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Another vintage Raleigh follows me home

Hardy Menagh   10/28/14

I'm not superstitious but all three Raleigh drop-bar road bikes I've owned in the past have been destroyed in the three collisions by cars I've endured. Surely the law of averages is now on my side or am I under the curse of the heron headbadge? That darned badge certainly keeps turning up in conspicuous places and making it difficult to just say no to Raleighs.

Reliant Right Side

Rear DerailerThis 1981 Taiwanese Raleigh Reliant was put out next to the street with a "Free" sign by a neighbor, just two doors up the road. I walked over to look at it. It was my size. There was enough air in the tires for a short ride and the brakes appeared functional. I sighed, shook my head and rode it back home.

Judging by the brake pad wear, this bike was on its second set of Raleigh-branded tires which still had plenty of tread. This was probably an indication that the bike shop where it was purchased had serviced it as well. It appeared to be in a good state of tune-up but there was light rust pockmarking most of the chromed steel parts and heavier rust on the rims and spokes. The bearings seemed well adjusted and worked smoothly. I had actually hoped to find a bike like this or at least the steel frame and fork from one.

The early 1980s Raleigh Reliant followed in the tradition of the English Raleigh Record and Grand Prix models of the 1970s. At the bottom of Raleigh's drop-bar road line at the time (below its contemporary Super Record and Grand Prix models), the Reliant was heavy. The wheel rims, handlebars and pedals were steel like the low end Raleighs that preceded it. Unlike the '70s Record and Grand Prix, the crankset was an improvement, being cotterless and having aluminum alloy cranks with steel arms and chainrings. The 5-speed freewheel had a wide range of gearing with a 32-tooth low gear, necessitating a Suntour long cage derailer, also an improvement over the '70s low-end Huret and plastic Simplex derailers.

Although nicely lugged, the Reliant frames are made of economical carbon steel, seamed tubing throughout. The chrome plating on the front fork is quite thin. Light rust peppered the chrome on this example.

ShiftersThe serial numbers of the Reliants don't follow other conventional Raleigh formats. Some people have attributed them to Malaysia since the single-letter plus 8-digit serial numbers all start with "M" but that country designation only applies to the '80s Raleigh serial numbers with two letters followed by 6 digits. I've never heard of a Reliant that wasn't made in Taiwan, this one included. Note the visually clumsy series of forward slashes on the headbadge where "Nottingham England" used to be. The first digit, following the "M" is likely the year, "0" for 1980, "1" for 1981 and so on. That's the assumption I've used to affix a year to this bike, plus it matches the '81 catalog pictures. I won't guess what the other 7 digits represent.

At the time this bike was made, Tube Investments had owned Raleigh since the end of the 1970s. The Huffy licence was a year away. In 6 years, Raleigh would be sold to Derby International who cut the English work force dramatically. Arguably, this was the beginning of the end of the Nottingham factory complex at the turn of the century.

If you don't look too closely, the Reliant may appear to be a better quality bike than it is, not that it's awful. If you're looking for a bike to ride to the store to pick up the paper, a commuter or a college campus bike, it will probably fit the bill nicely, provided it's not raining. In that case your brakes will be ineffective. I can tell you that I would personally not have paid any price for this bike other than free, even though it fit perfectly into a plan I was crystalizing, even as I rode it home.

My intention for this Reliant was to strip the steel parts off and refit it with the mostly used alloy parts I had on hand. If it all worked together and fit me well, it would be my next 20-mile daily work-out bike.

Catalog DescriptionOriginal Specifications

Frame:   Lugged carbon steel seamed tubing available in 21.5", 23.5", 25.5" & Ladies Mixte 19.5", 21.5". Carbon steel fork. Colors - Flamboyant Silver, Meridia Blue & Metallic Dark Red
Crankset:   SR double, 52-42 165mm alloy cranks, steel arms and rings with an aluminum pants protector. Square-taper caged ball bearing bottom bracket.
Pedals:   Steel Rat Trap.
Hubs & Wheels:   27" steel rims, galvanized steel spokes, Schrader valve, caged ball bearing alloy 36 hole hubs, quick release front hub only.
Tires:   Raleigh branded 27 x 1-1/8 gumwall, 90 lbs. Pressure.
Freewheel:   Suntour Perfect 5-speed, 14-32.
Derailers:   Raleigh branded Suntour 7.
Shifters:   Stem mount, steel with alloy levers.
Brakes:   Alloy centerpull with quick release.
Brake Levers:   Alloy with extension (suicide) levers.
Stem:   SR Alloy.
Handlebars:    Steel drop with black textured vinyl tape.
Seat Post:   Steel, no size indicated but is likely either 25.4 or 26mm.
Saddle:   Vinyl covered foam and plastic with quilted design.
Kick Stand:   Alloy (opportunity for weight reduction through elimination).
Weight:   32 lbs.

I had an old Ross Eurotour bicycle, purchased new in 1987. I upgraded the low-end Ross over the years and used it as a Winter and work-out bike. The replacement alloy components were all in good condition but the economically-made frame was showing quite a bit of rust and I had all but abandoned the bike. I had joked to cycling friends that I've replaced every part of the Ross except for the Frame and fork and someday I'd replace them too.

The Ross would now donate its components to the Reliant. Its rusting frame would be a donation to the recycle bin but not without a salute for service beyond its perceived limitations.

As a young cyclist, I enjoyed the freedom of getting on a bicycle in whatever clothes and shoes I had on and pedaling away on a whim. I wanted to incorporate some of that freedom into this bike. Accordingly, it would have toe clips instead of clipless pedals and a "touring" type saddle that wouldn't necessarily require bike shorts. I could ride it to the store or library in jeans and sneakers.

After the refit, the Reliant retained only a few of its original components. The weight came down from 32 lbs to 27.

In the process of refitting, the Reliant became a 14-speed bike with a 7-speed 13-30 freewheel. It also got Tektro R548 side-pull brakes and downtube shifters with a Microshift long-cage rear derailer. Other features are a Shimano 170mm crankset with Biopace chainrings, and QR wheels, front and back with alloy hubs, stainless spokes and Weinmann alloy rims.

Aside from the frame and fork, the Reliant retained only its original headset, stem, front derailer, rear derailer hanger and bolt-on cable guide.

The ride of the refitted bike is what you might expect from a steel framed bike which is a positive as far as I'm concerned. It handles well with no surprises other than the frame feeling a little more rigid than I expected.

I plan to put some mileage on this bike and unless the curse of the heron headbadge is real, I won't be posting any crash pictures on this page.

Reliant Side
Reliant Brakes
Reliant Drive Train

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