The ’69 Raleigh Sports

The Raleigh is a 3-speed bicycle, built in 1969 in England. I refer to the color as Root Beer Brown, but I’m sure it had another name. The tires are Schwalbe Delta Cruisers in cream, and it now has leather grips (the ones in the photo are shellacked cork, but they met with an unfortunate demise). The little bag is from Velo Orange. The front light is a Cateye, and the rear blinky is a Planet Bike. I throw a pair of Basil baskets on it when I ride it any distance.

I purchased The Raleigh off eBay, after much deliberation and a hatred of my modern bike (long since sold). It arrived with yucky black foam grips and dying gumwall tires, but has otherwise seen few real aesthetic changes. That is about to change, however, as I acquire new aluminum rims for it, and have recently switched out the saddle from a vintage Brooks B17 to a new Brooks B66 with springs. I am also going to lower the gearing on the bicycle to make it easier to ride up hills.

This bike is a sweet brown workhorse. Yes, it’s heavy. Very, very heavy. A bit more heavy than that, even. I would say it weighs, fully loaded, in the nature of 40lbs. This does not make it a good bike for the urban commuter who has to ride up big hills or carry it up fifteen flights of stairs. It’s a great paved trail bike. I can crank it up short, steep hills in the lowest gear (sometimes I have to stand up, like a ten year-old), and on long, straight, flat stretches, that third gear is a marvel. Get it going, and it just doesn’t stop!

Um, literally. Yes, the brakes sort of stink. They work, don’t get me wrong, but even with new salmon KoolStop pads, the steel rims make for an object lesson in the power of momentum. And they shriek, even when adjusted. I don’t know… I remind myself of a steam train. That’s not a bad thing, you know. Steam trains are elegant and exciting. That said, I’m done with this problem. Hopefully, the new aluminum rims will make the difference needed here.

The bike has zero suspension, compared to a modern bike. It rattles and shakes its way through life, like an elderly Charo. That’s okay with me, however, because unlike my previous modern bike, it’s actually fun to ride! The Sports has fairly zippy handling, and positions my body in a very comfortable way. It’s a trade off. I can curse all the ways in which it isn’t a modern bike, or I can appreciate all those same ways. I choose to appreciate. I certainly ride it more, and further, than I ever did my so-called “comfort hybrid.”

27 Responses to The ’69 Raleigh Sports

  1. Rob says:

    I had the same horrible screeching when I put Kool Stops on my Sports. The guy at the bike shop bent the brake calipers inward a bit and they work great now. The Kool Stops are very sensitive to incorrect toe-in. That’s what he said anyway.

  2. rideblog says:

    Hi Rob. We tried that, and it didn’t help. The KoolStops kept screaming. The caliper is just dead, I think, but we’ll see.

  3. Hope says:

    Hi, I really enjoy your blogs. I was wondering when you changed over to aluminum rims, did you get a new rear hub, or continue to use the original? I have a 74 Superbe and am trying to decide which to do. Were you well pleased with the change? Thanks for giving us a peek into your life in beautiful corner of the world.

  4. rideblog says:

    Hi Hope, I didn’t get a new rear hub, just kept the original. I geared things up slightly as well. It worked out beautifully, and it’s lighter, so that’s a huge plus.

  5. chris_in_cal says:

    Who sold you, and what brand is the new set of aluminum rims for your Sports?

    I’m just starting on my green 1971.

  6. rideblog says:

    I believe the were Sun CR-18s, and I got them off Amazon, believe it or not! Well worth it.

  7. Toby Gudeman says:

    Where’d you get the rear rack? It looked like it fit well. I have a 1974 Sports of the same color, and I found an old advert on Sheldon Brown’s website that called it ‘coffee.’ I think Root Beer suits it better.

  8. rideblog says:

    Hi Toby. My Sports came with the rack, but Pletscher still makes them and you can find them online for under $30. I don’t like coffee, so I’m sticking with “root beer” :).

  9. Tina dalcerro says:

    Hi I have one male and one female Raleigh Sports bikes from I believe 1969. They are both in root beer brown. They belonged to our grandparents and are in excellent shape. The tires need to be replaced tho. Any idea where I can start as far as finding the value of these bikes.?

  10. rideblog says:

    Tim, the best way to price your bike is to check out similar listings on your area’s Craigslist, and see which ones disappear within a few days (a sign that they aren’t overpriced). If the bikes are in good shape, you should leave the tires, as some folks like to have the originals. Or replace them, but save the originals for sale.

    The bikes require a lot of work to be really modernized, but for just fun, they are great bikes to ride just as they were made!

  11. G kenaga says:

    “Love consists in this – that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

  12. Lynda von den Steinen says:

    I just got one of these from the bike shop around the corner. I already love riding it even before I’ve fixed it up. Love what you’ve done with yours. And thanks for posting, I was trying to figure out what year mine was and now I know!

  13. victor regan says:

    I have recently obtained I believe a 1969 root beer Raleigh Sport, 26′ with gum band tires, ladies bike, what can I sell it for? Please help. It has run but all original parts from Nottingham England.

  14. rideblog says:

    That depends on where you live, Victor. I suggest cruising Craigslist for a few weeks to see what they go for in the condition yours is in. It’s anywhere from $50 to $300, depending on condition and market, like any antique.

  15. Terry says:

    If you are not satisfied with your bike’s climbing ability, you may want to consider changing your stock 18 tooth cog for a 22. Also Panaracer Col De La Vie tires will give your bike a plush ride. I have a 1970 Raleigh Sports and made both of these modifications. I bought my parts from Harris.

  16. rideblog says:

    I’ve already done that, Terry, but thanks! I have a 20 tooth now, and it’s better.

  17. Denise says:

    Hello. I just purchased a 1969 Sport in root beer brown to ride around the city. This is my first bike in many years, and I wanted something with history. The original tires were still on the bike and as expected need to be replaced. I like the look of the gumwall tires. Could you please tell me where you purchased yours and any other details I may need to ensure I get the right tire (bike referenced in pic 2)?. Thank you.

  18. rideblog says:

    Hi Denise! That’s the exact year of my bike. It’s such a great bike. One (relatively) cheap thing you can do to improve it (beyond replacing the original brake pads, etc) is to lower the gearing slightly, if you have a lot of hills in your area. This is an easy thing for a bike shop to do.

    As for the tires, the gumwalls you see are Kendas that came with the bike, so I don’t much about them. They were too old, so I took them off quickly and replaced them with Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. You can get similar Kendas, and other great tires for your bike here at Harris Cyclery: http://harriscyclery.net/product-list/tires-1101/?rb_ct=1347. Thanks for asking!

  19. Marko says:

    A beautiful bike. You’re lucky. I have a green men’s model about the same vintage. I love it.
    Good luck!

  20. Nnyan says:

    Hello

    Just got a late 70’s version for my wife. Could you tell me what type of pump that is and if it came with those connectors? Also I want to replace the steel wheels and keep the hub. When you got your new tires can you tell us exactly which ones you got? Did you have to have have the tire re-spoked to the hub?

    Thank you

  21. rideblog says:

    Hi. The pump is from Velo Orange and fit inside the pump holders already on the bike. It is technically functional, but I use it for looks and to keep the pump bosses from catching my clothing.

    The wheels were completely rebuilt around the original hubs. So I bought new rims and spokes, and then put the old tires (which were only a year old anyway) back on. The tires are Schwalbes. Any bike shop can order them and can make sure you get the correct size.

    Unless your sister rides a lot, or you plan to build the wheels yourself, this is an expensive conversion and not really worth it for an occasional rider. If she rides the bike a ton, then it’s worth it for the reduced weight and increased stopping power. You could also get a front dynamo hub and lighting at that point, as well.

  22. Nnyan says:

    Thank you so much! I got prices on the tires and for the amount we ride I think we will pass. Her bike did not come with the pump connectors so I will have to look around. I did find that oldroads.com sells (replica?) pumps at a very reasonable price. Emailed them to see how functional it is. Ordered the cream Schwalbe tires and tubes with a Crane copper bell.

  23. Terry says:

    You mentioned your bike seems heavy and not too great on hills. You may want to consider changing the 18 tooth stock rear cog to a 22 tooth one. Your bike will seem more agile and will climb better. I collect English 3 speed bikes and make that change with all the ones that I ride regularly. The cog is held in place by a snap ring and you will probably have to add two more links to your chain if you make this change. There is a You Tube video that shows how to change cogs.

  24. rideblog says:

    If it doesn’t have pump bosses, you’ll have to see if it will work at all, but otherwise, the bike sounds perfect!

  25. rideblog says:

    No worries: already done. Mine has a 20 tooth cog, as that’s what was in stock, but it was a good change. I agree: it should be standard, unless you live somewhere really flat.

  26. Terry says:

    Niagra Cycle sells, on line a nice SunLite period copy chrome 16″ frame pump that comes with mounting brackets for only $4.99. The SKU number is 5516. I mounted one on my 1968 Robin Hood and it looks great!

  27. T-money says:

    Hey there! I’ve always liked Raleigh’s and their mystique, but never had the chance at one. This morning I was rooting around a junk yard/bike salvage yard and came across a beautiful Raleigh that is in excellent condition, only missing saddle and seat post. The hub says 80, which according to Sheldon is also the year the bike was built up. It is a sport, and all the online descriptions match what I am seeing, except for the glaring difference that this bike is dark blue and I can’t find anything that says that Raleigh’s came in a blue color. Do you know if this is original paint, or is it after-market? All the decals look original, but I know that is not a gaurantee of originality. Thanks for any input…

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