Reconditioning a 1971 Raleigh Record Bicycle - Doug Barnes

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reconditioning a 1971 Raleigh Record Bicycle

You might be asking the question whether it is worthwhile to a put lot of time into reconditioning a heavy 1971 ten-speed Raleigh Record bicycle. The answer is definitely no. The sales value won't match the price of the new components. However, this was my first road style bicycle, so for sentimental reasons the answer for me is resounding "yes."

Riding History

This bicycle has taken me up, over and down the mountains in western Pennsylvania. On this bike I have taken bicycle tours with heavy panniers in Nova Scotia, New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin and other states. There have been many century rides near and around Champaign, Illinois. For years I commuted to work on this bicycle in Washington DC, braving heavy traffic and clueless drivers. Eventually I bought other bikes, so I gave this Raleigh to my brother in 2001. In 2006 as a Christmas gift I reconditioned the bicycle for him, replacing some of the original components, but keeping most of them.

My brother rode this bicycle for local transportation in Washington DC. He did not have a car so this bike took him all over Bethesda and DC. In addition, he also spent a summer riding this Raleigh in Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The bike snobs looked down on the old Raleigh, but on return he was proud to say to me, "Going downhill I passed many of those $2000 bicycles." Of course going up those mountains was another story. Unfortunately my brother passed away in 2013. As a writer and enthusiast for the English language, he loved this bike because it was made in England. It reminded him of living in England during his graduate school days many years ago where he rode an old English roadster.

Once back in my possession I again reconditioned the bicycle in 2016. After replacing all ball bearings and cones during, the bicycle now rides like the day I bought it. It's heavy, but as my brother found out that means it goes really fast going downhill! The ride is steady as the Raleigh's steel frame geometry absorbs bumps and allows you to guide the bike straight and true on the open roads. The bike also feels very stable leaning into curves on hilly city streets. The Raleigh now serves as my bicycle of choice to ride around the neighborhood and to bike to local shops.

Technology History of Parts

This Raleigh spans several generations of bicycle technology development. The original 1971 model was manufactured entirely in Europe with all European components. The frame, forks and seat were made in England. The crankset, stem, derailleurs and freewheels all were made in France. The brakes were made by Weinmann in Switzerland.
Text Describing Raleigh Record
Raleigh Catalog, 1970
(Source: The Headbadge: A Vintage Bicycle Resource)
The replacement of the French made Huret Allvit derailleur and Atom freewheels came in the 1980s. The new components were from Suntour manufactured by Maeda Industries in Japan. The new Suntour derailleur was a superior design compared to European components (with the exception of Campagnolo). This was followed in 2006 by Japanese Shimano components made in Singapore and China. Finally, in 2015 in honor of my sore back I put a pair of Cane Creek Crosstop brake levers on the handlebars. Both this 1971 Raleigh Record and the bicycle industry have seen many changes during the last 40 years with production of bicycles and components moving from Europe to Japan, followed by Taiwan and Malaysia and more recently to China.
1970s Bicycle Components
Suntour Rear Derailleur and Shimano Front Derailleur
(Photo: Doug Barnes)
Be sure to watch the 2011 video on the refurbishing of this bike. I used the term refurbishing because this is not a museum piece. It is built to ride on the city streets of Washington, DC---today!


  1. Great article about a classic bike! I bought a Raleigh Record almost 45 years ago at the recommendation of a fellow named Douglas F. Barnes (DFB). I rode the bike during my four years serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. Then I studied oceanography for my Ph.D. at Princeton University. My research took place on the James Forrestal Campus of Princeton about 3-4 miles from my housing unit. The Raleigh Record was my transportation for the four years at Princeton. I rode the Record along a deserted barge towpath that separated Lake Carnegie (site of the Princeton rowing competitions) and a canal. The ride was beautiful and peaceful. But there was some occasional excitement when it came time to cross the canal toward the Forrestal campus, as there was no bridge. One of my world-renowned oceanography professors and his family also liked to ride bikes to the Forrestal Campus and faced the same dilemma. They solved the problem by building a raft and pulley system to enable the 40-foot crossing of the canal. We would toss our bicycles onto the raft along with our book bags and pull ourselves across the canal in all kinds of weather. There were a few mishaps when we lost our balance and had to drag bike, books, and ourselves out of the canal. But, somehow we all made it work and the Raleigh Record, heavy as could be, made it all possible!
    After graduating from Princeton, I accepted a special fellowship at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences to pursue my interest in ocean studies at sea. So I drove my one-year old son from Princeton to Miami in my Kharmann Ghia with that same Raleigh Record attached to a rack. While living on Key Biscayne, I rode the Record to the Rosenstiel School on a great bike path along the ocean, sometimes dodging turkey vultures. On the weekends, I put a bright orange child’s seat on the Record and took my little son on rides to the Cape Florida Lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park with the 1825 Cape Florida Lighthouse on the key and even snuck in some tennis at tiny Crandon Park, which later became the site of major professional tennis tournaments. The legendary Cape Florida Lighthouse is one of the inspirations for a children’s book I am presently writing.
    Next, I accepted a professorship at the University of Southern California. At this point, dragging the Record across country with a two-year old seemed too much to ask. So, sadly I had to leave the Record behind for someone else to enjoy. I hope that, like the vintage cars driving the streets of old Havana, my Record is similarly being ridden in all its glory in Little Havana along Calle Ocho!
    Thanks for all the memories made possible by you, my great friend DFB!!!

  2. Doug,

    Thanks for the post. I found your refurbishment very informative.

    I just got out of the military and was hoping to get a mid-70s model Raleigh Record my father bought new back in shape to make local trips and for days where I don't want to run. My father passed in 2013 and I used his bike all the time growing up and it has sentimental value to me. My wife told me to buy a new bike but I'm not quite there yet.

    Anyways, I took it to a local store here in Richmond, VA for a front tire and they informed me the rear derailleur needs replacing. You mentioned Shimano front derailleur and Suntour rear. You also said Suntour has since gone out of business? Is there a Shimano rear I could use?

    Thanks in advance.

    Brian Pool

    1. The original Huret on the bike was a terrible derailleur, so it is good that you are replacing it.

      Yes Shimano is fine. They basically took over from Suntour way back when. They Tourney is entry level and the Altus is a step up. I would probably go with the Altus. They seem a bit pricey on Amazon right now. Perhaps your bike shop can sell you one.

  3. Loved your story, you are a great story teller, made me want to work on my 1960’s Hudson.