A.K.A. A bike too far?
A little while ago a new position became available in my fleet and I knew it was time to get myself a comfy town bike as none of my other bikes fit the role of relaxed cruising around in regular clothes.
Being of a contrary nature I opted against the available Pashley and Raleigh Roadsters for no particular reason and bought a single speed Gazelle Toer Populair with coaster brake. I would have liked a 3 speed but for a couple of reasons 1. It was £250 more and for less than half that amount I can change the hub if I ever really feel the need to move up. 2. For 2012 Gazelle have stopped making the mens three speed with coaster brake and I really wanted a coaster brake as I think it suits the cruising style.
|Gazelle Toer Populair finds a new fan|
The single speed came with black tyres, cheap black saddle and rubber grips all of which I changed. If you are wondering about the weird statue look here.
Cream Delta Cruisers, £11 each from Spa Cycles. I’ll be keeping these well inflated as taking the rear wheel off is a hell of a job.
- Remove axle bolts
- Remove rack supports
- Take off as much of chain guard as possible
- Unscrew chain tensioners
- Unscrew coaster brake
- Push wheel forwards and take chain off sprocket
- Pull wheel backwards and unship chain from axle and drop wheel out
- Then get it all back together without forgetting where all the washers went
When I did get it back together I pulled the chain a bit too tight and could feel some friction in the drivetrain coming through the pedals when riding. So I eased off the tensioners a bit and it’s smooth as silk now.
|Brooks B67 Aged Saddle|
The Brooks B67 Aged saddle actually comes as OEM on the three speed, my impression so far is that it is very comfy.
|Nori-San cork grips|
The rubber grips that came with the bike were hard on the hands and sticky when warm, these cork grips by Nori-San from Hubjub are soft and cool. The bell is nice too it’s of the r-r-r-r-ring rather than ding! variety.
|Axa Defender Lock|
The lock is quick and simple to use, these are quite rare in the UK, I wouldn’t use it as a primary means of security, but if I’m in a shop and the bike is outside but visible to me it would befuddle a thief long enough for me to run outside.
|The little clip holds the stand to the rack strut|
The rear stand folds up and the clip snaps it to the rack strut although it is stiff enough to hold itself up, but a nice touch.
One very minor disappointment, from other photographs I thought the fork crown was chromed, but it turns out it is some sort of cover just sitting over the top.
Not had the opportunity to use the light yet, it looks the part but would be nicer if it was full chrome rather than half chrome, half plastic.
I can’t remember ever having sat on a roadster type bicycle before and the first impression was, “Damn, that steering is light, and that front wheel is a long way away!” After a few yards it was no problem.
Just the one brake lever for the front drum brake which is not that powerful, but the rear coaster brake certainly is. I’m 5’9″ with a 29″ inseam, this is the smallest 57cm frame but i still have the saddle quite low and have raised the bars up quite high.
The rear battery operated light and large reflector. The mudguard support loops around to form a little protective barrier in case you reverse the bike into anything.
|Really good stretchy straps|
These straps are very strong and very stretchy, I strapped down a full 10kg backpack confident that it wouldn’t shift about, and it didn’t!
|Front mudguard detail|
A little flare on the front mudguard.
|Fork crown cover|
Another view of that fork crown cover.
Bottle dynamo, not seen one of these since my brother’s Raleigh Grifter.
|Front drum brake|
The front drum brake connections, quick and simple to remove.
I have a variety of bikes from all out road, to CX to Shopper, but none of them is anything like this to ride, and that was kind of the point for me. On the other bikes you are always leaning forward, a bit or a lot, nose pointing down, weight on your palms, the Gazelle is a totally different animal. You sit up, way up, in a way that most people under 40 in the UK have probably never experienced a bike. Get the wheels turning and it glides along smooth as silk, of course it takes a bit of effort to build up speed, but once up to speed the momentum of that weight and centrifugal force of the wheels lets it roll along at 12-15mph almost effortlessly on flat ground.
The 635 x 40 (or 28 x 1 1/2 if you will) Delta Cruisers are lovely and smooth my CX has 35s with small knobbles and other bikes have 23s or 25s at 100+psi, so a 40 road tyre with <60psi is a further revelation, no crashing around, no vibration, no tyre noise. The combination of tyre, steel frame, Brooks saddle and 22kgs manages to damp out all unwanted stresses yet the steering still inspires confidence.
Add in the practicality of fully enclosed chain, full mudguards, skirt/coat guard, big rack, straps, lock, lights and stand and it fulfills most of my daily biking needs and does so with no small degree of aplomb.
That’s the practical and physical side covered, but how does it really feel… You’re sat high up, you’re facing ahead not down, you can look at the world again, lay back and cruise, smile at girls, wear regular clothes, leave the road warrior red mist at home and enjoy the ride. The only thing I can think to compare it to are three things I can’t compare it to because I’ve never been in any of them, a Range Rover for the view, a Rolls Royce for the stateliness or if you’re a motorcyclist something like a Honda Goldwing. In fact it is so composed and nonchalant I am sure had the need arisen Major Carlyle would have commandeered one on his Dutch vacation.