Saturday, December 18, 2010

A treasure found

 After seeing hundreds of them on blogs and not one in person, I finally had my first encounter with a full chaincase Raleigh Sports.  This gorgeous bike belongs to Rick, who holds the special distinction of being an accomplished racer and a first-class vintage roadster fan at the same time.

Rick's beautiful 1951 Raleigh was in the rack at my LBS, where Rick is a mechanic.  After showing me its four (!)-speed Sturmey Archer hub and still-working dynamo hubs, Rick then made the very generous offer of a test ride.  I happily accepted.

The Raleigh rides as smoothly as you'd expect from a bike owned by an accomplished mechanic.  It shifts smoothly through its four gears, the top two of which are remarkably steep.  It's hard to imagine when you'd use fourth gear on this bike, unless you live at the top of a steep hill.

The green paint is well-preserved and a darker green than the color I normally associate with Raleighs.  I imagined it as a transitional color from the blackout bikes of the war years, but I could be miles off on that musing.

Among the features I hadn't before seen was the headlamp, which was chromed only at the outer edge; the rest is steel painted the color as the bike.  I actually like this design better than the all-chrome one that would dominate in the years that followed.


  1. That bicycle is in spectacular condition, how great that you've been able to document it. I have never tried a 4-speed SA hub, but have read a lot about them and would love to find one. That saddle is quite interesting as well.

    Oh and I too know several racers who ride stately roadsters for transportation, which I think is great!

  2. Beautiful bike, wait until you get a chance to try a big roadster...

    I have one 4 speed, but it is getting converted to 5 speed.

    Aaron :)

  3. Used to have this model Raleigh. It was bought in the early 1950's.
    The bar directly under the saddle with the two silver clips, used to have a tube in that position, that fitted about four batteries. These batteries took over from the dynamo when you slowed down. My bike was exactly that colour and yours looks like it's still in original condition. obviously been well cared for.

  4. Thanks, Anon. I'm happy to report this beautiful bike is now mine. And, the seller included the dynamo pack you describe. Now, wiring it and re-installing it is another question.

  5. It really is a lovely bike. Over here in England, they are just starting to become popular again. Raleigh Superbes and Sports, Humbers, Rudges, etc... it's great to see. Sadly, many bikes have fallen foul of our damp weather, but many more have been pulled from barns and placed on ebay. I've just added to my collection with another full chaincase Sports, A ladies Dawn Tourist, and a 'His and Hers' pair of 28" wheel Raleigh Tourists from the mid 30s. £120 for the four! An oily rag and some oxalic acid for the rust... should come up a treat.

    I'm loving the enthusiasm you guys are putting back into vintage 3-speeds in the US. Keep it going!