Friday, 30 April 2010

That's How We Roll

As Laura has established what we don't ride, lets talk about what we do:
  • Jess rides a single speed blue and white Raleigh, although she's going to flip that hub and ride fixed gear soon.
  • Laura rides a majestic Dutch bike, a Gazelle Toer Populaire to be precise.
  • Una rides a Peugeot racer and also has a blue Condor on which she has toured the world.
  • Lauren has recently started riding a 7 speed blue racer which has sailboat and sun set decals...jealous!
  • I (Nancy) ride a fixed yellow Peugeot racer and I have a green Raleigh Caprice shopper which is also fixed at the moment but I'm going to swap it over to single speed when I get round to it.

Quite a diverse list, defying even our own by-line since Una has a diamond frame. One trend though is age; only Laura has a recently constructed bike and she has ambitions of creating a single speed number which is not too heavy to take on the train. I'll take bets on the age of her new baby, my bid: at least 10 when it pops out.

This is no coincidence. Part of what the Bike Foundry wants to do is make affordable, good quality bikes available in Birmingham. The bikes that Jess, Lauren, Una and I ride all come from a bike workshop in Coventry which accepts donated bikes which are not being used, has volunteers come fix them up, and then sells them for a reasonable price. The idea is that more bikes are available locally and less quality frames rust away in sheds, back gardens or landfills. Now, by rights, since I don't live locally, I shouldn't have bought this beauty, which Amy, who volunteers in Coventry, found in a back garden, but I'm very glad I was allowed to. And I feel sort of vindicated by being involved in starting something similar here.

Anyway, meet Monte Carlo! Pretty cool, right Originally a 6-speed racer with a rear derailleur, I converted to fixed gear (no gears, or more accurately, only one - a fixed ratio between the small back sprocket and the larger chain ring) and yes, I heart my bike.

I make concessions to speed and the classic 'fixie' look with full mudguards and a luggage rack but they don't add a lot of weight and are very practical. The Brooks saddle and moustache handlebars (see below) were gifts. I especially appreciate the saddle which, if any ladies are riding synthetic and suffering, I'm convinced protects from cystitis.

Old frames are good for fixed gear and single speed conversions as they're more likely, I think, to have horizontal drop outs on the back forks, which you need to create the right chain tension - they make your back wheel position adjustable. It also means you can ride a good looking vintage bike but make it light, faster and easier to maintain. You can get lots of useful tips about converting on Sheldon Brown. It doesn't suit everyone (especially if you live somewhere with many hills!) and I'm not evangelist, but for me it's been a good way to take control of my bike - I can do pretty much everything that needs doing to keep it running, any problems are easy to identify, which is not always the case in more hi-tech hybrids or mountain bikes.

What do you ride& why? Want help with a conversion? Femme Pédale wants to know! You can now email us: femmepedale at googlemail dot com (hope you get our spam defender).


  1. Dead right Nancy, I did add to the stable. 25 year old Austro Daimler, red diamond frame, bought from a local racer; will probably convert it to fixed soon. And I can pick this one up without help!

  2. I went out on a club ride on Sunday and was the only person under 50 yet also the only rider with a bike more than 10 years old! Someone commented that my bike wouldn't have been out of place in the Transport museum in Coventry but they obviously haven't seen some of the antiques we get into the workshop...
    also, seconding the fixie-love, my peugeot will soon be going that way..