Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
In 1984, Italy was churning out showstopping frames. Raleigh had their own answer.
Colnago. Cinelli. De Rosa. Tommasini. Bianchi.
The racing bike circuit was dominated by sexy, svelte Italian frames for decades during the 20th century. Their allure is clear. Superior builds with top end tubing, bright chrome, deep, rich paint with pantographed everything. Not many other countries dare came to the table of such pedigree. Most who did were either easily dismissed or raised eyebrows and potentially able to join the cycling Illuminati.
To step to the big boys at say, the Tour de France, Raleigh would have unleashed something like their hand built Raleigh 753 (IE: Raleigh Team Professional) dressed in a full kit of Campagnolo Super Record. But for those not riding professionally, there were options that went toe-to-toe with their Italian counterparts. Just below the Raleigh 753 was the Raleigh Prestige. This was the top level Raleigh in the USA for 1984, without having custom ordered from the United Kingdom. It may not have as much opulent grandeur and over the top styling as say, a Ciöcc, or any of the other brands listed above, but it is everything you’d expect from a group with a world cycling championship pedigree. Being at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean it needs to shout either. It keeps with an understated undertone and holds itself with a quiet dignity.
For me, this bicycle was a feast for the eyes. The painted frame wears full chrome underneath, yet only standing out on the rear triangle, fork and head tube, exactly the combination of paint and chrome I like to see. What you see when you glance at a frame may be only surface level attributes of what creates a truly great frame set, but let’s be honest, they set the stage as some of the most important elements on if a design grabs hold of you right away.
Another elegant detail was the fork design, with engraved crown. At the time, many forks had a less desirable unicrown design. Not the Prestige. Thankfully, only a proper fork, with the stamped heron, would do for this one.
When I first got up close and swept my eyes over this bicycle, the stem caught my attention first. Above shows a side view with the chrome portion standing out over the black paint. It’s unique in that it has a screw style bar clamp that allows the drop bars to be secured with an internal cam. I’m aware others have created designs similar to this in the past but for a top end bicycle, it’s a nice touch and a clever design.
Also fascinating to me were the Dia-Compe AGC300 aerodynamic brake calipers. The removed caliper images below shows the gaping hole where one would traditionally insert a thin brake pad post. This style has an eccentric brake pad area that allows for a different style of directional adjustments and also integrates the pad into the caliper in a more graceful method. I’d guess this was likely a selling point on part of the aerodynamics as well, however small it was. I’m not sold on how much better, in terms of adjustability or grip strength, these calipers have but I do enjoy their slightly edgy and complementary look that seems to blend in well with the Superbe group.
When Raleigh selected components for the Prestige, they nailed it. It is simply impossible to overlook the elephant in the room. The SunTour Superbe Pro group that adorns this frame is nothing short of a work of art, perfect for the times. The silky anodized parts were a joy to clean, lubricate and hone. This really was a special time for bicycle components blending superior craftsmanship, artistry and minimalism that we just don’t see much of today.
Does the Prestige below within the same category as its Italian counterparts? The Raleigh 753 custom race frame is hand built for the pro circuit and technically outranks the Prestige. Those are Tour level machines. But, the Prestige holds its own. As the catalog below states, “the Prestige is not a toy” and has the chops to play with the big boys. The topic could be debated to death but what’s clear to me is that this is a stately example that blends all worlds of what it takes to craft a beautiful bicycle and classic design that will continue to age gracefully and components still feel relevant for many, many years to come.
Color: Black metallic and chrome
Frame Size: 60cm (C-T) seat post & 57cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: 555 SL double butted Chrome Moly; SunTour Pro
Fork: 555 SL Chrome Moly; SunTour Pro
Bars: SR Royal 978
Bar Tape: Fizik Tempo Bondcush
Stem: SR Custom R
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo 1980
Seat Post: SR LaPrade; Fluted
Crankset: Ofmega Mistral; 52/42; 170mm
Front Derailleur: SunTour Superbe Pro
Rear Derailleur: SunTour Superbe Pro
Shifting: SunTour Superbe Pro
Brake Levers: Dia-Compe Gran Compe Aero AGC; Debadged
Brake Calipers: Dia-Compe Gran Compe Aero AGC300; Debaged; Dia-Compe pads
Cable Housing: Jagwire KEB-SL; Ice gray
Freewheel: SunTour New Winner 7-Speed (12/13/14/15/18/21/24
Hubs: SunTour Superbe Pro
Wheels: Araya Aero ADX-1W; 36 hole; SunTour skewers
Tires: Vittoria Corsa G2.0; Black; 700×25
Special Features: Full chrome frame, Bottle mount braze on, Quickstand braze on; Engraved seat stays and fork crown; Chain rest
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