Wally the Raleigh

IMG_2034This is my new bike. It's a 1983 Raleigh Olympian. So it's only "new" in that I didn't own it until now; I bought it for a small sum of money on Kijiji. Since August, I've only had my carbon road bike, and while it's fast and pretty, it's not practical for grocery shopping at the supermarket: I worry that it would get stolen if I ever park it anywhere. From a more ambitious point of view, I'm also training for the 401 Bike Challenge in 2015, and I want to make sure that I'm in good enough shape to do 300km/day by June. My plan is to ride through the winter months, but my carbon bike is most unsuitable for winter riding: a second bike seems necessary.

This Raleigh is very good for the money that I paid, but it's not a very good bike...at least not yet. Considering its age and the wear and tear that comes with it, I have to commit some time and money to make it road worthy. There are two ways to do this: I can either restore the bike to its original glory, or modernize it to bring in features that cyclists take for granted on modern road bikes. Since the bike—based on the literature that I find online—is not a high-end bike even in its glory days, and therefore not a collector item, I am taking the second option. Here's my first look of the bike:

Frame: The most important part of the bike is in surprisingly good condition, with very little rust. The colours look a bit dated—or it's just classy—and the detailing in the paint job is still good. The frame also comes with some interesting "features". For example, there is a little lever that comes down from the down-tube to align the front wheel (presumably useful when parked with a kickstand). And yes, there is a beefy Raleigh kickstand which I will definitely remove to reduce weight. The handlebar geometry is typical for bikes from the 80s, but they work well. Steering is good, but it may be worthwhile to service/replace the headset bearings, and re-grease if necessary. The rear wheel has a 126mm hub spacing, which works fine for a 6/7-speed drive train, but if I want to further modernize the bike to a 8/9/10-speed drive train, the rear triangle will have to be widened to 130mm. Thankfully, this can also be done for a steel frame, with a little bit patience and care.

Wheels: The bike uses 27" wheels rather than the more popular 700c wheels. It's slightly disappointing in that I have fewer options with tires, but the Continental Ultra Sport tires currently on the bike are fairly new and they're not cheap. From what I know, the tires are reasonably fast and durable. Also, having Schraeder valves means it's easier to pump up at gas stations when I'm on the road. I pumped up the tires to 85psi, and I'll see how well the tubes hold air in the next few days. Both quick release skewers (original parts in the bike) in the front and rear are difficult to turn, and have to be replaced, at least temporarily. Both hubs have stickers that say "sealed bearings". They feel like they spin well, but I'm inclined to disassemble them to service them.

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Chain & Freewheel: The chain and 6-speed freewheel leave a lot to be desired. They both have a lot of rust and old grease and they absolutely need to be replaced, despite the seller's claims otherwise. Fortunately, MEC sells a 7-speed Sunrace (Shimano compatible) freewheel for $15 and KMC 6/7-speed chain for $10.

Derailleurs: The bike uses Suntour front and rear derailleurs that are in good condition, and the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur aren't worn out (although they do have some grease on them), but there is a lot of rust on the metal parts. However, since they're not compatible with the Shimano components that I envision myself using, they'll be replaced too. Looking at these derailleurs and comparing with the ones on my new bikes, there certainly is quite a difference in design. MEC sells a Shimano Tourney 7-speed (RD-TX35D) rear derailleur for $15 plus tax, and I already have a Shimano 600 front derailleur that I can use.

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Shifters: With new derailleurs, I will also replace the non-indexed downtube shifters, and along with it, the brake levers (see below). Shimano's Tourney 2x7 STI shifters (ST-A070) are available online, but I'll probably use the less expensive Microshift alternative instead. Where the downtube shifters are will be replaced by a cable stop and barrel adjuster.

Bottom Bracket and Crankset: According to the sticker on the frame, the bike comes with a sealed BB already, but I can always replace it with a newer Shimano BB, and then replace the gigantic 52/42t crankset with a more practical Tourney compact 50/34t crankset to give me lower gears to climb hills while hauling groceries.

Brakes and brake levers: The brakes and levers are made by Dia-Compe, a well-known company of bike parts. The design is clearly from the 1980s, although it's neat to find quick-release levers like my new brakes. With the change to the Microshift integrated shifters mentioned above, the brake levers will be retired for something much more advanced and comfortable. The brakes calipers have reasonable braking power, but in the long term, I'll also replace them with some more reliable dual pivot brakes. A Shimano Sora 3400 brakeset current costs about $40 USD on eBay.

Since I started writing this blog entry, I've already (at least temporarily) replace the plushy saddle with a Nashbar saddle that's a bit lighter and better looking. I also replaced the quick-release skewers for the wheels, and removed the god-awful kickstand.

And yes, I named my bike Wally.Wally_Dilbert