Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Night Heron?

Why did I decide to name this project Night Heron?

In the neighborhood around my apartment there are these amazing birds that I only see when I'm out walking my dog late at night- Night Herons! When I first saw them, I had no idea what they were called, but after a few minutes of research I figured it out and I've been in love with them ever since. They've got the most amazing color scheme, don't you think?

If you didn't know, the Raleigh Bicycle headbadge depicts a Heron, apparently a character in the family coat-of-arm's of the company's founder, Frank Bowden.

The inspiration of seeing the cool looking birds on my nightly walks combined with my love of Raleigh Bicycles (and their funky logo) led to me wanting to build a bike called the Night Heron.

I'd like to work the Night Heron's color scheme into the design of the bike. More on how that'll work out coming soon...

History and Inspiration

Under the cherry blossom tree- Rear

Last year, I restored and customized this 1976 Raleigh Tourist. If you look closely, you'll notice that the tourist's frame is very similar in design to the Pashley Guv'nor seen below (the similarities are most apparent in the seat stays and in the fork).

I have a 2nd Raleigh Tourist, from 1978, that was originally slated to become the Night Heron. My plan was to take the stock Tourist frame as it is, but rebuild the wheels with drum brakes (and black powder-coated rims), put on new handlebars, and call it a day. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that I probably wouldn't be happy with that build. For one thing, I'd be starting with a very heavy bike that was very similar to a very heavy bike that I've already got, and I'd probably be making it heavier by adding the drum brake hubs to each wheel! The Pashley Guv'nor is built with much lighter Reynolds 531 steel tubing than the Tourist's 2030 Steel. Another thing that I would want to do for a proper conversion, is put a new crankset and bottom bracket on the Tourist frame. Unfortunately, the Tourist's bottom bracket cups use Raleigh's proprietary threading, and the trouble and expense of converting the frame wouldn't be worth it to me in the end.

The Tourist is great fun to ride around the neighborhood, but it doesn't wander far and it doesn't go very fast. Night Heron was already starting to feel redundant, and I hadn't even started the conversion yet.

Then along came the 1971 Raleigh International. The international is an amazingly light bike- even though it's made of steel tubing, the bike is lighter than my modern aluminum-alloy Cannondale! I had originally sought out the International with the intention of building a nice 10-Speed road bike, but I've already got a bike that bike that fills that role well (it's another Raleigh (surprise!), a 1974 Super Course). Since the International needs quite a bit of restoration anyway, I figured I'd use it as the base of my formerly-retired Night Heron project idea! If I'm going to spend the time and money making it into something, why not spend the time and money making it into something with my signature on it?


Here's the bike that I'll be starting with. It's a 24-1/2" Raleigh International that I bought from the original owner. The bike had been set up as a fixed gear and left to sit outside for a few years, as is evidenced by the corrosion. The frame itself is in excellent shape, and it still had it's original Campagnolo components on it. I was planing on restoring it back to it's former 10-Speed glory, but then I got inspired by Sly Red's Path Racer, Blackadder, and decided to do something different. The frame might be a little tall for me, but that's okay- they used to ride 'em tall back in the day.

Humble Beginnings

Night Heron Photo by Michael L. Baird.

This blog will follow the customization of my 1971 Raleigh International bicycle as it transforms into the Night Heron; a modern path-racer-inspired 3-Speed city bike.