Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Team Raleigh Build

1979 World Champion, Jan Raas

I do get to work on some pretty cool bikes at times, but every so often a project comes in that really taps into what I'd like to think I'm all about. A project that I can really take my time with and attend to the myriad details that make a restoration job so different to the usual stuff a "bike mechanic" deals with. This is one of those projects so I hope you'll bear with me for this lengthy step-by-step build (b)log...

In the 1970s and 80s one cycling team dominated the European professional road racing scene, the T.I. Raleigh squad. Packed to the gunnels with World Champions, Classics winners and even a Tour de France victor in Joop Zoetemelk, this Team was easily the strongest in all spheres of racing in their era, and won many, many races with Teams Classifications and Team Time Trials being a particular speciality for the legendary Peter Post-run Team.

This halcyon era also happened to coincide with the beginning of my nascent road racing career and like all cyclists of the day I was well aware of their successes; so much so that my first real road bike was a Hope Gibbons bought Reynolds 531 replica of the ubiquitous red, yellow and black machines, which I'm pictured here racing in 1982 in a Balfour-Pennington race around Pauatahanui Inlet...

Loving this bike immensely meant that in 1983 I ordered myself a beautiful custom Ilkeston built (Gerald O'Donovan built it himself, for those in the know!) 753 Team Professional with full Campag Super Record that unfortunately I can't find any pictures of, dammit. Suffice it to say, I have a huge emotional and nostalgic tie to these classic road bikes!

When I was contacted by James with the initial query as to my availability, I jumped at the chance. James too used to race in the Raleigh Epoch, so has a similar empathy towards these particular bicycles. You may remember I initially built the wheels up last year, then he teased me with a pic of the superbly painted and cleaned up frame once he'd picked it up from the late Master Painter, Ross Bee. Finally he put me out of my misery and brought it to me, with a large pile of sexy NOS and barely used parts, some still boxed.

As the usual shop work was keeping me very busy during the days, I decided the concentration and care that building this bicycle required would make it better if it was an after-hours job, so I had to wait until a spare evening became available. In the meantime, I took a spare hour to begin prepping the frame by filling the inside of the tubes with J.P. Weigle's Frame Saver - a spray-on treatment from the USA designed to prevent internal corrosion due to moisture.

Another job I could do while working around other business was repacking the beautiful Campagnolo Super Record hubs with my precious early 80s Campag grease. To be honest, it's not certain the grease is better than the modern stuff they were packed with, but the hubs definitely felt smoother to me afterwards! Using my Campag cone spanners natch...

While I had the hub apart I also checked the tightness and fitting of the Regina cogs, as well as dripping in a bit of ProGold oil.

A couple of humdrum days passed filled with work on lesser class carbon-fibre and titanium punter bikes, then the evening arrived for me to really get to grips with the job. I began by pulling out my last bottle of period-correct Rawleigh Bicycle Wax (cheers, Linda!) and giving the frame and fork a good coat of polish to protect it from my grubby hands as I worked on it.

Then I checked the facing and threads of the bottom bracket. I needn't have bothered, as Ross had already done a great job of this and the head tube facing. Yet another chance for me to regret the very great loss to bike restoration his untimely passing caused, quite apart from the tragedy itself...

Next I fitted the Record gear levers - just because they look so good. Note the blurry Teams Classification Tour de France 1977 Winner transfer that Ross added to his fine paintjob.

Then I had to draw on my rapidly failing memory and remember how to fit a classic cup and axle bottom bracket.

I pack the cups with Campag grease then fit the ball races, install the fixed (drive-side) cup as tight as possible using a tool that's perfectly designed to slip and remove paint (luckily not this time!), run the plastic weather seal in, then the axle.

Then the tricky part; getting the adjustable cup and lockring tight without causing the axle to have play or bind, causing premature wear. Having the shell faced made this step much easier than back in the day. The modern bottom bracket formats certainly make life much easier for mechanics but they definitely don't have this kind of soul, sho 'nuff.

Now came the only glitch with this whole build; the b/b James had obtained had been sold to him as a Strada (road) one, but as soon as I tried to install the cranks it became apparent that we had ended up with a Pista (track) one - I'd never thought to measure it in advance, as we had both simply assumed that we had been given what James had been sold. While I continued to as much of the other work as I could, James got busy on the interweb to locate a correct replacement - a process that took some weeks.

I continued in the meantime by installing the headset cups using my old Bicycle Village VAR headset press, which dates from the 1960s I believe.

I chucked the rear wheel in, then played with the cool dropout adjusters to make it sit right.

I fitted the Super Record 1983 rear derailleur - despite having had the jockey wheels replaced at some stage, this derailleur is in mint condition.

Then more of the Ancient Arts came into play, as I fitted the forks and wrestled with the fine adjustment of an old threaded headset - again, the modern ahead and integrated headsets make things simpler, but getting a Campag headset adjusted just right is SOOOO satisfying...

The front wheel went in next.

Then I dropped it out of the stand and properly re-installed the seat post, which had been fitted only so I didn't have to clamp the frame in my stand, followed by adding the lovely Brooks Swift saddle. I never got on with leather saddles, but I know many riders who swear by them and this one certainly looks the part.

Gorgeous Cinelli stem and bars were next, along with the drilled out Record brake levers.

Jewel-like front Record brake caliper - they don't make 'em like this any more!

Then the rear caliper, adjusting both sets of pads as well as I could before fitting the cables.

I'd hit the wall for that evening, and the last thing I wanted to do was make any stuff-ups because I was too tired. I stopped work and took a picture of my progress for James to examine over his morning coffee, then headed home for the night feeling very satisfied with my work despite the b/b problem.

A few days passed, then one Saturday after a couple of clients had picked up their rides I was able to get back into it. A new b/b still hadn't been found, but I could certainly tape the bars and cable it up...

The right side taped. We chose Fizik tape for the perforated look, as well as for the provided gel pads to ease road shock.

Both sides taped now, including the red trim tape. Grouse!

Running the cable housing through the cable stops and checking the length before trimming.

Once cut, I use the angle grinder my Dad-in-Law got me a few Christmases ago to swiftly and easily de-burr the end of the housing, preventing any possible cable friction or fraying. Yes, another out of focus Oli special pic sorry - a few more jobs like this and maybe I'll be able to afford a decent camera! :D

Then I used my Park Tools third-hand to clamp the calipers while I ran the Campag brake inner wires to their respective anchor bolts and tightened them up, then I whipped the tool away and finished off the final brake adjustments.

Next I cabled up the rear derailleur. The correct Campag coiled wire housing looks great. Before I actually connected the cable, I did my best to set the limit screws to set the travel of the gear mechanism.

Then snicked up the cable and crimped an end-cap on.

Once I got home I sent another progress report for James to salivate over...

Another week or two passed then last night I got an email from James saying that an axle had finally arrived, so he brought it in at lunchtime today. Once I had the wheelbuilds and fork services of the day out of the way I headed home to wolf down the lovely fish and chips my boy Kester had cooked us, then I turned around and headed straight back to the Batcave to finish off the job at last.

First, I whipped out the redundant bottom bracket assembly, then I repeated the initial installation finding the adjustment even easier this time.

The stunning right-hand crank and chainwheel slid smoothly onto the axle with the perfect alignment and frame clearance - phew! This is apparently the final ever iteration of the classic Super Record crank, with a reinforced spider and the noticeable lack of fluting on the crankarm itself. Just beautiful.

The left-hand crank went on just as well, and gave me a chance to show off the crankbolt spanner I got with the SR cranks I bought for my Raleigh 753 back in 1983. The Americans call it a Peanut Butter Wrench, as it's ideal for itinerant roadies to use as an eating utensil.

Clamping on the front derailleur was always a bit fraught - you knew it was going to mar the paint when you tightened it up, so perfect placement the very first time was essential to prevent obvious garks - as was ensuring it was tight enough to prevent it slipping down the seatpost the first time you shifted to the big ring!

Next I pulled the chain out of it's original packaging. The Regina Extra Oro was always highly prized for it's durability, but also it's gold side links which were an early presage of the bling phenomenon.

My puny chain tools didn't seem to be manly enough to deal with this chunky old-school chain but somehow I managed to connect it up okay.

Then it was time for the boxed (but used) Super Record pedals, still silky-smooth after 25-odd years...

Finally, I connected up the front gear cable and ran through the gears - ah, the old Campag over-shift then slight backshift to line it up brought back memories of many a fluffed sprint/hillclimb/attack as the chain agriculturally slammed from one cog to the next! The stark contrast to the snappy perfection of the latest 10 and 11 speed indexed drivetrains couldn't be more pronounced, yet there's magic in the old down-tube shifters yet...

Time for the last pictures of James' stunning bicycle in my shop before he comes in tomorrow to take it away and ride it like it should be ridden.

It's not often a build takes me several weeks, but I enjoyed every minute of this great job. I'm totally buzzed out about how well it turned out, and I think you'll agree it looks Fantastic! Thanks James for letting me take on this job, and thanks to any of you who've had the endurance to read this Gargantuan Epic of a build log.

Cheers, Oli


Anonymous said...

that was something a bit special. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy these detailed posts of high quality and interesting builds. Good show.

Oli said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I do it for the love of it... :D

Anonymous said...

Oli, it has been a pleasure working with you on this project. I thought I was a fussy bugger, but I think you win hands down. The clincher (arf!) for me was your taking the tyres off and turning them around so the label was on the right (and proper) side, and actually taking apart the freewheel when I only asked for a drop of oil to free up the 20+ year old ratchet mechanism. This has truly been a labour of love. It has to be when you realise the investment of time, research and money begun back in August last year. If I should find myself a 753 Special, I'll be knocking your door down again.

Actually, it'll be sooner. There's a Gazelle Mondial Champion waiting for the Oli treatment.

Oli said...

Thank you, James! It was my pleasure, and thanks very much for the job...I hope you enjoy years of blissful sunny days to ride it on. Cheers, Oli

Unknown said...

The bike I lusted after as a junior in the mid 80s, I had a Gran Sport which was the one below in the 83 Raleigh Catalogue. Really nice to see a rebuild of a great classic bike like this, I currently have a similar machine, An Ernie Clements 531pro frame and Full SR gruppo, its a hair raising ride compared to modern kit with the old school brakes and DT shifters but with an aura of its own. Thanks for this excellent trip down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon your site and enjoyed the read. Raced a 531DB Team Raleigh in Scotland 30 years and 60 lbs. ago. Only other one here at the time was David Whitehall's (Scotland Team rider) and his got stolen! Still got the bike but it's not as nice as that one. - Davie, Isle of Islay, Scotland.

Oli said...

Cheers, Davie! Nice to hear from the Isle...all the best, Oli

Anonymous said...

Terrific read! realy enjoyed it, I'm currently about to start a very similar project, But I'm looking for a set of decals before I totally strip the bike, I know ther is an outfit in Australia that do them but I was hoping to find somebody in the UK, great read and great bike Thanks

Sprocketboy said...

Lovely bike. I just finished the restoration of my own Raleigh Pro, which was done up in Raleigh Racing USA colours. I have posted some photos here:

Dave C said...

Great looking bike. I just picked up a Raleigh and most of the model decals are missing . The serial number is SB6758. Can anyone help me identify the model and year.

Anonymous said...


Are you selling bikes? i'm interested!


Oli said...

Sorry Ryan, I don't sell bikes at all. Cheers, Oli

Dave B said...

Hi Oli,

Wonderful story of a build of a REAL bike - brings back a heck of a lot of great memories.
Keep pedalling - use those gears, and don't stuff your knees like so many of us oldies.

Dave B.

Andrew said...

Hi Oli,
After reading about your build I had goosebumps because of the similarities with my TI build.
I began purchasing near new SR Gen. 2 gear off EBAY. The plan was to replace the 24.5" TI I owned while at Cant. Uni. (sold frame-too small!). A 86 25.5" 531c Raleigh panasonic with SR group came up on Trademe which I won for $251 and picked it up from Glenn Innes - 5 km from home.
The build:
Painted by Walter thorburn
1983 SR rear with grey jockey wheels
Regina oro cluster and oro chain(slotted side plates)
Fluted SR 177.5 Cranks (Donor bike had the non-fluted ones)
Large flange Hubs with fiame Yellow TUBS (From ebay TEXAS )
Cinelli 66-44 bars
White brake hoods - Would like gum ones...
The seat off my first TI - but have a Near new B17 seat from another 25.5 raleigh I just bought.
And finally.. NEW IN BOX SR SL pedals from Trademe (a CHCH deceased estate..) @$250.00 same price as the donor bike!
It has been complete for 2 years but only ridden once a couple of weeks ago.
The only blemish is bruising on the SR headset.. ( Back to Ebay for a nicer one...)
It'll hang on the wall waiting for a hot summers day to cruise the auckland waterfront..
Cheers Andrew