First proper trip on the homemade singlespeed this morning. Normally, it takes me about 40 minutes to ride the 5 or so miles to work. Even though it’s a nippy bike, I tend to ride like one of John Major’s spinsters cycling to evensong on my Trek 7.3FX. The head-down geometry of the Raleigh shaved more than five minutes off my journey, and that’s with stopping at every red light on Mile End Road Of Death. Having just the one gear really encourages you to get spinning. My legs now feel like they’re made of wood. As for comfort, It’s not exactly like sitting in an armchair, but neither is it like sitting astride a mediaeval torture device. It’s just right for the job. The narrow bars make it track like it’s on rails.
The only original components on the bike are the frame and forks, the seat pin, the handlebars and the crank. The frankly dangerous sidepull brake calipers were the first bits to be replaced, followed by the wheels. I had to ‘cold set‘ (a posh term for ‘bend’) the rear triangle with a plank of wood to accommodate the new Rigida Chrinas, a procedure that filled me with terror but was actually a doddle. A delightfully 80s (and surprisingly comfy) ‘new old stock’ saddle was sourced from ebay, as were those creaky but effective bargain bin Tektro levers. The all-important 16 tooth singlespeed cog on the rear hub is from Superstar Components. The spacers that came with it made it easy to get the correct chainline – a crucial bit of fettling; you don’t want the chain jumping off at precisely the wrong moment.
I originally intended to keep the handlebars as drops, but the brake levers work far better with the ‘bars chopped and flopped – a ten minute hacksaw job. So, now the bike goes in the direction I point it, and stops when I want it to. And very quickly too, for what the bike snobs sneeringly call a gas pipe bike. Can’t really ask for more than that.