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Dunelt Light Roadster and the Summer of 1965

Submitted by on January 12, 2010 – 11:10 am9 Comments
Dunelt decal

Dunelt decal

1965 was a year of ambitious social reform in the United States and yet many events that year would also foreshadow a period of impending social tension and uncertainty.  During his State of the Union Address, Lyndon Johnson would unveil his “Great Society” social reforms intended to end racial injustice and poverty and later that year he would sign the Social Security Act of 1965 thereby advancing his “War on Poverty”. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted which was the beginning of the end of  entrenched discriminatory voting practices.  And as winter made way for spring 3,500 US Marines were shipped off to a tiny Southeast Asia country called Vietnam.  They were the first American combat troops sent there.

Julie Andrews won Best Actress for her role in Mary Poppins and Rex Harrison took Best Actor honors for his work in My Fair Lady. Jefferson Airplane was just taking flight while Paul and Paula were calling it quits.  Bob Dylan was booed at the Newport Folk Festival and myself, I was still making poopy diapers.

Wrights vinyl springer bicycle saddle

Wrights vinyl springer bicycle saddle

On a smaller scale, 1965 was the year a young woman named Susan from Minneapolis, Minnesota would finally save enough money from working two jobs to buy her very own Dunelt ladies three-speed light roadster.  I am now the proud owner of that bicycle and I recently asked Susan to tell me more about the history of the bike.  This is Susan’s story in her own words:

1965 Dunelt Three-Speed Light Roadster

1965 Dunelt Three-Speed Light Roadster

“I bought the bike in the summer of 1965 at a bike shop at Hennepin and 28th Street for around $100. I was between my Junior and Senior year at West High School also located at Hennepin and 28th Street. I earned the money for the bike as a waitress at Lee’s Broiler located at Hennepin and 28th Street and at Abdullah’s, an ice cream shop on Lake Street near Lake Calhoun. We lived in an apartment on 28th and Humboldt Avenue about a block from West High School.

There  are three lakes near where we lived. Lake of the Isles within walking distance and Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet within biking distance. All three lakes are connected so you can canoe from one to the other. I spent many days riding my bike around the lakes either by myself or with my best friend. These three lakes are beautiful! All three only allowed sail boats and canoes. Lake Calhoun is the largest of the three and has swimming beaches, vendors and offers summer concerts and fish fry’s.

Lake Harriet is the second largest offering summer symphony concerts, swimming beaches and vendors. Lake of the Isles is the smallest and very quiet. During high school, I also rode my bike out to Lake Minnetonka to visit my cousin (18 miles) and I spent one summer in St. Louis, MO visiting my sister. Of course, I had to take my bike with me and  made special arrangements with Branniff Airlines to transport it. These days of biking were my fondest memories.

After high school, I went to college in Moorhead, Minnesota taking my bike withme. Here, I rode around campus and the residential neighborhoods. After graduation in 1970, I was off to eastern Montana for a job with bike in tow. Then in 1971 to Baudette, MN not far from the Canadian border and back to Minneapolis in 1972 living on Bryant Street where once again I enjoyed riding my bike around the lakes.

In 1979, I moved to Texas and lived near Park Lane and Eastridge riding my bike often around White Rock Lake. There was one spot at White Rock where I would stop and enjoy the view as it reminded me of Lake of the Isles in Minnesota.

In 1986, I moved to north Dallas and then to Plano, in 1987 where I currently reside. My husband and I bought new 18 speed city bikes in 1989 and my Dunelt was kept in the garage since then.

I had put the bike out by the trash on bulk pick up day a few months ago but stewed about it and went back out and brought it back into the garage before they came. I could not bring myself to junk it.”

Susan told me she had considered selling or donating it to a bike store in hopes that it would end up in the hands of someone who could get it back on the road.

So the road to me becoming the new owner started with my friend Dennis (our neighborhood realtor, who is often my late night riding partner), who was at Susan’s house one day and inquired about this old bike he spotted in her garage.  She said she no longer need it and he told her he knew someone who would appreciate it so he packed it up.  The next thing  I know I get a phone call from Dennis who only says “look on your front porch when you get home.”  We live in the same neighborhood and often use my front porch as a transfer station where we might exchange palm trees, kids clothes, etc.  Dennis is also one to pull a gag so for all I knew a White Elephant might be waiting to greet me.

Dunelt bicycle chain guard

Dunelt bicycle chain guard

I have been itching to own and restore a British three-speed for some time now (and I keep pestering Hubbard to sell me one of his to no avail) so naturally I was thrilled when I drove up and saw this classic ladies bicycle waiting for me on the front porch.  It’s nearly as old as me so naturally it shows signs of major wear and had been in storage a while so it was covered in dust and grime but I thought it was simply gorgeous.

Dunelt three-speed light roadster

Dunelt three-speed light roadster

So here are the technical details:

Underneath the dust lies a black, Dunelt ladies light roadster (or “sport” model) with a three-speed Sturmey Archer hub. Dunelt was acquired by Raleigh.  They’re probably better known for making motorcycles.  Everything is original yet the vinyl saddle bag is a goner as is the rear fender.  The Wrights vinyl springer saddle is actually in very good condition but I’m debating the merits of replacing it with a Brooks B67.

Dunelt head badge

Dunelt head badge

I’m on the hunt for some replacement fenders and was sadly outbid a time or two on Ebay for a NOS pair.  Dang!  The wheels are typical 26-1/8th” and it appears the chrome rims can be cleaned up and shine again.   Harris sells a replacement wheelset (including the Sturmey Archer three-speed hub) and although not over the top expensive, I’m hoping I can make the existing wheel set meet my needs. I’ll be cleaning and polishing it all as weather and time permits.  I’ll post new pictures when the restore is done.

Until then why not enjoy some of what Susan no doubt would have heard on a transistor radio while riding her bike around those Minnesota lakes back in the summer of 1965:

Formerly known as The High Numbers, “I Can’t Explain” was the first single the band produced under their new name, The Who.  It was released in the US in February, 1965.  According to Creem magazine Jimmy Page was the session guitarist who played rhythm guitar in the original studio recording.

By the end of January, 1965, “Downtown” would become an international #1 hit for Petula Clark.

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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