First ride on Mary, & adjusting a saddle

First ride on Mary, & adjusting a saddle

Yesterday I took Mary Poppins for her first spin around my neighborhood. She rides smoothly, with no noise from the rear coaster brake and only the occasional ‘tick’ sound that might be a moving part rubbing against a dent. That said, the coaster brake needs a lot of space to actually stop, and for quick stops (such as when my 6-year-old darts in front of me) I need to jump down off the saddle, which is less than ideal. I wonder if that’s typical of the Sturmey-Archer coaster brakes?

Mike took this photo of Audrey and I on our steel steeds just before we left. The riding boots, bought several seasons ago from J. Crew, work pretty well as a stylish alternative to a pant clip. I’m wearing a knee-length dress over harem pants – not that you can tell. Lesson learned: black outfits photograph poorly. Doesn’t Audrey look cute? Her bike was inherited from a neighbor, and it needs some TLC too – lots of rusty parts from being left outside, and the front tire is almost flat and may not be salvagable.

Anyway, before we could ride, I needed to adjust Mary’s saddle, since whoever had last rode her had either been a couple of inches taller than me or hadn’t cared whether they could touch the ground (I was on tiptoe). I took some photos during the process.

Before. The bolt in the centre of the shot is the one I needed to loosen. It was just a smidgen bigger than 1/2″, so I needed to use an adjustable hex wrench. It was, of course, seized. Luckily we had some WD-40 handy. I also needed it to work the saddle’s post loose. It wouldn’t go in further at all, so I pulled it out and sprayed a little lubricant into the frame.

This shot shows the top and inside of the seat post after removing the saddle. The top rim and inside are pretty rusty, I wonder if I should treat them with something? For now I just reassembled it…

…but not without taking some beauty shots of the saddle’s underside. That “MADE IN ENGLAND” stamp is the only identifying mark on it. Phillips catalogues from the period call these “spring mattress saddles”. A couple of things to note: at some point, someone needed to replace one of the screws holding the springs. Also, notice how skewed the springs themselves are! Holy cow! Somebody has ridden Mary hard (Am I allowed to write that on a family blog?). The springs can be removed and replaced, but I wonder if it’s worth the effort to find the springs for a saddle that’s damaged and not so comfy to sit on?

After reinstallation. It’s a good thing my legs aren’t any shorter! I also loosened the bolt in the middle of this shot to adjust the tilt of the seat. Getting it tight enough afterward to keep the seat from tilting while I rode was a bit challenging.

I did some hunting around on eBay, and it seems this unbranded vinyl saddle might not have been made by Brooks – there are almost identical blue-and-white saddles being sold that are labelled WRIGHTS that came off 1960s Hercules and Hawthorne roadsters (both also made by Raleigh), and a red-and-white vinyl saddle labelled LYCETT that came off a Raleigh.

So once again, I’d love some advice. Should I try to repair the seat? Should I replace the seat with a fancy new Brooks saddle? How should I handle the rust inside the frame? Is my coaster brake working as it should?

4 thoughts on “First ride on Mary, & adjusting a saddle

  1. If you can afford it, a Brooks would be the way to go, for sure. Can’t say enough good about them. The B66 women’s model would be the way to go.

    The coaster brake could probably use an overhaul (dismantling, cleaning, repacking) but will probably also still not stop you too fast. Most bikes with coaster hubs also have a regular brake on the front wheel as backup. A bike shop can probably find you an older-style brake and install it for not much cost.

    I doubt there’s too much to worry about with the rust, but you can have a bike shop treat the inside of the frame or you can do it yourself with linseed oil. Just Google “bicycle rust prevention linseed oil” or something like that, and you should find the formula. But really, these bikes will be around long after we’re gone, with or without rust treatment.

  2. Thanks (again!) for the tips, Thom.

    I’m bidding on one of the damaged similar saddles that are on eBay right now, with the thought that I might be able to switch out the springs myself, without a huge investment, then donate all the remaining parts to our local communal bikeworks (the Edmonton Bicycle Commuter society) so someone else can use them. This will, of course, be more work than I think. 😉 Wish me luck.

  3. Not a Brooks, It does not appear to be a Brooks saddle. The saddle you show is sprung but not a mattress type. The Brooks mattress saddle vinyl and mattress type are usually found on the Raleigh Twenty and others. Yours with the metal and vinyl cover is El Knockoff and can not be too comfy. The springs are juvenile in apparent strength and not designed for adults it appears. Saddles are quickly removable and I have moved several around. Brooks and cheapos etc. Pop for a new Brooks and don’t buy one ready to tear for 80 bucks on ebay. I bought a new brown one B 17 for 89 dollars U.S. and shipping around 10 and have moved it around a couple times. Today it is on my Raleigh Fixie and not yet broken in after a year. (sort of like the Sunday Shoes of years ago) A true suspension leather saddle is a good thing. Forget the tin can covered with vinyl it does not breath. Cancel the newspaper and cable TV and in three months the Brooks is paid for. Ride on………… Eduard on the Brooks both Leather and some old vinyl jobs on the folders.

  4. Thanks for the advice, Eduard! I do kind of want to keep all the original parts on this bike, if I can. I spent $3 + shipping for a similar Lycett saddle from off a ’60s Raleigh, with upholstery that’s beyond help so i don’t feel guilty about taking it apart. I’m going to try swapping out the springs, then make a padded cover for it to make it more comfortable. We’ll see how that goes. But yes, a Brooks saddle is officially on my Christmas wish list.

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