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The Raleigh Competition Chronicles: rustystrings61's 1973

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The Raleigh Competition Chronicles: rustystrings61's 1973

Old 07-25-19, 09:26 AM
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The Raleigh Competition Chronicles: rustystrings61's 1973

In 2001 I plucked a '71 Raleigh Competition from a trash heap by the side of the road. It was sans headbadge, with traces of lagoon blue and white found under multiple layers of exterior latex housepaint and rattlecan black and blue. It also had Nervex Pro lugs, rapid taper chainstays, a Stronglight 93 with a single drilled 42T ring, and best of all, was exactly my size. It sat on top of a bookshelf in my apartment until one afternoon, out of sheer boredom, I built it up as a single-speed with a cheap set of 27-in wheels and some parts on hand. I took it for maybe a two or three mile ride, came back home and immediately started building it up with better parts. The ride was simply that good. Lazarus, as the bike came to be known, was built up over the next two years or so as a 10-speed with 27-in wheels, then as a 14-speed with 700C wheels scrounged from the back of the LBS before taking final form as my commuter fixed-gear, running 42x16 on Mavic Module E 700C rims laced to a generic Maillard front and a Maillard track rear hub with a hollow axle and a quick release. Fitted with 28 mm tires and later fenders, it just WORKED. The ride quality was really, really good, so good that in later years I would question why I decided to custom order a fancy Mercian Vincitore for fixed-gear use, because the ancient trash heap Raleigh rode and handled as well.

I hit a downsizing phase about the time my job started letting me park my bikes indoors during the workday. I decided I didn't need a beater commuter, and wound up selling Lazarus to a guy in Canada via the big auction site. It wasn't long before I realized I kinda needed a mad-scientist experimental bike. I puttered around with several through the years, but none of them were quite what I wanted. I took pleasure in the Clunker Challenges, because those tap into the same low-budget funky bike building impulses, the same joyous inner cheapskate for whom the scavenged, re-purposed and recycled approach is almost as much fun as riding the results.

So I found this one.



It had all the hallmarks of a good clunker: chain rusted so badly it took a set to the shape of the chainrings, chrome on the forks peeling and sloughing off like a snake shedding its skin, bird poop, replacement steel front wheel, rear tubular rim replaced with an alloy 27-in Weinmann, undersized seat post with insufficient shim crammed in, bent handlebar - perfect.

It also had the hallmarks of 1973 bike boom crunch, best exemplified by the rear brake cable housing stop bridge - at some point I need to get a protractor and see how far off from horizontal it really is -



On the other hand, it was my size, and I've always been a sucker for any bike I genuinely feel sorry for. And it was cheap, which helps. So it came home with me.
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Old 07-25-19, 09:51 AM
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The first order of business was to tear it all down to the frame. That went much better than I feared it would in some ways, and created problems in others. I had already started the process five minutes after I picked the bike up, when I pulled into a parking lot and jumped out and squirted PB Blaster around the seatpost, stem, pedal spindles, crank bolt covers, etc. - and then repeated the next time I stopped for a few minutes. One more soaking and then the bike sat overnight in the workshop until I could get back out to it.

The seatpost wasn't stuck - there was a cheap 26.4-ish post with what looked like a beer can shim that still spun loose. Of course the seat lug was misshapen from being over-tightened. I gently massaged it back out to its correct shape and tried a known 27.2 mm seat post. Nope. Having an undersized seatpost in place for who knows how long had allowed moisture and corrosion. I thought about that while I loosened the stem bolt, whacked it with a hammer, then forcefully tugged - and was rewarded when the stem turned and began to come out. I had to use a LOT of force to start turning the pedals, but a long Eldi pedal wrench and using the floor for leverage broke them loose. Even the T.A. crank bolt dust caps came free without violence, much better than the last time I removed a pair of those.

The cranks themselves were another matter, and involved the worst moment of the whole process. The drive side came off with out a hitch, thanks to the T.A. side of my Park crank tool. The left side was another matter - it sheered a bunch of threads off. I sat back and pondered. Standard cranks are 22 mm, T.A. are 23.0 - and I have a genuine Stronglight puller with 23.35 mm threads, and will they be able to bite into the damaged ones and get enough purchase to remove this crank? And yes, they do and did.

I had already put on heavy gloves and run my hands up and down the fork blades, which had removed about half the remaining chrome. I wound up wrapping them with paper towels and soaking them with Evapo-Rust overnight. When I cleaned them the next day, there was still massive buildup, so out came the bronze bristle brush. In the end, I think perhaps 20-25 % of the chrome remained. I sighed and reached for the can of gloss black Rustoleum spray paint, putting on three coats by the time I had to pack up to go on vacation for a week. I decided to focus on the areas that had been chromed, but to leave the top of the forks original as much as possible, figuring new gloss black can be faded pretty easily into old but freshly polished gloss black.

Before -



After -



I was okay with the black forks - that era Competition always looked unbalanced to me, lots of chrome up front and none behind. Or so I told myself. Besides, my plans for how to build this bike have very little to do with its ex-works specifications.

Last edited by rustystrings61; 07-25-19 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 07-25-19, 10:13 AM
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When I returned from vacation, I dumped all the components into a bath of Evapo-Rust, then wrapped the frame in paper towels and soaked them in the same overnight. It helped, but the bike wasn't winning any beauty contests. So I did some spot sanding to smooth down remaining pockets of rust, then grabbed some long skinny rags and the Meguiar's polish and shoe-shined the frame tubes until they were almost respectable. I'd already lost the fork decal remnants when I washed the bike with soap and water, and now most of the seat tube graphics had faded into illegibility, but that's life. I took a deep breath and grabbed my Hozan lockring tool and my pin spanner and approached the BB. Lo, it came out easily, and for the second time this year I discovered a T.A. bottom bracket in excellent condition under a layer of gummy old grease.

On a grocery run, I took a five minute detour to the chain auto parts store in the same plaza and emerged with a brake cylinder hone. Back in the workshop I gently lubed the three stones with some brake fluid, did the same for the first few inches of the seat tube interior, chucked up the drill and went to work. A few minutes later the tube had a nice shiny interior and the seat post fit exactly right when given a fresh coat of grease. Good enough.

That done, I thoroughly cleaned and reassembled the BB with fresh grease, then attacked the headset. I had lost a few of the loose balls when initially disassembling it, but gambled that one of the sets of caged bearings I had left over from a Tange headset project would fit. It did, almost like it was made for it, so I used that for the top and loose balls for the bottom, marveling at how smooth it felt when I was done. Sure there were some rust spots on the exterior of the headset pieces, but the interior was excellent.

I used up the last of the Armor All paint protectant spray I had, coating, wiping, polishing, repeat until the bottle ran dry.






Sure, there's patina and it's a long way from perfect - but again, it suits my purposes nicely.
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Old 07-25-19, 10:25 AM
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So what exactly is my plan for this bike?

The T.A. bottom bracket will remain, because it is nearly identical to a Nervar bottom bracket, only nicer made. And I have a set of Nervar Star cranks, the ones with 128 mm bcd. And look, here is the 42T ring I just bought -



and soon I will add photos of the Surly Dingle 17/19T fixed cog I scored used from one online group, and the Surly New Track double-fixed rear track hub I scored for cheap off the auction site, and the hollow axle I already had in my parts bin. En route to me as I type this is a barely used Surly Ultra New track front hub, as well as a 44T Nervar ring scored for a reasonable (!) price from French eBay. After that, I get a set of Sun CR-18s and a mess o' spokes and probably a 21T single-speed freewheel, unless I score a deal on a used 20/22T Dos Eno. I already have a set of 35 mm Continental Cyclocross Speed tires that barely fit the last bike they were on, but should work beautifully with this frameset.

I think the dropouts are long enough that I can run 44x17 for a 70-in pavement fixed gear; 42x19 for a 60-in dirt road fixed gear; then 57 and 54-in freewheel gears for either dirt or gentle singletrack. I would also, if the cross-chaining isn't too bad, be able to run 67 and 63-in fixed gears as well.

More as it develops.

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Old 07-25-19, 01:35 PM
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As this is yet another Raleigh Competition thread on yet another distinct bike, let me as this generic question -

Are these bikes worthy of serious restoration? Is the frame worth spending the time and money to strip, repaint, maybe rechrome the fork and stay ends?

Is this model worthy of the restoration so many willingly spend on Raleigh Professionals and Internationals?

I do not ask the question in terms of economic return on investment. I'm not sure what the context is but it isn't a question about flipping the bike or other financial gain.
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Old 07-25-19, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
As this is yet another Raleigh Competition thread on yet another distinct bike, let me as this generic question -

Are these bikes worthy of serious restoration? Is the frame worth spending the time and money to strip, repaint, maybe rechrome the fork and stay ends?

Is this model worthy of the restoration so many willingly spend on Raleigh Professionals and Internationals?

I do not ask the question in terms of economic return on investment. I'm not sure what the context is but it isn't a question about flipping the bike or other financial gain.
You ask good questions, and I am not sure I can answer them. I'm not so sure about "restoration" per se, where one rechromes and repaints and hangs all NOS parts on it, not unless it is an individual bike that one has lots of history with, or one that replaces a long-lost bike that one had history with. Maybe that's true of any old bike, the costs of "restoration" to new appearance are always greater than any recoupable value.

As the basis for a custom/semi-custom mount, or for creating something that fills an individual rider's needs, the Competition (and the Gran Sport and the Super Tourer and the International) have a following on this forum. Peter Weigle has converted Competitions to 650B constructeur machines, as has our own @gugie. These bikes have good bones, good tubing and decent lugs and a design that lends itself to lots of riding styles, and the bike boom examples in particular continue the old tradition of an all-rounder bike. People pursuing a certain ride experience on 650B wheels like them a lot - once they have been reconfigured.

That we have so many threads running right now featuring Competitions just illustrates that it was a widely sold bike (for its category). It's not rare like a Confente or a Rene Herse or an Alex Singer, and they don't have the sheer panache of the aforementioned Professional or International - which came with Campagnolo, which means lots of guys who wanted them couldn't afford them back when, but now they can.

This particular Competition was in poor shape, poor enough that I feel no qualms about taking it in the direction I have chosen. I still won't do anything permanent that cannot be reversed - if someone felt the need, they could strip and rechrome the fork, though it would be a pricey choice - but at this point its value is purely a reflection of its functional use. If I wanted a nice clean pretty Competition, I was offered the same bike but with Nervex Professional lugs that appeared to be all stock save for the saddle and bar tape, for not too much money. That one looked clean enough that with some serious focused TLC it could be burnished back up without the need for paint or chrome.

But what I wanted was a particular ride experience, which the Competition gives in spades, sort of like my other beloved beater, a Gitane Tour de France that is also a fixed-gear conversion. Both machines were built in a hurry, there is no evidence a file came anywhere near these lugs, but in the end they ride superbly.
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Old 07-25-19, 03:11 PM
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And also, these frames typically have tire clearance out the wazoo, I can run 35's with much room to spare.
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Old 07-25-19, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
As this is yet another Raleigh Competition thread on yet another distinct bike, let me as this generic question -

Are these bikes worthy of serious restoration? Is the frame worth spending the time and money to strip, repaint, maybe rechrome the fork and stay ends?

Is this model worthy of the restoration so many willingly spend on Raleigh Professionals and Internationals?

I do not ask the question in terms of economic return on investment. I'm not sure what the context is but it isn't a question about flipping the bike or other financial gain.
They're decent - if shoddy - 531 frames that were made in enough numbers that they are relatively accessible and frequently find their way into the hands of someone looking for a project bicycle.

If you ask me, they are not worthy of factory-accurate restorations, as tons of decent originals still exist. However, if the owner finds that their particular example rides to their liking (as @sykerocker pointed out, these things came with Flavor of the Week geometry), it's a great platform to restomod. Slightly more worthy than a Super Course, and somewhat on par with the Gran Sport/Grand Sport/Grand Sports for just generally running into one.

-Kurt
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Old 07-25-19, 06:09 PM
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Parts gathered so far ....

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Old 07-25-19, 07:06 PM
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Personally, I have a certain amount of "Rosebud" affection for this bike, but only those with the fully-sloping crown; others need not apply.

Of that type, I have not seen very many in my size (the 24 1/2" model).

OP, I like your all-black fork, too. It looks totally appropriate to the bike, missing nothing.

Last edited by Bad Lag; 07-25-19 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 07-25-19, 07:24 PM
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Cool thread and nice work. I have a black Raleigh competition with a few issues that I need to do something with and this thread may get me motivated!
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Old 07-25-19, 08:01 PM
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@Bad Lag, as @rustystrings61 said, the 1970s Raleighs are often good enough to invest in, but some are really badly made. You need to get at least a little lucky. We've had some stories of Raleigh frames with unconscionable workmanship. I had a Gran Sport which had sloppy brazing but worked fine. A friend had an International with a fender eyelet on one rear dropout and none on the other! I currently have a Super Course and an International, and they're made well enough, and they work fine.
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Old 07-25-19, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
@Bad Lag, as @rustystrings61 said, the 1970s Raleighs are often good enough to invest in, but some are really badly made. You need to get at least a little lucky. We've had some stories of Raleigh frames with unconscionable workmanship. I had a Gran Sport which had sloppy brazing but worked fine. A friend had an International with a fender eyelet on one rear dropout and none on the other! I currently have a Super Course and an International, and they're made well enough, and they work fine.
They also tend to be overpriced unless you go dumpster diving like the OP did,
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Old 07-25-19, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
They also tend to be overpriced unless you go dumpster diving like the OP did,
Seller asked $120.00. Offered $100.00.
He said yes.
No dumpster involved.
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Old 07-25-19, 08:17 PM
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Great writeup. I had a '79 and would love another. It had some top tube issues with a rust spot but otherwise the black, gold and silver really looked nice together.
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Old 07-25-19, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by chainwhip View Post
Seller asked $120.00. Offered $100.00.
He said yes.
No dumpster involved.
You're not the OP, right?

I reread the first post.

The OP's first bike was a freebie, the second I reckon wasn't.
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Old 07-25-19, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
You're not the OP, right?

Did you need to post this? Good for you if you thought this added something of value to the discussion.
No, didn't need to post it.
Have noticed you need to laugh more.
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Old 07-25-19, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by chainwhip View Post
No, didn't need to post it.
Have noticed you need to laugh more.
lol.

This is a pretty easy going group in C&V. You could try that.
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Old 07-25-19, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
...

If you ask me, they are not worthy of factory-accurate restorations, as tons of decent originals still exist. ...

-Kurt
Mine was brazed so poorly that a "factory-accurate" restoration would not pass a safety inspection. I had no qualms over having the (Heuret French standard) dropout hanger modified to Campy/Japanese, the seat lug "restored" to handling a proper seatpin, water bottle bosses added and the chrome removed and painted. Had it powder coated. I did not replace the decals. Raleigh did not do quality enough work on this frame to justify me spending money to advertise or glorify them.

But it is a classic old-school Reynolds 531 frame and rides like one. Not remotely like any bike today. But it is the classy ride of a long lost era. (My '73 would have been right at home 20 years before.)

Ben
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Old 07-25-19, 10:43 PM
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My current ride is from that same long-lost era and has been with me for almost 50 years. I rode "Bob the Bicycle" just this afternoon. It's a Bob Jackson, circa 1974.

It replaced a 1973 Raleigh Grand Prix made by Gazelle in Holland during some sort of strike in England. The Gazelle GP rode nothing like my friend's Raleigh-made (Carlton-made?) Grand Prix which was a much nicer ride than mine.

Just on a lark, I checked on Craigslist today. There is nothing in my size anywhere near me.
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Old 07-25-19, 10:54 PM
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Raleigh Gran(d) Sport(s), Competition, even the International in the early 70's = chameleon bike.

Enough sold in the US that it doesn't make sense to try and make it a perfect OEM bike unless you purchased it that way, could be a fixie, a 5 speed, an IGH bike, or a complete mod.

The ride, the ride...comfy, spiffy, sporty, light, and easy on the body.
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Old 07-26-19, 08:03 AM
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These old Raleighs are so much fun to mess with. As for value vs. reward, or whatever, who knows? It's an individual choice. I fell down the rabbit hole with a "free" '73 Super Course, not in a dumpster, but in a back alley scrap pile of BSOs that my brother in law dragged home. I didn't need it, didn't want it, but he brought it over anyway. Beautiful Capella lugs, ugly green spray paint over chrome and everything else, stuck seat post, cracked braze at seat stays (maybe related), but the abandoned orphan just spoke to me somehow. I have modern carbon bikes, and a '64 Legnano that I've had since new, but never built my own bike before. What the heck, how much could it cost? A lot. I stripped the paint, found the rear dropout chrome was in decent shape, got the seat post out with great difficulty, lots of PB Blaster and equal parts patience. I had the frame cracks re-brazed, also added water bottle bosses, and missing cable guides. I was able to hang parts, not all that expensive, mostly Suntour stuff, and triple chain rings to fit the existing AT crank and BB, and ride it in its stripped and naked state for a couple of months. What a great ride. I decided to bite the bullet, and go for a professional paint and decal finish. I've got nearly $1K into a bike that might be worth $400 on a good day. That said, its worth every penny to me, in terms of experience, pride of doing it (almost) all myself, and I really enjoy the comfy, but responsive ride. That was 3 years, one Eroica, and 3000 miles ago, and I'm still glad I did it.

Some guys never learn. This past February, I came across a $20 CL '78 Super Course. No fancy lugs, but nicer dropouts, and more useable "stuff" as a starting point. The paint is patina decent, and I may replace some decals, but it is rideable and I'm enjoying it too. Not a Competition, International, Professional, or even a Gran Sport, but these are great bikes, a real blank canvas to play with and enjoy. As a BF lurker, I got a lot of inspiration and good ideas from threads such as this one. Get out there and save these bikes, I'm glad I found these.

"Free" frame as found.

Stripped paint, Capella lugs.

Braze repairs.

New paint, decals, NOS Raleigh chromed fork, original rear chrome.

Fun bike, worth every $$$ to me.

Next project, $20 on CL, '78 Super Course.

Easier build, but still a fun ride.

Last edited by Slightspeed; 07-26-19 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 07-26-19, 11:43 AM
  #23  
Bad Lag
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Oh, wow, those are really nice, especially the green one.

NOS fork??? Where the heck did you get THAT?

I saw one Competition in my size but the seller was asking $900 plus $150 for shipping, so, no. I am curious and it would be a fun project but not at that price range.

Heck, it was fun just to look.
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Old 07-26-19, 01:28 PM
  #24  
Slightspeed
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
Oh, wow, those are really nice, especially the green one.

NOS fork??? Where the heck did you get THAT?

I saw one Competition in my size but the seller was asking $900 plus $150 for shipping, so, no. I am curious and it would be a fun project but not at that price range.

Heck, it was fun just to look.
The fork was a $39 Ebay find. Though it had a Raleigh sticker, it's also marked Tange. The three pointed crown is not correct, but this is not a museum piece, it's a daily rider, and the parts are mostly in character, if not actually correct. The paint is a Toyota automotive Spruce Mica that I liked better than the Raleigh green, or the other root beer color that I found remnants of under the green spray paint. Thanks for the kind words,
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Old 07-26-19, 04:37 PM
  #25  
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While my introductory Competition came from a trash heap, I found this one on CL under an ad marked “3 bicycles.” The link led to three blurry photos of this, a 1970 Dunelt and a Walmart Schwinn, and the sum total of info that interested me was “Raleigh - $70.” I had every intention of haggling the price down until I got there and met the seller, who combined a nice attitude with what can gently be called reduced circumstances. I paid him his asking price.

Oddly enough, I have owned two other Competitions - one a complete bike that came from and went back out on the old iBob list c.1999, the other a frameset given to me because of a loose seat stay cap - that one I gave to a young guy here in town who rode it as a fixed gear as long as he was around.
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