New Old Bike Day

Geoffrey Butler 3-Speed Conversion

Geoffrey Butler 3-Speed Conversion

Everyone loves New Bike Day. In this case, for me it was an old bike I already had, that was recently remade into a 3-speed, and it might be the zippiest 3-speed there is. 

I got the Geoffrey Butler frame back in 2009 from a classified ad on what was then the Serotta Bike Forum, since re-christened the Paceline Forum. The frame was in great condition and the bike brand is named for a semi-obscure British racer turned bike shop owner. Geoffrey Butler opened a shop in the 1960s in South Croydon, England which is still there today. He was the younger brother of Claud Butler, a better known British shop owner with their own branded bikes. The frame I bought was a mid-to-late 70s model made with Reynolds 531 tubing and long Campy dropouts with all the cable stops intact, but no bosses or braze-ons for shifters or bottle holders. The lugs are particularly gorgeous, especially at the junction of the seat stays, top tube and seat tube. I researched what I could of the frame and even contacted the shop about finding out more about the exact year or other details, but was unable to gather much. I was told they get these requests from time to time, but don’t have any information on the old shop frames unfortunately. Geoffrey Butler contracted with several British frame builders who did the custom frames for G.B. and it seems rather unlikely I will ever be able to discover much more about it.

When the frame arrived, it was in relatively good shape with a bit of age showing on the paint and some surface rust in various spots. Every purchase or sale I have ever made on that forum has been easy and hassle-free. I first built the frame up as a traditional 70s road bike with a combination of Nuovo Record, Cinelli, 3T, Mavic, Brooks and miscellaneous parts. The lack of shifter bosses and the configuration of the cable routing was a bit of a bummer and the friction shifting and mismatched parts proved clunky and in the end I decided to convert it to a fixed gear for road bike. I had an old Shimano 105 crank, a no-name stem and seat post and a slightly dented set of Nitto drop bars anodized red to play off the logo. I built up a set of wheels with Formula Hubs and Sun M13ii rims with a Dura Ace 16t cog, an old Campy Record front brake and kept the Brooks seat, adding some red leather Brooks handlebar tape to top it off. This was my daily rider for the next couple of years, replacing the much abused Sekine I had been using steadily for some time.

Fast-forward a few years, and I decided to get Duane Waller from Chester Cycles to repaint the bike and recreate the down tube logo, leaving the badge logo on the head tube and seat tube intact. (I never did replace that Reynolds 531 sticker!)  He did an amazing job and the frame looked like I had picked it up in South Croydon fresh from making.

My buddy Michael Abene and I rebuilt the bike with mostly Miche parts and wheels. Nice as it turned out, to be honest, it didn’t really see much use at that point, as by then I had gotten my first modern bicycle, a carbon 2013 Ridley Fenix which I ride/rode just about all the time. I had a few other bikes that I would use for other types of riding, but even just doing the tours, I almost always rode the Ridley. Modernity is a spoiler for sure.

Last year, Michael had turned his Specialized Langster track bike into a 3-speed with the aid of the fine folks at Turin, who built him a Sturmey Archer fixed-gear hub with a White Industries freewheel (better shifting under load than the S.A. freewheel hub) laced to H Plus Son rims and a bar-end shifter. When he sold the Langster, I bought the wheels and shifter from him. I won’t lie…I know my way around bikes pretty well, but I am in no-way a fan of bar-end shifters and was stymied by what else to use with drop bars, as normal 3-speed shifters can’t get around the bends. I also plead the Fifth when it comes to internal geared hubs and never really liked working on 3-speeds. Turin had rigged an interesting method of shifting the internal hub by connecting the cable through the rear brake mount and down the seat stay to the hub, which could have worked, but still didn’t solve the shifter problem for a man that disavows the bar-end shifter.

Then earlier this spring, my friend Ben Fietz opened a new bike shop in Albany Park with his buddy Steven Blum. I called him up and chatted about the project and then took it to over to their shop, Tailwind Cycles to brainstorm. I wanted to keep the rest of the build the same and convert the fixed wheels to the new wheel set with some solution for shifting. Initially I proposed using the front-derailleur shifter of a touring integrated-shifter (touring bikes have 3 front chain rings and the left shifter operates the front derailleur), but the cable pull length was all wrong. He proposed using Gevenalle (Retroshift) and the guts of a Sturmey Archer shifter, but the direction of their shifting mechanism was backwards. Then we looked at using a Paul Components Thumbie with the SA shifter, but Paul told him he didn’t think it would work. It looked like I might be stuck with the stupid bar-end shifter, but he proposed using a standard SA shifter on the quill stem. I found a picture of this and sent it to him and he said that was exactly what he had in mind. Bingo.

(Side note….given the copious amount of research I did on 3-speed shifting for drop bars, and the multitudes of people and posts that I saw who have run into this issue before me, SOMEONE needs to build a 3-speed shifter with an open-end articulated clamp. For real now. Some of the solutions I saw out there were quite ghastly.)

He also reconfigured the routing to follow the down tube and under the chain stay like a traditional 3-speed. It turned out quite nice and I still have space up front for my Crane bell (every commuter needs a bell), a light and my Garmin mount. I did the shake-down ride today, and I am convinced that this is the world’s best, fastest, and certainly most stylish 3-speed in existence. And if I am wrong, I don’t even want to know.

So once again, I have my nice daily rider and a good bike for the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours. It might be nearly as old as I am, and I missed taking its maiden voyage on my birthday by a couple of days, but all the same, I love New Old Bike Day.

Hopefully you can join me on Saturday for the Tour of Logan Square to see it in person.

It’s so purdy….













The Liar’s Ride this Saturday is CANCELLED. Not a joke. Not a lie.

Hey gang,

It really sucks to announce this but I have to cancel the Liar’s Ride this Saturday.  I injured my shoulder and while I haven’t been able to see a doctor yet, that is on the agenda for this afternoon and for sure I will be unable to ride by Saturday as I can’t even put a little pressure on the handlebars for my right side. 

I looked into doing the ride with a Pedicab, but logistically and sensibly, it was not to be.

I am very sorry for this and I hope I will be up and at ’em for May’s Tour. 


Please do NOT show up for the Liar’s Ride on Saturday.  It is really cancelled.  It is not an April Fool’s Joke.

Sorry gang.  I hope to see you all soon.

Lies, Whole Lies and Nothing but the Lies

Liar's Ride Collage

Liar’s Ride Collage

For the billionth year in a row, we will gather again on April Fool’s Day for the annual tradition known as the Liar’s Ride.  It is on this day when I trade my architectural/historical tour-guide hat for my liar’s cap. It fits better anyway.

This year, it has proven exceptionally difficult.  First, the watering hole known as Fischman’s in Jefferson Park, the ending site of many of our Liar’s Rides has closed.  Part third-shift bar, part neighborhood gathering spot as well as being the site of some of the finest beer options in the city, the bar closed last year in a rent dispute with the owner’s relatives that owned the building.  I can say for certain that while my liver is better for it, we as a nation, and in particular, the NW Chicago, are far, far worse. While the good news is that they will reopen soon at nearby Six Corners in Portage Park, (NOTE:  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SIX CORNERS IN WICKER PARK YOU POSING, THIEVING, MISAPPROPRIATING JERKS!), the bad news is that it won’t be before Saturday.

The ending point will instead be a nice little wine bar in Kuala Lumpur.  You’ll love it.  Malaysia is lovely this time of year.

The other difficulty in running the annual mobile lie fest is the extraordinary competition in our land today.  It can leave a liar feeling…..inadequate.  In all humility, I confess that I simply can’t compete with the fraudulent, dishonest, deceptive, backbiting, false, hyperbolic, libelous, slanderous, inaccurate, guile mendacity that springs so easily from….certain quarters.  After all, this is an age when the average news article linked on social media must contain the phrase “Not the Onion” on a regular basis.

Honestly, what is a satirist to even do anymore?  Let alone a cycling satirist.

Come out on Saturday to find out.  You will find out along with me.

Free as always
Saturday April 1, 2017 at 11:00 AM
At West Town Bikes & Ciclo Urbano at 2459 W Division St in Chicago

Ten Years of Touring Chicago

2017 Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour Schedule

2017 Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour Schedule

Somewhere near the end of our time in Athens, Ohio, carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists was starting to create daily difficulty for me. By the time we left town for Chicago, I had left behind our home of several years and the pain and numbness in my wrists and hands meant I had to give up carpentry and wood working. We arrived in Chicago where we opened up a record store for a hot minute, then casually found a series of jobs and careers over the years until we ended up in a happy station of family, work and lives to enjoy. For many of those years, I had all but abandoned cycling, which had been integral to the majority of my life. There was no style of bike, or positioning or changing of handlebars, stems, seat height or any adjustment that would allow me to bike for longer than 20 minutes before numbness took over my grip completely. 

After years of trying to manage with stretching, braces and exercises, with better insurance, I was able to have both wrists operated on. This was followed by physical therapy to regain grip strength and lose the symptoms of CTS. It worked to alleviate the frequency and severity of symptoms, but it did not stop them.  It did however allow me to return to cycling. If you ride behind me, you might catching me doing flexion exercises while riding as I still get numbness. That said, even centuries and other regular long rides are doable now, when at its worst, I could barely get on a bike.

When I first started riding again, I would explore the city at night while my family slept. It was peaceful to venture further and further out, or ride a saw-tooth pattern through the neighborhoods dimly aglow and full of shadow from the street and alley lights.  Whole blocks would be completely absent of any living soul, just houses and apartments and schools and the built environment, people tucked behind walls and blinds. Learning to love riding again began on those rides, and a new love developed alongside, from the memories of growing up resurfacing on my bike.

The homes of the neighborhoods of Chicago were kin to the homes in the neighborhoods of Cleveland and its suburbs. Differences were noticeable, but you could have swapped out a house or a school or a store-front between the two cities without anyone noticing. It was like being in a place you grew up in, that you had never been before. After years of living here, I was just now exploring and it was like discovering and remembering simultaneously.

This exploring inspired me to find out more about the buildings and the builders and architects that made them.  I did the first Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour in March of 2008 in our then neighborhood of Portage Park, and all of it was born out of those night rides through Chicago. I thought at the time it would be fun to do, that I’d learn a lot, that I might meet some real estate clients or find cool cyclists to ride with or befriend someone new or spread the word about historic preservation. There were really a lot of goals and ideas, many of which fell by the side, but others I discovered on the journey of doing these tours.

As much as I liked finding new places, I also liked finding places where you could dig for details on the original home’s building permit, and see archived photographs of neighborhoods as they were forming and find drawings or permits or articles to discover the history of the making of Chicago for myself. I liked sharing the stories I had discovered.  I figured out it was best to tell it by pedaling all the way through a neighborhood and letting it unfold as the route went, not by date or event.

I liked all of the things that went into making and running the tours enough that I have somehow managed to get to a tenth year of these things.  

Things have changed a lot for me in the last decade, and I had to pull back on how many new tours I could do and how frequently I could do them. I have also ended up with less time to spend updating the site and putting the tours online.  That is life of course, and making time for everything we want to do is always a challenge.

I never know how much longer I will do this, and at times last year, I was discouraged with the way the tours were going and I thought 2017 would be my final year. The bell lap. When I put together the schedule, I put together a year’s worth of tours that would be something of a greatest hits, thinking it would be a nice way to finish things off.  I’m less resolute about hanging up the spurs after a few months away from these rides, but it does make me realize that day could come whenever. 

This was the first time in a decade of doing this that I tried to plan out the rides for a whole year. While it certainly has some particular advantages, overall it is truly a stupid endeavor, as so many events that can interfere with routes or interest are not yet announced. Should I discover dire interference is imminent, there is the possibility of rescheduling in the future.

I really, truly do hope to work more on the site, get more of the tours up there, put some poster and shirt specials together and tidy up around here.  The dust in this place (cough cough) is in danger of becoming sentient if I don’t get to it soon. But time being what it is, we’ll see how that goes.

Just in case this is the last go around, or to give you a little nudge to come out and try our bike tours, we’re doing a pretty sweet deal for the season.  For $50, you can buy a season pass for 2 riders, (16 ride passes total), plus 5 posters of your choice.  You could bring 16 people to one ride, or one to all 8 paid tours this year, or any combination.  In total, this is $185 worth of rides and posters for $50.  Sweet, right?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Thanks for helping me get to 10 years of this, and here’s hoping that I will see a bunch of old and new friends on the rides this year. 

Tour of Oak Park
Liar’s Ride
Tour of Logan Square
Tour of Hyde Park
Downtown Night Tour
Tour of Evanston
Prairie Tour Three
Tour of Lincoln Park
Tour of West Town

2017 Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour Poster by Ross Felten

Season Pass 2017 – $50







2017 Winter Bike Swap

2017 Winter Bike Swap Poster

2017 Winter Bike Swap Poster

What is it?

For the eighth straight year, Chicago area cyclists will be able to come together to browse and buy bikes, bike parts, bike clothes and accessories as well as discover a wide variety of companies, non-profit groups and organizations with bicycle related services. 

Who is it for?

For attendees, this is an ideal way to get ready for the spring, stock up on cheap cycling gear and reconnect with cyclists on the cusp of the spring weather.

For individuals with a bunch of extra gear, this is the perfect time to unload things you no longer use, that another cyclist would appreciate. 

For bike shops, this is an ideal opportunity to introduce cyclists to your shop, sell overstocked gear and last year’s models and designs, dent-and-scratch items, old display pieces, brand new designs, shop-branded gear and all manner of bikes, parts, clothing and accessories.

For non-profits, bike-focused companies and organizations, this is a great venue to spread the word about the work you do and network with your local cycling community.

When is it?

Saturday February 4, 2017 from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

Where is it?

Jaks Tap at 901 W Jackson Street in Chicago’s West Loop.

Who are some of the companies and organizations that will exhibit at the Swap this year?

Active Transportation Alliance, Adventure Cycling Tours, Big Shoulders Realty, The Bike Lane, Blue City Cycles, Chicago Bicycle Coalition, Chicago Ride of Silence, Chicago Velo, Ciclo Urbano, Freeman Kevenides Law Firm, Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, Knickerbakken, Life Behind Bars Cycling, Monday Night Bike Build, National Psoriasis Foundat, the Out Our Front Door Organization, the Recyclery Collective, Ride Illinois, West Town Bikes, Women Bike Chicago, Working Bikes, and many individual sellers.


How much is it?

The cost of entry is $5 cash at the door. Posters and T-Shirts from the current and past years will be available at the Swap as well.

Exhibition Tables:

Company and For-Profit Organizations*: Buy a Full Table- $100, Buy a Half Table – $60
Individual Sellers:
Buy a Full Table- $60, Buy a Half Table – $35
Non-profit full table –
Buy a Full Table- $50, Reserve a Half Table – Free

* – If you have a physical location, run a for-profit business year-round that is planning to exhibit, you are considered a company or For-Profit Organization, not an individual seller. Individual sellers are people looking to sell a few odds and ends at the Bike Swap.

Facebook Page
Chainlink Page

For questions about the swap, please contact:

Kevin Conway at or Lee Diamond at