The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon

1986 Raleigh Alyeska

On the heels of my ’85 Raleigh Kodiak purchase comes another touring acquisition. Introducing a stout, 1986 Raleigh Alyeska dressed in a classy bordeaux and rose trim paint scheme.

1986 Raleigh Alyeska

Photographed as purchased with invisible seat post and saddle

When I arrived to check out this Alyeska for purchase, I luckily had enough parts “on hand” to fabricate a solid seat post. I threw on a saddle and hopped on for a test ride. Thanks to the ridiculously chunky white BMX style pedals, my feet couldn’t help but be in the center. Even with the obvious amount of cleaning, tuning and updating the bike needs, the ride was stable and comfortable, which is just what I expected being that the Alyeska is one very small step down in hierarchy from the Kodiak and is considered a very capable model, quite often sought out for its excellent commuter/light touring use. These older Raleigh’s are typically underrated (sans the Raleigh Portage) and ride so comfortably because of their wonderful touring geometry. The slack angles and gobs of fork rake make up the old English touring frame philosophy.

Not surprising, there is quite a bit of dirt, oil, grease and neglect wrapped around this one, but I do see potential. In fact, I believe the transformation will be incredible as there seems to be small amounts of rust and luckily, only at surface level, mostly affecting the screws and bolts.
Although this model is only one year newer than my Kodiak, I can see upgrades that are noteworthy. For example, the Shimano Deore derailleurs are a touch more modern than my Deore’s and the Sakae CR crankset is a nice upgrade considering mine came equipped with one which I would consider a questionable (a “Takagi AD”). A sealed bottom bracket and the addition of a pump peg are also both fine improvements. I do, however, find it curious that Raleigh paired up Shimano front/rear derailleurs and Shimano shift levers (these have been replaced/upgraded with newer 105’s) with a Suntour freewheel. You would think they would keep the group set within the same manufacturer to reduce any compatibility issues that may crop up.

The next time I report on this one, she’ll be shined up like a new penny!

Raleigh Alyeska

Raleigh Alyeska

The 105’s on the downtube are one of the only items not stock on the bike

Raleigh Alyeska

Slight surface rust on the headset but the Raleigh heron still shines like justice

Raleigh Alyeska

Sakae CR; 50/45/32

Raleigh Alyeska

Raleigh Alyeska

Raleigh branded high flange hubs (40 hole rear; 36 hole front)

Raleigh Alyeska

Sealed BB and the often debated “Raleigh 555T” tubing

Raleigh Alyeska

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19 comments on “1986 Raleigh Alyeska

  1. CJ
    April 20, 2012

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this one comes out.

    The components on your two Raleighs make me think my Kodiak is a little newer. For example, mine has Shimano 105 shifters/deraillers. I’m also very curious about Raleigh tubing. I’ve heard some say it’s Reynolds, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

  2. Josh C.
    April 20, 2012

    I am certain that the Kodiak is an ’85 due to the components being first generation Deore. I also went to that same technique on the Alyeska to help identify the year. This Alyeska has SR Randonneur style drop bars and the ’85 has Kusuki Randonneur bars. Mine also has an SR stem, which another addition in ’86. The ’85 is said to also have an “integral allen wrench” as a special feature and I know mine certainly doesn’t have that little bonus. Originally I thought I had read that the ’86 had the addition of the pump peg but so far, none of the catalogs specifically state that. Either way they are awfully close to the very same bike and my guess is the only alterations between the two years were within the components.
    The tubing is a sticky wicket as it seems there is no clear description as to what material 555 T really is. I’ve heard Raleigh 555 = Reynolds 501 but I believe Raleigh could have made 555 in several different materials. This material, being a full blown touring bike, is Double Butted CrMo.

    Thanks for the comment, Cj!

  3. T.J.
    April 26, 2012

    Hey, sweet ride to acquire. Especially after the Kodiak! I too am a lover of the vintage touring bikes, but have ended up with the Fuji’s, although I did come into a Raleigh Portage that was too small for me, so I passed it on. I can’t say enough good things about the old touring bikes. I have a 1983 Fuji Touring Series IV, and soon after purchasing it, I happened upon 1984 Fuji America Touring Series V. It was interesting because I looked for a while to get the TS IV. The touring bikes can be addictive for their utilitarian excellence – I also have a couple others. Looks to me like you are going to be rolling in style, comfort, and purpose for some time. Congrats on getting those bikes, and good job of dealing with the shifter bosses on the Kodiak. I had a Miyata 615 GT (now gone) that had those same bosses. It is nice to see you appreciate these bikes for their outstanding performance. In my opinion, the vintage tourers are a bargain when one considers the price of a new tig welded frame from a reputable company.

    • Josh C.
      April 26, 2012

      Hey TJ!

      Lots going on in your post! First off, sorry to hear that the Portage did not work out. If/when I acquire one, I would have the vintage Raleigh trifecta. I’m certainly keeping my eye out for one now that I’ve sampled the quality of tourers Raleigh offered way back when.
      I have a list of touring bikes that I lust after and Fuji certainly has a few that were impressive including the IV and V. Hopefully, you have put them both to good use. I also completely agree with your assessment of the bikes’ utilitarianism. They aren’t racers but they still pack plenty of giddyup along with the ability to be customized for any length of trip. What more could you want?! This style of bike is really growing on me. Plus, I just picked up a Lotus Eclair so add another pony to the touring stable. More on that bike in the near future. Stay tuned!

      Thanks again for your comments.

  4. edthinktank
    March 22, 2013

    I have an Aleyeska. The original brakes are weak. They have a non-standard spring hole configuration on the cantilever studs. I agree this is an incredibly comfortable ride. I eventually upgraded the brakes with Paul Motolite V brakes and tektro levers to pull the cable. Mine is a 58cm. I still use the original 27″ wheels running Panaracer 1 1/4″ tires. I like the handlebars. Mine came with Grab-on foam grips. I have installed Suntour shifters on the stem. …

    • Josh C.
      March 23, 2013

      Paul brakes are a very nice upgrade to the original canti’s. In fact, I have been kicking around a set of Neo Retro brakes for the Kodiak. Pairing them up with the Tektro levers is also a great idea. The build-to-price ratio is unmatched. I am happy to hear that your Alyeska is back on the road, where she belongs!

      Happy riding!

  5. Tom Saecker
    July 19, 2013

    Nice to find these posts…albeit somewhat old…Last week I found an ’81 Raleigh Touring 14, for $65…from someone’s dead grandfather buried in the back corner
    of a garage…sweet bike indeed full of potential…All components are fine and the bike has been stripped bare for paint, polishing components etc…very excited. Now 6 days later I found a circa ’85,’86 Alyeska for sale for $130…seriously pondering this next adventure…seems to be a solid bike similar to the Touting 14, 18 and Kodiak….

    • Josh C.
      July 19, 2013

      The same thing happened to me too, Tom. I purchased my Kodiak then immediately an Alyeska became available for mere pennies. I snatched it up with no particular plan for it and am pleased I did as it is much more difficult to acquire items than it is to sell them. Still, I have had it well over a year and still not restored it. All in good time, I suppose. Enjoy your new bicycles!

  6. harrybsanderford
    April 23, 2014

    I’ll go ahead and add to this weird trend. Last week I bought a near mint Kodiak at my local flea market and this week I bought a near mint Alyeska. What do you suppose the odds might be on a Portage turning up next week?

    • Josh C.
      April 23, 2014

      Opportunities like this sometimes do come in sets of three. Plus, there could also be that law of attraction thing at work too.
      Although I nabbed both my Raleigh tourers within a few weeks of each other the Portage took a much more calculated hunt. But who knows, perhaps your third find, to round off your vintage touring lucky streak, is right around the corner. Or increase your odds of landing the third jackpot by keeping watch for a Raleigh Elkhorn or Crested Butte to nail down that future gravel grinder build.

      • harrybsanderford
        April 24, 2014

        You are probably right about the law of attraction thing. If I turn up a Portage next Wednesday I will see if my luck holds for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

  7. Peter Church
    June 25, 2014

    Wow, this website is a find. I bought a new Alyeska at a bike shop in New Hampshire many years ago. It has sat in the shed for probably 25 years. I took it out two weeks ago and started to restore it so I can ride it again. I got new tires, tubes, chain and brake pads from Bike Nashbar as well as some specialized tools to help with the restoration. I replaced all the bearings with new ones and new grease.

    Edthinktank, I like your idea of shifters on the stem instead of the downtube. Did you change out the derailleurs as well?

    Peter in Maine

    • Josh C.
      June 25, 2014

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the kind words and as for your Alyeska, isn’t it amazing that with just a small amount investment and a touch of elbow grease, a significant transformation can occur turning what was once an idle machine into a viable means of transportation? Your Raleigh is a wonderful bicycle and with the updates you made, should now be ready to roll for many miles to come. Nice work!
      As for stem shifters, most shy away from them due to the connotation that changing from downtube to stem is a downgrade however I disagree. Within the vintage community I have found seasoned, well-informed restorationists altering their rigs to accept stem shifters for convenience and comfort. I am fully under the impression that if it works for you, and is a safe improvement, by all means alter away to fit your lifestyle and needs!

  8. richspk
    April 27, 2016

    That looks just like the Raleigh Alyeska I bought in Chelmsford, MA back in 1986, right down to the color. I think your frame may be bigger than mine, though. I’ve been riding mine the whole time. I added lights, computer, and a rack. I wore out the front wheel and replaced it. I replaced the seat. I think it’s a hair too small for me, but I can ride it comfortably all day. Several years ago, the weld at the top of the right seatstay broke and I got it re-welded for $20. It broke again last week.

    • Josh C.
      April 28, 2016

      Sounds like it’s time to get that frame back under the torch!
      Really though, that is exactly the type of work horses this mid-80s Raleigh touring line was. Solid, well balanced and so long as they have wheels, they’ll keep pushing on.
      Bikes come and go into my life quite frequently but my Raleigh Kodiak still keeps position 1 as my main daily rider.
      Thanks for sharing your Alyeska’s history. You get big points from me being such a long time Alyeska owner/rider!

  9. ryansubike
    April 22, 2017

    So I am guessing based on your recent twitter post that the Alyeska’s getting sold as a frame -set and there will be no follow up of a refurbed bike…(sad trombone). I certainly understand having more projects than time.

    • Josh C.
      April 22, 2017

      Believe it or not I actually had two complete Alyeska’s for quite some time. Note the size differences between the Twitter frame and the images above. Both vastly different.

      The first Alyeska went to Norther Cycles as a frame only. It quickly went under the torch and was vastly different (spacing, shifter and brake boss edits, etc.) when completed. It was powder coated and made to be a modern touring/commuter juggernaut. Not a bad end result, really.

      The larger frame, which is/was listed on Twitter, was in better condition. The parts, however, were not. A recent binge purchase of bikes (and still another frame on the way from Delaware) has me scrambling for space and pondering what future builds will be the most worthwhile to complete. As sad as I am about it, the Alyeska’s simply didn’t make the cut. I really, really wanted to show the complete, and restored, 80s touring lineup of the Portage, Kodiak and an Alyeska in one image. But, sometimes what you want and what you get, simply aren’t in the chips.

      Looking ahead however, I do have some wonderful bicycles that I am excited to showcase once they are completed. So long as I stop purchasing and start restoring!

  10. Jay Reider
    May 8, 2021

    I have a 1986 Alyeska, just took in to be made road ready, have not ridden in 14 years, going to get back into riding!

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This entry was posted on April 16, 2012 by in Bicycle Projects, Cycling Projects, Topics and tagged , , , , , .

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