Most people think of me primarily as a road cyclist, but this isn't strictly true. I've gone through periods in my life when I've done a lot of off-road cycling, and others when I stick to the roads. Lately, i.e., the last decade or so, I've been pretty much a pavement rider, but maybe my new bike will inspire me to get dirty more often. In any case, I like to keep up-to-date with bicycle technology, and I got a great close-out deal on this high-tech Raleigh.
I'm hoping this will revive my appetite for off-road riding, despite the closure of all of my old favorite trails.
This bike features:
So far I've only ridden it very briefly off-road, it certainly is different! I expect it to be as difficult to get used to as it was to learn to drive in snow with front wheel drive, after learning on rear-drive cars.
At present (August 26, 2001) it's basically stock, but not likely to stay that way...
Finally got around to doing some customizing to this bike, which has been lonely and neglected for the last couple of years. I swapped out the Koski riser bars for a Scott AT-3 I've been hoarding, using a Zoom stem riser to give me a bit more height. Also installed a Brooks Professional saddle and removed the silly fake fenders. Now it's starting to feel like one of my own bikes!
As a kid in the '50s, I used to ride my 24" balloon-tire Rollfast around the woodland trails a lot, especially in the bird sanctuary on Marblehead Neck.
In the mid '70s I bought a Raleigh Twenty folding bike, and modified it to be more off-roadable. Back in the days before mountain bikes, it used to blow peoples' minds to see me riding on hiking trails--to most people these were considered impassible for bicycles at the time.
I bought this one used in the early '70s, and did many modifications to it over the years. In this photo, it was still fairly stock, except that I'd converted the 3-speed hub to 5-speeds, extended the seatpost, and installed Lyotard platform pedals and a Brooks B66 saddle.
I did quite a lot of off-road riding on this bike, before real mountain bikes became available. Later in its life, it acquired aluminum rims, Cinelli handlebars and stem, a Campagnolo Nuovo Record crank set, Phil Wood bottom bracket, and other goodies. I sold it for $300 in a weak moment...
When lightweight knobby tires started to become available, in the late '70s, my interest in off-roading heated up. I outfitted an old Columbia ballooner for off-road use. This bike came with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed drum brake and a springer fork. It worked pretty well on the sand dunes of Cape Cod. The Drum brake was pretty scary, though. I added a caliper brake by bolting it on to the seatstays with a home-made adaptor, but never figured a way to put a decent front brake on the springer fork.
This bike became my first derailer-equipped "mountain bike." The frame was an old English 3-speed, with pretty good off-road geometry. It has 68 degree parallel frame angles, nice long wheelbase, and would be a typical late '70s mtb except for having a low bottom bracket. I actually rather like the low bb. I'm not much into jumping logs and the like, and like the security of being able to put a foot down, while still keeping my saddle high enough for efficient pedaling. This frame was built for 560 mm (26 x 1 3/8) wheels, so I did considerable violence to the seat stays to allow me to fit big 559 knobbies. I installed a pair of English GB All Rounder handlebars and stem, with Mafac nylon brake levers. I set the bike up with stem shifters, but had them reversed so that they pushed forward for larger sprockets. This kept them from threatening to poke me in the groin. I used a Brooks B66 saddle and Lyotard Marcel Berthet pedals.
This was my favorite off-road mount for several years, during probably my most intensive mountain-biker phase in the early '80s. I did a lot of riding in the woods of Lincoln, Mass. (now off limits to bikes, alas) and the Cape Cod National Seashore.
It was the first bike I ever owned with a triple crank (SR 52-47-34--those were the days!) I went throug a lot of drive train changes on it. I kept feeling it was almost right, just could use a little bit lower gear...eventually wound up with a 7-speed 12-38 SunTour freewheel, which required a bit of blacksmithing on my part to build.
When I got the Univega frame, I transferred the parts over. The Hercules frame sat in a dusty corner of my cellar for a while, but it is too sweet-riding a bike to leave un-built, and when I got the urge to try a fixed/free singlespeed MTB, I built it up again. Details are on my Hercules Page.
My Hercules was so much fun that I went through a period of proselytizing mountain biking, and I wanted a second off-road bike that I could lend to friends and family to share the fun. I also had a bit of an urge to try underwater cycling...
I took an old 21" Raleigh Sports and made it into a 3-speed MTB. I built new wheels for it with wide MTB rims, squashed the chainstays for improved tire clearance, installed BMX handlebars and brakes. I put a 22 tooth sprocket on the Sturmey-Archer AW hub. This still didn't give an adequate low gear with the stock 48 tooth chainring, so I sawed off the chainring (decapitating the 3 ornamental Raleigh herons that served as a "spider") drilled and tapped holes that allowed me to bolt an Atom 28 tooth freewheel cog on to serve as a chainring.
The result was a very off-roadable machine, though maddening to ride on pavement due to its low gearing.
I bought this frameset used in the early-mid '80s, but I believe it dated from the late '70s. It was my first purpose-built MTB. It acquired most of the parts from the Hercules. I sold this after buying the Fat Chance.
This one was probably built by Gary Helfrich. It's a bit small for me, but I got a good deal on it used, and the top tube is my ideal 22" size. It has a Tioga elastomer fork, and a Brooks Conquest saddle
This 1950's Gnôme-Rhône was made of aluminum tubes riveted into steel lugs. The manufacturer was an old French aircraft builder. The frame was falling apart, it was partly held together by hose clamps. I converted it from a 3-speed to a 12 speed, to use as my mountain bike while I lived in France.
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell