1973 Raleigh Carlton Super Course

I’ve got a new project bike.

I initially went out to see a 1960’s era Olmo that a fellow had advertised on the Kansas City Craig’s List. The thing is, I’m finding myself seduced by the beautiful Italian bikes, and this despite my wonderful Freschi – not to mention a Colnago Super Sprint that isn’t even getting any road time to speak of. But what the hell! What’s one more Italian bike? “And,” I told myself, “the price is right.”

But the Olmo didn’t really impress me all that much once I got out there. True, it had 3T handlebars, but it seemed heavy and it had those awful Campy Valentino mechs. The Brooks saddle was pretty cushy too, although it appeared to have plenty of threads left to tighten things up. The seller, Jim, showed me a basement full of bikes including some really cool vintage three speeds, a nice blue mid-60’s PX-10, and his babies, a museum of track bikes. A nice Bottecchia for good measure… and is that an old Raleigh Super Course?

Sure enough.

Sixty bucks later I’m on the road with a rusty, dusty, grime-encrusted Raleigh Carlton in the back of the van. But what the hell: it’s my size.

I’d originally pegged it as a 1971 vintage, but I don’t know squat about Raleighs and, as it turned out, my initial guess was off by two years. The location of the serial number, and the number of digits identified it as a 1973. Plus, the unusual Capella lugs also helped BikeForums.net members to nail down the date for me as well.

But jeez was this thing dirty! And after cleaning off some of the grit, it was apparent that the paint on the top tube and in places on the down tube was pretty rough. Clearly I’d be needing to put Scratch-X to the test here.

The worn – but still very functional – Brooks B-17 saddle has lots and lots of life left in it, and the price of the bike was worth it if the only thing I salvaged was the saddle. The leather was pretty dry, but I’ve got a tin of Brooks Proofhide, and three treatments over the weekend brought back some of the suppleness. It shows wear, but feels great.

The Stronglight cranks and chainrings are another nice find. I usually don’t have problems with cottered cranks thanks to my BikeSmith cotter press, but I had the Dickens of a time getting the cranks properly aligned again after removing them to do a little cleaning and maintenance. Again: worth the price of what I paid, just for the crankset.

As the photos here illustrate, everything is mechanically sound but cosmetically grungy. It’s going to take a fair amount of elbow grease to bring this old girl back around to the aesthetic beauty associated with the Raleigh Carltons. My approach is to clean the painted surfaces, getting into the tight spots with WD40 and a soft toothbrush. For the chrome, aluminum foil, Windex, and elbow grease can’t be beat.

The weekend was cold, very windy, and generally miserable so I stayed indoors and scrubbed. The photo at the top of the page illustrates how she’s shaping up: looks good from three feet away, but the paint (so far) won’t yet hold up to close scrutiny. The chrome and stainless steel bits have polished up nicely though, and new white housing adds to the beauty. I’ve replaced the cables, realigned the brake levers, and replaced the Serfas with more appropriate styled Pacelas with tan walls. (I’m saving the Serfas – they are nice tires and look like they may have less than ten miles on them!) I’ll stop by the Wheel Cyclery tomorrow to see if they have some perforated white bar wrap and I need to dig through my boxes of crap to locate some replacements for the brake pads – either that, or I may try to sand the old ones down to see if I can get a bit more grab than the current dried up ones are providing.

There was a swap meet today at Peddlers. I picked up some NOS racing gloves with the mesh backing so that I can pretend I’m Greg Lemond. I also snagged a decent light for my randonneur build and got a great deal on a 1973 Brooks Pro. I also had another chance to buy that Olmo this morning for quite a bit less than the original asking. Still passed on it – after all, I have enough Italian bikes hanging around the studio.


7 thoughts on “1973 Raleigh Carlton Super Course

  1. Eric Powell says:

    I have two Raleigh Super Course bikes. One like the one pictured. The other is a blue lady’s model. Each bike is all aluminum with original 26″ wheels. Over the years deterioration from lack of use has taken its toll.
    I thought restoring each bike would be a fun project now that I’m retired. My question is, is there a market for these bikes in their current condition (some rust, worn handle bar wrappers, needs some re- paint). Vs potential value after being completely restored? I have skills so much of the work would be performed by me.

    • The Super Course has an almost cult-like following among vintage cycling enthusiasts. They tend to sell for a higher dollar than comparable bikes of the same era. As for marketability, I think that depends partly on your location and partly on actual condition of the frames. eBay, much as I hate it, has expanded the bicycle marketplace beyond your immediate community, as has Craig’s List in some ways. For better information, I’d recommend joining bikeforums.net and visit the Classic and Vintage forum; there are many friendly and very knowledgeable folks there who would be more than happy to share their insights into the Raleigh Super Course.

  2. Jonahtan says:

    I am looking at very much the same bike in green…I have been lookig for any vintage steel 70’s era road bike, particularly Raleighs and came across one of these in Seattle where I live. The more I read, the more I want to buy it. Hopefully it’s as good as people think.

    thanks, for the post.

  3. Tom Howard says:

    I have a Super Course 12-speed, one of the last Carlton-built frames, which I purchased new in 1981. I put around 20,000 miles on it over the years, and let my nephew have it when I bought a newer road bike. It has since come back to me and is now my fixed gear, although I still have most of the original bits. I rode the hell out of that bike, and recently installed new cones and axle in the front wheel. The bike has a mishmash of components. Suntour derailleurs and shifters, Raleigh-branded cranks from SR. Atom hubs, Weinmann concave rims, generic headset. I have thought about thinning my bike herd and listing it on ebay. Currently there are about a dozen Super Courses in various conditions and at different price points. Not one has gotten a bid in about a month. In fact, more keep showing up in the listings. Mine is a 25-inch frame. The paint, that nice burnt orange, has the typical scratches, but over all, the bike is rideable in its current fixie format, or could be restored as a 12-speed. If anybody is interested, feel free to contact me. tahoward324@yahoo.com

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