It’s DO OR DIE Time for the Three Speed October Challenge!

Hello, friends of Three Speeds! Today, Friday October 18th, is technically the LAST DAY you can START this challenge and complete it in time. So, are you on the fence? Now is the time to decide.

I’ve gone over how “the calendar” works in exhaustive (hopefully) detail in this post here. Please check it outHere if you have any questions.

But wait! Maybe you read this post on Saturday October 19th, or show up on my Seattle Three Speed Ride, and still want to do this! Guess what? You still have a chance if you do this:

  • Start the challenge TODAY, Saturday October 19 and do a ride TODAY.
  • Do a ride on Sunday October 20th.
  • Both those rides count toward week one, which would start on Monday, October 14th. This means you only filled in two rides in the first week. This is okay, but keep on reading…
  • Complete week two and three successfully, meaning all three rides for each week.
  • Commit to riding a Make Up Ride for the first week during the Make Up Weekend of November 1-3. (You can also do regular rides towards Week Three on other days that weekend.)

So lovers of Three Speeds: You still have time.

Right now, I am in Seattle enjoying the damp weather and getting ready for tomorrow’s ride. Hope you can join me!


Three Speed October 2019: My Week Three, Ride 2 (Mon 14 Oct)

On the ride in.

One ride away from completing my personal Three Speed October Challenge. Don’t worry folks, I’ll still be (mostly) riding my three speeds through the rest of the month!

I took out the Robin Hood path racer project again. I don’t ride this bike as much as my superb Superbe, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t love it. It’s just set up as a sportier (read: less capacity) bike. With its sexy Lauterwasser (the Soma repro) handlebars, it definitely looks like a fast bike. Nevermind that it’s still the same 20-30 HiTen steel as practically every other British three speed!*

I haven’t really done many changes to the bike since I built it up about two years ago. The only thing that’s been replaced (besides the chain) is tires. I’ve had four different sets since I built it up:

  • Schwalbe Delta Cruisers in cream. These were “hand-me-downs” from the Superbe.
  • Grand Bois tires. Yes, Grand Bois. 650A is still a common size in Japan, and Grand Bois is supposed to be the “best”. So I mistakenly took the advice of someone off the internet and located a pair of these impossible-to-find Japanese tires.** Yeah, they are the most supple tires you can find for 650A, but they were expensive (I paid $60 each) and yet were somehow narrower than any other common 26″ x 1 3/8″ tires, 32 mm wide. (Most common is 35-37 mm). They probably would have been the cat’s knees if they were the same width as Col de la Vies (40 mm), but at that narrowness the higher pressure I had to keep them at negated most of the benefits. I had them on for a couple months, then managed to compromise the sidewall on the front. So much for that.
  • Sunlite Nimbus tires, which I believe are just relabeled Kendas. I had a set on the old Rudge (found in a free pile) and liked them fine. In fact, I think they are probably the best of the cheap tires in this size, especially with their “hybrid” tread.
  • And now, Panaracer Col de La Vie. I like these tires, but decided they’d be better off on the sportier three speed vs. the more utilitarian Superbe.
The forelorn “bike corner” at the hostel.

Today’s ride was actually an honest-to-goodness commute. Most of my work happens at home, but on Monday October 14 I happened to cover a shift at my old job, the hostel. Yep, I stayed on the payroll and work an occasional shift (at best, once a month). Part of it is to keep those long-standing side-benefits of working at a hostel going. (Like staying for free at other hostels.) But part of it is to also remind me of why I left. There’s always the part of me that looks back on things and says, “Maybe that wasn’t so bad.”*** So I start to think, maybe I should have stuck around. Going back every once in awhile convinces me that I made the right decision, and sticking around for even two days a week would’ve been too much.

In any case, it was a nice 3 mile ride to work. A beautiful October day, sunny and in the mid-60’s. Fall has been really poppin’ here in Portland, and I paused at Laurelhurst Park to admire the color display.


Work at the hostel was, ehh. But I got to hang out with Blackie for a little bit, that’s all that matters!

The ride home was nice. It was a pleasant but cool evening, about 47F when I left the hostel. The bright B+M headlight powered by a Sanyo dynohub lit the way home.

Overall, six miles of riding today.

The ride home.

*Yes, I know about the fancy Lentons, Clubmans, and the like with their light 531 tubing. But let’s face it, 99% of the old British three speeds we see here in the US aren’t going to be that!

**Norther Cycles in North Portland was coincidentally placing a direct order with Grand Bois when I was searching.

***However, this hasn’t been the case for looking back at the five years at the house in Woodlawn. If anything, each passing day makes me realize how bad it all was.

Three Speed October 2019: The Monday Report for October 7

Hello, friends of Three Speeds! I’m going to try to post these updates about this year’s Three Speed October Challenge every Monday for the remainder of it. Wish me luck!

Since I last checked in, a full week of the Challenge have passed, which means people have completed the first week. As of now, we have forty people who have signed up for the challenge, yay! And we have had nine people who have successfully completed their first week. At least, that’s how many have reported it. So, if you haven’t filled out the form for the first week (you should have received one if you registered), now is a good time to do so. But please note: Please DO NOT FILL OUT THIS FORM unless you have COMPLETED the week. That means: doing three rides. Wait until you’ve done your three and fill out the form. This makes it much easier for me to keep track of things!

And if you have filled out the form for Week One, you should have received via email the form for Week Two. If you haven’t received the forms, please get in touch.

Alright, let’s see what’s up:

Woo hoo! scottjoseph9 is the first person (other than me) to complete and record their first week of the challenge!

This is a fun way to track my activity! I ride my vintage 3 speeds to work year-round several times per week.


And, Beverly in Ontario is the second person to complete the first week of the challenge. Yay!

in Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the Happy Little Three Speed Bicycle Blog ponders if he should participate in the challenge:

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I would sign up or not.  I keep leaning toward not for two reasons.
One, I almost always commute to work, every day, and since I switched up the happy little single speed to the happy little three speed, I’ve done that ride almost exlusively on three speed bicycles, though occasionally I’ll pull the touring bike down and ride it.  If you throw in all the riding I do for grocery shopping, I cover about 70 – 80 miles by three speed a week.  (This past week, the old Raleigh as developed some rattling and rubbing noises.  I think they might be coming from the sheet metal pieces that slide in on either side of the rear sprocket, but I’m still working on it.)
So, it’s not so much a challenge, but a matter of documenting my riding, and I’m feeling too lazy to do that.  Still, it’s a sweet patch that’s being offered.
Two, I’ve been short-handed at work and doing the work of two people for the past couple of months.  Let’s face it – I’m just a little bit tired and don’t feel up to taking photographs and writing blog posts.

Happy Little Three Speed Bicycle

Then comes around and decides to do it, while adding a sub-challenge for himself:

I think, for a personal challenge, I’ll ride the 1952 Raleigh every day, except for grocery shopping.  It won’t fit the trailer hitch I use for groceries, so it will have to be the Happy Little Three Speed for that.

Happy Little Three Speed Bicycle

Shanejsours has gotten in a ride:

Took my ‘68 DeLuxe Racer out for a spin today along the canal for the first ride of Three Speed October.

Shane’s 1968 Schwinn Deluxe Racer

3 Speed Seattle has gotten in a couple rides.

First ride of 3 Speed October, go! As is typical for a monday, I had to ride from my place down to King Street Station to catch the Sounder train so I could go visit my grandmother. The city has been busily putting in more bike lanes, to the point that I can go from my place to the train station almost entirely by bike lane or cycletrack. Of course, the new sections of cycletrack are only helpful as long as people don’t park their cars in them.


More errands to run on a Wednesday afternoon. First to the local library to drop off some books, then to the Grocery Store for food. The pumpkin displays make a nice colorful backdrop. Really starting to feel like fall around here!


To close this report out, a trio of images from Instagram:

Keep those reports coming in, and if you are putting stuff on Instagram, make sure you tag it as #threespeedoct2019

See you next week!

Three Speed October 2019: Week One, Ride Two, Saturday September 28

Welcome to the second ride of my personal challenge! It all started off good, leaving the house mid-afternoon on Saturday September 28th. A beautiful early fall day, sun and 58F/15C when I departed to do some errands on the Raleigh Superbe. I felt almost overdressed with my thick sweater. I made some copies on Hawthorne.

When I came out I heard the crack o’ thunder and looked up to a dark sky. Checking the weather, I see a blob of red heading our way, National Weather Service warning of hail and lightning.

I rush off to my next destino, seeing if I can outrun. After a brief visit to Portland Bicycle Emporium the skies opened up. A big flash of lighting and crack of thunder was almost directly overhead, so I rushed to an awning in a parking garage to wait it out. A few other cylists had the same idea. The rain and hail came, and then lessened. The temp dropped a good 10 degrees F. Now I feel underdressed!

I headed over to SE Foster and decided to check out Foster Outdoor Whaddya know, a nice wool scarf for sale? To think, I thought September was too early for “scarf weather”, but what do I know?

On the way home, I caught a glimpse of the sunset. Nice sun, thunder and downpour, sunset. A good mix today. 11 miles total. I hope the next ride isn’t as “exciting”…

My first Three Speed October 2019: Fri Sept 27

Three Speed October is off to an auspicious start! As of last night, we have seventeen folks signed up. Good, good. No reports yet, but we’re only into the second day. So, how about my report?

I started my Three Speed October 2019 on the first day, Friday September 27th. The purpose of the ride was to do some afternoon errands: I needed to hit up two post offices, mine and Emee’s.* I also needed to swing by the library HQ to drop off zines. And I had to pick up some print outs at Kinkos.** What better bike than my Raleigh Superbe to do this?

Old British three speeds make such great city/commuter/utility bikes. The more laid back geometry means you’re not in a race position. And you can augment your carrying abilities with racks and baskets. While I’ve used my Carradice saddlebag for this bike in the past, I’ve lately been using my Carradice panniers, since they’re easy-on, easy-off. Saddlebags are harder to get on and off,*** which tempts me to leave them on the bike more than I should.

It was smooth sailing for the first few stops. But after the library HQ, I decided to pop into the library’s remaindered book store, Title Wave, which was just around the block. It’s located in the former Albina branch, a classic Carnegie library of the early twentieth century. I picked up a few books and went back out to the bike.

That’s odd, my water bottle was missing. Wait, I washed it this morning. Did I forget to put it back on the bike? I took out my phone to consult the last pic I took of the bike, which was before I entered. Nope, it was there. Someone took my water bottle?

Having stuff yanked from my bike in the city is nothing new. A year or so ago I went to a presentation downtown and found they yanked the bottles and pump, basically anything they could remove easily. I’ve had my rain cape yanked from the outside of a Carradice. And most critically, I had a handlebar bag yanked off the front of the Superbe on Election Day 2016, losing a good camera, tool kit, and moosemoose. (Sniff, moosemoose!)

Then I turned around, and saw my water bottle on the steps. Huh? The bottle was empty. I knew it was full when I left. So, someone either drank my water or dumped it, then left the bottle twenty feet away from the bike. Classy. At least it’s not gone?

Wait, where’s my map holder? Someone yanked that? Ugh.

There are two responses I hear when something gets stolen from a bike: Well, you shouldn’t have left it on the bike. Thank you, person of deep empathy. I get it, we live in a city, things get taken. But that doesn’t mean they should. And yeah, when I’m going into a high-theft area, or will be inside for awhile, I try to take as much stuff off as possible. But for a ten minute trip?

The other comment is Maybe they needed it more than you did. Theft is still theft, thank you. But I can understand that thinking a bit more if what they took was the water bottle. But the map holder? That’s more spite than anything else. You’re not going to “get” anything for it, it’s not a human necessity like food and shelter.

At least it was an inexpensive and easy to replace item. They didn’t grab my not-easy-to-find pump, which I feel would have had more “value” than a map holder. Nor did they grab my bike gloves, which I leave as more of a dare than anything else. You want them? Have it.

Anyways, the rest of the riding went off without a hitch. I got some pizza on the way back, and ended up doing 13 miles. A respectable first ride for this year’s challenge. Now eight more rides to go!

Are you doing the challenge? Please share your rides!

*Technically, she has a PMB, or postal mail box, which isn’t the same thing as a post office.

**Yes, I still call it that.

***Unless you use a quick release system.

Three Speed October 2019 starts TOMORROW. Now, let’s talk about “the calendar”.

Hello, friends of Three Speeds! The Three Speed October Challenge starts tomorrow, Friday September 27. The challenge will go on until Sunday November 3rd.

Here are the basic stipulations of this challenge:

  1. Ride a three speed bicycle
  2. Three times a week
  3. At least three miles (5 km) each trip
  4. For at least three weeks during the duration of the challenge
  5. During a five-week period that centers around the month of October

You can find the full details (and how to sign up) here. This post is to go over a new wrinkle to the 2019 edition, mentioned previously:

You do not have to follow a traditional calendar week. It just has to be a seven day period.  For example, if you started your first ride on a Wednesday, your week ends on the following Tuesday. But most importantly, weeks cannot overlap. So if you start one week on a Wednesday, your next “week” can’t start until at least the following Wednesday. You just need to fill up three non-overlapping “weeks” during the duration of the challenge. (And yes, there can be gaps. The weeks don’t have to butt up against each other.) The first full week you can do is Friday September 27 through Thursday October 3rd. The last full week you can do is Monday October 28th through Sunday November 3rd.

I realize this new policy may confuse some folks. It would just be similar to go with a “calendar week” of Sunday to Saturday. And you can still totally do it that way, if you want. But I wanted to make the challenge flexible. I realize that not everyone works a Monday-Friday 9 to 5 job, or maybe they do and it’s harder to do stuff on a work day. So, this new “not traditional calendar weeks” has been born.

First off, let me talk to those of you who want to get it done as soon as possible. Maybe you live in Winnipeg, and the Deep Freeze will start on October 14th. Maybe you go to jail on October 14th. So, if you start the first ride tomorrow, the earliest you can get the challenge done is Sunday October 13:

And the above calendar is just an example, you don’t need to do the rides as “three in a row”, except for Week Three.

But what if you live in Phoenix, and it finally drops below 95F as a daily high on October 18th? Or maybe that’s when you get out of jail? Well, the latest you can start the challenge is Friday October 18th, as pictured below:

And note from this calendar above: The week doesn’t have to start with the first ride. No, this time the first ride on Week One isn’t until the fifth day of the week! The important thing is that the week has to fall within the parameters of the Challenge. And yes, the week has seven days. So your first week cannot start before Friday September 27, and the third (last) week cannot end after Sunday November 3rd.

And yes, it’s totally okay to have it so the weeks don’t “touch” each other, like so:

And of course I encourage people to ride more than three times in a week. (Heck, ride every day of the challenge, if you can!) But what if you are having a hot streak of consecutive days, and want these rides to count? Heck yeah! It is possible to do this with a six-day streak, like so:

See how the rider has a streak starting on October 5th (the fifth day of the first week) and it carries over into the second week. So you can only do this streak between Week One and Two, or Week Two and Three.

Finally, let’s show how the Make-Up Weekend of November 1st through 3rd (the final weekend of the Challenge) comes into play: During this “make up weekend” you can only do one ride and one ride only to make up for a missed one for any previous “biffed” week. So you’ll still need to ride two rides during a previous week. Please note you can still do part of a regular week during this time too, if your final week happens during November 1-3.

Here’s an example:

Note that the potential rider only got in two rides the first week, but did the qualifying three rides the next two weeks. The rider did a “make-up” ride on Friday November 1st, successfully completing the challenge.

As I said, the “regular” final week can bleed into the Make-Up Weekend, too:

This rider biffed the first week. Their third week starts on October 28, meaning that the last three days of that week are Make-Up Days. Totally fine! Not only did the rider do a “regular” ride on one of the Make-Up Days (Fri Nov 1), but did their Make-Up Ride on Sat Nov 2.

Okay! I sincerely hope this makes things clear. If it doesn’t, email me or leave a comment below. Or, just stick to traditional calendar weeks. That’s okay too!