I found an old Schwinn Rocket 88 with a Fox rear shock and Manitou forks, and have been slowly rehabilitating it. It is a very old bicycle, from after Schwinns’ association with Yeti, yet obviously showing marks of their influence. The four point rear independent suspension is quite a attractive feature on this bicycle, and it ostensibly costs a great deal to license it for use on a bicycle.
The suspension does a good job of keeping the rear wheel grounded and providing traction. Which is nice, because the front wheel is a bit light. It has a 24 gear drivetrain, commanded by some nice snap shifters and Deore derailleurs. The wheels are Tioga rims with some old Michelin 2.5″ tires. I am happy with the way this whole package fits together and runs the trails.
The size is bit of a problem, as you can tell by the seat post. Schwinn was offering limited sizes in mountain bikes on some models in that time. To its’ credit, though, the bike is quite comfortable to ride as it is. It has a lot of reach. This may have been the last year for the USA made Schwinn mountain bikes, and I am lucky to have one in any size. This gets me back on the trails for autumn..
The Route 66 trail no longer ends at a busy intersection at the edge of Normal. This is a nice addition, because the trail now leads you into town and stops by a gas station where you can get food, drink, decent pizza, and free air for your tires. This is a Midwestern chain called Casey’s. You are then away from the busiest of streets, although there is still a bit of traffic.
There is a jog through a residential small-lot subdivision, which is hard to spot because signage is not clear. This takes you onto the grounds of the old Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Childrens home, a former orphanage and school which now is a community center and small business hub. The trail is nice and wide, and easy to ride on. It is certainly an improvement over riding busy streets to get to Constitution Trail.
Where the trail stops now, at Beech Street, you can take Pine Street, (Old U.S. 66) west to Linden, go south one block, then west one block, where that street ends right at Constitution Trail. There is even a fountain at that point in the trail. If you go south at that point, you will arrive in Uptown Normal in just a few minutes. It certainly improves access to the Route 66 Trail, and with some improved signage, it will be even easier to transition between these two epic trails.
We are getting ready for fall here, although this weekend. like last, has been quite warm and muggy. Relief is on the horizon, coinciding with astronomical autumn and the equinox. Temperatures may cool as much as 20 degrees and stay cooler from here. Between the storms this morning and this evenings weather, there was a large lull, and I got out to see the fields and the beginning of fall color and change in the everyday surroundings.
To be sure, I have ridden less, but I am having a good time doing so. I am replacing some of my exercise with longer walks to and from work. I park at the edge of the lot so I can get a few minutes walking to and from work on a daily basis. I have also been dropping a bit of weight both with diet and exercise. I have to do it anyway. There is no time like the present.
I have to say the Raleigh has been a great bike this summer. Time I was going to spend getting the vintage Raleigh up to game was lost with a couple of hospital stays, and the other bicycles have been held up with weather and photographic considerations over the summer. The Rampar Touring 14 has some parts needing to be made to mount the racks on it properly, and some hardware as well. We will get about that as fall progresses.
So my repaint of the Rampar Touring 14’s frame is complete, as is the matte clear coat. It is a very basic and amateurish job. But I was not going to make an in-depth down to the steel renovation of this bicycle. A basic paint job would work for this. A fine or amazing paint job would be counter productive. This bicycle is meant to be more invisible than it is visible.
Racks and fenders are done in similar fashion, all with the idea in mind of breaking up straight lines and structural details that provide visual cues to the impression that this is a bicycle. Mostly, it is meant to be just a bit less noticeable against foliage or in underbrush. Wheels and tires may require covering up. But this is mostly meant to be less obvious to the casual passer-by.
This may give me a bit less visibility when stationary at a campsite or parked for groceries or the like, even on a micro-tour. I like to keep a low profile when traveling by bicycle. It is helpful that so many who tour and travel by bicycle keep such a high profile. That also helps me to be the guy who blends in. I am on a not so fancy, not so new, not so fancy bicycle in any event.
My gear is older, my panniers are worn and sun-bleached, as are my clothes, oftentimes. They are not cycling clothes nor shoes. I usually wear western style shirts and khakis, because they are easy to deal with on the road and while riding, and are light and airy. Shoes are basic, as I sometimes have to walk places off the bicycle. And this bicycle renovation fits that aesthetic.
I have a stretch of trail in an unkempt state, which often floods partially, and has a lot of other “features” that make it my go-to when developing skills. It has the aforementioned water features. It often has broken glass tossed on it for avoidance testing. There are also other detritus obstacles, as well as overgrowth. Weeds make an appearance as well, growing through and around the pavement.
Town homes have been added right up to the trail right of way. Not like there is a shortage of space in the American Midwest. I have no idea why such housing is seen as necessary in a place with so much unused space. I realize it is cheap to build. Rent is not cheap in this town, though. This trail connects to a supermarket and shopping center that is named for the trail. The trail needs better maintenance and protection if it is going to continue to function in such a manner.
I am probably one of the few who use this trail, and I use it more as a skills builder. The water you see in the pictures is from a 1/4″ rainstorm 2 days ago. There are other ways to the shopping center, but this one requires much less road and parking lot running to get there. And I think this trail deserves better treatment at the hands of those who keep it up, and those who build along it. Maybe more people would use the trail if it were better maintained and preserved. It should be more than just a challenge.
I have not been writing as much in this blog as I have recently. I have had a lack of interesting news and exploits. I have also been yet again upgrading photography gear for the newer lightweight systems. Micro 4/3 is a bit easier to use for pictures and movies. The camera has adapters for almost every lens made in the last several decades. I am currently awaiting an adapter so I can add a cinema lens older than I am as my high speed normal lens.
That is one nice thing about bicycles and camping gear. They seem to be timeless in purpose and adaptability. That makes them timeless in their usefulness and efficiency. Sure, there are newer and lighter bikes and tents and stoves out there, but the old gear still functions and has it’s purpose. My old Olympus DSLR, or Digital Single Lens Reflex, still has it’s purpose as well. It’s older processor is unique, and it and the lenses make singular pictures.
Make no mistake about it, I do not have any wish to go back to the age of film, or canvas tents, or single speed bicycles. I made my living from the film and photographic industry. Digital is a great improvement. Nothing more to buy, unless you want to. Bicycles and camping gear are similar. They give you a lot of fun and adventure, and ask for only a bit of maintenance in return.
Ole Rusty, the Rampar Touring 14, is no longer rusty, although he looks a bit scabby for now, until my camouflage efforts make the bicycle invisible to the human eye. I may be placing a bit too much faith in my painting skills. But the Raleigh Rampar Touring 14 is at least rust free, and pre sanded for painting. As the original coat of paint was a Tuscan red, I am merely sanding off the top coat and using the original paint as primer.
I began cleaning the front rack in situ on the bicycle, as it is a good holder for that piece while I am doing abrasive cleaning. After that, all the accessories will be removed for the final finish coat sanding prior to the new coats of paint followed by a good matte clear coat when the weather turns more amenable to such hijinks. Right now, it is hot and humid. The heat is okay, but the humidity, at this level, is a less than optimal situation.
I am also looking into a 650 B scenario for the wheels on this bicycle, at least as an option. Clearances seem okay, but the brakes seem a little on the problematic side of the situation. There may be some experimentation involved with this issue. The chrome socks on the front fork cleaned up well, which bodes well for the Terranaut, which also has a rust issue or two beneath the shiny exterior. Time alone will tell how everything will turn out with these two, but the Touring 14 is getting well underway, time and weather permitting.
I ran across this saddle at the bicycle co-op the other day. While the flat topped rivets give it a Brooksian air, I can assure you it is not a Brooks Cambium, one look at the underside will tell you that. There is also a lack of any sort of branding on this saddle. It has a nice look to it. It also has an appropriate amount of “give” and a nice solid fabric used in its construction. It is also very lightly padded.
I thought this saddle would be an appropriate addition to the Raleigh Rampar Touring 14 . When I remove the rust and give the bicycle a disruptive camouflage paint job. The earth tone flat exterior of the saddle has a low key approach to bicycle seating. This saddle is not particularly distinctive, like the Pryma. Neither does it shout out old money and good taste like so many fine leather saddles do.
Like the Raleigh Rampar Touring 14 itself, the saddle is understated. I will have to put some miles on the saddle before I determine if it is underestimated. I think it may well be a fine saddle as well as a bit of an impostor of finer saddles. I also have the intent to give the Touring 14 some finer components. I want to make this machine punch above its weight, and I think a lighter crankset, more gearing, some finer wheels, and better derailleurs will help in this regard.
I seem to be right on the fringe of atmospheric ridges this summer. I had some severe thunderstorms go east of me, but I got high enough winds to be unable to cycle in them. A light plane flew near my house, and it was obvious he was having difficulties as well. I had to put off, then cancel my ride for today. I thought I may have to for the heat, but wound up doing so because of the wind.
Weather has long been an interest of mine. You get to see a lot of weather from a bicycle. It directly affects you greatly. What I have been witnessing lately is an essential quirkiness and unpredictability to the weather. Weather systems seem to have expanded as our computer systems have gotten better at monitoring them. While it is not a frightening situation, it is a worrisome one.
So, I continue to carry some gear like a light poncho or raincoat in case of inclement weather, and have a knowledge of my area enough to be able to find some sort of shelter commensurate with the weather situations I find myself in. I like to rely on a good forecast, weather alerts, and some common sense forecasting to keep me safe. This has been just fine for the situations I find myself in. So far.
I am feeling a bit better, and now I can cover 10 miles or so in warm weather and not feel bad about it. Which means I probably actually have 20 miles in me at this point, and need to be able to do about 30 miles with regularity before I consider myself all back to normal. Not too bad for an old guy. I am glad to have the Raleigh Sojourn to get around on again.
I took a little ride today between the light but annoying rain showers just to see how old Route 66 was doing, as well as a good portion of the trail on my return. I rode the streets on my way there. That was a contrast to last weeks ride, which was in the country for most of its mileage. Do I feel it? Sure. Do I feel better? Sure. I think a bicycle ride is a great benefit to my overall health and well-being.
True, my speed is dismally slow. I usually ride alone, but I see my slow speed as a challenge to overcome, not a permanent situation. I have always been a slow but stubborn rider, and I still get where I am going. As I take more weight off the wheels, I will go faster for the same effort. The wider tires are making the road shocks easier, and I like that, especially as I ride farther.
Vintage and veteran bicycles of quality and how to preserve them for future generations, with a particular interest in the French 'constructeurs'. Please note all images are my copyright unless otherwise stated, and may only be used with my express permission.