In the summer of 2001 my sensible, affordable, 10 year old citybike finally, utterly and completely broke down. The next day my grandfather called and asked me if I might be interested in his bike. Not quite knowing what to expect I hesitated for a moment but finally agreed. Turned out to be the right choice.
My grandfather's old bike turned out to be a '74 Raleigh Tourist in a truly superb state. It was acquired by my grandmother at a bicycleshop called 'Kalkman' in the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam as a gift for my grandfather back in the '70s. My grandfather being a busy man, he unfortunatly didn't get around to riding his bike much. It remained in his car-garage for most of the time. According to my father the total mileage was probably less than 10 miles when I got it. Although it was hardly used, it was well kept. Not a speck of rust. Almost all parts are original; brake pads, tires, the Brooks leather seat, tire-pump. Only the rear reflector was probably added some time ago, due to new regulations. The only thing I've replaced so far is the lock. The old one was of a type that could be opened simply by hitting it with a brick and living near Amsterdam where literally thousands of bikes get stolen each year I needed a little more security than that. Other than that, everything was in perfect working order. The brakes, the 3-speed gear, the lights. Everything worked as smoothly as if it was new, instead of 27 years old!
Not being a Raleigh expert, I checked on the Internet to try and find out a little more about this new bike of mine. I discovered my Raleigh 'Tourist' is a bit of a mystery. I got the '74 date from the Sturmey-Archer gear Hub which reads 'AW 74 6', AW referring to the model and 74 to the year. Also, the chain guard, which is closed by the way, clearly reads 'Tourist'. The bike, however, has got 27 x 1 1/4 inch wheels, instead of the standard 26" or 28". It also has self-adjusting wire-operated brakes (see image on the right), instead of rod-operated brakes which I believe are standard on Raleigh Tourists from the '70s. In short, my Raleigh Tourist looks nothing like the Raleigh DL-1 'bobby bike' from the '70s that is generally called 'Tourist'. If anyone has any hints or tips or knows anything interesting to tell, please do not hesitate to contact me at raleigh(at)de-flux.org.
The plot thickens.
Shortly after building this website I got some clues from various people regarding this particular Raleigh model. Sheldon Brown, a bicycle expert from the US told me it's a dutch model, and wasn't sold as a 'Tourist' in America. Warren, in reply to my message posted on oldroads, thought it might be a Raleigh Sprite that was modified and relabelled for the Dutch market. He didn't believe Raleigh did a lot of rebranding but this would be one of those cases. He says there are a couple of Sprite models, most with 5 speed internal or external gears. Hmmm. Picture of Raleigh Sprite
It's been more than a year now since I got my Raleigh, and to be honest, it's not completely spick-and-span anymore. It's not meant to be put in a glass cage, and with usage comes wear. But, as could be expected, everything is still in perfect working order!
About a month ago I was contacted by Fabrice Arfi, an artist and Raleigh-collector from England. He pointed out that my '74 Raleigh clearly belongs to the Sprite or Sport family. There were many different models coming out of the Beeston factory at the time, often a bike would be given a new name just because it was painted in a different colour. Also, he explains that although Raleigh's from that period are well remembered for their rod-operated breaks, only the Roadster and utility bikes would be equipped with them and all other types were equipped with normal caliper brakes. Together we've come to the conclusion my '74 Raleigh must be some sort of early 'hybrid' between a sporty bike (light frame, narrow wheels) and a more classier tour-bike (closed chainguard, upright riding position). His suggestion that my bike might be made in Holland, under license by Gazelle, was quickly dismissed as a little sign on my frame clearly states 'made in England'. We both agreed they would have had no reason at the time to be ashamed about the bike being build in Holland, and therefore no reason to lie about it.
Yet more insight.
Yep, 4 years after putting up this website, I still continue to get new information about the possible origin of my bike. A couple of days ago, Kurt K. of The Headbadge sent me an email with the following info:
"I can, with abselute certainty, say that the base frame, strange as it sounds, is based upon Raleigh's 10-speed roadbike model, the Grand Prix. The wrap-around seat stays, "claw"-pattern lugging and over-the-dropout rear eyelets are all unique hallmarks of the Grand Prix. Curiously, the rear triangle of your Tourist's frame does vary from the Grand Prix in one respect - it's slightly narrower, as it only has to accomodate a 3 speed internal hub, instead of a 5 speed derailer freewheel."
"The forks are standard Raleigh Sports fare, as with the brake equipment and handlebar. The handlebar stem, however, appears to be the same as used on the 1971 Raleigh Grand Prix model - by '74, the Grand Prix already featured an alloy stem of different design."
"You might like to note that your frame features what appears to be a useless braze-on tab, just above the bottom bracket, on the left side of the down tube. This cablestop was intended for the front derailer cable on the Grand Prix - of course, yours does not feature such a device. I dare say you may find a rather small, triangular tab brazed where the Simplex downtube shifters would ultimately fit on for the Grand Prix."
"The fenders appear to be a design dating back to Raleigh's secondary brand bikes, such as Robin Hood or Triumph. While they are, unquestionably, Sports model fenders, they feature wire stays - commonly seen on the Raleigh Industries secondary brand bikes (the Raleigh badged models got the brazed-on stays), but never on the Raleigh-branded Sports bikes. Whether these fenders are a slightly larger variant then the Sports to fit the 27" wheels or not, I am not sure."
Grand Prix page
...must come to an end. In 2017 I sold my Raleigh to a fellow enthusiast. This website however will remain.
1979 Raleigh Tourist
1972 Raleigh Tourist DL-1
Harris Cyclery - English 3-speeds, Care and feeding
Harris Cyclery - Raleigh 3-speeds
Tony Hadland - The history of Raleigh
raleigh (at) de-flux.org