1976 Raleigh Gran Sport
My partner in all things, Theresa, has been riding a Raleigh Alyeska touring bike for the last decade or so. While it is a great bike, it is a touring bike and relatively heavy. So, when we ride together I often feel that I am cheating by zipping around on one of my nimbler machines. And, the Alyeska’s top tube is just a bit shorter than she prefers, so I decided to build up this Raleigh Gran Sport, which has a longer top tube, into a lighter weight iteration of its original self.
The early 60’s version of the Gran Sport was something of a sought after machine, with Sheldon Brown describing his lust for its Campagnolo components, even though at this time the frame was built with standard tubing. This model, which I have dated to approximately 1976, is built with Reynolds 531 tubing for both the frame and fork, and it sports a Carlton logo as well. However, some of its original components left something to be desired, such as the low end plastic Simplex derailleurs and shifters.
I admit to a great fondness for this beautiful sky blue color scheme. It is reminiscent of my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour. With the white accents, I decided it was really necessary to use white cable housing. I set up the drivetrain using Suntour components. I had a NOS Suntour V-GT rear derailleur that I mated to a single bar end shifter. I used a vintage Sugino crank with an SR drilled 42 tooth ring. The freewheel is an early index version 6 speed 14/30 Shimano. Index freewheels actually work better with friction shifters than non-index versions.
I wanted to keep this bike very light and simple, so there is no front derailleur or extra shifter. To add to its elegance and feathery weight, I decided to use my treasured Campagnolo/Mavic wheelset. This was one of the first sets I built, using smooth as butter vintage Campy hubs laced to new Mavic Open Pro 36 hole rims. That meant a conversion to 700c, from the bike’s original 27 inch wheel diameter – not a problem at all.
The blue color in the Mavic logo nicely accents the sky blue frame. For the riding position, Theresa expressed a preference to be more stretched out as well as upright enough to make city riding safe and enjoyable. I was thinking of using these big ol’ Soma bars, but I knew I would need a pretty long reach for the stem. I found this Nitto stem with a whopping 130 mm of reach, but it had to be shipped from Japan!
I also ordered this very pretty Cardiff saddle, a brand which I have come to love (one is installed on my Meral), and I will be curious to see how she likes this compared to the Brooks on her current bike. I used Mafac Racer centerpull brakes, and installed a small TA randonneur rack to mount to the front calipers. Probably we will add a minimalist rear rack at some point, as well as some fenders. These 35 mm Panaracer Paselas will be perfect for the kind of riding we do. One of the very nice features on this frame is the elegant cable stop for the rear brake.
I found some light blue cloth bar tape from Velox that matches the frame perfectly. To keep with the vintage appearance I used Velo Orange’s City brake levers. Now this nice old Raleigh has a new look and a new lease on life. I am looking forward to Theresa’s first test ride!