FrankRaleigh Sports Frankenbike
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At the end of its life, an English 3-speed is reborn

Hardy Menagh   5/1/11

There's a perverse satisfaction in bringing a worn-out bike back into useable condition with parts from other junked bikes. This is especially true if, in the process, it's transformed into something out of the ordinary.

FrankenSports Right Side

In 1984, I picked up a 1952 Raleigh Sports 3-speed parts bike, at a Staten Island flea market, for US$5. The front wheel, saddle, chain and chain case were missing and the rear rim was quite rusted but still functional, as was the 3-speed hub. At the time, I told my girlfriend (now my wife) I could fix it up for her and she could use it for transportation around town, without fear of it being stolen.

I refitted it with a used front wheel, new tires, saddle and a few other new parts. She rode it once or twice, then it languished and deteriorated further for 25 years and two moves.

The Donor

FrankenSports Front

Two years ago, for 20 dollars, I purchased a parcel of several worn-out used bikes for parts. In this group was a KIA 10-speed road bike.

Long before it was a car manufacturer, KIA got its start making steel tubing which progressed logically, to the manufacturing of steel-framed bikes. There was nothing remarkable about these Korean bikes. In fact, they were a cut below the lower-end line of manufacturers like Raleigh who, likely without knowing, supplied the specs of many of the parts. For instance, the handlebar stem on this bike was an exact clone of those used on Raleigh 3-speeds and the crankset closely duplicated the cottered double-ring crank used on the Raleigh Record.

This KIA had damaged, bent drop handlebars, a bent stem and otherwise looked like it might have fallen off the roof of a moving car. I noticed the similarities to the low-end Raleigh parts and did a couple of quick comparisons and measurements, to actual Raleigh bike parts. Somewhere inside my head, a mad scientist's Jacob's Ladder began to arc electricity wildly upward and little tendrils of smoke began to rise from my ears.

The Sports was at the end of a hard life and was now in very poor unridable condition. It wasn't a candidate for restoration. The rear wheel had become too rusty to use and many of the other parts were very rusted or worn out. I could reconstruct it with parts from the KIA. It could end up being a cross between something like a Raleigh Record 10-speed and a Raleigh Sports with upright handlebars and 26" wheels. It would be a vintage Raleigh prototype that never existed. Would it have been a model that sold if it did exist?

It's Alive! It's Alive!

The work progressed quickly.

I had to cold-set the rear triangle of the Sports frame to accommodate a freewheel but everything else fell into place with ease.

The KIA's bottom bracket cups differed from the Sports in design so I retained the Sports' cups and transplanted only the spindle, ball bearings and cranks from the KIA. The KIA's other parts transplanted easily and without rejection.

The KIA's center-pull brakes, front derailer and stem-shifters were drop-in replacements. The KIA's rear wheel was damaged so a donor rear wheel with 5-speed freewheel came from another parts bike. The Trek-branded comfort saddle and rear derailer came from yet another junked bike.

The only new parts were the cables and a bolt-on chainstay cable stop for the rear derailer.

The final result is a unique Frankenbike with a wider gear range than it had with a 3-speed hub, without losing the fit and feel it originally had.

FrankenSports Rear

Recently, my wife decided she'd like to clear some space and sell some of the bikes she didn't ride. After test riding all of her bikes, the FrankenSports was one of the two she decided to keep and ride. She said, "it just feels better" than the others.

Really need to see more Frankenbikes? Visit this thread and this thread on


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Copyright © 2011 Hardy Menagh