The bicycle pictured in the header (at least at the time of writing) was the first bike I ever built up myself. As such, it has a special place in my heart. I put a lot of thought into the selection of different parts of the bike. As a result, it was very representative of what I valued in a bicycle at that time. My tastes have shifted slightly since then, but it’s a bike that I still value a lot.
There are a few conceptual “parents” for this bike. First is the Raleigh Sports that I’ve written about already. It’s mid 70s Raleigh with an internal gear hub, and the bike that I built is a mid 70s Raleigh retrofitted with a modern internal gear hub, so the lineage/inspiration is not hard to see.
The other obvious “parent” is one of Sheldon Brown’s bikes that I read about on his website. My own build very closely resembles his. I was already attracted to old Raleighs, and steel frames with pretty lugs. Seeing a modern IGH in Sheldon’s International is what sealed the deal. That was the design I wanted to follow.
Over a year or two, I collected the necessary parts for a functioning bike, and put them together using the workspace and tools at Bikechain. The bike continued to evolve as I rode it for the next few years, swapping out parts here and there. As the title of this post indicates, my choices were inspired by both practicality and fun. It was a fun bike to ride, but it was also an extraordinarily practical bike for commuting around town.
That broad front rack is not only stylish, but it is super convenient for carrying a grocery bag (or a box of donuts). The metallic fenders matched the other silvery accessories. But they were also super-long and effectively protected the bike and my clothes from getting splattered by dirt and grit from the road. And of course, the modern 8 speed Shimano Alfine hub is a perfect drive-train component for city commuting. It provides decent gear ratios for climbing up Toronto’s few hills. But it also allows you to downshift while stopped at intersections, unlike a derailleur. All the moving bits are sealed from the weather, so maintenance is a breeze.
It got me to work and back in all weather conditions. It was a grocery getter. It zipped me over to friends’ houses. It was also great for longer, exploratory, recreational journeys like this one I took a while back:
Even the Google Street View car bore witness to my enjoyment of this bike. Twice!
It was a lovely bike that I rode almost daily. Until…
I had a minor bike accident. A car up ahead pulled out of a parking spot without signalling, which prompted the car in front of me to slam on the breaks. I was following a bit too close as I came around a bend in the road, and I rear-ended the car. I was uninjured, but my lovely International frame was bent out of shape. It doesn’t look like much of a bend when viewed at a distance, but the tubing buckled in a couple of places.
I am sad at the loss, but I am comforted by the fact that I enjoyed it for many years and many miles. And I am fortunate enough to still have the lovely green Sports to get me where I need to go.
Of course, I am also excited about the opportunity to build a new bike in the future. Only the frame was severely damaged, so most of the other components can be reused – including the modern IGH.
Once I have the income to afford it, I will start the process of collecting components and building again. The bike that I am envisioning will be similar in many ways, but I am also excited to try out some new ideas and new technologies. And as always, I will be seeking that perfect blend of fun and practicality. Now that I have this blog up and running, I’ll be able to document the process as I go.