Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1975 Raleigh Sports "LTD-3 "

I have worked on a few nearly-new vintage bikes before, but up until now, all of the Raleighs seemed to have been "very used."

I picked up this bike at the same time and place I from which I got the 1948 Sports. Unfortunately, between the moment I spotted it and the moment I bought it, somebody had walked off with the rear reflector. I kind of felt bad because between October 2016 and today, it had been sitting in the parking garage with the rest of my projects and for-sale bikes, getting covered in car soot. It was especially bad in the winter because people idled their cars longer. Luckily, I did get an idea of what it needed which I ordered parts ahead of time. 

For one, the bike originally came with a really crummy double-legged kickstand that was already halfway broken. I originally saved up a steel kickstand for it but recently took an alloy Greenfield one from a parted-out bike. I also noticed that the original heron cranks were 140 mm long, possibly kitted up for a kid. The seat post was all the way up, which indicated that an adult ended up riding it, or maybe the kid just grew and never got a new bike. 

As is apparent from these photos, the bike was very, very lightly used throughout its 42-year history. The 3-speed hub and rear wheel were incredibly filthy, per usual, which meant it was properly lubricated the few times it was ridden. The chain was a bit worn but the Raleigh Record tires still had the "mohawk" of flashing down the middle in some places. And most of all, the finish was not weathered and had very few scratches on it. 

Something I noticed was that the rims had machined brake tracks which are very helpful for braking, especially for steel rims. In addition, the rims were not branded "Raleigh" or "Sturmey-Archer" but were instead stamped "Silverseal." They were surprisingly pitted with rust, to the point where my usual Quick-glo rub couldn't make them better. This was odd, considering the rest of the bike didn't look like it had been exposed to much water at all. I suspect these rims, though original, were not made in-house as they were previously, given the fact that Raleigh was outsourcing pretty heavily by the mid '70s. Case in point: this bike had a "made in England, assembled in the USA" sticker above the bottom bracket, indicating it was assembled in Enid, Oklahoma instead of having been shipped whole.

This bike is technically a LTD-3 model unlike the usual Sports, but I saw little distinction for this one other than the name. The LTD's usually came with wire fender braces, but this one came with forged and welded ones just like a Sports. Also, by 1975, Sports already stopped coming from the factory with a Brooks leather saddle by default. Instead, if the leather option wasn't chosen, they received a cheap vinyl Brooks just like this one did. The only difference with this one is the Endrick pattern rim vs. the tougher Westrick rim, but since this one has machined brake tracks on the slick chromed steel, I wouldn't necessarily call it a downgrade at all. Maybe the only cost reduction was in the chrome plating of the wheel in this case ...

I gave this bike a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, I didn't end up catching any photos during the process because I was so intent on making a time lapse video of it. 

Everything in and on the bike was extremely clean and extremely new. The grease in the bearings did not have any dirt, but it was starting to dry so I cleaned and repacked the bearings anyway. One odd thing was how hard the left cup of the bottom bracket was to remove. These usually thread out by hand after the lock ring is removed, but this one was quite a struggle. Upon removal, I noticed that there was absolutely no rust in the threads, but also no grease, which is probably why it was so stubborn. Re-installation with grease was much easier. 

The original tires were in great shape, but since the bike was going to somebody else, I wanted to ensure its safety with new ones. Upon removal, I also found two different Raleigh-branded tubes. I'm not sure which one, or whether both are original. It's possible this bike was serviced at some point given the absence of R-nut cotter pins, or that random tubes were grabbed from random boxes. Either way, I'm not too sure. 

I think this is the first Raleigh 3-speed that I have started and completed in one day. The whole process only took about 4 hours, excluding the food break and time spent fiddling with malfunctioning recording devices. 

As with the Pake video, I had to deal with issues regarding substandard recording equipment since I don't do this enough to justify new cameras. Again, I built the frozen-hot-dog-pack fort around my DSLR when it got too hot, but otherwise I shot most of this on a tablet since the highest quality wasn't a great priority (I'm not trying to make you count the number of loose bolts on the carpet). 

After so many months languishing at my apartment, I am simultaneously happy that this bike is roadworthy again, yet slightly unwilling to let it go. However, a 19" frame is way too small for me and it might be going to a close friend of mine. I am hoping that this beautiful bike will finally be able to live life and shine in the sun after 40 years in a garage.