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  1. #1
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    An unexpected favorite bike...

    Please excuse the long, self-indulgent post. A really weird thing is happening to me.

    I picked up a 40-or-so year old Raleigh Record on Craigslist for next to nothing a couple of months ago. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the bike, the Record was Raleigh's bottom-of-the-line drop bar bike during the bike boom of the 1970s. It used the same steel frame (not CroMoly - the really heavy stuff) as their iconic three-speed, so it weighs a lot for a road bike - about 31 lbs without any accessories. The gearing is typical for a "10-speed" of the time - something like 52/42 in the front, and a 14-28 5-speed freewheel in the back.

    I bought it on impulse - I was really looking for a hybrid, which I subsequently also bought, but I thought the Raleigh would make a good "beater" bike that I wouldn't be afraid to leave parked on the street, etc. And it had this really cool "Made in Nottinghamshire" sticker on it, meaning it was made in the last few years that Raleigh still made bikes in England. So, although they were about as rare as dirt, I looked at this as a little piece of history. Besides, it was cheap.

    When I got it, I was at least 25 lbs heavier than I am now, and the lack of lower gearing made getting up some of the hills around here challenging. Also - I have issues with stenosis/arthritis that make using drop bars pretty painful, so semi-regretted the impulse-buy, but decided to keep the bike anyway. I decided to turn it into a Frankenbike project.

    When I got it, it still had the original brake pads on it - they were hard as rocks, and I used to have to do a Fred Flintstone with my foot to stop the bike. So the first thing it got was a pair of KoolStop salmon pads. Using parts that were laying around the garage, I replaced the drop bars with straight MTB bars, and changed out the stem and brake levers for MTB components as well. A set of bar ends completed the cockpit mods.

    The end result is a bike with a more upright riding position that pretty much avoids the pain in my neck, gives great visibility in traffic, but is not so upright that a lot of weight is on the saddle. Sort of a perfect compromise. And, because of the frame geometry, the bike is very easy to keep on track, which relieves tension in the shoulders.

    I've got some drivetrain mods in the works (which I'll write about after I'm done if anyone is interested) to give some better climbing gear options, but I'm still waiting for the last parts to arrive in the mail (a 6-speed MegaRange freewheel and a long-cage RD). So I've been riding the bike with the cockpit mods, but with the original 2x5 drivetrain.

    So, here's the weird thing: This bike, even without the drivetrain mods, is becoming my favorite bike! It's quick, nimble, really comfortable, feels almost indestructible. There's nothing cool, hip or trendy about it - no quirky handlebars, it's not a fixie or SS, doesn't have an expensive English saddle on it, no leather anything... (I'm starting to notice a pattern in myself in creating really dorky bikes that are extremely functional but also very uncool.) It still looks like garbage, so I don't worry about leaving it locked up on the street, even for hours. And I guess losing weight and getting into better shape really made a difference, but I'm getting up those hills without any trouble, even without the lower gearing.

    I LOVE riding this bike! Isn't it strange that the cheapest, oldest, junkiest bike that I have would turn into a favorite? If it were a woman, there'd be a country-western song somewhere in this experience - maybe even several. Luckily, I'm from NYC originally, and we don't go in for that sort of thing...

    Has anyone else had the experience of having their least likely bike turn into a favorite?
    L'asino di Buridano...

  2. #2
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
    Please excuse the long, self-indulgent post.
    No sweat. That's what we're here for.

    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
    Has anyone else had the experience of having their least likely bike turn into a favorite?
    No, I'm very predictable. I like shiny.

    I will say that the last time I bought a complete bike from a store was 1992 so I'm right there with you on the aspect of making it yourself. I have to say I was momentarily shocked by your post. 40 years old bike from the 70s? No way! Aw crap. That's roughly what went through my head.

  3. #3
    Senior Member theblackbullet's Avatar
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    haha
    not at all!

    I chose to keep my aluminum '88 Nishiki Altron 7000 over my fancy '07 BMC Streetfire SSX. old bike are the best!

  4. #4
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Tony, I am having a similar experience. I recently bought a 1984 Raleigh Royal. It's a touring bike, and a couple of steps up in quality from the Record, because it's full Reynolds 531. I bought it because I wanted a bike I could lock up in town and forget about it, rather than worrying about one of the super-doop expensive jobs being stolen. It cost me the equivalent of about $150. Not bad for a hand-built 531 bike.

    Unlike you I haven't modified it so it is still the classic drop-bar English touring bike. it is without question the most comfortable bike I own; perhaps the most comfortable I have ever owned. The way it soaks up the bumps is extraordinary, it's like riding on an angel's shoulders. I find myself riding it more and more. And bear in mind, I have $10000 - worth of other bikes at home. So now I have this cheap beater bike, bought so I'd have something I wouldn't worry about being stolen, and i'd really, really hate to lose it. LOL
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  5. #5
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I will say that the last time I bought a complete bike from a store was 1992 so I'm right there with you on the aspect of making it yourself. I have to say I was momentarily shocked by your post. 40 years old bike from the 70s? No way! Aw crap. That's roughly what went through my head.
    Way! You've got to remember that I'm old enough so that those bike-boom 10-speeds were the "new" style bikes that came along in my 20s. I grew up on the old 3-speed "English Racers" (I had a Rudge and a Bianchi from the early 1960s), and most of my friends had things like Schwinn or Ross cruisers that were built like (and weighed like) Mack Trucks. So this frame is like an old friend to me.

    There were a lot of good things about those old bikes. One of the best things about them was that the frame geometry was more like what we'd expect in a touring bike today, which is a lot less fatiguing to ride than the more racing inspired stuff we mostly see nowadays.
    L'asino di Buridano...

  6. #6
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    it is without question the most comfortable bike I own; perhaps the most comfortable I have ever owned. The way it soaks up the bumps is extraordinary, it's like riding on an angel's shoulders. I find myself riding it more and more. And bear in mind, I have $10000 - worth of other bikes at home. So now I have this cheap beater bike, bought so I'd have something I wouldn't worry about being stolen, and i'd really, really hate to lose it. LOL
    I love that line, and will steal it. Fair warning! But you hit the nail on the head - that's exactly what it feels like. I've also got a bunch of other bikes (not $10000 worth, but definitely more than I'd want a spouse to know I'd spent, if I had one...), but I can't say any of them is as comfortable as this one.
    L'asino di Buridano...

  7. #7
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    My first real bike was a Raleigh - I think the model was "chopper" and it was a crazy, heavy thing with a 3 speed IGH. I have a soft spot for Raleigh as a result.

    And yes, I remember when the bike was called a "10 speed" instead of a "road bike". Good times.

  8. #8
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    My first "good" bike was a Raleigh Record. About 40 years ago. I loved the ride then. I was crazy about that bike.

  9. #9
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
    I love that line, and will steal it.
    That's OK, I stole it first...
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  10. #10
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    I think you folks have to post pictures of these sweet bikes.
    Every living thing is a GMO.

  11. #11
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post

    There were a lot of good things about those old bikes. One of the best things about them was that the frame geometry was more like what we'd expect in a touring bike today, which is a lot less fatiguing to ride than the more racing inspired stuff we mostly see nowadays.
    You know what? It isn't so much the geometry. It is that people rode bigger frames. The Raleigh I'm talking about is a 64cm frame. As a result I have only about four inches of seat post showing, as opposed to about a foot on my racing bike. And the bigger frame means a taller head tube, which raises the bars and, because of the angle, brings them towards you. So with the bigger frame you have a shorter effective reach than you would in the smaller frame, which would force you into a bigger saddle/ bar drop. Mst people these days are fitted to frames smaller that they could manage, because the fitters are trying to get everyone aero.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  12. #12
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    That could be the case, though this record was the 21-inch frame version, which isn't that big. (If I'm doing my arithmetic correctly, that's about a 54 cm frame. My two other road bikes are a 51 and a 52, respectively. Here are some interesting comparisons:

    Between the Record and my 1997ish Bianchi Eros: Though the seatpost height on the Record is only about 1.25 inches longer than the Eros's, the wheelbase is over 4 inches longer. The headtube is almost twice as long on the Record as on the Eros. The chainstays are not much longer, but that's because the Eros was intended as a sport/touring bike, so it had longer chainstays than a similarly sized road bike would. I think the bigger frame certainly contributes to the easy ride, but the significantly longer wheelbase also gives the stability and shock absorbing quality.

    I also don't want to discount the effect of the tires - 27x1.25 vs 700x25. But it's not just the road bikes that it's more comfortable than - it's a lot less fatiguing to ride than my Specialized Hardrock, even though the HardRock has 26x1.9 slicks on it. For some reason, the HardRock has always been a very fatiguing bike to ride because it needs constant attention to keep tracking straight, and has always had the tendency to dive into a turn. The only thing that comes close to the Record riding experience is my Bianchi Advantage hybrid, which I haven't ridden enough to have a complete feel for yet - still doing some work on it.
    L'asino di Buridano...

  13. #13
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    nice write up....no pics pics are required with talking (er...typiing) story about your bikes
    '82 Nishiski commuter/utility
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    looking for: De Rosa 58cm ELOS frame and fork internal cable routing

  14. #14
    Just Plain Slow PhotoJoe's Avatar
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    You people with your silly Raleigh Records! I opted for the Record ACE! I don't remember why...probably liked the color. I was in elementary school. Great bike (whatever that meant to a young kid) until I rear-ended my dads Cutlass. Bent the forks back so far you couldn't turn the handlebars one direction. You know, like the stuff you see advertised as "like new" on Craigslist these days.

    And I agree, let's see pix of Frankenbike!
    If at first you don't succeed, Skydiving is not the sport for you!

  15. #15
    Senior Member funrover's Avatar
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    Don't you love the "I can't believe it is this bike" type of favorites!!! I am glad that works for you. I have an old 197?(1 - 3) Schwinn 3 speed that is much the same way. I love that bike and always enjoy a ride on it!

    Look forward to the pics when you get a chance!

  16. #16
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    OK, if you want pics, here you go. It's a scruffy old bike, I haven't yet got round to stripping off the reflective tape a previous owner stuck on the top tube, I haven't even cleaned it up after today's ride, but here it is.
    Last edited by chasm54; 05-08-12 at 12:22 PM.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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