Thursday, 30 December 2010

Empowerment-Part Two

Not empowerment exactly, but a continuation of my theme.

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!


  1. Nice job! The Raleigh looks like it's in good shape. So nice when you don't have to do a lot to an old bike you bought. The Raleigh Wayfarer I just bought definitely needs more work done to it. But then again I only paid $30 for it, so I knew there was going to be some work involved.

    Good luck on the bike and Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks. I was lucky that the previous owner had just stored her away, but really pleased that I've tackled this. I'm learning, slowly, but I hope I can encourage others to have a go. What's the worst that can happen? I'm really looking forward to seeing what she needs to complete the job. But maybe she's good as she is.

    Let me know how the Wayfarer turns out?

    Happy New Year to you too.

  3. I started a new job in 1991, and wanted to be able to commute to work by bike. The local bike shops at that time were full of lots of mountain bikes and a few really expensive road bikes. I found a used 1983 Raleigh Grand Prix instead, and had lots of fun cleaning it up and fixing various parts myself. It has been not only a great learning experience, but also a great practical ride that has good geometry, clearance for fenders, room for good commuting tires, and robust parts that have held up to tons of miles. Twenty years later and I still ride that bike in all kinds of weather. Congratulations on your new/old bike and I hope you get as much joy from it as I have from mine!

  4. Brilliant. I absolutely love this bike. I also bought my bike totally blind and on a whim (late night ebaying!) and got lucky.

    I've also replaced the saddle with a Brooks (from Velorution nonetheless) and the pedals with SPD's...oh and I changed the mudguards for new ones (albeit plastic ones because the old ones were so bent and battered and I was unable to find new metal ones that fit correctly).
    Next on the agenda is a new set of rims as the current steel ones fail in terms of breaking when it rains. Some time in the future, I'd also like to have the bike re-painted.

    I look forward to hearing how you get on with the bike. :)

  5. DavidK,

    The Raleigh Grand Prix would be my next bike choice but there aren't many available anymore, and certainly not for the price I paid for this fix-up. But 20 years of use is what it's all about isn't it? Sustainable, enjoyable transport/sport/life.

    Woolen Typist,

    Do you have a picture of yours? Do you have the same problem as I do with the rear wheel not fitting back onto the frame as snugly as it should? I have spd's on my Wilier but I thought I'd keep the original pedals on this one to commute in, otherwise I'll end up with all sorts of shoe issues! I think my rims are aluminium. The brakes are very good but I haven't been out at speed in the rain yet! I'll keep posting about it

  6. I don't think I have a problem with my back wheel...not that I've noticed anyway.

    Here is a link to the last appearance my bike made on my blog:

    I discovered a snapped spoke today! Argh.

  7. What a gem you've found, and what a great new home she's found too by the sound of it. One hundred pounds very well spent! She's got oodles of style and class! Still plenty of life left in her too by the look of it! (btw love the blog :-)