Monday, April 25, 2016

Throwback: Raleigh Tourist Comparisons

I have recently unearthed some old photos from way back before I first overhauled my DL-1 Tourist. Here, I remember lining it up side by side with my old Sports to see just how much bigger it was.

The Tourist, at nearly 7 feet long, appears to dwarf the rather compact Sports that is just under 6 feet. The higher bottom bracket (and therefore higher seat) and 28 inch wheels add to the effect. This was even before I installed a massive rack onto the Tourist.

With the rear ends lined up, this is how the fronts compared. The frame angles are also drastically different.

Here are some more recent photos of the Tourist, this time accompanied by a recently-acquired 1966 Raleigh Sports that a friend borrowed for the ride. The Tourist, this time with a rack and bags, towers over the bare-bones Sports.

One of the shops downtown, owned by a known Raleigh fanatic, bought out the entire stock of Flying Pigeon single-speed roadsters from another guy who closed down last year. Knowing the owner would be interested, I brought my Tourist over and we compared the bikes.

Please excuse the horrendous photo quality, as all I had was my cell phone, but it appeared that Flying Pigeon started copying Raleigh roadsters in the 1940s and '50s and never changed the decals. However, Flying Pigeon cannot simply be written off as a "Raleigh DL-1 copy" nowadays because it has attained a history of its own, serving as the main transportation for mainland Chinese for the bulk of the 20th century just as the Raleigh did in other developing countries and England.

The thimble fork crowns, pinstriping, and "Made In [...]" script are dead-ringers. The bridged connection in the middle of the loop and down tubes, along with the taller head tube, was evocative of the Tourist that preceded the Tourist-as-we-know-it.

What should have been a "2030 High Tensile" crest and a clearly-copied "The All-Steel Bicycle" decal are on the seat tube. The larger vertical graphic was taken from other Raleigh models. On the front, simple lugs that were reminiscent of a pre-1954 Raleigh.

A question I have is why Flying Pigeon has found a cult following in the U.S. especially on the west coast, while the original Raleigh DL-1 has remained in the shadows. My thought is that the existing Raleighs are all ancient at this point, either needing a complete overhaul or an astronomical purchase price. Flying Pigeon, on the other hand, is still being made. With the "Dutch bike" craze going on in the States as well, many people have found true "Dutch" bikes to be slower and heavier on American terrain than they had expected, possibly turning them toward the faster and lighter "English Roadster." Flying Pigeon may have just happened to be making English roadsters at the right time.

2015 Raleigh Tourist de Luxe. Images from Raleigh of Denmark

Now, if only somebody could start selling the modern Tourist in the U.S. ...