On Thursday, I cleaned up a 1955 Raleigh Sport for a neighbor. She bought it new in 1955 from Klarsfeld, here in Albany, and has owned it ever since. She said she has taken with her to Buffalo and Boston and even pedaled it up to Thatcher Park. I just rode up that hill for the first time last year. It is pretty long and steep. I pedaled a Bridgestone RB-1. While I didn’t have an easy enough gear to make it comfortable, my smallest gear was a good measure easier than first on her Raleigh! I am not sure I could make it on her bicycle. She must have been really strong. Fast forward 50 years. Having recovered from a knee injury, she now wants to pedal her trusty Raleigh once again.
Someday I will remember to take before pictures. I spent seven hours on it, most of them simply cleaning it. This bicycle wasn’t neglected by any measure. It was kept hanging in a dry garage. Nevertheless, dirt and moisture have a way of finding stationary bicycles. The drive train took the most time, but it is worth it. Nothing pedals like a well cleaned and oiled chain. I also spent a fair amount of time with metal polish removing surface rust from the steel rims, handlebars and brake levers.
When I am entrusted to revive a bicycle that has been sitting idle for years, I like to clean and repack all the bearings with fresh grease. I have never had much luck with cottered cranks, though, and have almost no experience with either Sturmey-Archer multi-speed hubs or dyno hubs, so I chose not to open any of the bearings. I am sure the grease is waxy, but waxy grease will still protect the metal. She just will just have an efficiency penalty that may keep her from winning the next alley cat. I added Sturmey-Archer oil (I found a full can in her saddlebag) to the oil ports in the front and rear hubs. The rear hub shifted well and the click of the pawls was audible, but not overly crisp. The front hub rolled smoothly even though it was operating against the resistance of the magnets.
The brake pads were still pliable, the tires were in good condition and the tubes held air. The Brooks saddle was in good shape but will benefit form the light coating of conditioner I added. I also conditioned the leather tabs on the saddle bag, and sewed one of the tabs back on. The cotton thread had simply rotted away.
The bicycle rides beautifully. Even so, the gearing is probably too high for my neighbor. She must be in her 70s. I told her we could lower the gearing with a new rear cog if she has trouble. I also asked for first right of refusal should she ever want to part with it. My hope, though, is that she rides it for another 15 years.