Meet the Bikes: Hi, Ruby!

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A Basket Bike

This is Ruby, my basket bike. Ruby is a very heavily modified Raleigh 20 folding bike, (actually a Supercycle, which was what Raleigh’s were called when they were shipped to Canada) built in the early 1970’s. Tyler found two of these on Craigslist and gave me one of them as a gift many years ago.

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This is not my bike. I cannot find any pictures of mine in her original state.

We got into the R20, as they are known by their fans, thanks to the writing of the great Sheldon Brown. It’s quite the thing to modify these useful little shopper bikes into various, improbable forms. Tyler rebuilt his as a tiny little fixie almost immediately. I have very slowly revamped mine into a kind of a cycle truck, but with twenty inch wheels in both front and back. All of the metal work and most of the design was done by my buddy Haulin’ Colin.

Just for fun, and because certain bike nerds (like me) love this kind of thing, here is a list of the work done to this old bird, in order:

  • Steel wheels replaced with aluminum bmx wheels
  • Cantilever bosses added for linear pull brakes
  • Heavy-duty, frame-mounted cargo platform added, removable via quick release to maintain bike’s folding capability(!)
  • Bike powder-coated an awesome bright red color because that’s the color of Colin’s trailers and bulk powder-coating is cheaper
  • Bottom bracket shell hack-sawed, faced and chased in order to replace boat-anchor heavy cotter-pin cranks and 40 year-old bottom bracket with contemporary bits
  • Lovely Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub replaced with Sram 21 speed hub, (three gears internal, seven on a cassette. gives a huge touring-bike style gear range. the whole wheel was taken from a Bike Friday New World Tourist.)
  • Odd, Nylon Bushing Headset replaced by a Soma Quill-inator (take that, Bike Snob NYC!)
  • Original stem cut into a quill and a wedge and stem bolt added (Colin is amazing)
  • Fork replaced, since 40 years of that Odd, Nylon Bushing Headset had taken it’s toll on the original, bending the steerer tube like a pool cue left leaning against a barroom wall. New fork comes from a trashed recumbent. Colin extends the steer tube (using magic.)
  • This list has a lot of hyphens.

Behold, Frame Modification!

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I recall Colin carried the parts to his shop in the basket of his own bike…

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Brazing on those brake bosses…

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Young Haulin’ Colin, cargo-fying the folder…

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Holy cow, Val was there that day!

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Reassembled back at my house, which conveniently was the headquarters of the Bikery at the time…

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All her steel parts, back from powder-coating. Ready, once again, for reassembly…

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Bike at work.

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Collapsed.

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This is Ruby as she is today. Proud. Red. Extra Small-Large.

Some Bikes Are Part of the Family

Ruby took seven years to complete. This bike means an awful lot to me. Heck, I rode Ruby in our wedding! I think that makes us legally bound to one another.

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Significant day…

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Significant others…

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Significant ride.

Build Your Ride

Life is too short to ride new bikes.

I saw that on a sticker somewhere. Heh.

I love refurbishing old bicycles. I’ve actually never owned a new one! I’ve grown as a mechanic thanks to projects like Ruby and I have come to take an artistic pride in my bike projects.

If you have the patience and the interest, you should build up a dream bike, too! Get yourself a used frame, a free mind and a willing mechanic, shop, co-op or web-browser to assist you. You won’t regret it.

I hope.

18 Comments on “Meet the Bikes: Hi, Ruby!

    • Val was instrumental in making me who I am today. That guy inspired me on so many levels.
      He represented the value of developing true wrenching chops, especially around supposedly “obsolete” techs.
      He showed so many folks that positive role-modelling, having a blast on a bike, was a great way to serve as an advoacte. He was “the Instigator”
      Also, he looked fabulous.

  1. So cool! I would love to build up the know-how — not just to be able to build what I want, but to even be able to imagine what I’d like! It seems like an insurmountable hurdle sometimes, but hopefully someday I’ll find the time to put into tinkering like I’d like…

    • You can do it! Lemme know if you want any help. I don’t think you need to do all the work yourself to get a lot out of the experience of refurbishing a used bike into your dream machine. I certainly didn’t do more than half of the work on Ruby.
      Also, you are a brilliant engineer and I believe in your ability to fix bikes. Just give it a try!

  2. Nice… I’ve watched that bike over the years and always wondered how you could cover so much ground on it… I guess the gearing helps!

    • Absolutely it does. The fit is not all that different from your Dutchy, I bet. And the gearing just goes on and on. I can haul tree stumps out of the dirt with these gears!

  3. Ruby is quite the lovely bicycle. Beautiful and impressive to be sure…inspiring stuff, friend.

      • Depends on the name..

        Meet Rusty…rusty trombone.
        My bike Heywood…hey would you blow me.
        Here’s DLW…dirty little whore.

        • I don’t think I’ll be using any of those names. So I’m good if I’m not a skeezy skeeze or Bart Simpson phoning Moe’s Bar?

          • I think it’s a safe bet that if your bike name can’t be used in a phone call to Moe’s Bar or by a church dirty…you’re ahead of the curve.

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  5. hi davey oil, I think some of my readers would love this post, could I repost on my blog sometime? It would be a headline, one of the images and then a link.

    • That would be great! I was inspired to write this post by all of the fun R20 pages around the web. I’d be honored if you shared it. Feel free and include a longer excerpt. Whatever works for your blog!

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  7. Love what you did for Ruby!

    Just won a 60s 20 on Ebay. Now the fun really begins. Maybe I can learn to be a bicycle artisan! Now to take a class in welding!

  8. I’ve been wanting to build my own bike for about 5 years now. I got talked out of it when buying my Surly because of the cost difference between buying stock and building it up custom on my own. I kind of regret that now. I’ve been meaning to get down to Bikeworks and look for a frame. Missed the warehouse sale unfortunately, and then the Cascade bike swap. :(

    Not really sure what I’d build though. I’m so in love with the bikes I have that I can’t imagine replacing one. I could build one for a friend I suppose and view it as a learning experience.

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