Monday, February 13, 2012

Stringer Fleet: 1972 Raleigh Sports


The current crown jewel of our garage has got to be Ginger's 1972 Raleigh Sports.  The Sports was a hugely popular and superbly well-made bicycle.  Many of these bikes survive today and so when Ginger expressed an interest in a roadster- or cruiser-style bicycle that would provide her with a more upright riding position than her road bike, I had no problem finding an old Sports for sale.  I picked up this particular bike in small town outside of Kansas City.  It hadn't been ridden in many years and had been living in a chicken coop; and was therefore understandably covered in bird shit.  I brought the bike home and started taking it apart and cleaning it up.  I snapped this picture when I was nearly finished with the breakdown - I decided to overhaul the headset as a kind of afterthought so the fork is still attached in this picture, and I also had some trouble getting one of the cotter pins out, so the crankset didn't come off until a few days later.

I cleaned and degreased everything that was to go back on the bike and then took a trip to my LBS for the parts that were not.  New parts that went on this bike included a Brooks Flyer saddle, leather grips, nickel-plated chain, rubber and tubes, and of course cables and housing.  Other minor additions included new cotter pins and a new shift housing stop.  Usually I try to do all the work for these rebuilds myself, but since I was reusing the old cotter cranks, I had to have the guys at Klunk press the cotter pins into place with a specialized cotter press.  In the end the bike came together beautifully and I was - and still am - very pleased with how it looked.

Since the above photo was taken, I've added a small basket to the handlebars on my wife's orders.  I was hesitant to do this, as I thought it might detract from the elegance of the bicycle.  But instead, it really added a nice touch.

Here are a few random thoughts on this bike.  The old Brooks mattress saddle that came on the bike when I bought it was probably perfectly comfortable, but nothing beats that beautiful honey-colored Flyer.  This particular machine was manufactured in Malaysia (or at least the frame was).  Initially this was a concern for me, as I thought I had maybe paid too much for an inferior bike.  But after some research, I've discovered that these bikes were built to last and are every bit as mechanically sound as the Nottingham-made machines.  I do, however, have one issue with this bike, and that is with the old Sturmey-Archer 3-speed rear hub.  The integrated freewheel is a bit of a nuisance and does not turn freely at all.  I've heard that this is an unavoidable and common problem with these old hubs, but it's a problem nonetheless.  Other than that, this bike is proving to be a real beauty and a true workhorse for Ginger's daily commute.

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