Rebuilt in central Illinois: the Royal Scot

The Royal Scot painted in Fiat Vintage Green with Ford Colonial White accents

The Royal Scot in Fiat Vintage Green with Ford Colonial White fender accent.

Sometimes you reclaim the past, sometimes you improve upon it.

Despite the name, Royal Scot was a B-grade brand for Raleigh.

Despite the name, Royal Scot was a B-grade brand for Raleigh.

Dave Atkinson did both with this early 1970s British-built Royal Scot bicycle.

He found it on its side, rusted, stepped on and pretty much dead.

But it reminded him of the Raleigh his dad used to cart him around when he was small. So he worked to return the bike to the road three years ago.

Chainguard frame clamps were replaced with braze-ons at the seat and downtube. Other clamps remained, isolated from the paint by clear tape.

Chainguard frame clamps were replaced with braze-ons at the seat and downtube. Other clamps remained, isolated from the paint by clear tape.

Dave is a collision repair technician for CityLink, also known as the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District. He repairs windshields, body panels, roofs, seats, paint and glass. He also assembles bicycles for Bushwhacker, Peoria’s local outdoor store.

Liam Neeson might say Dave has a particular set of skills; skills acquired over a very long career. But Neeson himself could not have reclaimed the Royal Scot. Even Dave didn’t save much of the original beyond the frame and head badge.

Dave extended the headset threads on the replacement fork and added a spacer to raise the handlebars. He also reshaped the bars to a wider, more comfortable shape.

Dave installed a longer, chrome-topped replacement fork and added a spacer to raise the handlebars. He also reshaped the bars to a wider, more comfortable shape.

“It was a complete bike when I picked it up, but the fenders, wheels and brakes were smashed and rusted,” he says.

Royal Scot, perhaps the Rodney Dangerfield of three speeds, was a second-line Raleigh brand with the same frame, but differences in the parts and marketing.

The India Cycle bell duplicates the volume, tone and sustain of a Lucas King of the Road.

The India Cycle bell duplicates the volume, tone and sustain of a Lucas King of the Road.

“The original fenders had wire stays; these fenders [with solid, D-shaped stays] came from a Raleigh Sports Ltd. The fork came from eBay. The chainguard, fenders, bars, stem, seat post and cranks all came from different Raleighs.”

Dave saved the Scot from the trash. Repainted it. Topped it with a luxurious Brooks B66 saddle. He inserted it back into the flow of history, creating something sure to confuse anyone trying to identify this particular model. So now he’s going to do what any dedicated bike resto-modder would do.

He’s going to sell it.

“Too many bikes. I enjoyed building it, but I don’t ride it enough to justify being an owner who doesn’t have it on display.”

Well, Dave, here’s to display.

Posted in Becoming a bicycle, Bushwhacker, History, Other bicycles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Les confessions du snob de selle

Pressure on the sitting bones eliminated with the backward saddle.

Pressure on the sitting bones eliminated with the backward saddle.

Every once in a while, you realize your imagination has its limits.

Your flexible mind, capable of intuiting many potential solutions to the same challenge, is faced with something that cannot, in any way, be a solution to that challenge.

Instead, the mind is faced with a new challenge: one to its understanding of the way the world works.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that different people will approach the challenge of bicycle comfort differently.

For some, the saddle is simply a positional device, something that keeps the butt at the right distance from the cranks. On a racing bike, a narrow saddle minimizes interference between the saddle and legs.

For others, the saddle is critical for support, a device that cradles almost all the rider’s weight. On a pedal-forward bike, a wide, well-cushioned saddle provides that support. On a recumbent, the saddle becomes a seat with a back.

There are variations, too: saddles with springs, saddles with relieved areas, split saddles and noseless saddles.

Just as important, there are strategies on locating the saddle in space: closer or farther away from the handlebars, closer or farther away from the pedals, and nose down or nose up.

I know someone who rides thousands of miles a year without a saddle at all.

People experiment with saddles and positioning over years of riding. As they get older, they often make changes to match changes in their riding style—to accommodate inflexibility or other limitations, for example.

In short, you have your favorite saddles; I have mine. It’s all cool.

Until, bumping up against that limitation of the personal imagination, it’s not cool.

Like the saddle in the picture, mounted backward and nose high.

I didn’t challenge the rider on the choices he made; bicycle positioning is a very personal thing. But I did ask him a few questions—and avoided an obvious host of others—to get a better understanding of his journey to the backward saddle.

His complaint about other bike seats? Painful because of the weight placed on the sitting bones. (A secondary complaint was pain from the nose of the saddle.)

To eliminate the pain, he claimed to sit on the mid-point of the saddle where the sitting bones are unsupported—because they are unsupported.

I leave it to you to determine how this can possibly work.

Maybe it’s like pedaling with your back against a wall—except it’s not your back, and it’s not a wall. (One vanishingly minor objection to the whole scheme: seems like there’d be tremendous weight transfer to the hands.)

But it’s his bike and his body. He claims to ride 50 to 60 miles at a time in perfect comfort. And, to be sure, he hasn’t written a book or gone on the lecture circuit to promote the seating position. He’s pursuing an individual vision. Something that works for him. That’s all that counts.

And yet.

I just don’t see it. Don’t get it. Don’t understand it and don’t believe it. Not a word of it. It exceeds the credibility rev limiter.

  • It’s not calling black white, it’s calling black an elephant and white the catenary curve between fictional states of mind
  • It’s running into the snow yelling clothes make you cold
  • It’s holding your breath because the only people who die are people who breathe
  • It’s a drinking game at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
  • It’s a Flat Earther telling you that of course we live on a spherical planet—because we all moved to Mars just before the great flood
  • It’s taping over a car’s windshield because the forward view confuses the driver
  • It’s knowing you’ll get the job because your most important qualification is that you have no qualifications at all
  • It’s the picture next to the dictionary definition of imagination’s limit (See also:
Posted in Becoming a bicycle, Equipment | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review while parked: Click-Stand

Amazingly stable once you lock one or both brakes.

Amazingly stable once you lock one or both brakes.

This is not a road test. This is a garage test, a rest-stop test, a two-year-parked-by-the-cafe test.

This is a test of the diner-tested, hyphen-endorsed Click-Stand, a lightweight, collapsible stick of aluminum tubing that fits between the ground and, via a rubber-coated cradle, your bicycle’s top tube. I’ve been parking my tandem with the device for two years.

U-shaped rest cradles the frame.

U-shaped rest cradles the frame.

And I’m happy to say it works. It just works.

Like parking your bike upright? It sure makes it easy to sort through a handlebar bag, seat bag, trunk pack or panniers. With a Click-Stand, you don’t have to lean your bike against a building or pole. You can park anywhere, even on an incline.

When you’re not parked, throw the compact, shock-corded collapsible device into a bag or strap it to a frame bracket. Nothing to come loose when you’re riding.

And, unlike a standard kickstand, the Click-Stand doesn’t clamp over lightweight tubing. (If you’re buying a bicycle and intending to use a regular kickstand, look for a frame featuring either a flat plate behind the cranks or mounting holes near the rear dropouts.)

The Click-Stand is especially popular among tandem teams.

The Click-Stand is especially popular among tandem teams.

The key to the Click-Stand is locking one or both of your brakes with the Brake-Bands that ship with the stand. Even if you still park by leaning the bike against a wall, Brake-Bands make it more secure. In fact, it’s amazing how stable your bicycle becomes when the wheels don’t turn.

Parked at the Horsey Hundred.

Parked at the Horsey Hundred.

And when you’re drinking coffee, the only thing that should turn is the stool you’re sitting on—right in front of the chalkboard proclaiming the pie of the day, which, in any rational world filled with bicycles and coffee, should be apple.

The only pie worth parking for.




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Connecting with the Northeast in Kentucky

IMG_1104Conversation, learning something without direct experience of it, is the original Google search.

Instead of typing, you talk. Instead of reaching a distant server, you seek to understand another human being—one right in front of you. You might learn something new; you might be reminded of what we all have in common. You might be diverted.

(Not diverted in the sense of digital task switching and shrinking attention spans—this is is the third paragraph of this essay; congratulations for hanging in there—but diverted from the expectations of the day.)IMG_9093

Take a recent visit to Georgetown, Kentucky. Wes and Laurie traveled from New York for two days of pedaling over rolling hills past horse farms staked out by dark fences and stone walls. And trees—right by the side of the road. Miles and miles of trees, a remarkable change from miles and miles of mechanized Illinois corn that throws no shade.

I spotted the Boston t-shirt in Galvin’s on Main Street. Wes talked up the Hub on Wheels Ride around Boston, and the couple invited us to skip the wait for a table and sit with them.

We did. And we learned other things.

  • There’s a ride through New York’s Finger Lakes region called the Highlander that features up to 10,000 feet of climbing. Wes claims to enjoy this.
  • The Tour de l’Île is a great way to get to know Montreal, Canada. Laurie recommends L’Appartement Hotel as a good place to stay downtown.
  • The Erie Canalway Trail has some gaps, but it’s a remarkable trail to pedal from Buffalo, New York, to Albany,
  • One of the better times to beat the crowds on Martha’s Vineyard is late September. Stay in Woods Hole and take the ferry over.

So, next bicycle ride, ride. Of course. But add an extra conversation to the event. Talk to someone you don’t know. Find out what’s important to them. It may become important to you.

And it may all start with a t-shirt.



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Big ride (even though we haven’t been king sized since we were 13 colonies)

The biggest piece of advertising real estate on a bicycle frame before carbon fiber tubes was the Chicago Schwinn's chainguard.

The biggest piece of advertising real estate on a bicycle frame before carbon fiber tubes was this Chicago Schwinn’s chainguard.

John Ringham stopped by the shop with another bicycle from his stable: a 1965 Schwinn King-Size American. A year ago, he was showing me his Specialized Expedition from the early 1980s.

New, the King Size American was between $50 and $60 bucks. It still runs, still fits.

New, the King Size American was between $50 and $60 bucks. It still runs, still fits.

Given that Schwinn was fond of naming its bicycles after cars, including the Jaguar and the Corvette, one might be excused for thinking the company named this all-steel machine after the Rambler by the same name.

But no, Schwinn made its American from 1955 to 1965 and promoted it as 100-percent American made (presumably meaning in the United States, as opposed to other countries in the Americas, such as Chile or Canada).

John's a big fan of foam grips on upright and drop bars.

John’s a big fan of foam grips on upright and drop bars.

John, also American made, got the bicycle for his 12th birthday—about the same time he was approaching six feet tall.

There have been some changes to the King-Size American over the years–some wheel reflectors, the all-encompassing foam handlebar grips–but the bike is in remarkable near-stock condition.

As is John.

The hub shiner's been in place as long as the hub.

The hub shiner’s been in place as long as the hub.


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Not Old Paint. Don Walker tandem does Horsey Hundred with no paint

One of the more interesting bicycles at the 2016 edition of the Horsey Hundred in Georgetown, Kentucky: a fillet-brazed Don Walker tandem. No paint on the frame, just a clear coat. And get this: the bike was only a few hours old before the owners headed out on the hilly ride.

IMG_9074 IMG_9079 IMG_9077 IMG_9076

Eventually, the bike will get stripped down and given a proper coat of paint. But for now, the details of the build are clear for anyone to see. A proper showcase for the builder and organizer of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.


Even after the ride.

Posted in Other bicycles, Report from the road | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

They shoot old bicycle stories, don’t they?

10003898_864648686892836_5871425484533033503_nStories are how we compare one thing to another, learn, and make sense of the passage of time. Here are three stories I’m about to give up because I’ve repeated them too often. Especially now that I’m back in a bicycle shop after a quarter century, an event which calls out for new and different stories.

  1. I was riding my tricycle the other day (yes, I have a tricycle, built by Scott Paisley in Ohio years ago) when I realized it’s 2016 and I have three machines with SunTour Power Ratchet bar ends. What can I say? They work. They also make it hard to remember that indexed shifting isn’t new. It was introduced to the masses in the mid-1980s.
  2. I remember working at the shop when we had, basically, three types of bikes: road, kids and a single mountain bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper, which we thought was neat as all get out but wondered whether we’d ever sell for $750. Short story even shorter, we did.
  3. I started working at a bicycle shop in Peoria Heights in 1981. This was well after the zenith of transcontinental cycling. Still, we were selling a fair number of touring bikes, mostly from Trek, which was still a relatively new company. I remember suggesting a Trek to a customer and getting an incredulous look when I explained it was a bicycle made in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin had gained statehood several years earlier, which I thought would lend it a modicum of credibility.)

So that’s it, three stories. Now the talking dinosaur is trying to dance with more nimble mammals while avoiding the tar pits and pondering the possibility of an incoming asteroid.

But I think it’ll be okay. If you’re in Peoria, bring your bike and ride the Rock Island Greenway to visit me at Peoria’s Bushwhacker in Junction City.

Maybe you can help me work on a new story.

Posted in Bushwhacker, Business, History, News, Other bicycles, Trek | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments