Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
In 2011, on one of the last days in November, I was cycling home from work and was struck by a car in an intersection. Luckily, I was not permanently hurt and I was not at fault but my phenomenal 1990 Schwinn Voyageur frame was bowed from the impact, rendering it totally useless. That incident could be an entirely separate post and one day, I may share the experience, however this post is about the replacement bike that I picked up, months later. Not the incident beforehand.
My goal was to find a stout, mid-80’s/early-90’s touring rig that could be used as my main commuter on my 22 mile round trip ride from home to work. I also wanted something that would scoff at any touring expedition I challenged it to. My search went on for quite a few months and there were some serious contenders found but most of them were well out of state and without actually seeing them and feeling if fit was right, I ended up holding out and buying local.
Enter my purchase of a well used 1985 Raleigh Kodiak.
This beefy touring rig was second in line behind the esteemed Raleigh Portage. The fit was spot on, the rig felt solid and the price was right but the condition was something that had me shuffling my feet over. Why the worry? Well, the frame, let’s say, has lots of character and all of the components are badly in need of some rejuvenation and/or repair. Toss in my nagging desperation to get back on the road ASAFP and you have a recipe for some big choices.
Once my plan was crafted the clock started ticking. How quickly can I get this bike back into action? I guess that depends on (A) how bad the frame/parts look, (B) how much time I want to put into them.
A + B = C
The tear down and cleanup begins:
The frame overview shot above is busy but there are many changes that have occurred since you scrolled from the top overview photo to this bottom shot. Most notably, the frame was washed/scrubbed, rust removed, all bare metal was hand clear coated and waxed (2x) to enhance the shine and keep any rust from accumulating. A Shimano cartridge bottom bracket was installed as the old cup and cone setup was laughably pitted and wrecked beyond an iota of salvage. The headset was repacked and the bars/stem were upgraded. The brake levers were also upgraded with parts I had lying around along with the shifting system (note the hard to see Suntour bar ends). Lastly, the seat post was mated to a fantastic tried and true saddle (Vetta Centurion Anatomic) then installed.
So far, the only purchase made is the bottom bracket and the only original parts that have gone back on are the headset bearing rings and the seat post.
Stay tuned for more…
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I agree that there’s plenty of “character” on the surface, but those Raleighs – this model especially – have a lot of class. I’ve always loved the Raleigh headbadge, which is – in my opinion – one of the great designs associated with cycling.
The components look grungy but functional. Other than the freewheel, which looks like it could stand to be replaced, I’d make sure you have the fit dialed in, get the saddle you want to mate with your body mounted, make sure you’ve got the right stem length… and ride that old girl. You can always swap out stuff as they fall into your lap. (It always seems as though the part I’m looking for comes up for next to nothing on Craig’s List about twenty-four hours after I’ve paid full price for it new.)
Many of my same thoughts exactly, Mark.
Funny you should mention the crucial pieces which will make it to the final build—the saddle, the stem—both critical and assuming they play well with the size, fit and aesthetics, those two pieces will probably stay.
I agree, the heron Raleigh head badge is a classic cycling icon. It’s nice that those years were actual, chunky, yet classy badges and not stickers.
What’s even more wonderful is that the head badge is probably the cleanest and most unmarred piece of equipment on the bike as it sat when I purchased it. Good thing too because if there is a full blown tear down, that will come off but go back on once the frame is media blasted and painted.
I have a Raleigh Kodiak that I bought last fall. I was fortunate in that mine was in amazing condition. Bartape/cables/brakepads seemed to be all it really needed. I’ve made a few small changes – pedals, saddle, fenders. Will probably buy a new stem and handlebars this spring just to get the fit exactly right. Anyway, I love this bike so much. It’s just so smooth and comfortable to ride, but also relatively light. It’s great for longer distances, which is what I wanted. I wish you well in your restoration. I think you’ll be very happy.
Thanks for the comment!
I only wish mine was in a shape where all I needed was to replace a couple of consumable items. Then again, I do enjoy the agony and ecstasy of a project.
When I took her out for a test ride, even in as bad of shape as she was in (gummed up derailleurs, devastated chain, beyond pitted bottom bracket, etc.), she was rock solid, tracked like a champ and like you mentioned, rode smooth and comfortably. I was also surprised that the nimbleness was on par, if not more so, than my old Voyageur. I knew the bones and possibilities were there, I just had to do what nobody has done since it left the factory and uncover the gem by giving this bike the love and attention it deserves. Either way, I was sold.
Now, if only the restoration would go just a touch quicker. My spring fever clock is ticking!
Well, there’s something wonderful about a bike rescue. And I know what you mean about spring fever! I really am looking forward to reading more about your restoration.