This afternoon I took out the Raleigh International on a maiden voyage of sorts. This is the Raleigh International that I had the great fortune to come across last summer. The bikes original owner was unable to complete the restoration that he had started on a bike that he himself had purchased new back in the early 1970’s, unfortunately I was hearing the story from his widow as she handed me boxes and bags of parts.
Today the International is finally back together and today I finally took it on its first ride in who knows how many years. After just a short 10 mile loop I can say without hesitation that it is as nice a bike to ride as it is a nice bike to look at. I guess I’ve become used to riding stiff aluminum framed bikes like my Kona Dew or Raleigh road bike, because this bikes ride immediately struck me as feeling more supple, but not flexy, and had such a great feel of being connected to the road. As it is a fairly light bike, it must just be the characteristics of a steel frame itself, rather than weight that I am feeling. Weights as I ride them are:
- 22.8 lb – Raleigh R600 aluminum frame/fork – my go to road bike
- 27.0 lb – Kona Dew – all around bike – aluminum frame/fork
- 24.2 lb – Raleigh International – steel frame/fork
Both of the more modern aluminum bikes feel buzzy on rough chip seal roads out in the county, where as this steel bike, even with the narrowest tires of the three bikes, had no buzz to speak of on all but the worst roads on today’s loop. The ride felt so good, good like I need to make a retro-modern bike out of nice old steel frame. However, not everything modern is always better. I find Clip-less pedals, especially compared to straps and toe-clips…to be so much mo better, you’ll notice in the pictures that I archived the original pedals and went with clip-less. It is just so much easier, and definitely safer when it comes to intersections and traffic. Another change I made was away from the stock glue-on tubular rims/tires to clincher rims and tires that are more easily changed out, repaired, cheaper, etc… I was able to find similar vintage rims on Campagnolo high flange hubs so the look and feel is stock. Like the pedals, clincher tires just make the bike more rideable while not straying too far, in my opinion.
There are still a few items to finish up on the International, not the least of which is that the rear axle and cluster need to still be swapped. My rear donor clincher wheel has a 6 speed cassette/freewheel with 126mm axle spacing while the frame is set at 120mm and the original wheels were a 5 speed. My plan is to swap axles and freewheel rather than having the frame adjusted, but that may be down the road a bit. Other minor stuff is a set of new brake pads as the ancient pads now on the bike are incredibly noisy and sound like they are grinding away the rims on every stop, also handlebar tape & tape job I did both kind of suck, but will do for now. And last on the minor stuff is a new set of tires/tubes, maybe hunt down a vintage pump to go with the shiny frame mount pump brackets, and a few handlebar adjustments to make a more modern fit if possible.
More rides to come on this bike. I like the ride and the looks.