I suppose all collectors dream of finding that one gem, stored away and forgotten for years, in pristine condition and at a bargain price. The 1974 Raleigh Super Tourer I bought in 2012 was just one of those rare cases, a vintage bike in practically mint condition like it had been suspended in time. I had never seen a bike in such amazing shape for it’s age, and not surprisingly I haven’t since. Bikes are at heart a practical item; people scrape them, drop them, scratch them against walls and posts, stuff them in a corner of the garage and often park them where they’re bound to get damaged. They are essentially a practical item and few escape the wear and tear of time. This one did. The lady owner had ridden it while at college, and had taken it on a ride abroad before calling it quits on cycling. She had always made a point to keep the bike stored in a warm room over the many years it had stood unused.
A Beautiful Build
The Super Tourer wasn’t a top end bicycle, but nevertheless it was a well appointed and nicely made touring bike made for just three years, from 1973 -1976. This particular example was quite unusual in that it had drop handlebars, not the straight type that was standard on most Super Tourers. Indeed, I have never come across another like this one since, though I’m sure there must be some that survive in the garages and barns of America. This Super Tourer had lovely bronze paintwork with mink detailing, in beautiful shape. Reynolds 531 double butted tubing for the frame and forks, clean and simple lugs, half chrome forks and stays. It weighed around 23lbs. The chrome was in near perfect condition. The original handlebar tape was still decent and didn’t need to be changed, and I loved the suede 3t saddle. Interestingly, it was a 5 speed bike, embracing that clean and simple aesthetic that I found really appealing. It had a lovely TA crank with a 6 arm spider, beautiful Normandy high flange hubs and to top it off, a Huret transmission with a Jubilee rear derailleur. Wonderful!
A Sad Ending
I sold it because it didn’t fit me. It was 2cm too small for me, and I had to let someone else have the pleasure of its ownership. I sold it on Ebay a few months after I brought her home for $430, but have regretted it ever since. It was just one of those bikes that stays with you, its condition, its originality, its aesthetic. The story for me finished badly, because not long after I sold it, I found out that its originality had been compromised, its distinctiveness squandered. The new owner had changed out the handlebars, saddle and tape, added mudguards and bigger tyres, to my consternation and horror. It didn’t need it. The customisation spoiled the bike, and I hope one day it will be restored back to the original and delightful bicycle that it once was, like the day it was bought in 1974.