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What is/was the best Raleigh road bike of the 1970s?

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What is/was the best Raleigh road bike of the 1970s?

Old 06-30-20, 06:08 PM
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jblackmd
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Originally Posted by Moe Zhoost View Post
I have to say that my favorite bike of all that I own is my 1972 Super Course.
I hear that! I have a 73 Supercourse tt, and I love it. I rides so nice. Fast, responsive. Best purchase of any kind I ever made.
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Old 06-30-20, 07:09 PM
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I’ve owned and ridden the following 1970s Raleigh road bikes (for some models, multiple examples):

Professional
Professional track
RRA
International
Gran(d) Sport(s)
Competition
Competition GS
Super Course

I was majorly disappointed in the ride qualities of the Professional and RRA. The one that remains in the stable is a ‘71 Int’l converted to 650b x 42mm tires. A Super Course is probably the best bet as a city bike with upright bars, but having done that setup, some had geometry better suited for that weight distribution than others.
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Old 06-30-20, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
There's no such thing as Super Record hubs.

That said, in order:
  • Does it fit?
  • Does it ride well?
  • Does the frame have any questionable areas around the lugwork (including crash damage)?
  • Is the frame straight? (eyeball it from the back)
  • Is it repainted?
  • If so, is the repaint hiding anything?
  • Is it everything you thought it would be when you rode it?
  • Did you have even the slightest reservation about any one thing upon seeing it?
An indication to buy would be: Yes, yes, no, yes, no/yes, no, yes, no.

I'm still at a loss as to the need to get the best Raleigh as your first though, especially coming from Schwinn electroforged boat anchors.
  • A nice Pro makes for a terrible commuter. Any nice hard-to-replace bike falls into this category.
  • If you're just after The Best, Raleigh isn't where to find it. There are '70s custom frames from small builders out there which could be had at a similar price with outstanding lugwork. Raleigh and build quality are mutually exclusive terms, unless you're talking about custom-built SBDU Professionals.
  • Part of the desire of owning a Raleigh Pro is because they look cool. But to feel this way, you'd have to have seen one before to buy into the cool factor. Seems like you've paged through catalogs but it never caught your attention until we mentioned it. I'm worried that we're putting ideas in your head.
  • The Mk.II-Mk.IV and Mk.V are very different bikes with very different rides, so "I want a Raleigh Professional" means jack. That statement has many different meanings.
  • If you're putting together a museum...I get it.
  • nlerner here has pretty much proven that you can live life to the fullest with a restomodded Raleigh Super Course.
  • I have three Raleigh Pros. I've ridden two of them, one is still being built, and I'm still more likely to grab my 1951 Raleigh Sports for fun, or my '61 Schwinn Paramount to go fast (and don't get me started on how overrated Paramounts are too, even though I'm guilty of promoting them too).
-Kurt
There's not necessarily a NEED for the best Raleigh model out there, as much as a desire not to get something known to be inferior to one of the better ones only to have more problems with it. Am looking for my first vintage Raleigh & want it to be a really good one, to last a very long time. With that said, I'm preferring one of the better models. I've read around online & the Professional, along with others mentioned, are known to be better. And no, no one's putting anything in my head, it's what I've surmised from the reading I've done, questions I've asked, etc. Just want the best for the money I spend.
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Old 06-30-20, 07:22 PM
  #29  
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I totally understand the desire and wish you the best of luck in your quest.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:01 PM
  #30  
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Raleigh Team Professional. Best Raleigh of the '70s and '80s.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:05 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by jda775838 View Post
There's not necessarily a NEED for the best Raleigh model out there, as much as a desire not to get something known to be inferior to one of the better ones only to have more problems with it. Am looking for my first vintage Raleigh & want it to be a really good one, to last a very long time. With that said, I'm preferring one of the better models. I've read around online & the Professional, along with others mentioned, are known to be better. And no, no one's putting anything in my head, it's what I've surmised from the reading I've done, questions I've asked, etc. Just want the best for the money I spend.
Fair enough, but I wouldn't approach this like a car. It's not like judging whether you want the brand-new 3-series or a 5-series and whether the value for money equals the bike's position in the pecking order. These are old bikes with old quirks, and if you want the "best" in regards to something that is reliable and lasts a long time, you're not going to get it out of the box with any of them. Every single one of these bikes comes with quirks that you'll have to live with or fix, such as:
  • Professional: Nuovo RD will always shift sloppily with the Regina freewheel. Modern narrow chains may skate on the inner chainring during downshifts.
  • International: Particularly easy to find them with really sloppy lugwork. Same Nuovo RD issue.
  • Grand Sport: Crappy, plastic Simplex drivetrain parts. Stronglight crank will need a special puller if you want to service the bottom bracket.
  • Competition: Huret Jubilee front and rear derailers look beautiful and shift like crap on narrow spaced freewheels. Prone to sloppy lugwork similar to the International prior to the later G.S. edition (Japanese-built GSes are vastly better).
  • Super Course: The bike of a million lugs, tubesets, geometries, and just generally whatever was in the parts bin. Again, crappy Simplex drivetrain parts and a cottered steel crank.
I'm having a hell of a time trying to figure out what you want out of the bike you ultimately choose, but if I durability and quality are what you want, your best value might even be a 1977-1981 Super Course if you want good riding characteristics and originality - just on the basis of the Suntour rear derailer alone. Just the same, I don't like the high-normal Suntour front derailer, nor do I like the crankset. Getting a square taper crank on a Super Course out of the box is a nice thing and makes it easy to upgrade but I personally loath the Raleigh-branded SR fluted crank. It's 165mm, if I recall right, and they're so soft that I've never come back from a ride with one without bending it.

And sometimes, what works for one may not work for another. Take Neal's negative experiences with the Professional and Raleigh Record Ace. I don't know if he he had a Mk.IV Pro or a Mk.V Pro, but I think my Mk.V happens to be one of the best machines I've ever ridden - and there's always the possibility that two bikes of the same series might ride differently due to some oddity during a particular frame's construction.

The mere fact that you're looking for "quality" out of a 1970's Raleigh is already barking up the wrong tree. These are mass-produced, mixed-bag bikes, and their longevity is due to a combination of price when new, popularity, availability on the used market, and the fact that basic upgrades (e.g., derailers, crankset) could turn a mid-range Super Course into a competent and reliable machine for many years of riding.

-Kurt
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Old 06-30-20, 08:08 PM
  #32  
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Think too about where you ride, and how you ride. Are the roads rough? Think wider tires. Will you ride only on pavement, or on rail trails etc? Need fenders?
The Pro was a race bike and wouldn’t be the best choice for mixed use riding. A SC, GS or Int’l would be a great choice and give you lots of flexibility.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rjhammett View Post
Raleigh Team Professional. Best Raleigh of the '70s and '80s.
And you see, this is where the whole subjectivity of what's "best" comes into play. I know the SBDU's were "the best" in terms of construction and the tier of the parts used on them, but that only applies if one's concept of "the best" aligns with the idea of racing.

Case in point, I'm the type of guy who has thrown North Roads on a Professional Mk.IV. I value city bicycles, fenders, internally geared hubs, and my love of drop bars has waned every year I get older (I hear anyone over 40 on this forum laughing their butt off right now). But I still value light 531 framesets. As far as Raleighs go, this more or less puts the Super Tourer into my "best" status, unless someone pops up with some freak of an SBDU bike with fender clearance and eyelets (SIGN ME UP!)

Likewise, I wouldn't use a fairly rare Super Tourer for commuting, and the Bluemels fender stays would piss me off in regular use, as far as toe overlap goes. Since I also don't like it when a derailer hanger is sitting unused on a bike, the "best" Raleigh for me for commuting would be a Super Course with stamped rear drops fitted with an IGH, light wheels, fenders with stays on the inside edge, and North Roads.

To add one more layer of complication: If I had to choose a wall-hanger for the "best" Raleigh, it would be an all-original SBDU Professional.

"Best" is all about what you're going to do with it.

-Kurt
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Old 06-30-20, 08:36 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post

The mere fact that you're looking for "quality" out of a 1970's Raleigh is already barking up the wrong tree. These are mass-produced, mixed-bag bikes, and their longevity is due to a combination of price when new, popularity, availability on the used market, and the fact that basic upgrades (e.g., derailers, crankset) could turn a mid-range Super Course into a competent and reliable machine for many years of riding.

-Kurt
The above statement is right on.

I've restored a dozen or so Raleigh bikes from the 1970's and the weak link in every one of them has been the frame. All were out of alignment, sloppy brazing, left and right stays of differing lengths, head-tube faces not parallel. There may have been other flaws that an experienced frame-builder would notice. I restore them because they look cool, are easy to find and I enjoy a challenge.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by branko_76 View Post
I restore them because they look cool, are easy to find and I enjoy a challenge.
And the end result is always a surprise too. Forrest Gump may have been talking about Raleighs when he delivered his little "box of chocolates" line. Or at least whatever tubing they used that day...

-Kurt
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Old 06-30-20, 10:31 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
I’ve owned and ridden the following 1970s Raleigh road bikes (for some models, multiple examples):

Professional
Professional track
RRA
International
Gran(d) Sport(s)
Competition
Competition GS
Super Course

I was majorly disappointed in the ride qualities of the Professional and RRA. The one that remains in the stable is a ‘71 Int’l converted to 650b x 42mm tires. A Super Course is probably the best bet as a city bike with upright bars, but having done that setup, some had geometry better suited for that weight distribution than others.
That's somewhat of a surprise! I've always like my RRA and like it better (by a bit) than the '73 International that preceded it. I always wanted a Pro (bought the RRA because Pro's weren't available that year, or very hard to come by), and have never ridden one. I should rectify that.
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Old 07-01-20, 05:19 AM
  #37  
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Oh, yeah, Super Tourer. I’ve owned a couple of those, too, but they’re essentially Competitions with upright bars, which means really lousy geometry for that weight distribution. They call for drop bars and more weight on the front end, but then you might as well find a Competition, which are far more readily available.
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Old 07-01-20, 05:46 AM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by branko_76 View Post
The above statement is right on.

I've restored a dozen or so Raleigh bikes from the 1970's and the weak link in every one of them has been the frame. All were out of alignment, sloppy brazing, left and right stays of differing lengths, head-tube faces not parallel. There may have been other flaws that an experienced frame-builder would notice. I restore them because they look cool, are easy to find and I enjoy a challenge.
I think the best that any of us can do is provide our own anecdotes. Given what I've seen, it's more accurate to say that build quality is "uneven". The Team Professional and Professional MK I that I have (and have taken down to bare metal) are very well constructed. The lugs are nicely thinned, brazing and mitering are top notch (of course you'd expect that with these models). I also own two Competitions, two Internationals, a Grand Sports, an RRA and have had 3 Super Courses over the years. I may have been fortunate, but none of them had egregious issues with construction, but it is clear that they were not (with the possible exceptions of the RRA and one of the Internationals) built in the same painstaking manner. Yes, it does pay to take time inspecting the details when acquiring one (as one ideally would when purchasing any vintage bicycle).

This said, I can't say that I've been disappointed with the ride of any of them. If you're looking to drop $200 - $300 on a versatile, ready-to-ride 531 framed vintage bicycle that's in pretty good condition - it's worth it to consider what Raleigh made.
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Old 07-01-20, 08:20 AM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
I think the best that any of us can do is provide our own anecdotes. Given what I've seen, it's more accurate to say that build quality is "uneven". The Team Professional and Professional MK I that I have (and have taken down to bare metal) are very well constructed. The lugs are nicely thinned, brazing and mitering are top notch (of course you'd expect that with these models). I also own two Competitions, two Internationals, a Grand Sports, an RRA and have had 3 Super Courses over the years. I may have been fortunate, but none of them had egregious issues with construction, but it is clear that they were not (with the possible exceptions of the RRA and one of the Internationals) built in the same painstaking manner. Yes, it does pay to take time inspecting the details when acquiring one (as one ideally would when purchasing any vintage bicycle).

This said, I can't say that I've been disappointed with the ride of any of them. If you're looking to drop $200 - $300 on a versatile, ready-to-ride 531 framed vintage bicycle that's in pretty good condition - it's worth it to consider what Raleigh made.
It's the ride that counts. The flaws I pointed out would not deter me from buying another 1970's era Raleigh but if the asking price is too much, I would take a closer look.
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Old 07-01-20, 08:49 AM
  #40  
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A red yellow and black one. That's what made them so lust-worthy at the time. So I was/am shallow. Then I was pretty fast, other things didn't matter much . Now, I am really slow, and those things matter even less.
​​​​​​Nothing wrong with knowledge, however.

I like the gen 1 RD.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:05 AM
  #41  
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I briefly owned a first-year Professional (the white Tokyo Olympics model, reportedly designed by Cino Cinelli for Raleigh) and an International in the early '70s. The Pro was beautifully built; the International had sloppy lugwork and pulled to the left badly.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
I briefly owned a first-year Professional (the white Tokyo Olympics model, reportedly designed by Cino Cinelli for Raleigh) and an International in the early '70s. The Pro was beautifully built; the International had sloppy lugwork and pulled to the left badly.
Repainted "in the spirit of the original". If only it were the next size smaller.


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Old 07-01-20, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
SGP isn't a 531 frame. It's a GP with some upgraded components (like alloy wheels).
I've got two '78 SGP's here, and two '77 SC's here, a 23.5 and 25.5" version of each model.
The 78 SGP's when stripped down and compared to the '77 SC frame of the same size would be indistinguishable other than color and decals if the SGP's didn't have fancier lug work.
All have 68mm bottom bracket shells, each has stamped dropouts, and the same geometry. If I were to remove the paint you couldn't tell them apart.
The SGP came had Q/R large flange Normandy hubs, the SC had low flange Q/R Atom hubs, Both have Raleigh Scripted cranks with steel chain rings, both have 14/28 Atom freewheels.
The SGP has Suntour V derailleurs, the SC has Cyclone derailleurs. The SGP's have a Raleigh scripted SR stems, the SC models have GB stems. Both have center pull brakes, the 78 SGP models have Raleigh scripted calipers, the '77 SC's have Weinmann labeled calipers. When compared weight wise, both 23.5" frames weight the same, and both 25.5" frames weigh the same.
I bought both 25.5" bikes brand new myself, I bought the 23.5" SGP as a new old stock bike off eBay about 18 years ago, the 23.5" SC belonged to a family friend who passed away in the 80's. Its been mine since then.
I've owned a few Internationals, ride wise I prefer the SGP and SC. I was never a fan of sew up tires or the geometry of the upper range bikes. My favorite model of all the 70's Raleighs is the 1974 Super Tourer.
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Old 07-01-20, 10:11 AM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by barnfind View Post
I've got two '78 SGP's here, and two '77 SC's here, a 23.5 and 25.5" version of each model.
The 78 SGP's when stripped down and compared to the '77 SC frame of the same size would be indistinguishable other than color and decals if the SGP's didn't have fancier lug work.
All have 68mm bottom bracket shells, each has stamped dropouts, and the same geometry. If I were to remove the paint you couldn't tell them apart.....

.....When compared weight wise, both 23.5" frames weight the same
I have two 23-1/2" 1978 Super Grand Prix frames (Made In England). Both have 71mm BB shells and are tapped for 26TPI and built with 20-30 seamed tubing.

I also have two 23-1/2" 1972 Super Course frames.Both have 68mm BB shells tapped for 24TPI and built with Reynolds 531 Plain Gauge tubing.

SGP frames weigh more than SC frames.

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Old 07-01-20, 10:12 AM
  #45  
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I've been very happy with my 74 Super Tourer 10 speed. I just acquired it last year, but it seems to be a steady and ready steed whenever I'm ready to climb aboard. In fact, just did 40 miles in the rain last weekend. Unfortunately with no fenders/mudguards, but hopefully that will soon be rectified as I have a pair of VO hammered fenders just waiting for me to put the ST on the stand.
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Old 07-01-20, 11:19 AM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
Oh, yeah, Super Tourer. I’ve owned a couple of those, too, but they’re essentially Competitions with upright bars, which means really lousy geometry for that weight distribution. They call for drop bars and more weight on the front end, but then you might as well find a Competition, which are far more readily available.
Do tell about those handling characteristics Neal. The stock Super Tourer bars seemed to insinuate a more forward-leaning upright position than North Roads. Smooth but twitchy at low speeds?

I'm super curious, given that I just put North Roads on a Pro Mk.IV.

-Kurt
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Old 07-01-20, 11:58 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by jda775838 View Post
There's not necessarily a NEED for the best Raleigh model out there, as much as a desire not to get something known to be inferior to one of the better ones only to have more problems with it. Am looking for my first vintage Raleigh & want it to be a really good one, to last a very long time. With that said, I'm preferring one of the better models. I've read around online & the Professional, along with others mentioned, are known to be better. And no, no one's putting anything in my head, it's what I've surmised from the reading I've done, questions I've asked, etc. Just want the best for the money I spend.
What size do you need? You'll need to be either very patient or very lucky to find a Pro or International in ready to ride condition for under $600. Any of the five frames Kurt listed are likely to be better than the average $150 bike on Craigslist. If you're willing and able to do your own mechanical work you could buy a frame and build it with vintage SunTour parts and have yourself a pretty good bike. It would help to find a local co-op or sympathetic vintage bike fan who could help you out with common pieces like stem and handlebars for cheap. Someone just listed a 22.5" International frame and fork in the For Sale forum for a good price.
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Old 07-01-20, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by barnfind View Post
I've got two '78 SGP's here, and two '77 SC's here, a 23.5 and 25.5" version of each model.
The 78 SGP's when stripped down and compared to the '77 SC frame of the same size would be indistinguishable other than color and decals if the SGP's didn't have fancier lug work.
All have 68mm bottom bracket shells, each has stamped dropouts, and the same geometry. If I were to remove the paint you couldn't tell them apart.
The SGP came had Q/R large flange Normandy hubs, the SC had low flange Q/R Atom hubs, Both have Raleigh Scripted cranks with steel chain rings, both have 14/28 Atom freewheels.
The SGP has Suntour V derailleurs, the SC has Cyclone derailleurs. The SGP's have a Raleigh scripted SR stems, the SC models have GB stems. Both have center pull brakes, the 78 SGP models have Raleigh scripted calipers, the '77 SC's have Weinmann labeled calipers. When compared weight wise, both 23.5" frames weight the same, and both 25.5" frames weigh the same.
I bought both 25.5" bikes brand new myself, I bought the 23.5" SGP as a new old stock bike off eBay about 18 years ago, the 23.5" SC belonged to a family friend who passed away in the 80's. Its been mine since then.
I've owned a few Internationals, ride wise I prefer the SGP and SC. I was never a fan of sew up tires or the geometry of the upper range bikes. My favorite model of all the 70's Raleighs is the 1974 Super Tourer.
Grand Prix geometry = SGP geometry = Super Course geometry. Grand Prix Frame is same material as SGP frame. (changed when 1978 Model Super Courses came around).

Actually, there isn't a great deal of difference in frame geometry between SC/GS/Comp/RRA and International - at least not in the 21-1/2" size. 22" top tube, 17" chain stays (17.5" on the GS). Replace the tubulars with cushier tires, and the rides aren't appreciably different either. This is one reason why I have nearly all of mine built up with some small quirk or another. There are so many ways to build them up and enjoy them.
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Old 07-01-20, 01:08 PM
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ascherer 
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Bikes: 1987 Mercian Pro, 1970 Raleigh Pro Mk1, 1971 Raleigh International, 1971 Peugeot PX-10E, 1966 Raleigh Sports

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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
Repainted "in the spirit of the original". If only it were the next size smaller.


I've got a chromed version of this that I built this winter, and a well-made 1971 International. I prefer the Mk. I for subtle reasons that are hard to qualify beyond that from the very first ride it felt like I'd always had it.
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Old 07-01-20, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Do tell about those handling characteristics Neal. The stock Super Tourer bars seemed to insinuate a more forward-leaning upright position than North Roads. Smooth but twitchy at low speeds?

I'm super curious, given that I just put North Roads on a Pro Mk.IV.

-Kurt
I think it's a matter of front-end geometry specifically fairly steep head-tube angle, which doesn't play well with upright bars and weight more distributed over the saddle/crankset than over the bars. The ST (and the last Competition I had set up with upright bars) just did not handle well on fast descents or climbing out of the saddle. I was really fighting the front end. I've had that experience with some Super Courses that I've converted to upright bars, but not all!
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