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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Ones That Get Away...And The Ones You Catch

And finally for those who like it when I talk about vintage bike stuff...a post about vintage bike stuff!

Ah, the Craigslist bike section. I go through phases of obsessively looking over you, scouring the entries for cool stuff and good deals. As I say, I go through phases of looking at you, as I have been broke a lot this year, and there's nothing more torturous when you show me something good that just might be out of my price range. Thankfully, (thankfully?) you, like most Craigslists, are chock-a-block with crappy Huffys and "Magmas" (sic), or good stuff at smoking-crack prices. Or, crap at smoking-crack prices. Like for example, this "Sturmey-Archer" three-speed that someone is trying to pass off for $180.
Yes, all this for $180.

Yes, it has a Sturmey-Archer hub, but the bike itself is an AMF-Roadmaster. For those unfamiliar with crappy American makes, AMF-Roadmaster is part of the triumvirate of crappy mid-century brands. If Huffy is GM and Murray is Ford, then AMF-Roadmaster is Chrysler.* This bike is the type of bike that usually end up at the bottom of the pile of the donation bikes at (your city here)'s bike co-op. But now we have some clever seller who sees "Sturmey-Archer" and thinks that this will make this bike worth almost two hundred dollars. Oh sure, clueless seller,the bike is in nice shape. And you're probably going to point out that it's "all original", as if stock Ashtabula cranks are worth that much. As Beavis (or was it Butt-head?) said, "You can't polish a turd."

But Craigslist, I still come back, through crap, torture, or crappy torture. This week I have a little money (finally) so I decide to check you. And here comes the torture. Some dude is selling three old Raleighs. Now I don't need another three-speed Raleigh, and these bikes are in the category of fixer-uppers. Two were green Sports that looked pretty good, maybe late 60's/early 70's models. One of them looked like it had a Brooks B66 saddle.

But that's not what I was interested in. The third bike was...a rod brake roadster!

From the photo, I couldn't tell if it was a DL-1 Tourist with 28" (635mm) wheels or a Sports/Superbe with 26" x 1 3/8" (590mm) wheels. Whatever. It had rod brakes. Now I know rod brakes are not the best (read: suck), but I wasn't looking for stopping power, I was looking for a cool bike. I didn't need another British three-speed, but I sure as hell could use a rod-brake roadster.

And the best part? The dude was selling the whole lot for $125. $125! Maybe I could talk him into selling me only the rod-brake roadster. And heck, even if he wouldn't break up the set, it's a ridiculously good price. I could fix up the two green Sports and resell them, or use them for parts.

So of course I promptly emailed the dude on Friday night. And he promptly emailed me back Saturday tell me they had sold.  Damn. (Of course, as I type this on Saturday night, the ad is still up. Urgh. Update: Still up Sunday evening.)

But sometimes I do luck out.

Because I'm a Retro-Grouch, I'm a sucker for classic-looking transverse saddlebags (a la British bag maker Carradice), so this is always something I look for when I scour the Craigslist. And on Saturday night I saw a post for a "Origin 8 Classique Saddle bag". I clicked on the link, and sure enough, it was a saddle bag that looked very much like the Carradice bags I own. Eerily so. I never associated Origin 8 with these bags, but they're one of those great generic bike accessory companies that "make"** a whole bunch of different things. They probably decided to sell these because Carradice bags are a) not cheap and b) not easy to find.

 I did a quick search and opinions ranged from "pretty decent for a Carradice knock-off" to "not great, but what do you expect for a Carradice knockoff?" So probably no worse or better than the Minnehaha bag I have.*** Well, the seller only wants $15 for the bag, so even if it is a piece of crap and doesn't last a year, I'm not out much.

Of course the only issue was the seller lives in Beaverton, so after a frustrating day of work on Sunday, I make the MAX journey out to the West Side to purchase my bootleg saddle bag. (Thankfully the seller lived not more than a 1/2 mile from the MAX station.)

How does it look? Not bad.

It very much looks like a Carradice Nelson saddlebag, almost too much so. (Wonder if Carradice sued them?) The construction looks decent, but you can tell where they cut corners: The rings on the top flap (where one could put straps through for a rain cape or the like) are plastic, whereas Carradice would use metal. And a Carradice bag is made of waxed canvas, where the Origin 8 is an 80/20 synthetic blend (poly/nylon). And of course the Origin 8 is made in China, but that's what you expect for this stuff. But as I said, for fifteen bucks? Can't complain.

I'll probably put it on the Rudge Sports. The Rudge doesn't (and won't) have racks, so it will be nice to have a little more on-bike capacity. And ain't no classier way to do that on a British bike than an old-fashioned transverse saddlebag! (Even if it isn't an old bag.)

*To be fair, AMF-Roadmaster did sell some rebadged Hercules bikes in the 60s and 70s.
**Inasmuch a company like Origin 8 makes things. More like "We found someone in China to make this stuff and then told them to slap our logo on it."
***The strap on my Minnehaha small saddlebag recently broke.


  1. Too bad yuo lost out on that trio...I woulda snatched those up too (and fixed one up,I still lust after that elusive Raliegh classic I've never owned). Not a bad bag...I have some O8 stuff (cranks/BB,stem/bars,seat/post,frame/fork...),it's been serving me well going on 2 years now. True,it's not the real deal,but it serves it's purpose :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

  2. That bag is cool, and I'm glad to hear you got it for a good price. I, too, go through phases when I check out Craigslist, but don't have the dough to drop on the sweet deals that come along every so often.

  3. Outstanding post! Good info I like the car analogy. I to am a Retro-Grouch. I bought Origin 8 single speed bike and the frame was way off in the rear and the wheel would not stay tight. The bag looks convincingly like a Carradice Nelson saddlebag.

  4. Ahh, the ones that got away - sigh !

    I usually end up with the ones I least expect ... I would have been keen on those three too.


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