Friday, January 18, 2013

A warm January day to spot other people's bikes

My bean green 2001 Surly Cross-Check
Today had a spring-like feel to it, even though we are in the middle of January and have just emerged from several days with high temperatures well below freezing. Such is Colorado weather. I celebrated the warmth by using the Cross-Check for my transport duties. It's been a bit neglected as of late, with much of my two-wheeled travel occurring via the much fatter tires of the Pugsley. However, the Cross-Check has an important feature that the Pugsley is currently lacking: fenders. With the day's melty conditions of the roads and trails, it was an easy choice.

While out, I happened upon an old-timer mountain bike and snapped a few pics. For years, I've taken photos of random bikes that I encounter, that for whatever reason intrigue me. I've featured a few here from time to time, often categorized as "seen on the road," but there are many others that remain buried in my computer. Until recently, I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them. However, the Urban Adventure League blog has seemingly coined a category that could be a clearinghouse term in which to organize random photos of bikes captured in the wild: Other People's Bikes. I'm borrowing that idea to emulate here, starting with today's Elkhorn.

This circa 1984 Raleigh Elkhorn is a well-traveled survivor. Apologies for the less than spectacular photos.
A nice sloping crown fork with logo in relief, joined to Reynolds tubing. Ancient brake pads, but newer tires.
Suntour Power Ratchet shifters on a bullmoose handlebar. The bar still has a sticker proclaiming it to be made of Cro-Mo, which looks to have been meant to be temporarily placed, for showroom purposes. 
Imprinted seatstay caps and an intact original reflector. Likely original cables and housing as well. 
The drivetrain side was a bit difficult to shoot with another bike parked nearby. A mix of Shimano AG and Sugino. Note the newer cheapo Specialized replacement saddle cocked at a downward angle.
I've long appreciated spotting old relic bikes out in the wild and capturing them in photos, much like how birders seek out and record elusive specimens. It's good to know there are other bike-fixated guys out there who validate my eccentricities by doing likewise.

In the case of old bikes seen out and about and that are still in use, I tend to analyze what I observe. I often wonder if the owner is similarly appreciative of the bike for aesthetic or mechanical purposes, or if the bike is just a generic tool of utility. Something of the owner's perspective can be discerned by evaluating a bike's appearance. A bike that is well squared away may signal a doting owner. Neglect or disdain for the bike on the part of the owner is equally as obvious.

In the case of this particular Raleigh Elkhorn, the story likely falls somewhere in between. It would appear as though some degree of benign neglect is in play here, yet maintenance is performed when absolutely necessary. A few newer parts have replaced older parts, but with little concern for quality or proper adjustment. I would predict that the owner of this bike likely regards it as an object with little inherent importance or value other than for its utility. That the bike is still in operating condition with little apparent upkeep after nearly three decades, is a credit to its design and construction, and to its owner, who may be ambivalent to the bike itself, but actually uses it. May the bike and its rider both have many more miles ahead.


  1. It seems like a lot of the Raleigh "Mountain Tour" bikes can be described as being somewhere between neglect and disdain. Yet they manage to age well. My Crested Butte was in garage-queen shape when I got it, and didn't need a lot done besides "consumables" like tires and cables. (Yeah, I swapped bars and saddle, but that's more preference and fit vs. need.)

    "However, the Urban Adventure League blog has seemingly coined a category...Other People's Bikes. I'm borrowing that idea to emulate here..."

    You're welcome! My lawyers will be in touch soon regarding licensing fees.

    1. I've worked out an agreement with your counsel that royalties will either be delivered in the form of gold doubloons strapped to the legs of carrier pigeons, or as hoppy libations in the event you're ever in the Denver area, with any award determined by the likelihood of actually occurring. Of course, such award is set relative to a formula incorporating any net change in pageviews multiplied by the current moon phase, and divided by the number of inorganic compounds found in a daily air sample. That said, no doubt we'll both be rich very soon.

      It's great to happen upon a bike that someone has thoughtfully purchased and then stored at their expense, unused for decades, and transferred for a modest fee when you are ready for it. As a teaser, I have a recently acquired vintage garage queen mountain bike of my own that I'll be trotting out on this blog shortly.