The Return of the Superbe

Dear readers of this blog: You may have noticed a dearth of photos of my Raleigh Superbe over the past six months or so. The biggest reason for this was that when it came to a three speed in 2018, I mostly went with the Robin Hood path racer. This was because it was the new sexy bike for the year.

But I still love the Superbe, and as summer wore I was itching to ride it more for one simple reason: capacity. The Robin Hood has no racks, so it’s whatever I can fit into a Carradice Nelson or Camper longflap bags. I can do some basic commutes on it, but grocery shopping is difficult. And I’m avoiding the urge to rackify the bike, as I want to keep it that sexy stripped down path racer. Besides, I do have a three speed set up to carry more stuff, and it’s the Superbe.

But the Superbe had issues. It wasn’t shifting properly. No, it wasn’t slipping, but not wanting to get into appropriate gears. The trigger would be in 3 but I’d get 2. And if I had it in 2 I’d get 1.

I thought that the new panniers were the issue, since the drive-side one would rest against the shifter cable near where it goes into the hub. But then I’d ride it without that pannier touching the cable, and…same thing. So I thought it might just be the cable, so I got it replaced. And…same thing.

It took me awhile to get around to bringing the Superbe in; the problem/benefit when having multiple three speeds is you can just switch to a different bike if one is acting up. But I finally brought it into the shop and opened the hub up. They thought it might be a broken or stiff clutch spring, but that wasn’t it. Nope, the hub finally wore itself down. So a donor hub of 1972 vintage was located, and plopped in. Now she works as good as new!

The bad hub had a good life. The wheel on the Superbe came from the long-dead Raleigh Wayfarer.* That bike originally had a hub from 1956 when I got it, but the hub wasn’t working so Mr. Raving Bike Fiend plopped in the guts of a ’54 hub to get it working. That was just about eight years ago. So I got a good bit of constant duty out of that hub!

Now that the Superbe has been fixed, I’ve been riding her a bunch. I love the upright civilised riding position of this bike (Nitto Albatross Bars), the widish Col de la Vie tires, the beutiliarian Pletscher rear rack, the funky aluminum Swedish double legged kickstand. The bike looks great, rides great, and is supremely functional. I can see why someone called British Three Speeds the ultimate in utilitarian cycling!

I’ve had the Superbe for over three years now, and hope to ride her for many more.

*The original wheel of the Superbe ended up on the Robin Hood. I took it off at some point to put the alloy-rimmed Wayfarer wheel on instead. So I used the steel-rimmed Supbere wheel on the Robin Hood until the spokes started to break, and now that 1968 hub is built into another alloy rim. Yeah, at some point I should get around to switching wheels.

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