Pdx Commute: 1950 Raleigh 3 Speed!

Brooks roll up bags

Today’s golden sunrise gave impetus to my desire for a leisurely ride to work on my 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist.  Since it was a Saturday, the commute would be less stressful, with fewer high speed competitive riders about.  In fact, maybe the commute would be…relaxing!

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It was a wonderful promise-of-spring day, cool but dry, and very welcome after weeks of bad weather.  This Raleigh is one of the first bikes I purchased as I was beginning my bike restoration business.  It’s a Raleigh Sports Tourist “C” model, and weighing in at around 45 lbs., it is a bike I reserve for special occasions.  Since I live in a hilly neighborhood, riding this bike requires a certain mental preparation before I am ready to conquer the steep inclines awaiting me.  Fortunately, even though the bike is geared very high (I have left it all original and haven’t changed the gearing – what’s good enough for the Brits is good enough for me), I was able to make it up my hills without walking the bike, and I was rewarded with wonderful descents, especially enjoyable  because of the bike’s long wheelbase and amazing ability to absorb road shock.

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The Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, combined with the 46 tooth chainring, has a gear inch range of 42 – 75.  The AW 3 speed hub is still going strong. In fact, I did nothing to restore it but add a few drops of oil to the oil port and a bit of lubrication to the spindle.  I did have to adjust the cable tension until I finally hit the sweet spot, where the shifting is just right, and there is no unpleasant and scary “free wheeling” in the middle (neutral) gear.

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If Julie Andrews is happy, then so am I!  Riding this bike today restored my faith in Portland drivers.  I was politely waved through 4 way stops, and given the right of way at intersections, all with a happy (and proper?) wave and nod.  I can assure you, this never happens when I am riding my more performance oriented bicycles.

Brooks roll up bags

With this pleasant riding experience and fantastic work-out from pushing up the hills, I am feeling like the Brits know something that we don’t – that it is not always necessary to get where you are going in the fastest way possible.  Instead, get on your 3 speed and relax…

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist C Model

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1951 Raleigh Catalog

Here is an all original 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist Ladies model.  The above photo shows its condition after much cleaning and mechanical work.  The bike includes the original frame pump, plus a Brooks B-72 saddle and a rear Dutch carrier (both upgrades from the base model shown from the 1951 catalog above).  The frame serial number dates to 1949, and the Sturmey Archer hub shows a 1950 date, so I have concluded that this is a 1950 model. The price in British pounds indicated in the 1951 catalog translates to about $850 in today’s dollars, suggesting the bike’s quality and also the massive depression in bike retail prices concurrent with the advent of mass-produced aluminum frames built in China (more on that in a separate post).

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This “All Steel Bicycle” really is ALL steel.  The rims, cranks, handlebars, chain guard, stem, steatpost, fenders and rack are steel.  It weighs 45 lbs!!!

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The original black paint was very vibrant after cleaning and polishing – an example of the quality that was part of Raleigh production values.  The rear rack is a Dutch after-market model of the same era – but its paint has chipped and faded over the years.  The original rubber block pedals show wear, but were in perfect mechanical condition and were easy to overhaul.  The Sturmey Archer shifter was designed to be used with a 3 or 4 speed hub.  It’s a bit fussy, and combined with the tuning of the cable tension on the rear hub took some time to perfect the shifting so that the hub did not freewheel under hard effort (not a pleasant experience while climbing).  The rear fender displays a 1962 bike license from New England (plus indications of a mishap years ago).  When I purchased this bike I learned that the original owner had ordered the bike from the Raleigh factory in England, had it shipped, along with her husband’s bike to New England, and there the two of them toured all over the countryside on their Sports Tourist models.

Raleigh steel rims – matching serial numbers front and rear

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Rust on internal portion of rim

The wheels, with matching serial numbers front and rear, were seriously rusted.  It literally took days of cleaning to get the majority of the rust off the interior and exterior of the rims.

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Sturmey Archer AW 1950 3 speed hub

I call this 1950 Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub,  the “self-propelling hub”.  It may never wear out.  Combined with the massive inertia of the steel wheels and steel cottered cranks, once this bike gets going, it keeps going.  While it does take a certain psychological mindset to ride this 45 lbs machine up the steep hills in my neighborhood, the bike bring smiles to all passersby, and amazes me with its ability to absorb road shock.  The upright position is a little bit Wizard of Oz, but that adds to the fun.

Recommended by kitties worldwide.