Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ridin' of the Green

In honor of the Irish portion of my ancestry, I wanted to share with you some pics of Raleigh's Irish X-Frame model bikes. Available in ladies and gents models, they were marketed by Raleigh for the first third of the 20th century-- ostensibly for use on the rough roads of Ireland, but also secretly because the Irish were just too awesome for run-of-the mill limey bikes. One of these joins the Columbia Chainless in my bicycle fantasy garage. I do love a full chaincase, at least until I have to work on it...

I'm charmed by the wording of this vintage ad, even it it seems to be dissing Irish infrastructure just a wee bit.

"The Irish X Frame model, as its name implies, has been specially designed for use on the reputably bad roads often to be found in Ireland, or where the ground to be continually traversed is of a broken and exceedingly rough nature, thereby necessitating a frame of somewhat more substantial and stronger character than is usual."

I was talking bikes with an older guy who shared an anecdote about Irish cycling. He said that back in the day, Irish lightweight road bike enthusiasts were in the habit of jamming a broom handle up into the steerers of their forks . The idea was that it would hold the tube together and keep you from crashing when the steerer inevitably broke, enabling you to coast gingerly to the side of the road. It's a fun story and a great image, regardless of whether it actually happened.

Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom wrote one of the all-time great bike-riding songs (and coined my favorite alternative term for a bicycle) in the title track of his 1992 album, The Acoustic Motorbike. I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of that very same year in Ireland as part of a student exchange program. I rode a borrowed bike while staying in the village of Pettigo, which was bisected by the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. This preceded the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, so the border was marked in varied manners ranging from small unassuming signs to high-walled compounds guarded by machine gun wielding soldiers. I opted to ride the bike through the quiet, unmanned crossings and limit my interactions with anyone holding a loaded weapon, a personal policy that serves me well to this day. I often wondered why the IRA didn't simply do the same. Maybe they did. Anyway, It's an awfully pretty place to ride around if you ever get a chance. I'd imagine it's even nicer now without the periodic bombings. Most places are.

Irish X-Frame pics and ad thanks to

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