In November of 1972, I was 10 years old. I got a Raleigh catalogue from the local bike dealer (Champaign Cycle Too, at the University of Illinois)and poured over it for almost a month, reading the catalogue for hours every day, and reading other books (Sloan's Complete book of Bicycling!) and other magazines and catalogs, to choose the right model. Finally, I decided that I wanted a Raleigh International, because it was the best general purpose model offered that year, and I loved the chartreuse color. When I went back to the bike shop, I found out that it cost $325 - more than my entire bank account! Heartbroken, I froze, doing nothing ...
In January my parents saw a used 1972 Raleigh Grand Prix ($90) for sale in the news paper. We drove 6 blocks to see the bicycle, owned by a college student, in my size. I paid $60 and my parents paid $30 to help me buy the bike. It played a big role in giving me freedom and independence - at a time of my life that was really really great (save for losing my father 2 summers later.) My bike was one of the last things my dad got for me - we got it together, and I broke it right away, at home - after 2 minutes, I went down a sewer grating, ruining the rear wheel. I took it back to him, crying. My dad took the pretzled wheel to the bike shop early the next day and got it repaired for me as soon as he could ...
When i was 15 in 1977 i bought a Sekai 2500. It was $235 with tax and that was about all the money in the world to me. I was terrified it would be stolen. For almost 2 years i rode it only on weekends, and then perhaps only on "priarie cycle club" tours in Urbana, Illinois. I finally decided it was a crime not to ride the thing and i should get all the enjoyment that i paid for out of the bike. It became my daily commuter bike. i rode it every day from 1979-1986, when it was stolen out of my garage because my roommates left the door open.
The bike would have been stolen in 1986 whether i was riding it or not. The bike parts selection was perfectly balanced and so no parts upgrade would be needed (which is why I bought it.) The loss was far larger than you might think, because I had added an eclipse bag, a wonder-light, hot-rodded with low-voltage bulbs to double the light output, and outfitted it with NiCDs and a built-in on-the-bike charger (built into the Wonder Light) that I had made myself. In the handlebar bag I carried special Helly-Hansen rain pants and a jacket. All of that was lost. I mourned for a few weeks and then bought a Trek 500.
It is better to have had and to have ridden, then to have never ridden at all.
I have had other bikes ~ the Raleigh Grand Prix was upgraded many times, then I found a 23.5" frameset (1973 or 1974) and enlarged it in 1981, but it was stolen in 1982. In the spring of 1980 I got a 25" schwinn paramount P-15 used, from a newspaper ad. That one was and still is a garage-queen no-commuting bicycle. The TREK 500, though, became "my main squeeze" when it was time for a daily ride.
In 2000 I got a TREK 2300 3-tubes carbon wonderbike, 19 lbs or something. In less than 2 years, and under 4,000 miles, the seat lug split, after my second seatpost adjustment, and even though TREK sent me a freebie replacement frame (NOT the bike I bought AT ALL), this soured me on modern bicycle technology, maybe forever.
I joined the CR list in 2003 because I decided, finally, to get that 1972 Raleigh International that I had always wanted in 24.5" size. Today I have several early 1970's raleighs (some internationals, too), but maybe what I was really looking for was an excuse to have an unlimited backlog of raleighs needing attention in my garage, and which are being restored...
Last night, June 21st 2005 at 12:30 am, i unpacked a used 23.5" 1970 "raleigh international" from Ebay. This is very close to the bike that I had always wanted. I didn't expect much since I paid a rock bottom price - I had to buy 2 bikes - $230 for two bikes plus $130 in shipping from florida - so the International was probably a rust pile.
I started to get nervous when I cleaned the crud from the crankset and did not find any scratches on it. The crank is a rare and valuable "no date code" crank. The bike couldn't be ridden because the tubular tires were rotted - I needed a new set of wheels. I had a spare set of campy wheels i could use but the previous owner had set them up for a fixed gear bike and they needed re-dishing, an axle reversal, a new freewheel, and more drive-side spacers.
Anyway when I saw the true condition of the bike I began to freak out with anticipation of riding that bike. Even if it took all night, I was going to ride the bike that evening.
I fixed the rear wheel spacing and dish and mounted new Clement Ventoux Cotton tires (like tubulars), pumped them as high as I could, and mounted new front brake pads and holders.
The bike is very fast and silent - like NEW. It gave me that same thrill i got on my first 10-speed ride in january of 1973. I can't explain it. That bike could toast my Schwinn Paramount easily. I guess 33 years is not too long to wait for a bike. In the midnight air last night, I was 11 years old again, on a new maiden voyage...
I climbed the vertical hill in our neighborhood in a 45-24 steep racing gear. This hill is a 11% grade, about 3 blocks long. I've never been able to climb it before. I just sailed over it. I was FLYING ... and I couldn't believe it !!!
- Don Gillies June 21, 2005