I have been searching for a 1960's English ladies, step-through, 3 speed bicycle for an upcoming project. They used to be common as down in New Zealand and they do come up for sale frequently on Trade Me (their version of Craig's List). Problem is these old bicycles are becoming trendy which has driven the asking price up considerably. I had missed out of 4 Raleigh ladies bicycles bidding up to $100 and was beginning to think obtaining one might be more difficult and expensive that I first thought.
Plan B - "Who is building 'retro' ladies 3 speeds and who in town (Victoria) is carrying these bicycles"? The Spring Issue of Momentum magazine advertised
a Canadian made "City Bike" called the Simcoe. It had the styling of a 1960's bicycle and a man's version, reviewed by blogger Lovely Bicycle, she said had the "feel" of the vintage models. I called up north park bike shop on Quadra to check that they had a Ladies 3 speed model that I could test ride and set-up
an appointment for Friday.
Friday arrived and I traded my Opus 24 speed hybrid for a Simcoe's ladies 3 speed bicycle. My initial shock was that the bicycle was 'watermelon' in colour where as in the magazine advertisement and on-line it looked to be candy apple red. A red bicycle would be cool for a Canadian to ride across NZ I thought water-melon maybe not so cool.
My position on the bike was straight and upright. Riding the first few blocks I thought the saddle was loose as it felt like it was wobbly. I have not ridden a bicycle with a leather saddle since I was just learning to ride a bike. What I was feeling was my 'sit bones'.
After cruising around for a coffee, some fresh
vegetables in Chinatown and a ride through Beacon Hill Park I no longer noticed the difference in the feel of the Brooks leather saddle.
Overall the Simcoe had the 'road feel' of my old Raleigh. The rear rack would be handy for panniers. The Schwalbe tires - Delta Cruisers - would provide lots of mileage and some protection from sharp objects. The upright position was comfortable and a joy to ride.The shifting was smooth, quiet and the breaks strong. The chain guard would allow you to wear whatever you want to. No more changing into lycra, as we tend to do, just to go for a ride. Freedom to wear a suit, a skirt; freedom to ride! If you are in the market for a City Bike consider taking a Simcoe for a spin.
I would recommend Simcoe: add a tire pump between the down tube and rear fender, water bottle braze-ons between the front tubes, reposition the rear reflector to the back of the rear fender and include a metal basket.
As much fun as it was to test ride the Simcoe I was over-the-moon, a few days later, when I became the owner of a 1960's ladies Raleigh brown 3 speed. (I can always add a Canadian flag.) I have not met her yet, she is in New Zealand about to under-go an overall check-up and tune-up in preparation for a big cycle tour down there. Stay posted!