Please excuse the long, self-indulgent post. A really weird thing is happening to me.
I picked up a 40-or-so year old Raleigh Record on Craigslist for next to nothing a couple of months ago. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the bike, the Record was Raleigh's bottom-of-the-line drop bar bike during the bike boom of the 1970s. It used the same steel frame (not CroMoly - the really heavy stuff) as their iconic three-speed, so it weighs a lot for a road bike - about 31 lbs without any accessories. The gearing is typical for a "10-speed" of the time - something like 52/42 in the front, and a 14-28 5-speed freewheel in the back.
I bought it on impulse - I was really looking for a hybrid, which I subsequently also bought, but I thought the Raleigh would make a good "beater" bike that I wouldn't be afraid to leave parked on the street, etc. And it had this really cool "Made in Nottinghamshire" sticker on it, meaning it was made in the last few years that Raleigh still made bikes in England. So, although they were about as rare as dirt, I looked at this as a little piece of history. Besides, it was cheap.
When I got it, I was at least 25 lbs heavier than I am now, and the lack of lower gearing made getting up some of the hills around here challenging. Also - I have issues with stenosis/arthritis that make using drop bars pretty painful, so semi-regretted the impulse-buy, but decided to keep the bike anyway. I decided to turn it into a Frankenbike project.
When I got it, it still had the original brake pads on it - they were hard as rocks, and I used to have to do a Fred Flintstone with my foot to stop the bike. So the first thing it got was a pair of KoolStop salmon pads. Using parts that were laying around the garage, I replaced the drop bars with straight MTB bars, and changed out the stem and brake levers for MTB components as well. A set of bar ends completed the cockpit mods.
The end result is a bike with a more upright riding position that pretty much avoids the pain in my neck, gives great visibility in traffic, but is not so upright that a lot of weight is on the saddle. Sort of a perfect compromise. And, because of the frame geometry, the bike is very easy to keep on track, which relieves tension in the shoulders.
I've got some drivetrain mods in the works (which I'll write about after I'm done if anyone is interested) to give some better climbing gear options, but I'm still waiting for the last parts to arrive in the mail (a 6-speed MegaRange freewheel and a long-cage RD). So I've been riding the bike with the cockpit mods, but with the original 2x5 drivetrain.
So, here's the weird thing: This bike, even without the drivetrain mods, is becoming my favorite bike! It's quick, nimble, really comfortable, feels almost indestructible. There's nothing cool, hip or trendy about it - no quirky handlebars, it's not a fixie or SS, doesn't have an expensive English saddle on it, no leather anything... (I'm starting to notice a pattern in myself in creating really dorky bikes that are extremely functional but also very uncool.) It still looks like garbage, so I don't worry about leaving it locked up on the street, even for hours. And I guess losing weight and getting into better shape really made a difference, but I'm getting up those hills without any trouble, even without the lower gearing.
I LOVE riding this bike! Isn't it strange that the cheapest, oldest, junkiest bike that I have would turn into a favorite? If it were a woman, there'd be a country-western song somewhere in this experience - maybe even several. Luckily, I'm from NYC originally, and we don't go in for that sort of thing...
Has anyone else had the experience of having their least likely bike turn into a favorite?