Most modern are designed with the primary intent to catch your eye on the sales floor, and persuade you to buy.
That is not what a Raleigh Sports was about These bikes were built to last years, with reasonable care. From the mid 19th century, well into the 20th, the word "steel" was magic in Britain. Britain's rise to an industrial superpower on the crest of the Industrial Revolution was based, as much as anything else, on the steel industry and the new technologies it made possible: Raleigh originally introduced the slogan "The All Steel Bicycle" to differentiate Raleighs from competitors who used cast iron for some critical parts, a heavier and cruder technology.
The mystique of steel caused the British cycle Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page to be slow to adopt newfangled materials such as aluminum, and many British cyclists believed, even well into the 's, that steel rims, for instance, were superior to aluminum ones. These days, this seems laughable The fact that Raleigh 3-speeds are made of steel shouldn't fool you into thinking that these bikes were cheap or inferior in any way Raleigh 3-speed bicycles were introduced around the turn of the century, and kept improving in technology over the years, reaching a peak in quality probably in the mid-to-late s.
They continued to be built in Nottingham until the mid's, when the glamour of the speed fad pushed them out of favor with the rising baby boom generation. Raleigh, in its glory years up into the 's was the absolute opposite. In their enormous Nottingham factory covered 40 acres and employed nearly workers. A Raleigh bicycle of this era would have a Raleigh frame, made of Raleigh Tubing conected with Raleigh lugs, with a Raleigh bottom bracket, Raleigh cranks, Raleigh pedals, Raleigh headset, Raleigh handlebars, Raleigh stem, Raleigh seatpost, Raleigh hubs Sturmey-Archer was a Raleigh subsidiary and even Raleigh spokes.
All of these parts would have been made in the same factory. The saddles would be from Brooks, another Raleigh division, and the rims and tyres would be from Dunlop, a company closely related to Raleigh. This level of integration has never been surpassed in the bicycle industry, though Schwinn
Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page close in the same era. If you are not sure the rear wheel on your bike is original, the charts below should help you determine the approximate date of manufacture.
It may also be possible to date your frame by its serial number. Note that the serial number information below is fragmentary and incomplete, and many bikes have proven to be much newer than the serial numbers would suggest. In general, the quality reached its peak in the s, and quality started to go down around the early 's, as management kept searching for ways to make the bicycles cheaper.
The luxury "Superbe" models were very similar, except for the saddlesthe use of a locking front fork, and the inclusion of a Dynohub lighting system. The Dynohub was also available as an extra-cost option on the Sports. Older Raleigh-made brakes used special cables with moulded ends on both ends of the cables, as shown.
These cables are no longer available. They were supplied in different configurations for front, gent's rear and lady's rear applications. The cable came with the adjusting barrel. To replace the cable assembly, you would unbolt the adjusting barrel from the caliper. Later Raleigh-made brakes used standard cables with conventional anchor Older models had a braze-on with a tapped hole on the right chain staybehind the chainwheelto secure a full chaincase.
Some later models had simple braze-ons on the seat tube and down tube to secure a "hockey-stick" chainguard. Older models had forged front fork endswhich are 3-dimensional, and are round where they fit into the end of the fork blade.
These fork ends are countersunk on the outer surface, to accommodate the old-style axle nuts which had a shoulder that fit through the washer. The shoulder provided secondary wheel retention. Later models had flat, stamped fork ends, fitted into domed and slotted fork blades. Older models had rubber block pedals made in the Raleigh factory in Nottingham. Raleigh was the last bicycle Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page to make its own pedals.
They were very high quality, and were completely rebuildable. Raleigh used to even offer replacement rubber blocks. They came in two lengths, the longer size coming on gents' bicycles, the shorter on ladys' models.
In the late s, as a cost-cutting move, Raleigh fitted horrible cheap pedals that had no ball bearings. The version used on 3-speeds had an oval rubber platform. Later models had pedals made by other companies, notably Union. Although these often featured the Raleigh logo, they were not the same quality as the Nottingham models. Older gent's models had a brazed-on fitting for a pulley, for the shift cable, on the underside of the seat lug. Older clamp-on pulleys used a two-piece clamp made of rigid steel.
The two halves of the clamp hooked together opposite the clamp bolt. Pulleys and triggers and fulcrum clamps of this era used special shoulder nuts which had a sleeve that fitted into on end of the clamp, and had a "D" shaped head to prevent the nut from turning as the screw was tightened. Later pulleys were plastic, and the clamp was a flexible steel band. These generally used a rectangular nut stamped out of
Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page steel, a much less elegant but certainly cheaper nut.
Latest models did not use pulleys, but ran housing all the way to the right chain stay. Top line Raleighs generally came with Brooks leather saddles.
The standard Sports models came with the B Early Sports models, and the deluxe Superbe models, came with the B, which is similar, but has two large coil springs at the rear. Later models came with mattress saddles. Older British bicycles in general used 32 spokes on the front wheel, 40 on the rear.
The front would be laced cross 3the rear, cross 4. This generally permitted the same length spokes to be used on both wheels. Raleigh used Dunlop tyres exclusively until [sometime in the late '60s]. Older models came with all-black tyres with a block tread. Later upper-end models including the Sports came with the Dunlop Sprite gum-wall, "Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page," later, with the Nylon White Sprite, a blackwall with double white stripes running along the sidewall.
Until the mids, tyres used cotton canvas fabric.
These tires were easily damaged by rim cuts if ridden underinflated. If the rubber became damaged so that moisture could get at the cotton carcass, the cotton would rot and the tyre would fail. In [sometime in the mid '60s] Dunlop switched to using Nylon cord instead of the cotton, and the tires became very much more reliable.
Raleigh was by far Dunlop's largest market for bicycle tyres and tubes. In [sometime in the mid '60s] Raleigh and Dunlop got in a disagreement about pricing for the new model year. Each company thought it was indespensible to the other. Dunlop called Raleigh's bluff, and said, in effect, "We don't really need the bicycle tyre business anymore, there's lots more money in car and motorcycle tyres.
If you won't pay the prices we ask, we'll just get out of the cycle tyre business. This caused a crisis in cycling circles, because Dunlop tyres were, at the time, the absolute pre-eminent brand, and none of their competitors was able to make a product that was nearly as good.
Cyclists got very good at installing "boots" to prolong the life
Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page their damaged Dunlops, since even a damaged Dunlop was better than anything else you could buy.
This situation continued for several years, until the Japanese learned to make tyres that were even better than the old Dunlops. Raleighs of the "Sheldon brown retro raleigh dating page" and 60's came with Dunlop Airseal tubes, a premium grade inner tube with a fully-threaded valve stem and a knurled valve-retaining nut. The original valve caps were metal, and included a two prong valve wrench on the exposed end. The valve caps often had a short length of rubber tubing covering the valve wrench.
This was to protect the inner tube from being punctured by the cap while it was rolled up, before it was installed on a bicycle. Sturmey-Archer right-side axle nuts have a long, cylindrical projection, with a curved lip for the indicator chain.
The cylindrical part had two viewing holes to facilitate visual checking of the cable adjustment. Some time in the 's, they changed to a two-piece system, with a plain hex nut the same as on the left side and a separate cylindrical nut, knurled on the outer end.