
C.M. Ducks N.R.O.?
Ken Matthews (vintage_3sp)
1972 Peugeot PE41 3-speed
1964 Raleigh Sports Deluxe 3-speed