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Raleigh Competition

Old 07-24-22, 01:58 PM
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Raleigh Competition

I couldn't turn down this Raleigh Competitution that popped up on FB at a $100 with a stuck stem. The bike was built in the Handsworth factory but I can't read the year date. Still it is likely a '73 or a '74 since by 1975 the bike has a chromed rear triangle. I popped on a set of 27 inch clinchers that came off a 1973 Motobecane Grand Record and took the bike for a spin. It rides nice. The bike is a bit taller than I like at 23 and 1/2 (really a 59 center to top) but the top tube is not too long so it fits me pretty well. The bike has some rust on the top tube but other than that it is in fine shape and it has all the original bits and pieces. The stem is stuck and that saddle is more or less toast but it might be OK if I lace it. This is my second Raleigh of the year since I picked up a 1981 Raleigh Record Ace earlier this year. As far as I can tell the 80s RRA were sold only in the UK.

This bike has lots and lots of clearance. I'm going to be tempted to run 700c wheels and some fat tires . . .





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Old 07-25-22, 12:01 AM
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35s and fenders fit fine on my 73. If you decide the frame is too big I'll get you the next size down with a stuck seatpost.
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Old 07-25-22, 03:09 AM
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I was a mechanic at a Raleigh dealer when your bike was new and I remember the Competition well. I was quite proud when I was considered good enough to assemble them. The Huret Jubilee derailleurs are worth more than $100 by themselves. They were the lightest available at the time, and beautifully finished. Be extremely careful of the front derailleur if you need to work with the mounting bolt at all. Only tighten it enough to keep the unit from moving on the tube. The mounting clamp is extremely fragile and I can tell you from personal experience that the snap you will hear if you over-tighten this bolt will dishearten you forever.

I think one of the reasons for the wide clearances was that Raleigh knew that many customers would not want to deal with tubulars, but the bike was to be an entry-level racer, and there were no other options at the time for that purpose, since 700C rims and tires didn't become available in the US until around 1976 or so. That extra clearance was built in for 27" wheels while respecting the Brits expectation that you would be able to fit mudguards as well. I believe the geometry was the same as the International.

Pretty much any Juniors race in the mid-1970s would feature Competitions and Crescents at the starting line.

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Old 07-25-22, 06:05 AM
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Always eager to learn about Raleigh's. Thought I knew about things they did in the 70's, but after seeing your reference to Handsworth, it appears there's still some sizeable gaps. How would one identify one of the frames made there?

Really nice catch. You should be able to unfreeze the stem without harm to the frame or fork. Wishing you the best with it.
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Old 07-25-22, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by 52telecaster View Post
35s and fenders fit fine on my 73. If you decide the frame is too big I'll get you the next size down with a stuck seatpost.
I'll think about this. Did you post some pics? The top tube is great for me (a 57) so I may stick with this. I can go "french" fit and I'll have no trouble putting the stem at the same height as the saddle.

Alternatively I may just fix it up and give it to my nephew as it will fit him fine. Plus the bike is about 2x as old as he is which he will like.

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Old 07-25-22, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
Always eager to learn about Raleigh's. Thought I knew about things they did in the 70's, but after seeing your reference to Handsworth, it appears there's still some sizeable gaps. How would one identify one of the frames made there?

Really nice catch. You should be able to unfreeze the stem without harm to the frame or fork. Wishing you the best with it.
I could be wrong on the factory and it might be Worksop. The serial number begins with an H.

According to Sheldon Brown's website, an H followed by 4 digits (which my bike has) would make it a '73 and I assume that this is for the Worksop bikes,

Then there is this site which says that an H followed by 6 digits is the Handsworth factory,

https://biketoworkday.us/how-old-is-...r%20P%20or%20T.

Since my bike has an H followed by 4 digits, I'm guessing that the Sheldon Brown site has it right and that this is a '73 likely built in the Worksop factory.
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Old 07-25-22, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by sbarner View Post
I was a mechanic at a Raleigh dealer when your bike was new and I remember the Competition well. I was quite proud when I was considered good enough to assemble them. The Huret Jubilee derailleurs are worth more than $100 by themselves. They were the lightest available at the time, and beautifully finished. Be extremely careful of the front derailleur if you need to work with the mounting bolt at all. Only tighten it enough to keep the unit from moving on the tube. The mounting clamp is extremely fragile and I can tell you from personal experience that the snap you will hear if you over-tighten this bolt will dishearten you forever.

I think one of the reasons for the wide clearances was that Raleigh knew that many customers would not want to deal with tubulars, but the bike was to be an entry-level racer, and there were no other options at the time for that purpose, since 700C rims and tires didn't become available in the US until around 1976 or so. That extra clearance was built in for 27" wheels while respecting the Brits expectation that you would be able to fit mudguards as well. I believe the geometry was the same as the International.

Pretty much any Juniors race in the mid-1970s would feature Competitions and Crescents at the starting line.

Stephen Barner
Bolton, Vermont
Lots of great info here, thanks for posting. This bike came out of a Boston area bike shop (International Bicycle Store out of Brighton and Alliston). Right, in the UK have a racing bike that would fit mudguards was pretty normal especially for winter training. I have a 1981 Raleigh Record Act (full 531 bike that was sold in the UK only) which has plenty of clearance as well as it came stock with 27 x 1 and 1/4 tires plus fenders. Still the clearance on the RRA is not as generous as on this Competition. The bike has interesting thin stays that are nicely dimpled. I *think* that's called rapid taper chainstay but I'm not entirely certain. In any case, chainstays and brake bridges tend to be the limiting factor on tire size and this bike with its neat fork crown and seat stays is very generous in terms of tire clearance. This would make a fine gravel bike.
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Old 07-25-22, 08:04 AM
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Quite possibly not a 73 as about all Raleighs in 73 were built with Capella lugs.
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Old 07-25-22, 08:37 AM
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I see a generous amount of room between the seat tube and tire. Does this point to this old racer from the 70s having what today is more sport or sport touring geometry? Reason I ask, is that geometry suits me best. My 72 Fuji Newest would probably have been considered a racer, but compared to mid 80s racy bikes, it is a much calmer ride. I generally guess that when I see a rear tire hugging the seat tube, the bike is not suitable to me. Perhaps I will watch for one of these to fall into my lap some day. Nice purchase, have fun.
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Old 07-25-22, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
I see a generous amount of room between the seat tube and tire. Does this point to this old racer from the 70s having what today is more sport or sport touring geometry? Reason I ask, is that geometry suits me best. My 72 Fuji Newest would probably have been considered a racer, but compared to mid 80s racy bikes, it is a much calmer ride. I generally guess that when I see a rear tire hugging the seat tube, the bike is not suitable to me. Perhaps I will watch for one of these to fall into my lap some day. Nice purchase, have fun.
There are a lot of higher end bikes from the 70s with a remarkable amount--at least by modern standards--of clearance for tires. If you want something as fat as a gravel bike, you likely will have to do a 650b conversion (and you may have trouble sourcing brakes that can reach). 700 x 32c-35c (and sometimes a 38c) are not difficult to fit. My 70s Fuji Finest takes a 32c with room for fenders. I have a 70s Mercier 300 that takes 32c tires easily. Your best for a bike with good clearance is likely one that was designed for centerpull brakes and 27 inch tires. The early 70s Raleigh Competitions may be at one end of the bell curve given the elegant (and thin) fork crown and relatively thin chain stays, though. The early 70s Motobecane Grand Records have fine clearance as well. So yes we likely would call those bikes sports tourer todays.

Gearing can be a challenge if you keep it at 120 OLD unless you run a triple and here half step with a granny is your best bet.
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Old 07-25-22, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88 View Post
Quite possibly not a 73 as about all Raleighs in 73 were built with Capella lugs.
snip . . .
Good point about the Capella lugs but I reckon Raleigh was less than consistent in how it built its bikes.

I still haven't gotten around to building that RRA I picked up from you earlier this year! That's next on my build queue. I've just been too busy. I did overhaul the hubs and headset. I'm very likely to swap out the crank though since I prefer a compact crank.

The RRA is beautiful but I couldn't turn this bike down when it popped up on FB. I think I need better portion control when it comes to old bikes!

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Old 07-25-22, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88 View Post
Quite possibly not a 73 as about all Raleighs in 73 were built with Capella lugs.
The serial numbers from this era are quite consistent - aside from some starting with "A". My (built in 1972 for the 1973 model year) Competition has capella lugs with a "G" serial.

I have a 1973 RRA (an H####) and also an International which both have the "correct" Nervex Professional lugs. Unquestionably, a lot of the 531 frames were made using capella lugs, but it wasn't consistent.





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Old 07-25-22, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
The serial numbers from this era are quite consistent - aside from some starting with "A". My (built in 1972 for the 1973 model year) Competition has capella lugs with a "G" serial.

I have a 1973 RRA (an H####) and also an International which both have the "correct" Nervex Professional lugs. Unquestionably, a lot of the 531 frames were made using capella lugs, but it wasn't consistent.





Raleigh used the RRA model name on a number of different bikes. There is the famous pre war RRA, there's your model, and there's my model RRA (full Reynolds 531 with Suntour dropouts) that was sold AFAIK only in the UK. And then there's the inexpensive, hi tensile RA sold in the US. This is my '81 RRA which was built in the Worksop factory per the serial no. I believe, from what I've read, that the later UK RRA s (and it had a short production of a few years) were built in the Nottingham factory.

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Old 07-25-22, 10:27 AM
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I'm gonna say 1975 because of the Prugnat 62d lugs which are first pictured in that year. The Competition moved from Nervex Professional lugs in the earliest versions c.1969, then went to Bocama Professionals through the uncataloged lilac/purple and lagoon blue/white variants. I've seen black Mk. II variants with Nervex Professional lugs, but Carlton Capella lugs are pictured in the catalog '73-74 - though Raleigh may have used the same catalog photo. The Capella lugged '73s seem to outnumber the other variants, which would make senses. The story as relayed in another thread somewhere, from someone professing to have been there at the time, was that a large quantity of Capella lugs was unearthed during renovations of the Carlton factory, and it was decided to save money by using them up. They are generally considered identifiers for Competitions, Super Courses and Internationals from that year. I've wondered sometimes if 1973 being the peak of the Great Bike Boom and the demands for frame materials and components might have contributed to that choice.

This one will probably be assembled with better care than my '73, which is charmingly .... artisanal. No, actually, it looks like the builder understood that Guinness isn't just for breakfast anymore, but probably started his day with pint or five. At the same time, the cobbiness of the details of mine melts away when I ride it - like my '71 Gitane TdF, it looks like hell and rides like heaven.

If you trawl the threads about Competitions, you'll run into the description of these as "1970s bikes with 1930s geometry." Not too far off. Mine is the same size as yours, a 23.5-in, or as I found when I got all focused and measured mine, 59 x 57 cm; 44cm chainstays; 41.5-in/105 cm wheelbase; 2.5-in fork rake; 73 x 73 angles; 41mm trail. Lots of people put these through serious modifications to convert them to French 650b rando bikes. I feel safe in saying Competitions from the sloping fork era have the most tire clearance of any commonly found Reynolds 531 frame of the era.

Here's mine with 35mm Continental Cyclocross Speed tires on, kitted out with 44/42T chainrings, a Surly 17/19T fixed Dingle and a White Industries 20/22T freewheel - 70-in pavement, 60-in dirt fixed gears, 60-in general coastie and 52-in gentle singletrack gearing with no cross-chaining. In addition to showing tire clearance, it also demonstrates how flexible and adaptable these frames are.

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Old 07-25-22, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
There are a lot of higher end bikes from the 70s with a remarkable amount--at least by modern standards--of clearance for tires. If you want something as fat as a gravel bike, you likely will have to do a 650b conversion (and you may have trouble sourcing brakes that can reach). 700 x 32c-35c (and sometimes a 38c) are not difficult to fit. My 70s Fuji Finest takes a 32c with room for fenders. I have a 70s Mercier 300 that takes 32c tires easily. Your best for a bike with good clearance is likely one that was designed for centerpull brakes and 27 inch tires. The early 70s Raleigh Competitions may be at one end of the bell curve given the elegant (and thin) fork crown and relatively thin chain stays, though. ...
I think the chainstays end up being the limiting factor for a lot of these bikes.
My '74 International has 35mm between the chainstays at the point where the tire passes between them. Plenty of room for something like a 28mm tire, but maybe tight for a 32mm?

Haven't tried anything bigger than 23mm yet, but should at least put 25mm tires on it.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 07-25-22, 11:49 AM
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I cannot comment on which tires will work on your Competition but I suspect that going with 700c wheels will open up more possibilities in tire width. My Competition GS came standard with 700c wheels and I am currently running 23's but could probably run 28's if I wanted. The Competition went through a few changes but also share similarities from the early to the late seventies . Mine is the first year of the Campy version , 1977 . I don't know if the original geometry changed , but lugs , drop outs , and chrome did , as well as components. What works on my Competition may not work on yours.
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Old 07-25-22, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I'll think about this. Did you post some pics? The top tube is great for me (a 57) so I may stick with this. I can go "french" fit and I'll have no trouble putting the stem at the same height as the saddle.

Alternatively I may just fix it up and give it to my nephew as it will fit him fine. Plus the bike is about 2x as old as he is which he will like.
I have two competition framesets, both 1973. One is the size of yours and it will be mine forever. I love it. The second is the next size down and pretty rough looking but seems to be a side frameset. It does have a stuck seat post though. Also I have the stoke jubilee derailleurs for it.
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Old 07-25-22, 12:46 PM
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My competition with 38 paselas. The narrow rims made the tires fit easily. 35s are a cinch with any 700c rim.
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Old 07-25-22, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by rustystrings61 View Post
I'm gonna say 1975 because of the Prugnat 62d lugs which are first pictured in that year. The Competition moved from Nervex Professional lugs in the earliest versions c.1969, then went to Bocama Professionals through the uncataloged lilac/purple and lagoon blue/white variants. I've seen black Mk. II variants with Nervex Professional lugs, but Carlton Capella lugs are pictured in the catalog '73-74 - though Raleigh may have used the same catalog photo. The Capella lugged '73s seem to outnumber the other variants, which would make senses...

snip
Interesting theory, however, despite all of Raleigh's quirks, I find it beyond implausible that a frame with the previous serial convention starting with an 'H" would have rolled out of Worksop in 1975. I would expect a W#5 serial if it were built that year.
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