You know, I originally built my 1971 Raleigh International up as a lightweight three-speed so that I could take short rides around the neighborhood. I thought I wanted a bike I wouldn’t have to get all kitted up for to go ride. – just throw on shoes and pedal down the block. I’ve got other bikes that are well suited for longer distances: the saddles are comfy and they’ve got plenty of gears (and a not insignificant range of ‘em either.)
More and more however, I find myself taking this bike further and further afield – sometimes just around the block, and other times I’m suddenly 30, 40, 50 miles from home. At such times I also find myself thinking, “Well who in the heck needs more than three speeds anyway?”
Last weekend, the International distinguished itself well on the crushed gravel paving the KATY Trail. We pedaled along for a couple of hours, dodged fallen limbs and Cottonwood leaves and suicidal squirrels, and stopped for a short lunch before circling round and heading back west again. The day before that involved a lakeside path, and the days and weeks prior to that had me pedaling streets and hills and crumbling backroad tarmacs.
Not long ago, I removed a pair of 700 x 38 Maxxis tires and replaced them with 700 x 28 Continental Gatorskins. They’re not particularly speedy – but they’re more supple and definitely feel faster than the heavy Maxxis tires. And with the Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub paired to the 42/19 combination of chainring and cog, it’s the zippiest feeling three-speed I’ve ever ridden.
At the moment I’ve got fairly wide touring pedals mounted. They look right on the bike, but I may need to look for something a bit less authentic but with a tad more grip.
But I digress.
Today dawned cold and windy, the remnants of yesterday’s rain still lingering in the air; leaves swirled and danced across the road, skipping across large puddles. I could see the steam of my breath. Dressed in cycling duds, I left my driveway riding north and less than a mile from home found myself circling back. Something just didn’t feel right; I stowed the Paramount and changed into looser fitting layers of more casual clothing: a cycling cap, an old merino wool sweater that has clearly seen far better days. And I headed back out on the Raleigh this time, a snack packed safely in the Carradice bag. Pedaling away to the melodic strains of the Cranberries, I was unsure of my destination, and little concerned about the duration or speed of my ride.
And those facts, in and of themselves, account more for my current infatuation and intrigue with three-speed riding than anything else.