When actively engaged in bike hunting, it is not unusual to stumble across very old and certainly collectable bicycles other than the sought after road bike.  Roadsters, work bikes and even balloon tire steeds will surface, from time to time.  You might even stumble across a bicycle with wooden rims, or something equally antiquated.

Most roadsters and traders, "as found" are not in very good condition.  But every once in a while something really special comes along, so special that I consider adding the bicycle in question to my growing collection.  This near mint 1977 Raleigh Tourist was one of those bicycles.

Upon first glance, one would guess that the bicycle is of fifties, or perhaps even earlier vintage.  In fact, our local vintage bicycle Guru insisted the the bicycle was of fifties vintage.  The simple truth is the bicycle is of mid seventies vintage, 1977 to be exact.  And that is really a bit unusual since the technology of the time would suggest that the Tourist was antiquated even before it left the factory.  So why would the Tourist be revived by Raleigh in the mid seventies?  If the company catalogue for 74-76 can be believed, the bicycle was designed for "especially tall people".

The Tourist presented here was picked up through the Word of Mouth bicycle hunting technique for the paltry sum of thirty dollars.  A couple of hours spent cleaning and adjusting was all the bicycle needed to make it road worthy.  Everything was in superb and little used condition except for a small dent or wrinkle in the rear fender near the chain guard.

Built "especially for tall people", these 28" wheel steeds did sit a ways from the ground but it did not feel like it when riding the bicycle.  Though I would normally turn my nose up at a step through (ladies) bike, the Raleigh with its wonderful curving down tube just looked so much the vintage part that I had to take the bicycle out for a spin.  Which turned into several spins over the next couple of weeks.

The bicycle proved to be remarkably comfortable for city riding.  Perhaps the Brooks B66 saddle had something to do with the cushy feel.  The saddle is certainly well enough suspended to offer a pretty smooth ride.  Though there were indications of use, the saddle did not appear to have been broken in.  Best guess would be that the corner scuffs are storage related only.  A bit of Brooks "Proof Hide" rubbed into the aged surface produced an absolutely beautiful patina, adding even more vintage class to this beautiful old bicycle.

Though the saddle is the number one contributor to the soft ride feel, the 28" wheels would also contribute to the smooth feel.  The bicycle did take a little effort to get going, but once underway it just wanted to keep rolling and rolling.  The Raleigh has three internal gears in the Strumey-Archer rear hub and shifting was a typical non-issue with that reliable old transmission.  That said, the bicycle would jump out of third gear at first but the problem seemed to go away with a little lubrication of the rear hub, coupled with a bit of use.  The bicycle had probably sat for twenty five or thirty years without seeing any use.  Such a storage routine, the "put it away and forget about it plan", generally leads to dried up oil and grease.

The bicycle seemed to glide down city streets, cross driveway curbs with hardly an interruption and cruise bike paths just like it belonged there.  These old roadsters seem to develop a sort of inertia when ridden.   Once the bicycle gets up to speed, it seems to be very easy to maintain the speed with minimal effort.  That said, I never did feel the need to go fast while out and about of the Raleigh.  A slow, steady and relaxed pace seemed to eat up distances without thought.  The bicycle just encouraged easy going, slow cadences and no worries along the way.  That is until the brakes were applied...

The rod brake, with inside rim pads, did not work nearly as well as the opposed brake pad system did.  Perhaps this was a lack of understanding on my part, when tuning the brakes up was the task at hand.  Perhaps it was because the brake pad material had hardened, over the years, reducing the effectiveness of the brake action and result.  What ever the case, the brakes were hardly confidence inspiring and I took great care when out and about.  I took my time trying to understand and tune the brake system, focusing first on the front brake.  And for good reason...

The rear brake is pretty awkward to get at being located underneath the bicycle.  That unusual placement, coupled with my lack of understanding, made for a much slower brake tuning that I am accustomed to.

But the rod brake system is absolutely decent to inspect.  It is vintage Velo technology at its best, or close to it, in my mind.  Beautifully chrome plated and in all but perfect condition, the brakes are one of the first things to draw the eye.  And setting them up did not seem to be all that difficult to do.  But they just did not work as well as other brake systems that I have tried over the years.

The handlebars proved to be positioned perfectly for my fit and they were more than comfortable to reach and use.  The relatively wide bars offered adequate control at any speed that the old bicycle and I managed to get up to.  Reaching the brake levers was a non-issue for me but my guess is that a smaller pair of hands might have a bit of difficulty with these Old School brake levers.  The original Raleigh plastic handlebar grips were in perfect condition and offered a slightly better opportunity to grip the bars.  Were I to keep the bicycle and spend a lot of time riding it, I would definitely swap the handlebar grips out for something softer and more comfortable.

Though I do prefer to clip-in when I ride my vintage road bikes, I am trying to get used to other pedal systems.  Now, nothing can compete with modern pedal and compatible shoe sets.  That said, to properly enjoy the vintage feel I believe that one must go with vintage componentry.  With that in mind, I am trying to get used to the Old School "Rat-Traps" for a couple of my more antiquated vintage rides such as this 1963 Peugeot PX10 or fifties CCM Westonia.

But, of late, I have come to appreciate the simple double side flat pedal system for around town short hopping.  The Raleigh's pedals were easy to use and were certainly big enough for my foot.  The pedals spun freely and squarely.  The end caps, normally something to get scuffed up very early in a bicycle's life, were nearly mint suggesting that the bike had not been laid down for short term storage.  And, as I looked closer at these nice old rubber block pedals, I could not help but notice that the embossed Raleigh emblem and pedal tread were all but unmarked.  Another indication of how little use this nice old bicycle had seen.

I have been lucky enough to ride all kinds of bicycles, be they full race special issue technological wonders of their day, or department store entry level pieces of junk that can barely get out of their own way and this lovely old Raleigh fits in among the best riders that I have been lucky enough to own.  Thoughts of keeping the bicycle loomed for several days, but finally I decided that I would not use the bicycle enough to warrant keeping it.  Just trying to get ride time in on the bikes that I already owned was getting to be a chore.  Why would I want to add a bicycle of a genre that I was not interested in to begin with?  Simply put, I had no practical answer to that question.  Unfortunately, I still wanted the bicycle and I was torn between and keeping it or selling, right down to the last second when I pressed the "List Item" button on Ebay.

The bicycle sponsored lots of interest on Ebay and finally went to a lady in Alaska.  I have shipped bicycles all over the USA but this lovely old mid seventies Raleigh "Tourist" was the first bicycle that I ever shipped north of where I live.  The lady wrote me a short while after receiving the bicycle and she thanked me for sending her such a nice bike.  I was glad that the Raleigh had found a good home.