Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Raleigh Chiltern Restoration (updated)

update: In view of subsequent information I've updated this post to correct some errors and add a little more info on the bicycle.

I'm always cautious when offered a free bicycle.
More often than not the bicycle offered turns out to be low quality scrap iron the present owner couldn't be bothered to take to the place of recycling (no pun etc. etc).

I was offered a 'good' bicycle by the wife of it's Parkinson's Diseased owner.
This was very sad.
Mr. E had hoped to fix the bike up and ride it, but is now unable to do either.

The only information I could get, prior to me saying 'yes' was that it was a Raleigh and it was black.

Raleigh is not always perceived, in fact very rarely is, as a mark of quality, but this is to underestimate the resilience of the good old 'All Steel Bicycle'.

Raleigh did manufacture what I consider to be the generic 'push-bike' which seem to have more or less disappeared under a hail of shoddy mountain bikes from China (where most of Raleigh's, or any volume manufactures, product line comes from nowadays)

The classic push-bike is an unglamorous, utilitarian, sit-up-and-beg style, work-a-day machine, with calliper brakes, chrome wheel rims, SA 3 speed, but also available in single speed, full mudguards, chain guard, and soggy tyres.

Prior to collection I'd hoped it might  be the 'Pioneer' model which, although pretty bad, could be stripped for the frame if nothing else.

It turned out to be an early 1990's 22'in Raleigh Chiltern.
The most generic push-bikey push-bike ever.
It was in a very sorry state.
It's long stay in a shed had left it covered in dust, white paint flecks, and spiders.
Both front and rear tyres were flat and perished, the ends of the mudguards had rotted away, there was evidence of oxidisation bubbling up under the chain stay paint work, and it had an ugly saddle.

It's at this point I wish I'd taken a 'before' picture.
Seriously, the bike was a heap and I cursed myself for saying yes to it.

I left it in the back garden while I considered what to do with it.
A couple of days later I gave it a good-looking-at and decided it wasn't to bad really.
Within minutes I realised all it really needed was new tyres and tubes (eBay £30), a clean, and bit of adjustment

I cleaned all the exposed metal & chrome work with wire-wool.
The chrome on the rear wheel being in the worst condition, but nothing that would stop it going round and round.
It has horrid galvanised spokes that will last till the crack of doom.
I cleaned a good proportion of the dust, white paint flecks, and spiders off, but haven't given the paintwork a proper clean with something like T-Cut yet.

Under the ugly saddle cover I found a Dunlop sprung leather saddle in need of serious repair.
I took it off, put it in my To-Do-Later-Box, and replaced it with my bouncy Dutch Lepper saddle.

I shortened both mudguards (bob-tailed) cutting as close to the rotten areas as I could, drilled some mounting holes, and did some gently-bending-with-the-occasional-thump-into-shape.

All the control cables have been lubricated, as have all accessible bearings (head-set, wheels).
The brake calipers have been re-aligned and adjusted.
The brakes would now be considered 'good' by the casual cyclist.
I wouldn't trust leather-insert brake blocks on chrome rims in the dry and it's suicidal to ride in wet weather on them.
Still, they work, and work well now, which is more to the point.

The arrival and fitting of the new tyres really sped things up.
They're a size I believe to be unique to Raleigh, 26 x 1 3/8ths or, 37 x 590.
I think Raleigh must have used this smaller sized wheel as it makes it easier to put ones feet on the ground whilst sitting in the saddle.
It's a false sense of security BTW.

The gears were still set up correctly, all three clicking in as quickly and as positively as any SA product.
The date stamp on the three speed hub is 91-04 which I take to mean that it was manufactured sometime in April 1990.
It's difficult to say when the bike as a whole was completed and sold from this, but it's probably within the same year.
Considering what goes on in the hub of planetary gears and the number of parts involved they very rarely have any faults.
Gear changing faults are usually due to incorrect gear cable adjustment.

Planetary gears, when compared to derailleur gears, are inefficient.
I read that riding in 2nd gear gives the 1:1 ratio.
Go to 3rd if the wind's behind you, go to 1st if the road goes up, and hope it doesn't go up to much.

The Raleigh Chiltern, despite its name, is built for going along.... to say, the post office or newsagent.

I didn't want to let myself get sucked into a nasty attack of bicycles. I just wanted to restore this bike to running order spending as little as possible.
I did blow the budget but no more.

This is the result:

A modest push-bike that does it job well and in some comfort.
The chain lightly brushes the inside of the chain guard, but I've isolated the cause and will not cease in my efforts to remove it lest it drive me mad.

update: Job Done

The maiden ride along the prom to where the pictures were taken was a pleasant hello birds, hello sky, hello sea, pootle with contented smiling.
Then temptation drew me to its delicious bosom.

Using the tools I'd bought with me just in case, I raised the saddle as high as it would go.
Still to short for me, but I could drive the bike on a bit better in this position.

200 yards of trying to thrash this machine helped me to realise its true push-bikeness.
This machine was built for comfort, not speed.
I dropped the saddle and adopted the smile again.

Of course the true test of the bike's stability is riding it 'look mum, no hands!'
Not only did I ride no-handed, but I filmed it as well.


update: I deleted the video by mistake.

This bike is probably over 20 years old.
It seems to have done very little except stand in a shed.
If you put an equivalently priced mountain bike in a shed and return 20 years later to restore it I wish you well.

I'll have to give this bike a name of course.
Until its true personality is revealed, I'll call it 'Barry'.


Laurent said...

Nice job! I have my father's Humber from 1960 or so, and my mother's Raleigh from 1976, both still in good riding condition.

alfiebass said...

I realise this is an old post but yesterday somebody gave me a Raleigh Chiltern but my free bike needs a new back wheel so will not be a bargain after all But i will not let this bike die without a fight Think i will name my bike Norman

Outa-Spaceman said...

Ahoy Mr. Bass,
You're right this is an old post, but this bike is still my main machine.
The frame should take 700's, but the originals are not that difficult to find and usually quite cheap.
I'll be posting an update on my current cycle stable v/soon, stay tuned.


alfiebass said...

Well you might be interested to know that Norman the bicycle is back on the road Behold Igor it Lives

alfiebass said...

You might be interested to know that Norman the bicycle is back on the road Behold Igor it LIVES

Daniel steele said...

Have just purchased one of these from eBay as a summer cruder for around town with the kids . Atm it's just a frame.. but thanks for the insperation

alfiebass said...

I love my chiltern 23 inch frame drop bars 22 t sproket rebuilt 3 speed sturmey archer hub .... .... Have fun

Drew Rockstarr said...

Beautiful. I came upon a Chiltern next to dumpster last night hoping to restore it slowly. Did you watch endless how to videos on restoring? Thank you

Outa-Spaceman said...

err, no, Mr. Rockstarr,
I've been building and maintaining bicycles for most of my life and the Chiltern is, quite frankly, a generic 3 speed Gents Sports cycle.
That description should not be taken as a derogatory.
This bicycle is a perfectly wonderful example of the type.
I'd suggest it's a perfect project for anyone wanting the satisfaction of bringing something useful back to life.
My initial advice would be to replace the tyres/inner tubes, brake blocks, chain, cables, and any part your body comes into contact with. (eBay is usually a reliable source of spares if your local bike shop can't help)
check out vids on adjusting calliper style brakes and setting up Sturmey Archer Three speed hubs.
I hope you decide it's a project worth pursuing.
Best of luck.

Drew Rockstarr said...

Thanks OSM for inspiration. I bought new cream walled tyres, tubes, screwed the handle bar to upright position, tightened the brake lever onto handle bar and been riding it all around Brighton & Hove with smile on my face.Love the simple clean lines of this bike. I have three other vintage bikes. Peugeot, Hercules, and Dawes, Motobecane which sold. And next to Peugeot mixte, this is my next favourite. I do need to watch video on adjusting side caliper brakes. For now I love just looking at my Chiltern. Wish I could post photos. Best

DRMX said...

I picked up mine for less than €50. Tempted to get it stripped and powder coated but for the same money I could just buy a new lighter frame. I like the white wall tyres you put on it. Mine still needs some more tic but is just my train station bike.