The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon

1986 Raleigh Portage

The Raleigh Portage has build versatility but there’s something special about taking one back to (mostly) stock. Earlier, I took five blog posts to showcase the transformation of a rusted, beat-up, sad, 1985 Raleigh Portage to a reworked, modified, repainted, upright urban gentleman’s bicycle. The results exceeded what I thought was possible. But for the purists that follow this blog, I could feel the collective, deflated sigh as the last post unveiled the final results. Upright bars, chain guard, rear derailleur only. This was not the Raleigh Portage that was expected.

It’s OK to admit it. I am fairly certain this is the bike everyone wanted the custom 1985 Portage build to be.

1986 Raleigh Portage

1986 Raleigh Portage

Having now owned two Raleigh Portage bicycles, one-year apart in production, they both clearly overlap in features. This is especially true in how rock solid the frames are. The lugwork isn’t particularly gorgeous. The points aren’t really filed. The brazing around some mounting components, like the brake bridge, gets a little sloppy on both models. But what the frame may lack in boutique ornateness it makes up for in useful practicality, strong, double butted touring steel and well connected joints. Even the components are strong. Everything is strong. Even bar tape has enough shellac to get you across the country a few times before it would need reapplied.

One upgrade I typically make on bicycles I am overhauling is brake levers. New, modern levers, which are usually vastly superior, can easily be debadged and downplayed so they blend into the overall aesthetics. But the existing Shimano levers are legends in the vintage circuit and even though one loses the aero aspect, with the exposed wiring, they work so extremely well and only add to the classic look. Besides, you don’t find stock, gum hoods like this any longer.

It is well known that the Portage was one of the first mass-produced 650B bikes. With the resurgence of the tire size, I was thankfully able to find a number of different options. Just two or three short years ago, this would have not been the case and finding rubber to fit would have been incredibly limited.
I ended up selecting the plush (41mm) Fatty Rumpkin, made by Panaracer. A name I have trusted for years that produces high-quality tires that are visually appealing and compliment the build. I feel like these Fatty’s are no exception. The redish brown, clay walled stripe is a wonderful color, flattering the saddle and a hue I feel will break in well over hours of ride time. What I also find eye-catching is the tread pattern. This gives the build a more modern look but also brings function in as these tires are rated highly for gravel roads and long distances. A perfect combination for touring and hopping off the asphalt to take the shortcut through the old, forgotten mountain road.

Going back to the topic of strength but staying with wheels, Raleigh knew these bicycles weren’t going to be garage queens. They were going to be used for exceptionally long, multi-day rides, daily commuting or anything in between. The aluminum Araya wheels came stock with 36 spokes up front and a serious 40 spokes in the rear. Clearly, loading up this bicycle would not be a problem. The beefy, stock Raleigh wheels are attention getting but one shouldn’t overlook the anodized aspect. Black is not a color that was a typical road wheel production color. Since there is barely any brake wear on these wheels, they are exceptionally gorgeous.

1986 Raleigh Product Catalog: Portage

1986 Raleigh Product Catalog

Color: Sage green metallic with Quicksilver panels
Frame Size: 64cm (C-T) seat post & 58cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: 555 T Double-butted chro-moly steel; Suntour
Fork: 555 T chro-moly steel
Bars: Raleigh
Bar Wrap: Serfas; Dark brown marble cork with 5 coats of shellac and twine
Stem: SR Custom
Headset: Tange MTB-225
Saddle: Brooks B17; Brown
Seat Post: Sakae; Smooth
Sakae AX; 48/38/28; 170mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT Deer Head; FD-M700
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT Deer Head; RD-M700
Shifting: Shimano Deore XT Deer Head downtube shifters; Z408
Brake Levers: Shimano BL-Z325 with gum hoods
Brake Calipers: Shimano BR-MC70; Shimano pads
Cable and Housing: Clarks; Black
Freewheel: 6-Speed Shimano UG (14/17/20/24/28/34)
Daido; Gold and black
SR; High flange
Wheels: Araya; Black anodized; 650B; 36h (Front); 40h (Rear); Sakae skewers
Tires: Fatty Rumpkin; Clay walled; 650B x 41mm
Pedals: SR SP-100
Special Features: Double eyelets front/rear; Three bottle mounts; Brazed-on mounts for front/rear rack; Pump peg; Forged vertical dropouts

© Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

11 comments on “1986 Raleigh Portage

  1. adventurepdx
    March 28, 2016

    I’d be tempted to buy it. But thankfully (for you, not me) it’s too big for me! Guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with my Raleigh Crested Butte with upright bars. 😉

    • Josh C.
      March 28, 2016

      Actually, I absolutely love when I can provide a bicycle to a family member, friend, blog subscriber, colleague, etc. It’s my favorite way to pass a gem along. Selling on Craigs or eBay is so informal and faceless.

      Plus, I rarely hear what happens to them once they leave my hands after so many hours of careful work and design consideration. And that, to me, is disappointing. So, if you are serious, please do let me know.

      It’s a big boy for sure!

      • adventurepdx
        March 28, 2016

        Sorry, not really serious. On one hand, the Portage is one of those bikes I lust after. On the other hand, I’m not going to buy a bike that’s at least 6 cm too big for me. And right now, I have too many bikes, have spent too much on bikes lately. I need to save up cash for adventure! Hope that you find it a good home.

  2. adventurepdx
    March 28, 2016

    I meant, for me, not you!

  3. adventurepdx
    April 3, 2016

    Looks like you sold it!
    That sweet restored Raleigh Portage has sold and is being shipped to California.

    • Josh C.
      April 3, 2016

      Haha! That’s pretty funny you spotted her in the shop (for boxing and shipping).

      I did sell the Portage and it sure didn’t take long!

      After speaking extensively to the new owner, who lives in Southern California, it is clear to me this machine is absolutely going to the right home. This bicycle will round out his collection to perfection and I hope he has thousands of wonderful miles in the saddle.

      I am sad to see her go and leave Portland but the Raleigh 650B gospel must be spread!

  4. Ryan Surface
    July 19, 2016

    Is that shot from Adventurepdx in Velo Cult? love that place. Gorgeous vintage build as usual, those cranks look brand new from the factory and my coffee table in envious of the shellac job on the bar wrap! Someone got a beauty.

    • Josh C.
      July 19, 2016

      Velo Cult for the win, Ryan!

      Personally, they aren’t my favorite shop, nor do I find them the best at mechanics, but they are close to my house and are the least expensive of the packing/shipping bike shops I know in my area.

      I do agree with you, however. This fine steed went to a well deserving gentleman who has been keeping in touch with me on his modifications. Who knows. Maybe one day he’ll provide some images so I may update the thread! (Hint hint)

  5. Sery Why (@WhySery)
    August 25, 2018

    I once had a Portage by Raleigh 1984 summer – it had weird size tires and rims that I could not find replacements for and it was stolen from me by a bike-rack-cutting ne’er-do-well in 1991 across from the Greek Theater in Griffith Park in Los Angeles
    I rode that bike and lived on it all around Southern California from San Francisco to Vallejo to Yosemite to Fresno to Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo to L.A. to San Diego to Ensenada and back again still
    but now feet and the bus carry me around…flat tires WERE always a drag on my sense of rhythm amen?
    now I can play my air drums that I carry around with me
    one can’t drum the air with hands wrapped around handle-bars right amen?

  6. Alex
    March 2, 2019

    Stunning build, well done!

  7. Pingback: 1986 Raleigh Portage | The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

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