This week I bought myself a vintage Raleigh Wisp Mixte and lovely she is too. I should have taken lots of before and after pictures but I was so anxious to ride her that I just got on with it, like a woman possessed. And here is the result, or at least, the first installment.
I think she was made between 1983-87. She is pale blue with navy flashes on the lugs. She has the original gears and brakes but I think she may have been a 10 speed at one point. She now just has the five gear cassette and Sachs Huret derailleur.
The gear lever is located on the stem, which I think is lovely. She has Weinman brakes and levers, both on top of the handlebar and on the drops.
When I bought her she was in pretty good condition. The frame has no cracks and only very small patches of rust, but only one or two and no bigger than a couple of millimetres in diameter. The first thing I did was give her a bath. This is not as easy as it sounds because by the time I'd got her home, it was dark and cold outside so I did it very carefully in my kitchen. I put an old towel on top of some newspapers and I used FS10 spray on the frame, wheels, handlebars and I left that for a few minutes while I filled my chain tool with FS1 degreaser to clean the chain. I used FS1 to scrub the dirt out of the cassette, chain ring and the jockey wheels.
I took some wire wool soaked in FS10 and cleaned the metal parts, the rims, levers headset, stem, gear lever, prop stand, pedals, cranks and seat post. She cleaned up well but I must confess I didn't take any of the components apart. I just wanted to see what she would ride like before I attempted any restoration. I polished the metaI, dried and lubed the chain with wet lube, left her to dry overnight and then I took her out in the morning.
I only went round the block a couple of times but she felt just lovely. She's going to be so much fun to ride. I was really surprised by how much I liked her, straightaway. But I guess bikes grab you like that? This is the first (of many?) vintage bike I've bought and I didn't know how she'd feel but, apart from the brake problem, she's very responsive and I felt very stable. The gears are a dream to change, no problems there.
The levers on the drops are a little bit too stiff for me to operate, and I don't quite know how to remedy that. The cable housing is really lovely and, I think, original but the rear brake housing is much shorter than the front and is positioned at a sharp angle coming off the lever. You can see from the picture above that the front housing has a nice long arch to it and the rear is shortened. I don't know whether I can get more housing or whether, if I decide that I have to replace it so that I can brake from both positions, I'll have to put new housing on her. That would be such a shame.
The original Raleigh tyres were fine on the tread but the sidewalls had all but disintegrated. I could have left them for a while but I decided to change them. My choice was black Schwalbe Marathons, with the reflective sidewall, or Delta Cruisers, in white. I went for the Marathons because I'm just not sure about white tyres. Maybe for a summer bike, but I want this to commute in, to increase my road bike skill set.
So, The next morning, yesterday, I went to Velorution on Gt Titchfield Street to get some replacement parts. Brake pads, cable, tyres and a new saddle.
This monstrosity came with her. The original bike was sold with a navy suede saddle and matching bar tape and then someone put this on. Never mind. I put a standard Brooks B17 on her. Standard because I'm not sure about the need for a shortened version for women, and Brooks because....well just because. How could I not?
I changed the brake pads on the front but left the rear ones alone.
These little things were on the front and Roman at Velorution gave me some small ones to fit. I have to confess, I went there without a clue as to sizes and they were fantastic and gave me all the right parts, just from the description of the bike, gears and brakes. I highly recommend them if they're near to you.
I changed the tyres, the saddle and cleaned inside the seat post and under the mudguards. Apart from the brake problem, the only other worry, that I can see, is that the rear wheel doesn't seem to fit on the frame properly. I've had this problem before. You can't really see it from this picture and the other side is worse. The way it's been remedied before is that I take my bike along to my local bike shop and they hammer it in! Not sure if I want to do that but it does seem a little precariously bolted on. I didn't change the brake cable because I need to think about what to do with the housing, and it seems ok, if a little stiff on the levers.
I think I've been lucky with this bike. I bought her blind and have been able to do some of the initial repairs myself. Before I start using her for commuting, I'll have my local bike shop give her a look, to see if they can fix the rear wheel on more firmly on the left-hand side and just to make sure I haven't messed anything up, and then we're good to go.
And I've spent a little over £100 on a really lovely bike. Hurrah!