New year, new bike project.

2011 ended on a high note for us with mid-60 degree weather. Riding in shorts on December 31? In Missouri? That’s just crazy talk!

There are, of course, very few certainties in life. But one such constancy is that the weather will change in Missouri. Today, for instance, is forecast to be twenty degrees cooler; tomorrow a similarly precipitous drop in temperature. My rides will become cold, conditions will further deteriorate, and I will be back indoors on the trainer.

And this is when I will be in search of some way to amuse myself during the interminably long months that lead us back to Spring. All of which brings me round to my winter project, a 1949 Elswick Light Roadster, in sad – but not terminal! – condition.

I’ve been on the lookout for a decent candidate to restore for neighborhood rides with my wife. These short and very leisurely jaunts through town are ridden at a slow pace – too slow for my road bikes, in fact. It occurred to me that it would be appropriate riding something less aggressive to match the pace of my wife’s bike and preferred riding style. My criteria was specific: the bike should, by necessity of personal aesthetics, be a classically vintage roadster, and preferably a three-speed. It should be in need of restoration, to keep my idle hands busy over the winter. It should be tall enough to comfortably fit my 6’ 1” frame. And the geometry should be very, very relaxed.

Some time ago, a friend and fellow vintage cycling enthusiast shared an intriguing bike with me that met these specifics. We trudged to his basement print shop/artist studio/bike haven, veered around a Mercian – is that a Clubman over there? – passed a 20’s or 30’s era loop frame Raleigh… and there it was: one of the consummate and iconic British roadsters, built by Elswick. She was dirty and dusty. The front fender was hanging loose and badly crumpled along the rear. The mattress saddle, covered in fabric, is thread bare.

My friend was unsure of the frame date (more about this in a later post) but it was clearly a viable candidate. In my mind, I began to play out the various things that I would need to do and the sequence in which they would need to take place. Despite its current condition, I could yet visualize it restored and being ridden in our local tweed ride.

But that ride is in April, not so many very months from now, and there is much to be done between now and then.


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