Raleigh Technium

I’ve been doing good – riding my crappy old mountain bike almost every day. Over the week of July fourth I took a couple days off – plus I’m commuting home from work at least a couple times a week (when I don’t have to go somewhere after work and I can get someone to drive me in) so I rode over ten miles each day for ten days straight. I’m not losing as much weight as I want (yet) but my bike riding fitness and skills are improving faster than I thought they would at my age.

The mountain bike works well as a cargo bike or a fitness bike. It’s inefficient so it works well to build fitness. With the panniers mounted it can hold a surprising amount of groceries or work clothes and stuff. Like me, it’s not very cool and it creaks in unexpected places – but it gets the job done.

But something was bugging me – tickling the back of my brain. Out in the garage is my old road bike, my Raleigh Technium 460.

I bought the bike back when I was a young, thin, serious bicycle rider… as best as I can remember that was 1986 or so. It was a very popular and common entry-level bicycle – but was innovative in its day. The three main tubes are aluminum – one of the first affordable aluminum bikes. To keep the cost down the rear triangle was steel. Instead of welding, it is all held together with custom swaged fittings and is glued with industrial epoxy.

At the time a lot of people were afraid of a bike held together with glue. Now, of course the best frames are carbon fiber… sheets of woven fabric impregnated with adhesives… so I guess the idea was proved out.

I loved that bike. I would ride it around White Rock Lake after work more days than not. Never a racer – I rode organized rides – including the infamous Wichita Falls Hotter than Hell a few times. On weekend I’d take long rides out from East Dallas north into country roads piercing the cotton fields around Frisco and Murphy (these are now endless tracts of suburban sprawl) until I’d fight my way home bonked, tired, thirsty, and with weird sunburns.

All that ended when my kids were born. I bought the mountain bike hoping to get in short rides here and there but the time it took to stay in riding shape was all soaked up by work and soccer practice. The road bike fell into disrepair and disuse. I thought about throwing it away but there was always some dusty, cobwebby corner of the garage where I could stuff the thing or some disused rafter where I could hang it.

I haven’t rode the Raleigh Technium for at least a dozen years.

But it was bugging me… so I took a look at it. It was dusty and a little rusty, but other than the tires, it seemed to still be in one piece. So I found some tubes and bought some tires (it has 27 inch tires instead of the now-standard 700c, so it was tough to find some to fit) and sat down with some solvent, soap, oil, and wrenches and had at it.

About five hours later I had black grease stains tattooed deep into my hands… but I also had a bicycle.

The Raleigh Technium – an example of bicycle technology of the 1980’s. I think bikes of that vintage are gorgeous in an almost sculptural way.

It sat there for a while… I had a surprising amount of trepidation about climbing on board. It was like a time machine had suddenly popped out of thin air and sat beckoning, the siren song of the past forever gone. Finally, as the sun was beginning to set I walked out to the bike path that runs behind my house, leaned on the bike, and swung my leg over.

The seat was set too high and my foot caught. Both me and the bike tumbled down hard on the pavement. I now have a big black bruise on my thigh from the motionless crash. I guess I’m not as flexible as I was over a decade ago. I pulled out my hex wrenches and lowered the seat a bit, raised the handlebar about the same, and set off again.

This time it was amazing. I slid my feet into the old-school toe clips (I have some Shimano Clipless pedals I will put on the bike soon) and hunched down over the dropped bars, pumping the long light alloy crank arms – I felt the bike shoot forward in a way the clumsy mountain bike can’t and won’t. It felt like a leg-powered rocket. It was a little unsteady, the steering more twitchy than I was used to but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. I looped around the ponds at the end of my block, came back along the trail, went down to Saigon City on Jupiter and then turned and rode along Duck Creek to Plano.

What surprised me was how much more efficient the road bike was in cutting through the wind and going up slight inclines. The lighter weight of the bike, more ergonomic positioning, and less wind resistance made so much difference. I must have been grinning like an idiot as I looped over the creek and started north along the Owens trail under the high tension lines.

Quickly, though, the front tire began making a noise and I realized I had a flat. As I dismounted to look at the tire, the seat dropped down against the tube – I had not tightened the bolt enough. Now I remember the rigors of road bike maintenance – patching the narrow high-pressure tires, trying to keep everything adjusted and lubricated, trying to keep the myriad bolts tight. I had shot away without any tools or even my phone so I had no choice but to walk my bike the mile or so back to the house.

I couldn’t find any reason for the puncture… but I looked at the box the tube came out of (I had the tube in a crate in the garage) and it said Oshman’s on the price sticker. Oshman’s went out of business over a decade ago – so I guess that’s why the tube went.

So, after work, I stopped off at the bike shop and bought new tubes and a portable pump, and made the bike ready again. This time I was able to make a long ride in the evening without any major problems – stopping a couple times to adjust the seat or brakes with the tools I carried. I rode until I wore myself out.

The thing is fun. Still, though, the back wheel is seriously out of true, the bottom bracket has an ominous click, and the seat needs adjusting. I need to dig through the garage for my long-idle bike tools (if they are still there) and then try and buy what I can’t find. I’d like to bring it… if not up-to-date, at least back to where it was in the waning years of the last century. The problem is that bicycle technology has passed it by – I find myself looking at new road bikes. Christ! The things are so expensive – I paid around five hundred dollars for the Technium… I think, back in the day. That was a lot of money but I was able to just go to the bike shop and write a check. I didn’t have the expenses then that I have now. I didn’t have two kids in private college. There is no way I can buy a five hundred dollar bike right now.

So, I’ll fix what I can and hope nothing else breaks. I’ll do what I can to muddle through. I’ll try to keep riding every day, keep expanding the times I commute by bike, get stronger, get thinner. I feel like I’m looking into a time machine, trying to roll the calendar backward. I have been here before, I’m here again – with the same hunk of steel, aluminum, and rubber. We’ll see what happens, won’t we.

Hugh’s Bicycle Blog – Raleigh Technium 460 Restoration Part 1

Part Two

I just purchased a lightly used Raleigh Technium bike from a garage sale for a few bucks.?

Raleigh Technium Fixie Project

All the Way Around

I have been working hard, riding my bicycle every day. I’m out of shape and too big and too old, but still I try.

One helpful thing is that I have done this before. I was a lot younger then, which makes it a lot harder now, but I know it can be done because it has been.

When I first moved to Dallas I was young and full of pee and vinegar, but I began to give in to my slothful and dissipative nature and started eating out too much and lounging around watching too much television. So I fixed my bike up and started to go our riding on a regular basis… at least four times a week. Now there are bicycle trails everywhere, but back then, in the early eighties, there was only one in Dallas, the White Rock Lake Trail. When I started, I lived on Lower Greenville… then I moved a little north to Lover’s Lane and Northwest Highway – and both gave access to White Rock Lake.

I remember the first few times I rode – I couldn’t make it all the way around. This can be problematic, because once you are on the other side of the lake, you have no choice but to ride back. Again, I was young then and the mileage started to increase quickly and before long, around I would go (it’s about nine miles around the lake).

Two memories stand out from those early circuits. Once, I was plugging up an uphill spot when a young woman passed me, standing on her pedals, and shot up the same hill like it wasn’t there. I thought this was the most beautiful thing I had seen – her power, her technique. It wasn’t long though, before I could do the same thing – without even thinking about it. That was a moment of pride.

One problem with riding back then was that it was a nice little downhill jaunt to get to the lake. That meant the last part of my ride, from the lake to my apartment was uphill. I had to be careful and make sure I had enough energy left to get up the hill. One day I miscalculated and had to use up every last bit of willpower I had to get back home. The problem was, I lived in a second story apartment, and there was no way I could make it up the stairs, especially carrying my bike. I had to lie down in the yard, next to my bicycle, for almost an hour, until I was rested enough to trudge up the stairs. I was surprised that nobody came out to see what was wrong with me (not that the people there were helpful – they were very nosy).

So now I’m at it again. The other day I made a list of the rides I wanted to do over my few days off around the fourth, and one was a circumnavigation of White Rock Lake – something I hadn’t done in decades. It brought back a lot of memories, mostly of when I was starting out. I’m riding an inefficient mountain bike, so it is good exercise. I carry plenty of water and my Kindle, and stop whenever I feel like it to read a few pages.

That’s a good time for me. Riding my bike in a nice spot, with memories flooding back, and stopping in bits of shade now and then… reading a bit, riding a bit. It doesn’t get much better than that.

My old Raleigh is hanging out in the garage. Maybe I’ll work on it, see if I can bring it back to life. It’s old, but it’s light and might still go faster and easier than my mountain bike. We’ll see.

I may be old, but I’ve done it before.

Where I started. I think this is the “runners’ lot” – the “cyclists’ lot” is a bit farther down the road. So sue me.

Near the north end of the lake there is a long pedestrian/bike bridge they built to get across an arm of the lake. Back in the day we had to ride on a narrow sidewalk along Mockingbird Lane – a very busy road. If someone was coming the other way… you could pass, but with no more than an inch to spare. It was frightening.

I stopped and visited with the folks at White Rock Paddle Company. I think I’ll go back there soon and rent a canoe. There’s some swampy backwaters I want to explore. It looks like fun.

The old art-deco bath house is now the Bath House Cultural Center and it has a nice sculpture and butterfly garden out front. It’s one of my favorite spots around the lake so I stopped there and read a couple short stories on my Kindle.

A view of the dam across the lake with the towers of Downtown Dallas poking up in the background.

The trail runs between the lake and the Dallas Arboretum. Here’s a bit of Chihuly visible through the trees. That sculpture is about thirty feet tall and is called “Yellow Icicle Tower.” I took a picture of it at night here.

This bench is one of my favorite spots on the West side of the lake. It’s a quiet shady spot. I remember sitting here years ago, taking it easy, though the area looked different back then. The plaque on the bench said that it was dedicated in 1998, so I must have sat there when it was new. These benches have bicycle racks built in to them, a very useful design.

Cottonwood Trail

I remember in the mid eighties when the White Rock Creek trail was built here in Dallas. The city was installing a new massive water line along the creek and they decided to construct a concrete trail along the top of the pipe. This was a new idea at the time – the trail was too narrow and poorly designed in many parts – but it was wonderful. I lived near the lake and after work I would ride my bike to the lake, around it on the White Rock Lake Trail, then up and back on the creek trail – a total of about twenty five miles – almost every day.

I was young and in good shape and the ride was a blast. I still remember the thrill of flying across the city without the worry of being hit broadside by a pickup truck. I loved riding after work because I could speed past the packed up and stopped rush-hour commuters on their crowded freeways. It was the best of times.

Since then I’ve been an advocate for hike and bike trails – and the city has come a long way. Now, I’m more of a spectator than anything else… but I do what I can.

For years I have been following the building of the Cottonwood Trail – a hike and bike trail that runs from Richardson down under the High Five Interchange at Highway 75 and LBJ 635, then south through Hamilton Park until it connects up with the White Rock Creek Trail. This is an important connector trail, enabling bicycle commuters to pierce a large part of the DFW metroplex by connecting long existing trails through areas of heavy traffic that are otherwise impassible by bicycle or on foot.

I attended a lot of meetings when the High Five was being constructed, because it was affecting the commute to work of thousands of employees at my work site. During the presentations of the enormous, expensive, and complicated plans for ramps, frontage roads, and levels of access I noticed a thin green line snaking down along the creekbed in the maps and diagrams. The legend said the green line was a “hike and bike” trail.

In true government fashion, when I would ask about the green line, they would stare at the diagram and say, “I have no idea what that is, we’ll check it out and get back to you.” I never heard from anyone. I had to wait years until the thing was finished and then park my car and walk down there.

Sure enough, beneath the massive construction, there was a hike and bike trail. A beautiful trail, wide, landscaped, lit, and carefully designed and built to all the newest specifications. There was only one problem with this trail. It went nowhere. It dead ended at each end of the massive interchange – truly a road to nowhere. They weren’t able to get the cities that bordered the interchange to commit to connect up with the trail.

For years this strip of pavement was the best homeless shelter you could imagine. I would visit it every now and then and the number of tents, campfires, and piles of sleeping bags near the broken-out lighting fixtures in the shelter underneath the ramps grew and grew.

Finally, the wheels of progress turned and after half a decade or so the trail began to reach out from either end of the High Five. Videos – Going South, and Going North.  I checked up on the progress, encouraged that the trail finally gave a safe bicycle route to the campus where I work.

There was one piece missing, though. The final little bit that connected the trail with the White Rock Creek Trail (the main spine of the trail system that runs through this part of Dallas – the one I enjoyed so much a quarter century ago) was missing. They were taking forever to finish the thing.

Now it is done. And today I had a couple hours to pack up my bicycle and try to ride along the thing.

I packed my crappy old bicycle into the trunk of my car and drove down to the Forest Lane DART station to hop on the final part of the trail. I bought this bike used for ninety dollars almost twenty years ago, so it’s not surprising that I’m having some trouble with it.

The engine, of course, is the worst. It’s old, worn out, and generally gone to shit, but I’m stuck with that. Otherwise, the seat is breaking apart and the derailleurs don’t shift very well any more. I did some work on the front shift levers, moving the adjustment knob to try and get the shifting to improve, but it didn’t seem to help.

I hopped on and headed off. The heat is a little less toxic than it has been, though it is still horribly dry here. Right away I was having trouble. It was a struggle to pedal and my legs were aching and my breathing a chore. I was beginning to feel a little spark of panic – it wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

Then I realized that I had been turning the wrong adjustment knob when I was working on the front derailleur. I had been tightening the front brake by mistake, and it was dragging the bike to a stop.

Fixing that helped a lot – though for the rest of the day I was panicked and tired.

At any rate, I had a good time. The little bit of trail seemed anti-climatic after all the years of anticipation, but that’s that. I wish the thing was there when I was riding all those years ago… or, really, I wish that I could ride like that again.

Old End

This is where the Cottonwood Trail ended the last time I rode it. This is in Hamilton Park, just south of the High Five Interchange.

Now

Here is the same spot now. Those "Trail Subject to Flooding" signs are everywhere, though I can't imagine a drop of water right now.

A little farther.

A little farther down the trail, where it crosses under Forest Lane. One reason the construction took so long is that there was a lot of work involved in this road crossing and the creek bridge.

Forest Lane DART station

The entry to the trail at the Forest Lane DART station.

Bicycle Lockers

Cool looking bicycle lockers at the DART station.

Creek Bridge

The bridge over Cottonwood Creek. Another "Trail Subject to Flooding" sign. Wishful thinking. I don't know where the trickle of water still in the creek comes from.

Rest Area

The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail.