Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Ever since I got my '58 Raleigh Sports 3-speed back in November, I've sort of had my eye out for cool bikes around campus.  Not that I have to try very heard to spot them; once bikes were on my radar, they were hard to ignore.  I was particularly happy about finding more English 3-speeds, so I'll share those ones on this post.  Millions of these bomb-proof bikes were produced every year for about half a century, more than 70% of which were shipped out of England.  It's no surprise that many can be seen still alive and kicking today.  Most of these photos are from my cell phone since I don't carry my DSLR to class.

I spotted this beautiful, blue '60 Raleigh Sports one day.  It looks original and super well cared for.  It's got the same decals that my bike had before I repainted it but just like with mine, the pinstripes had been worn away.

It's outfitted with high-end Michelin tires so I know this in the hands of a good owner.  The only thing wrong with it is the rear fender reflector which seems to have been melted somehow.  It's pretty common for these bikes to have missing reflectors, anyway.  It looks like the shifter is original.  Mine has long since been replaced.

I've wanted to catch the owner, whoever it might be, to have a chat because I'm actually pretty curious about the history of this particular bike.  It's likely that it was a grandparent's or parent's bike given to the current rider after decades in the garage.  One day, I actually did see the rider of this bike but she was headed in the other direction and had just finished talking to someone else.  She looked to be a grad student or a teacher.  I turned around the block and tried to head in the general direction she was headed but couldn't find her again.  Almost.  Oh well, maybe next year.

I think it was in April when I saw a lady, probably a professor, riding this bike when I was outside playing soccer so I ran over and started talking.  It's a '69-'72 model by the looks of the decals, but I can't remember exactly which year she said it was.  She said she just had recently bought a new bike but for some reason that she couldn't quite determine, she loved this one so much more and couldn't stop riding it.  I'd probably feel the same.  I saw this one a lot during the summer so I couldn't resist the urge to take a twin photo.

Yet another Sports! This '74 model was spotted at the one building I spent most of my waking hours at since the pre-architecture studio was inside. It's super nice and the pinstriping is still intact.  Of course, that's my bike in the back of the first photo.  I once ran into the girl (not literally) who rode it on my way to class in the summer and we exchanged greetings.  I wish I had more time to ask her where she got it.

The bike is only slightly visible on the left, but I was attracted to this house since it had that green '76 Plymouth Valiant that I mentioned in a recent post.  I'd see this car parked here every day on my way to and from class but it wasn't until I came to look at the car that I spotted the blue '67 Sports lying next to the house.  This was actually the first other Raleigh Sports besides mine that I'd seen in town.  The front fender is gone and the paint is badly chipped, allowing everything to rust.  I don't think this one can be saved.  Amazingly, the worst of the Sports bikes in town has its rear reflector intact.  There's no white tail on the fender; it must have been a U.S-only version.  Ones destined for British roads had to have the white tail for visibility's sake.  I have a few more pictures of it but none turned out as clear as this one.

The last Sports I saw was this huge, gray 23 inch men's frame version and it looks to be a '74-'76 model. Notice the lack of triangular braces between the herons on the crank.  The guy at the parking meter was giving me weird looks when I was snooping around.  I wondered if it was his bike but then again, I'm pretty sure that was a parking meter he was standing at.  I hope the fact that my bike was next to me cleared things up.   On the right is a black '60s-'70s Hercules, a lower-end Raleigh subsidiary.  Judging by the condition of certain parts, there was no way someone was riding it around at the moment.  It was leaning against the pole without a lock like the owner was going to be right back though, so I was confused.  During the summer term, I saw a bike similar to this actually being ridden by another girl.  Whether or not it was the same one, I'll never know.

Way back in early December, the very morning before I installed new tires to make my Raleigh roadworthy, I spotted this Rudge Sports on my way to class.  It was almost a twin of my bike but I didn't have time to stop and look.  I was on the lookout for this bike afterward until I managed to find it during the summer term.  It's a Rudge Sports with a strange twist grip shifter and the rear hub, which I assume is original, is dated 1963.

Here's a big mid-late '60s Raleigh Tourist.  I never thought I'd see one of these beasts here.  It's rusty but seems solid. The front rod brake has been ditched for a HUGE caliper brake and compatible alloy wheel for practicality, but the rear rod brakes are still there.

Lastly, here's a sturdy-old English frame that's been completely retrofitted to be the ultimate urban commuter bike: new cotterless cranks with toe clip pedals, a Shimano 7-speed rear hub with drum brake, and a Sturmey-Archer front drum brake Dynohub.  If my Dynohub generator ever wears out one day, I'll get one of these.  Drum brakes are great because they stay dry.  If you've ridden a steel-wheeled bike in the wet, you'll know what I mean.  Anyway, the bike also has two racks as can be seen and new wheels, presumably 650c or something else that is easy to find tires for.  After much browsing on Google images and squinting at my photos, I found that this was originally a ~1970 Robin Hood 5-speed (yet another Raleigh subsidiary).  Jeez, Raleigh made so many bikes that looked the same ...

My bike is still older than anything else I've found around town but now that I've restored it, I think it's lost some of the "cool factor" of being a survivor.  At least it won't be degrading nearly as quickly now.When I was reviewing my old photos, I realized just how much worse my bike was after the winter than it was when I got it.