The phone rings and after a quick chat, my wife hands it to me. It’s my daughter.
“Dad, do you want a Raleigh racing bike?”
“Well, I’m actually trying to clear a few bikes out of the studio at the moment.”
“OK, I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
This seems to be the way conversations go around my house sometimes. I finish my lunch and then my wife and I drive over to the kids’ house.
My son-in-law says, “It’s around back. My next door neighbor cleaned out her shed and asked me what I should do with it. She was going to just set it by the curb but I told her I’d call you first to see if you wanted it.”
In their backyard stands a dusty, cobweb-covered Raleigh Rapide. It probably dates from the early 80’s but like so many of that type of Raleigh it looks like it could easily be fifty years old: slack, comfy geometry and black tubes with red outlined lugs and – of course! – a shiny head badge proclaiming “The Raleigh.”
Leaning across the fence is the neighbor, all five foot five or six of her. “I used to ride it around, but – I don’t know – it never seemed to fit me quite right.” And no wonder – the bike is huge and measures 63.5 cm c-c. The drop bars are upside down with the brake levers pointed back at a Bell saddle. “Yeah, and those brakes pinched my hands sometimes too.”
I never figured out why people turn drop bars upside down. It just looks weird and it cannot be comfortable.
I took the bike home, gave her a quick initial cleanup and discovered that she’s actually in pretty good shape, once all the dirt and cobwebs are gone. A bit more thorough cleanup, a bit of buffing with paint rubbing compound, and some further investigation leads me to find a solid frame with a crummy Shimano SIS rear derailleur that will shift between the tallest and next tallest gears only, without assistance. Since I had to pull the ridiculously positioned handlebars anyway I decided to install a set of inverted open road style bars with elk hide grips. Then I added fenders. Maybe later I’ll swap out the rear derailleur and wheels for the fatter 3-speed wheel set I recently pulled off my Falcon “tweed” build. The cottered cranks are loose so I’ll need to fix those too. But here she is, a fun and quickly pulled together build.