After several weeks, and some online appraisal via BikeForums.net, I completed the purchase of the Raleigh. Cost: $250.
After several sessions of cleaning, using soapy water on the paint, and a combination of chrome-wax and oddly enough, some wadded up aluminium on the chrome and exposed metal bits, I think it’s looking a bit cleaner and more polished. There is still a lot more to do, but we are deep in the territory of diminishing returns in terms of time scrubbing and rust spots removed. Spots of grime remain in hard-to-reach spots.
All in all, in looks pretty good. The grearset is pretty clean; it hardly needs any work at all. Where I have really struggled is the tires. Or keeping air in them, rather. The side walls show signs of dry rot and cracks, otherwise, they seem fine; the tread seems almost new. I replaced the rim tape, but took me forever to properly seat the innertubes. I never have full pressure for more thana mile or two; the good news is that I never go completely flat either.
The breaks made an appalling vibration and noise reminiscent of a helicopter spooling-down. Replacing the break-pads and tightening the breaks eliminated the worst of the problem (they still squeal a little). With the breaks all set, the shifting smooth, my only real complains where the uncomfortable handle-bars (the bar tape is made of cotton, and while grippy, is actually quite uncomfortable. I’ve ordered some Lizard Skin bar tape in white. Should be a good compromise between style, grip, and comfort. I’m also going the route of white cable housing, to complete the look.
At this point, I have put about twenty miles on the Raleigh, and I gotta say: I love it. Compared to my steel LeMonde, it’s more playful and agile. Or at least, much more agile than I was expecting. The posture for me is far more upright; put that on top of a Brooks saddle (you really feel in tune with the bike; you feel like you are really riding) and the result is a surprisingly comfortable ride.
I’ll admit that it’s slower. But there are so many aspects about this bike, while obviously not ideal, lend a charming and at times, surprisingly practical aspect. For example, the ten-speed down-tube shifters are a pain in the sense that you have to shift your body weight to reach them out of your line of sight, especially when attempting to down-shift going up hill. But as a simple system, more basic than today’s break lever shifters, it works more smoothly and after forty years, still works surprisingly well. I’m surprisingly confident mechanically.