Winter Project: Tweed Rider

This large frame Raleigh Rapide (63.5 cm c-c) was found in my daughter’s neighbor’s shed. Her neighbor – who couldn’t have been more than 5′ 5″ – had somehow managed to ride this big bike at one time. When she decided to clean out the shed this summer, my daughter spoke up and claimed the bike for me.

My thoughts from the beginning were to build this up with inverted open road, or similar style, handlebars and turn this into a sort of retro tweed ride machine. Barring that I thought I might instead drop one of the front chainrings and leave this as a five speed (five in back, one in front)… or even a 3-speed with two rings up front. Who knows? I feel like experimenting with a neat vintage-looking bike.

I have a decent 3-speed/700c wheel set that I’ll probably use. There are some wide black wall tires currently installed, but I’m thinking of going with cream Schwalbe Delta Cruisers in a 700 x 35.

I like the fenders I’ve added but don’t know if there will be sufficient clearance with the Schwalbe tires installed… just have to wait and see.

I’ve been doing short neighborhood rides and a few path rides as I currently have it built up – i.e., with stem shifters, front and rear derailleurs, original tires and wheels. The rear wheel has a huge low gear and you can simply float along at low speeds, which makes it well-suited for leisurely riding with my wife. I do want to simplify things somewhat though and when I eventually do swap things out to a three-speed I will probably install a lower count chainring also and try to replicate the low gear ratio that’s on the bike at the moment.

I replaced the stem and handlebars, inverting the new bars to create a quasi-path racer look and feel, and kept only the front brake since that is really the only one I use anyway. With the three-speed IGH installed, I’ll replace the stem shifter with a bar-end shifter on the right grip, which will clean the lines up a little more. The wrap is elkhide, hand cut and stitched to fit these bars. They are very comfy!

The lights and generator were added for both functionality and because they also look the part. The generator is noisy as hell and the lamp doesn’t throw enough light to see very far ahead so perhaps I’ll wind up pulling the guts and installing modern illumination in the vintage housing. Then again, it’s highly doubtful that I’ll be riding this thing after dark very often in the first place.

Although this Raleigh was actually in decent condition when I got it, I did notice that the cranks were loose. I was dismayed to pull the cottered cranks and discover that the spindle was rounded off. Seems that someone boogered a cotter replacement earlier in the bike’s life and now I need to replace the spindle to keep the cranks from shifting as I pedal. Since I’m changing to a three-speed IGH I need to switch the spindle out anyway to keep the chainline untainted. So, no loss really.

I also suffered a minor mishap when I first went to remove the cotter pins. (When you use a BikeSmith Cotter Pin Press, it’s important to pay attention to what you are doing rather than simply torquing down with a wrench!)

I haven’t decided if the second, lower light has been added simply for looks or if it has some helpful functionality. In any event I had to jury rig a system to allow it to attach down low at the fender eyelets near the hub. I’m not certain I like this and will probably wind up yanking it off in the near future.

I’ve also agonized over the decision to powder coat or just leave things alone. There are a few war wounds in the paint – but it’s only original once, right? The seat tube stripes are not painted: they are cheap decal material and in rather crappy condition and were removed with relative ease. I cut and replaced them with my own self-adhesive material and think the colored bands are a nice improvement.

A vintage Brooks B-17 looks and feels the part and I’ve also got a very vintage Carradice saddle bag to carry a picnic lunch. For the moment I’ve got a decidely non-vintage seat post-mounted rear luggage carrier to support the Carradice bag. What the hell… at least it’s black.

I still need to work on my outfit for this April’s tweed ride. More about that later as I find my way around needle and thread.


2 thoughts on “Winter Project: Tweed Rider

  1. Nice job! Love the handlebars. Though I think you meant “North” Road for the bars. I believe Open Road was a crappy 70’s department store brand, possibly Montgomery Ward or Kmart. As for the Carradice support, are you using it because you’re worried about legs rubbing against the bag?

    • Yes, you are absolutely correct…it’s a Fruedian slip I make all the time, calling the bars “Open Road,” rather than the correct “North Road!” Regarding the support, it was available and I feared for the aging straps on the Carradice bag. I rather think I might fabricate a proper saddle bag support from stainless steel rod when I get the motivation and opportunity this winter.

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