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Category: Sturmey-Archer

This is Sparta

This is Sparta

I’m welcoming a new bicycle to my stable! Well, new to me:

1982 Sparta Windsor step-through with 3 speeds and drum brakes, as purchased from my friend Karen.
1982 Sparta Windsor step-through with 3 speeds and drum brakes, as purchased from my friend Karen.

Karen brought this 1982 Sparta Windsor omafiets to Edmonton with her when she moved from Vancouver – but its place as her daily ride has been supplanted by her Linus, thanks to its lighter weight and ability to attach a trailer for her toddler. I’m well past the toddler stage now, so I jumped at the chance to ride with drum brakes after all the rainy weather we have had this summer.

Sturmey-Archer AB hub with drum brake stamped 82 6
Sturmey-Archer AB hub with drum brake stamped 82 6
Sparta-branded bell
Sparta-branded bell
Headbadge, with a zip tie that has been holding the cables so long it has rubbed off part of the design.
Headbadge, with a zip tie that has been holding the cables so long it has rubbed off part of the design.
Front fork decals and chromed trim.
Front fork decals and chromed trim. The 26 is for the tyre size: 26 x 1 3/8.

It came to me with a Sturmey-Archer AB 3-speed drum brake hub with a 82/6 date stamp, front drum-brake hub with 5/82 date stamp, 80s-style plastic Sturmey-Archer trigger shifter, a full chain case, a chromed Steco front pannier rack with a spring-clamp, a rear rack with a wire basket, a Royal vinyl mattress saddle, a frame lock, Pletscher kickstand, and front and rear lights wired to a plastic bottle generator (currently not working). The paint is a bit scratched up from years of use but it still polishes up nicely. From these photos on Flikr it would appear that originally it would have also had plastic skirtguards (jasbeschermers), bungee straps (snelbinders) for the rear rack, and a chromed bottle generator instead of the plastic dynamo now on it.

Rear fender decals and aluminum badge.
Rear fender decals and aluminum badge.
Downtube decals. The frame lock is stamped "STENMAN PAT.PEND." on one side, and "MADE IN HOLLAND 582" on the other.
Downtube decals. The frame lock is stamped “STENMAN PAT.PEND.” on one side, and “MADE IN HOLLAND 582” on the other.
Decals on the remaining tubes, plus a label from Richmond BC warning would-be thieves that the bike has been engraved. Oh, the innocence of the eighties, thinking that would be a deterrent.
Decals on the remaining tubes, plus a label from Richmond BC warning would-be thieves that the bike has been engraved. Oh, the innocence of the eighties, thinking that would be a deterrent.
The chain case has more pretty decals and a black plastic port for servicing the chain.
The chain case has more pretty decals and a black plastic port for servicing the chain.

I’ve already made a couple of changes: I swapped out the vinyl saddle for my Brooks B67S, and once I had adjusted the saddle to my height, the wire basket no longer fit properly, so I swapped it out for the antique egg crate I’ve been using on the DL-1 (which, in turn, looks handsome with the black wire basket installed). I’ve also installed a mirror to the handlebar (it’s Evo’s clamp-on Canadarm mirror), and removed the water bottle holder. Now to replace the bottle generator and find some bungee straps and skirt guards!

After swapping out the saddle and rear basket.
After swapping out the saddle and rear basket.

How does the ride differ from my Raleigh-built 3-speed roadsters? Well, the posture is a smidgen more upright, because the handlebar stem is longer. The seat position is similar, and the shifting is, of course, identical (although the plastic shifter feels a little different). The braking is reassuringly responsive. There is currently a small pedal rub against the chain case that will need looking at (probably the axle got a smidgen off-centre the last time the bottom bracket was repacked – maybe that has to do with the non-cottered cranks?).

P.S. – For those keeping track, this has precipitated another bicycle switcheroo. Fiona is buying the DL-1 (Eliza) back from me, since the Sparta is taking its’ place. I also will no longer need Trudy (the ’72 Phillips 3-speed), so I am trading it to Nicki and getting Mary Poppins (the ’66 Phillips single-speed loop frame) back from her. Winnie (the ’51 CCM-built loop frame) is also looking for a new home.

Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Yesterday I was lucky to be able to try the new Bobbin Shopper, thanks to my favorite LBS RedBike. I rode it around for about 20 minutes in the neighborhood around the U of A, and stopped on the path on Saskatchewan Drive for some quick iPhonography. You should also check out the more detailed review by Lovely Bicycle! – but I thought I’d share my observations.

Bobbin Bicycles' Shopper
Bobbin Bicycles’ Shopper

It’s fun to ride! A comparison with a Raleigh Twenty is inescapable, because its’ design is so similar. Like an R20, it feels like riding a full-size 3-speed, but the smaller wheels make the steering a bit more responsive and the whole bike more maneuverable. Unlike an R20, it has a front caliper brake and a 3-speed coaster brake. The small wheels do mean you can feel every bump – not so good on a pothole-ridden stretch of construction-abused 110th Street, but perfectly fine for most sidewalks.

It is adorable, too. I had three different people I passed during my ride give me big smiles and say “nice bike!” – including an elderly woman who had looked apprehensive when she saw me coming up the sidewalk, before I hopped off the bike, pulled onto the grass, and gave her a friendly smile. Mary Poppins Effect in full effect!

A nice big front basket, front caliper brakes, and Sturmey-Archer 3-speed.
A unicrown fork, 20 x 1.75 whitewall tires, a sturdy little kickstand, and fenders. I love the British racing green paint, but it also comes in burnt orange and robins’ egg blue.
A short rack marked “max 25 kg” with a Pletscher-style clamp. This would work well for panniers, a small crate, or those pretty Po Campo bags.

I’m strongly considering this bike as a fun-but-practical summertime ride that could become my winter bike with the addition of studded tires (Update: I’d have to DIY these with EBC’s help, because I just looked it up and the Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires are 20 x 1.6 not 20 x 1.75, darnit!). In my neighborhood, the MUPs and sidewalks are (mostly) cleared, but only the major roads get plowed, so a bike designed for sidewalks is preferable for winter use. Yes, I could pick up a Raleigh Twenty for cheaper, but by the time I upgraded the wheels and brakes to improve the braking and make it winter-worthy, I’m not sure I’d be saving any money. Yes, a Twenty’s frame might be a higher-quality build, but it’s also a bit heavier. I’m also not sure I’d feel comfortable desecrating a pristine R20 with modern upgrades so that I could subject it to winter abuse.

(PS: What the heck has 20 x 1.6 tires? A Dahon folder? Who are Schwalbe making those studded tires for?)

(Update: Read the comments for tire info!)

(2014 Update: This year’s model has a very nice looking porteur rack in place of the front basket, so has upgraded cargo capacity, and teal or ivory paint. I am still strongly considering it, but haven’t pulled the trigger because I need to sell part of my stable of bikes first. I’m also tempted by the Tern Swoop and Dahon Vitesse folders, but haven’t yet found a local LBS where I can try them out.)


an Earth Day ride and Eliza

an Earth Day ride and Eliza

To celebrate Earth Day today, Audrey and I went for a ride around the neighborhood. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with a cool breeze. The snow has mostly melted, and street cleaners have started to remove the winter debris from the roads in our neighborhood.
Audrey dressed in purples to match her bike.
We practiced signalling – Audrey is almost as good as me now – and also spent awhile practicing turns in the parking lot of her elementary school. She’s ready to have the training wheels pulled off her bike. Actually, she’s ready for a bigger bike. We’re going to see if we can get a bit more life out of this one by adjusting seat and handlebar height. Once she’s done we might cannibalize this bike to get the little blue Deelite working for when Dom outgrows his Tigger bike.
{Update: Audrey’s bike appears not to have adjustable handlebars or seat. Not impressed! So we’re going to prioritize getting the Eaton’s Glider frame fixed up for her ASAP, and her current bike will become a part donor for Dom’s Deelite and Damien’s Rapido. Vintage kids’ bikes FTW!}
I rode Eliza, the 1978 Raleigh DL-1 Lady’s Tourist that used to be Fiona’s.
Everything except the skirtguards and basket is original. 
I haven’t changed anything on her yet, so the seat is still a bit high for me.
Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub marked 78 7 AW
The plastic trigger shifter has lost its adhesive label.
I think I’ll get it replaced with the chromed SA shifter with a screw-on faceplate that came with Bert.
Front rod brakes.
I didn’t remember to look for marks on the Westwood (rod-brake-only) rims.
The tires (or should I say tyres) are labelled Raleigh Roadster,
40-635 (28 x 1 1/2), 50 lbs/in2 – 3.5 ATM
Heron chainwheel, rear rod brake, pedals marked with the Raleigh crest.
Both the headbadge (hidden under the basket) and the decal on the rear mudguard are marked Nottingham.
Notice that the fenders have a rounded profile, instead of the ridged versions on Mary Poppins and Ms Trudy.
The Brooks B66, nicely broken in. I can see how a B66S might be more comfortable for me,
since the nose on the B66 feels a bit long.
Closeup of the OTT Simeli crocheted skirtguards.
Eliza still needs a thorough cleaning and some lemon-and-foil to really make her shine, and I might touch up her paint where it’s been dinged – her front forks are especially scratched. At the advice of uber-mechanic Keith, I’ll be considering an imported Dutch centre stand (the kind that attaches to the back wheel) to allow me to carry a grocery-loaded rack – this is crucial for me, since I need Eliza to earn her keep as my errand-running bike, and installation of any of the other double kickstands is made impossible by the rod brakes. (It is possible to install the specially-made DL-1 Pletscher prop stand, or to grind down a prop stand and install it with a shorter bolt, but those solutions aren’t stable enough if you plan to carry heavy loads.). If I’m not happy with how the brakes feel after new Fibrax rod brake pads have been installed, rebuilding the rear wheel with a 3-speed coaster hub (like Velouria did) will provide secret stopping powers. 
{Update: it seems that Steco make a black-powdercoated rear rack for 28-inch bicycles with an integrated swing kickstand, and this is what comes standard on the Achielle Oma – so now I know what I’m asking the guys at RedBike if they can special-order for me. Or am looking to bring back as a souvenir from Japan.}
As you can see behind me, in installing the (wave-style) bike racks at Audrey’s school in a sheltered location they managed to ensure they’ll be buried in a snowdrift after the rest of the snow is long gone. Oops.
Adventures & Mysteries in Sourcing Parts for Restoration

Adventures & Mysteries in Sourcing Parts for Restoration

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, in large part because we’ve had another cold-flu-whatever virus run through my household. So, I’ve been unable to do much bicycle work*; cuddling the kidlets has taken precedence. However, I have been reading the other cycling blogs and forums, and spending waaaaay too much time on eBay, researching the various parts my ’66 Phillips is currently sporting and figuring out what’s period-appropriate and what she’s missing that I need.

My first view of my ’66 Phillips (now dubbed Mary Poppins) on Kijiji

According to this digitized 1963-era Raleigh-made parts catalogue (PDF), here’s a list of parts that are in my bike:

  • Frame with detachable backstay: #RFJ401/2/3, Lady’s Roadster Curved Diagonal (page35) (Need to check the height to get the exact catalogue number)
  • Forks: 28″ wheel, Other Marks (not Phillips! interesting!), #RAB109 (page 9)
  • Handlebars: #RNA120, North Road Raised with no levers (page 17)
  • Chainguard: #RCA101, 28″ wheel, ‘hockey-stick’, enamel finish (page 13)
  • Chainwheel: Plain (page 8)
  • Basket: probably #RMM143 Shopper (not illustrated, page 2) 
  • Rims: 28 x 1-1/2, Westwood, chrome (page 28)
  • Handlebar grips: #RNL104, 7/8″ diameter, sleeve grip, white plastic (page 22)
  • Reflector: #RDL105, White Plastic (page 3)
  • Possibly missing: mudflaps (page 3), bell (page 3), tools (pages 3-4), lamp bracket (page 12)
  • Colour, based on Retouching Enamel list (page 4): Royal Blue

One mystery has been solved:

Pedals like mine (except they have added reflectors on the edges) just sold on eBay for 36 pounds (for those keeping score, that’s about Can$64 before shipping, which means they cost more than I paid for my whole bike). That listing said they belong on a Raleigh Chopper – and sure enough there is a beautifully restored 5-speed Chopper for sale on eBay right now with the same solid rubber, chrome-edged pedals. Raleigh introduced the Chopper in 1969 according to the ads of the period, so the pedals may have been a later replacement for the Phillips-logo block pedals you’d expect would have been the standard issue for the bike based on the information in the catalogue linked above (pages 29-32). Then again, Sheldon Brown dates the switch to oval pedals with no ball bearings to 1967, so maybe the pedals are original and the bike was built in ’67 with a ’66 SA coaster hub.

A couple of other mysteries to solve:

I do wonder whether the bike should have had a lamp fitting originally. Anyone know if lamp brackets were standard on all 1960s Raleigh-made bikes, or if they were routinely left off the models sold with front baskets attached?

My rims are probably original, since they’re Sturmey-Archer (as I noted in my first post, they’re marked STURMEY ARCHER *ENGLAND F250 28 x 1 1/2* ). But are the tires original? (Or should I say ‘tyres’?) Hard to say. I was expecting Dunlops, but they stopped making bicycle tires in the late 60s (according to Sheldon Brown – does anyone have a hard date on that?).
Here’s what the tire sidewalls say:
28 x 1 1/2 SuperElite 700 x 38B
(logo) SEMPERIT (logo)
…and they have Schrader valves.
I *think*, based on a Sheldon Brown article I read, that the original tires should have been 635 mm – but these say 700. Is that the mm measurement? Is that 700C or 700B? Is that 1995 the year they were made? Are these actually wide replacement tires? WTH? Here’s what Sheldon wrote:

“28 X 1 1/2” (635 mm) tires used on some rod-brake 3-speed roadsters are a distinct size of their own, and should not be confused with 700C (622 mm) tires which are sometimes also referred to as 28 inch.

So, having gone and read Sheldon Brown’s tire sizing article, it appears that my bike may have the rare Canadian 28 x 1-1/2 F.13 700C 622mm tires instead of the UK roadster standard 28 x 1-1/2 F10 or F25 or 700B – but made in Austria – on rims made in England. Confused yet? I am.

As for my wish list:

I’m reconsidering my wine box / milk crate idea, and adding to that list of cargo-carriage possibilities a Wald 535 extra-large twin rear carrier basket. It’s made of wire and similar in style to my front rack, and it’ll carry way more stuff than the Pletcher-style mousetrap rack that seems to have come standard on most Raleigh-made bikes in the 60s. I want to use this bike trips to the grocery store, so carrying capacity is important. Would it be period-appropriate to put a Wald basket on a Raleigh product?

On your advice, I’ve decided to add front caliper brakes, to complement my coaster brake and make the bike a little safer. I’ve won an auction on a NOS Cherry 1-3/8″ centre-pull front caliper brake set, but I have my fingers crossed that I’ll win a set made by Phillips that I’m bidding on right now. Cross your fingers for me!

It would be nice to have a frame pump to fill the lonely-looking braziers. I missed out on a Phillips-branded frame pump about a week ago, but the fierce bidding war for it indicates I’m not the one person wanting one to complete my bike! Now I’m bidding on an unbranded chrome-finished one which is similar to #RMJ-121 on page 3 of the catalogue linked above. [Update: I won that auction! Wanna see how pretty it is?]

I’ll also need replacement springs for my poor mangled mattress saddle – which will hopefully come courtesy of a saddle with significant upholstery damage but sound-looking springs that should be arriving in the mail any day now.

* I did manage to grab a little time today to clean some of the chrome with Rust Cure 3000 and a rag – which works pretty much as I expected from the information in the links I’d provided previously. I also partially cleaned and lubricated the chain with ProLink Chain Lube according to the directions on the bottle; I expect to have to repeat that process. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish cleaning up Miss Mary and take her for another spin or two before it snows again!

More Photos of Mary

More Photos of Mary

I thought I’d put up the best of the other photos I’ve taken of the decals and parts of my 1966 Phillips loop-frame roadster, Mary Poppins. You’ve already seen the headbadge, front mudguard, pedals, and saddle in other posts. Here’s the rest.

Phillips decal on the frame.

Other decals on the curved top post of the bike. The top one, badly damaged, shows a coat of arms and the words “GUARANTEED GENUINE ———–  –IGHT —-GHT”. The green sticker is the repair sticker from a now-departed local bike shop. You can also see the top braze-on for the missing frame pump, and some paint damage on the front mudguard.

Made in England, and some of the pinstriping.

More pinstriping, and a decal that reads, “THE TRUE —-ER  —–E  B——-“. The rear braze-on for the frame pump is hiding under that electrical tape. I guess it was catching on someone’s trouser cuff?

The chainguard, with Phillips decal and some damage from the pedal. This is also a pretty good photo of the pedals and crank. The chain could use cleaning, and I haven’t checked it for wear yet.

A nice shot of the chrome on the pedals and the Pletscher kickstand. I think the part with the red enamel says E56E.

Is this part with the Sturmey-Archer stamp the derailleur?

Best photo I’ve been able to take yet of the Sturmey-Archer SC single coaster brake. The reflective chrome plating makes it tricky!

Rear mudguard with reflector [update: it’s marked BSA.U.40LI(heart)LIC.2628 FAIRYLITES BRITISH MADE I(circle)3224] and a smear of adhesive – I wonder what used to be stuck there (maybe another chrome trim piece?). There is a very badly scratched up decal further up the fender, the one with the lion and the phrase “Reknowned The World Over” that’s modelled on the prewar Phillips headbadge.

These grips are made of the same material as the rear reflector’s casing, so I think they might be rubber, not plastic. They are marked “MADE IN ENGLAND”.

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?

Mary Poppins: a 1966 Phillips loop-frame bike

Mary Poppins: a 1966 Phillips loop-frame bike

Now that my children are getting old enough to cycle faster than I can walk, it’s high time I replaced the mountain bike that was stolen (along with every other bike in the apartment building by someone impersonating a construction worker) about a decade ago. So I’m eternally grateful to Angel for alerting me to the posting on Kijiji that made me the proud owner of this step-through, loop-frame town bike:


Isn’t it lovely? A slightly eccentric English lady bike. I’ve named it (her) Mary Poppins, since as Angel pointed out, she’s the Mary Poppins of bikes. The fellow who sold her to me (thanks Chris!) told me she was from the 1960s, has her original finishes and a coaster brake, and was built by Phillips, who were bought out by Raleigh later on. She does need a little TLC, mainly rust removal and paint touchup, but not much.

I did a little research online, and here’s what I learned about Miss Mary:


This headbadge may date her to about 1965, according to a Flikr set of another Phillips bike. Phillips was purchased by Raleigh in 1960, and from the Spring of 1961 on the bikes were made in Nottingham at Raleigh’s 40-acre factory instead of the Phillips bikeworks near Birmingham. Raleigh continued to make Phillips-branded bikes for export until the 1980s (the wiki page implies), and some collectors look down on them as poor cousins to the higher-quality Raleigh-branded bikes. Whatever. By today’s standards, the build quality is impressive regardless.

Note the chrome trim on this mudflap – mmmm. This style of mudguard was made by Speedwell and date the bike to the 50s or 60s, according to the information in current eBay listings and Flikr posts. A lot of the steel frame, and the tyre rims, is chromed. The tyre rims are marked STURMEY ARCHER *ENGLAND F250 28 x 1 1/2* (ie, they’re 635mm), and the tyres are marked SEMPERIT, Made In Austria, Super Elite (so they’re probably not original – would likely have been Dunlop when the bike was first sold). The two-tone vinyl mattress saddle was made by Brooks (who, like both Phillips and Sturmey-Archer, were owned at the time by Raleigh’s parent company, TI), and the white plastic grips were probably made by Dare. The kickstand is marked PLETCHER, who were/are a Swiss manufacturer. The basket isn’t marked, and appears to be made of aluminum.
For local historians, it bears a green “repairs” sticker from Premier Cycle & Sport Shop. Anyone know of them?
I haven’t seen any photos online of similar full-rubber chrome-edged pedals yet. The figure in the middle has an R marked on it, so they’re probably 1960s-era Raleigh pedals. [Update: there are other pedals on eBay right now with the same crest on them, but less wear so it’s easier to make out in the photos, and the seller identifies them as being Raleigh Industries.]
If my bike were a three-speed, this article from would help me identify it much more easily. But a single-speed mechanism with a coaster brake means I’m out of luck unless I can find a serial number that matches what’s in the article. [Update: there is a serial number stamped onto the frame below the saddle: 3464230. Sadly that tells me nothing. The coaster brake has a plastic-stoppered hole for adding oil, and is marked: ENGLAND STURMEY ARCHER SC (in the bottom triangle) 11   6 (running perpendicular to the 4-triangle logo; if this is month/year, she was probably made in November 1966). SC would be the model number based on the illustration in this article by Sheldon Brown, and according to the official Sturmey-Archer history site, it’s the SC single coaster brake hub, introduced in 1963 and retired in 1978.]

Here’s a shot on Flikr of a bike that’s very similar to mine, down to the aluminum front basket, although the frame isn’t as curvaceous.

Mary’s grey-plastic rear reflector is a mid-60s Phillips part, found in this catalogue (PDF) …but that’s the only part, apart from the headbadge and decals, that I’ve been able to confirm is Phillips for now. [Update: strike that! It’s actually a very discoloured white rubber-cased reflector, with tiny, difficult-to-photograph letters, that identify it as a Fairylites reflector (also TI, also found on Raleighs of the period). Curiouser and curiouser.]

I wonder whether she was a custom order put together from various TI parts, and branded as a Phillips because she was assembled in or for the Canadian market?

Next I need to clean Mary up. Any advice on how best to do that would be greatly appreciated!

(The content of this post was originally published on Deborah’s other blog.)