Raleigh Improvements

So as I’ve posted about before, I have a 1961 Lady’s Raleigh Sports that I adore. I lent it to my friend Katrina while on the Big Trip, and got it back a couple months ago. My friend Keith (whom you may remember as our host in Edmonton)(and who is also my roommate’s husband now) has been visiting for the last month or so, and has helped Shawn do some work on it.

So, what have we done to Miz Raleigh, as Katrina calls her?

The most obvious thing that’s changed is that we removed the big front Wald basket. I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve started thinking that it looked “off” on the bike, but damn, it was useful. The bike doesn’t have braze-ons for a rear rack, and I don’t want to force one on there, so carrying stuff is an issue.

Shawn got me a secondhand black Carradice bag that hangs under the back of the saddle, (photo) which is fine, but it requires more fussing with than a basket or pannier. The classic look can’t be beat, though.

Taking off the basket had one fun side effect: I can now ride the Raleigh no-handed. Whee!!

The front wheel has been swapped out for one with a dynohub and alloy rims. The rims are lighter, but the dynohub means the bike’s actually become heavier! The dynohub is older than the bike but similar to what you could buy then. It creates surprisingly little drag, but it also doesn’t put out much power. We’ve hooked it up to a cheaper light for now. It has a totally useless halogen, and a flashing LED. I have a headlight on my helmet anyway, but the bike will eventually get a nicer light. Another advantage of the new front wheel is the alloy rim, which is much newer. It has way better stopping power when wet than the original steel rim. I’ve had a close call (and a fall) while riding on wet days with the old steel rims, so that makes me pretty happy. If the rear wheel fails for whatever reason, I’ll probably get the hub built into an alloy rim as well, but it’s not a priority.

Speaking of lights, though; I now have a rear fender light! (photo) I used to have a bikeportland.org sticker there that says “If you were riding, you’d be happy by now.” The light is battery-operated, but it looks good and is nice and bright.

I swapped out the older leather saddle for the Brooks Champion Flyer I bought on tour. That saddle doesn’t work for any kind of riding with drop bars for me, but it’s just fine when I’m sitting upright. I love the way it looks on this bike, and I can definitely feel the springs doing their job over bumpier road. I do think a wider saddle might be more comfy, but I’m going to give this one some time before giving up on it entirely. I wonder if Clever Cycles has the lady’s model of this one (which is shorter and wider) in black? Hmmm…

What else? Keith did a couple of smaller maintenance things, like taking up the slack in the chain and fixing an issue in the rear brakes. Shawn rubbed oil into the frame and fenders, which makes the bicycle look gorgeous even with the dents and rust.

I’m ridiculously excited about riding this bike again. I end up going everywhere with a big goofy grin. (For another love letter to the Raleigh Sports, and a list of various changes made to one, read Snarkypup’s recent blog post.) It’s so comfy! And I feel taller on Miz Raleigh than I do on my Novara Randonee. Some of it is the upright posture, sure, but I think the bottom bracket is higher too. In general, though, I feel like I’m riding “on top” of the Raleigh in a way that I don’t on the Novara, although that might the low-ish handlebars. I love how maneuverable the bike feels, and I just feel so confident on it.

I asked Shawn the other day, “Is it silly for me to love this bicycle so much?” and he said, “No.” Of course, he was busy taking pictures of it at the time, so he might be biased.


(The Carradice was temporarily removed for a repair.)

There’s an entire flickr set of photos of Miz Raleigh that Shawn has taken, some old and some new. And now that this bicycle has had some obvious changes, I should probably get a new picture for the header of my blog! (Side note: Holy crap I wear those socks a lot.)

I’m not done tinkering with the bike yet, of course, but the rest can wait. Other than getting a different headlight, I also want to replace all the housing. Some of it is original and is cracked and falling apart. The shifter cable housing is black and doesn’t match the bike. I’m thinking of hammering out the various dents in the fenders, and/or trying to remove the rust or patch the paint, but that’s all more ambitious stuff.

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11 Responses to Raleigh Improvements

  1. anniebikes says:

    It’s sportier looking than before. I miss the front basket in this photo. With that installed it reminded me of the lady on the Wizard of Oz.

  2. Pingback: Cabin Fever or Raleigh Appreciation Day « Bikes, the Universe and Everything

  3. CJ says:

    I love a black bike. There’s just something so perfectly classic about it, to my eye. I look forward to hearing more about your Sports. I just can’t get enough of reading about the bikes people own and love, I guess.

    • I love black on older classic bicycles or Dutch bikes, but on newer bikes/road bikes I tend to favor light blue. I’ve been horribly tempted by this year’s Surly Cross Check just because it’s the “perfect” shade of light blue. Seriously, if they put some glitter in the paint they may as well have written my name on the top tube.

  4. Jason says:

    My own bike is in serious need of up-gearing. It’s a stock Gary Fisher and right now, is naked of anything except brakes. The wife and I plan on moving in-city sometime next year, and I have dreams of using it for commuting. However, that means getting mudguards, lights, a rack for the back, and probably a hundred other things that I don’t even know of yet.

    …somehow, I’ve got to find the money for all this…

    • The expense of setting up a bike varies, but it’s really not bad. Fenders are usually about $30 (http://ecom1.planetbike.com/7004.html, most Portlanders–including myself–have some variation on these). Racks are about the same, but you can often get perfectly good secondhand racks. Lights vary wildly in cost, but the simplest Knog lights that let you be seen really well are about $30 each for a headlight and taillight. So, for a perfectly good setup of a rear rack, front and rear lights, and fenders, you’re looking at $100 to $120.

      And you can make it cheaper, at least on the rack front. CityBikes (http://www.citybikes.coop/) sells stuff like that secondhand.

      Also, no one says you have to buy all that stuff at once. I think the lights should come first, obviously, but if you start riding in the summer you can put off buying fenders a little longer, for instance.

      I don’t know what kind of Gary Fisher bike you have, but one of my exes had a hybrid Gary Fisher with flat handlebars, and he enjoyed the bike immensely more when he switched to “upright” aka North Road style bars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moustache_handlebar.JPG but ignore that it says mustache bars, those are actually a slightly different style). They can be had very cheaply secondhand and aren’t expensive to install if your brakes are compatible.

      Bah, once again I am a font of un-asked-for advice.

  5. I agree, not at all silly to love a bicycle that much! Of course, I might just be saying that to justify my feelings about my own bikes…

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