First of all it’s really hard to date a frame when the serial number is meaningless. This was the case with this Raleigh Carlton Longfellow, a model built at the Worksop facility in small numbers from about 1964-69. My best guess is that it was a 1968 model, though it’s is very difficult to be sure. It would have been sold by Raleigh Carlton as a frameset to bike shops in the 1960’s, which then would have offered to build a custom bike for the discerning rider or club cyclist. This is how it was advertised for sale in a catalogue from 1966, and the reason why this particular Longfellow had an unusual build. It had a sticker on the frame of a long-gone Glasgow bike shop.
The L’avenir, Flyer, Super Course, Competition and Longfellow were sold as framesets in the year of 1966, but the Longfellow only came in bronze green or black and white. I believe this distinctive mink/lagoon blue colour scheme came a few years later, but getting definitive evidence is difficult. It was, as the name implies, built especially for taller riders, with heavy gauge Reynolds 531 main tubes available in just two sizes, 24.5 or 25.5 inches. This particular frame was the smaller size, 61cm, with a top tube length of 59cm. I can imagine a club cyclist casting a gaze over this desirable frameset nearly 50 years ago in a small local bike shop, taking in its lovely features: half chromed forks and stays, gold Longfellow lettering on the top tube, unusual rear brake bridge, Zeus dropouts and that beautiful chromed lugging. It must have been a very appealing frameset.
I bought the bike in the Fife area of Scotland in 2014 and it was destined for the junk yard, as its wheels, handlebars and crank were all rusty and the bike had been abandoned in an old garage. The frame, however, was in great condition considering it had sat unused but many years. I set about restoring it and swapped out some of the rusty components for some better vintage parts which made a big difference to how it ended up riding. The Simplex Prestige rear derailleur was completely shot and the spokes on the Normandy/Weinmann Wheelset were eaten through with decades of rust. Eventually, I decided to give the bike a new lease of life by installing a 7 speed Mavic 571/GL330 tubular wheelset, which I found incredibly light and responsive.
I loved riding this rare old Carlton, but it was always an inch too big for me. In the end, I sold it as a frameset to a man who promised me he’d rebuild it in the spirit of its era. Built with those upgraded parts, it weighed around 23lbs as it was a big bike, feeling sturdy and comfortable on the road. I would have always changed out the original cottered crankset, I just always prefer cotterless, but I really liked the 5 speed set-up. Indeed, I doubt I’ll ever see one like this ever again. I sold the frameset in the U.S., after having it shipped with my luggage across the Atlantic to the West Coast. I hope it is still being ridden around somewhere on the coast of Washington State, nearly 50 years after it was first ridden in Scotland.
Reynolds 531 Main Tubes, Zeus dropouts
Mavic 571 hubs laced to Mavic GL330 anodised tubular rims
Campagnolo Super Record single crankset
Campagnolo Record shifters
Philippe Professional handlebars and stem
Brooks saddle with newer saddle bag
Original Brampton pedals
Carlton brake levers
Weinmann 999 brake callipers
Suntour Cyclone rear derailleur
New 7 speed Shimano Hyperg