Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
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.
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.
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
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
Crankset: 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)
Chain: Daido; Gold and black
Hubs: 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
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