Introducing Sir Brooksish Longlever of Nottingham

This is the first bicycle I can recall naming, but having survived yesterday’s goings-on I feel as though I have a new lease on life.  As my first act of life part two, I am pleased to introduce to my fellow survivors Sir Brooksish Longlever of Nottingham.  

Keeping with the theme of firsts, for the first time I remembered to take photographs before working on Longlever but opted not to do so.  As I was reaching for my camera, I realized that to post before and after shots of a bicycle project cheapens the process and does a disservice to the bicycle.  After shots only, then.

This beauty was a Craigslist find.  The owner had picked it up curbside to save it from the landfill.  Too many projects moved him to list it, and I plucked it out of the ether.  I drove my car to get it on bicycle to work day, but I have no regrets. 

Eight hours later, he has a clean bill of health.  Fresh grease all around and new bearings in the headset.  Every bearing set but those in the headset were moist and the bearings were reused.  The headset bearings (that I could find after the loose balls sprayed asunder) were corroded.  The races were fine, so new bearings and grease has the headset functioning in top form.  Opened my Sutherland’s (for the first time for consultation in connection with a project-previous looks were just to get acquainted) to determine the proper number of bearings.  

Speaking of bearings, the jockey wheels on the Huret deraileur have serviceable  bearings!  Their grease was pretty clean despite the lack of modern seals, but I redid the gems anyway.  Very smooth running.  I am really impressed by this deraileur.  

Brooks used to offer vegan saddles.  I wish they’d bring back this model.  Riding on springs is wonderful.

The “27” in Sprite 27 refers of course to the wheel size.  The Raleighs with which we are most familiar run on 26″ wheels.  This bicycle, then, is the twenty-niner of the mid-seventies Raleigh line-up sporting 27″ wheels.  

Drop bar Raleighs had 27″ wheels as well, so this was presumably some sort of hybrid between their city bicycles and their machines intended for longer distance jaunts.  The steel rims and original (dry) brake pads combine to offer shockingly poor braking, but I am happy that there is no chatter or squeal.  Quiet is good.  I’ll ride with these pads for a time.  They might improve some as a layer of old rubber is removed.  If not, I will add new pads.

The tires are the only things on the bicycle that don’t seem original.  They are Schwinns and I was orginally surprised they fit.  I thought Schwinn 27″ tires were a slightly different size than other 27″ tires, but I just spent a second trying to look it up and didn’t see it.  Maybe I am misremembering.  I will check in Sutherland’s later.  In any event, I didn’t take them off.  The tubes are holding air so no need to bother.

This is also the first time I removed and reinstalled cotter pins.  Before the internet and without a proper tool, I was told to support the crank on a pipe cut to a length which just reaches the floor and then to pound out the cotter with a hammer.  I hate hammering on bicycles, so I have simply never serviced the bottom bracket bearings on a bicycle with cottered cranks.  With the internet, I found this video.

I didn’t have a piece of aluminum with a hole in it (aluminum might be preferable as it is soft so it will less likely damage the finish on the crank), so I used a socket.  It worked beautifully.  One cotter came out immediately.  The second didn’t seem to want to budge, but a combination of liquid wrench and heat saved the day and the cotter.  Both were reusable and have now been pressed back into service.  Sheldon Brown reminds us to pedal on newly installed cotters for twelve miles and then to tighten them a second time.  Note to self-that’s six trips to Mahar’s and back.

Now that I am comfortable working on cottered cranks, I ordered a cotter pin press and a fixed cup removal tool, as well as six spare cotters sized to fit Raleighs, from here.  Can’t wait to get the cotter pin press and put it to use.  The fixed cup tool may sit in my tool box unused, but it was cheap and I will be happy to have it should the need arise.

Here is the shift lever giving rise to the Longlever name.  Good leverage to work the gears even if the cable was to become stiff.  Unfortunately, first gear has the lever in a relaxed position.  I should be able to lift the lever ever upward as a summer of hard riding builds my strength and stamina.  Enough of that.  Winks all around.

I love the narrow bars and the stem is a real beauty.  

The bicycle rides like a dream.  Light enough for an all steel machine and bumps are well absorbed.  A big frame at 58 cm center to center, so for me the seatpost is almost completely buried.  Standing to pedal isn’t rewarding, but this is a gentleman’s wheel and remaining seated is the proper form.  If this bicycle were older it would have had a five speed internally geared hub.  With older internally geared hubs, standing to pedal is risky (while I understand that freewheeling forward is rare, it is not unheard of).  Safe to stand and pedal here, but awkward maybe due to the combination of narrow bars and what feel like short cranks (yup, these are 165mm).

The gearing is rather tall.  I’ve noticed this with other Raleighs.  English must be strong pedalers.  I’d swap out this Normandy freewheel with something a bit more forgiving, but I don’t yet have a freewheel removal tool that fits this freewheel.  Haven’t checked to see if Park still makes them.  No matter.  I will probably leave it set up as is and more often than not pedal in first gear.

I may move to this bicycle the Wald wire basket I added to the Bridgestone 100, but for now I want to ride it in its pure form.  A trip to Mahar’s is in order!

Take care.

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