Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Old English vs New English

When I first posted about buying my vintage Raleigh Lady's Tourist, a reader commented that it looks like "the Pashley's grandma" and I replied that they were indeed pretty similar. But after riding the vintage Raleigh around on a daily basis for the past week, I no longer think so. Sure, the overt similarities are there: the loop frame, the upright sitting position, the enclosed chaincase and the general aura of lady-like stateliness. But the ride quality is so very different, that I was compelled to conduct a more thorough comparison.

Those of you who "know bikes" can probably see straightaway that there are significant differences in proportions and angles. The vintage Raleigh's seat tube is considerably more slack (leaned back) than the Pashley's. In the photo above, this difference is undermined by the fact that I've shoved the Pashley's saddle all the way back on the rails in attempts to replicate the other bike's geometry. But if you try to block out the saddle and just look at the seat tubes, you can see it. The other major difference, is that the vintage Raleigh is "all weels", with a relatively short headtube. The Pashley has much smaller wheels and a tall headtube.

Here is a close-up of the wheels and head-tubes, with my body in between for a sense of scale. If you think there is not much difference between 26" wheels and 28" wheels, look again! The vintage Raleigh's wheels are monstrous compared to the Pashley's. Traditionally, both men's and ladies' English Roadsters, as well as Dutch bikes, were built with 28" wheels. However, lately a number of bicycle manufacturers - including Pashley, Velorbis and Retrovelo - have been fitting the ladies' models with 26" wheels, believing this to be a better proportioned choice. I am not sure whether I agree with them. What do you think?

Additionally, there is more space between the saddle and the handlebars on the vintage Raleigh than on the Pashley. The difference is not quite as drastic as the angle of this photo makes it seem, but it is there.

The stem and handlebars are not part of the frame itself, but differences between them should still be noted. The Pashley's stem is taller and has an additional upward-sloping extension (like the Nitto Dirt-drop/ Periscopa stem), to make the handlebars higher. The vintage Raleigh has a classic stem with a horizontal (flat) extension, which positions the handlebars slightly lower. The handlebars themselves are different as well: On the Pashley, the gripping areas are flared outward more than on the vintage Raleigh.

As you may have noticed in the undertones of the past several posts, I prefer the vintage Raleigh's geometry to the modern Pashley's. Of course the Pashley has superior gearing and brakes, but the vintage Raleigh puts me in a more comfortable sitting position, and is faster and lighter than the Pashley. Yes, the 40-year-old clunker is faster and lighter - isn't that just bizarre? I can easily ride it for 30+ miles without being out of breath, whereas on the Pashley I often feel tired after much shorter trips. I am not certain which aspect of their anatomical differences accounts for this. It cannot be due to the 28" wheels alone: Batavus and Gazelle have 28" wheels and I find them to be slower and less comfortable than my Pashley.

In an attempt to make my Pashley more anatomically similar to the Raleigh DL1, I have made some changes: The saddle has been raised and pushed back on the rails as far as it would go, and the handlebars have been tilted downward. I did not take a "before" shot, but on this photo from a few months ago you can see the difference.

The Pashley does feel more comfortable this way, and my leg is almost entirely extended on the pedal now while still enabling me to touch the ground with the tip of my toe if need be. However, the Pashley is still as difficult to accelerate as it was prior to the changes. Hmm. If I had a magic framebuilding wand, I would build a bicycle that would replicate exactly - and I mean exactly! - the frame geometry of the Raleigh DL-1, while adding modern brakes and gearing. As far as I am concerned, the perfect bicycle already exists; someone just needs to start making it again.

42 comments:

  1. Great comparisons. I know you know this but you can update your brakes and gearing on your Raleigh, keeping it all internal of course. I know, you may face being struck by lightning for not keeping it all vintage, but at least you would have the perfect bike.

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  2. Wheel size has almost nothing to do with how a bike fits. It seems that in every generation, some bike-maker gets the idea that smaller wheels are "better" for women or short men. I recall that about fifteen or twenty years ago, Terry actually made road bikes with 24" front and 26" rear wheels. I knew a few women who rode them; none liked them.

    Ironically, I think that even with the 26" wheels, the Pashley reflects more of an effort to emulate a Dutch bike than the Raleigh does. The latter bike has more of the old English "roadster" mentality behind it. It's really a holdover from the days when the difference between sport and utility bikes was not as great as it is now.

    Also: I'm guessing that the Raleigh doesn't have an internal dynamo or rear brake. Both of these things cause more "drag" on a bike. If you ride your Motobecane, you'll notice that the wheels spin longer than those on your other bikes. That's because the hubs have no internal mechanisms, only bearings.

    Anyway... It was an interesting article. But aren't they all, coming from you?

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  3. Brilliant! I think in this comparison, you have illustrated how a vintage design can be superior to a modern one. I look to the 1920's and '30's in my guitar work and find the same satisfaction. Vintage rules!

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  4. Isn't the Pashley an old design? Or have the significantly altered their frame?

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  5. After thinking about this for a little while it seems brake performance is the bugaboo, isn't it?

    I think a good project would be to work up a set of wheels based on aluminum 27" rims and a geared hub, then ditch the rod brakes for calipers. Would you have to drill the fork crown? That may be a bridge too far. Maybe a drum brake in the front, but now we're talking real money! Now my head is hurting again.

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  6. Randy - I have been toying with this idea and might do a conversion as a winter project. I would like to keep the rod levers and handlebars - but will try to rig up a system whereby the rods connect to drum brakes. It will be "fun" for sure.

    Anon - I was wondering about that as well. I do not know, and have not been able to find many images of vintage Pashleys to compare.

    Justine - I agree that the Pashley is more similar to a Dutch bike than to an English Roadster. And I am delighted that you know the difference between the two : ) I know you are a bit older and a lot wiser, but still most people don't know the difference. I was just commenting re this last night on ecovelo, where there is an interesting debate about utility bikes. I have more to add in response to your comment, but have to run for now.

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  7. I love this. B/c you are articulating things that I was feeling in my comparisons from yesterday. And while the two bikes I rode were VASTLY different it's good to hear what you say as it helps me understand what I was feeling. If that makes sense. It also ( as if I need it) increases my desire to check out an ANT b/c Mike describes his bike as something more similar to the english roadster and as you can guess before I didn't really know what that meant. I still probably don't, but I feel like I am gaining the language to understand what I want and need in a bike and perhaps what the right one might be.

    Thanks much!

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  8. HI Filigree, a fascinating comparison. I think the 28" wheels look better on a classic loop frame bike. It's a shame that Pashley chose 26" for the Princess. I think I read somewhere in Pashley promo material that essentially the Princess' geometry is the same as the original loop frame bike they started making in 1927. I'm guessing that original bike had 28" wheels though.

    Re your finding your Pashley harder on longer journeys than Veloria, have you had Eustacia Vye serviced recently? I had my Pash done just over a week ago and the difference is phenomenal. She's much lighter to ride and accelerates very easily; I can ride her in a higher gear than I used to, with everything tightened up and serviced. And I don't get tired. It could be that now you've had her a while and used her a lot, the components have bedded in and just need a tweak.

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  9. You get a lot more tire choices with 26" wheels. Compare the angle of the seat tubes as well. That also affects things and in the pictures, the Pashley looks rotated back compared to the Raleigh.

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  10. I'd keep the frame proportions but for smaller riders go with 650B wheels. They are common than 650A and a big plus is getting medium width tires. They are both fast and comfortable.

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  11. Is the wheel-base on the two bikes different?

    You have uncovered another secret to blissful cycling; Bike fit! Proper seat height makes your efforts more efficient.

    Are the cranks the same length?

    You are an excellent writer! I have traveled a great distance down the "racer mentality" road. None-the-less, you have made bicycles of a style I had only an idle curiosity about seem very interesting!

    I have decided that what I need is a bicycle with the geometry of that Raleigh of yours, but with a carbon fiber frame!

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  12. I love the bigger wheels on the Raleigh! I'm a huge fan of 28s. I am wondering if the handle bars on your Pashley came to you high like they are in that photo or if you adjusted them to be that way? My Sonnet came with the bars pointed downward. The position looks very similar to the angle on your Raleigh.

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  13. After your comparison it is pretty obvious that the Pashley geometry is borrowed from the Dutch designed and built utility bikes rather than the old Raleighs.

    One reason for 26" wheels on some of the step through bikes is to get the standover height down where smaller women can ride them. My bride is a whopping 5'1" (if she thinks tall) and her 17" Raleigh Colt is a perfect fit. I could not see using a 28" wheel on such a small frame regardless of the geomtry. We have one mountain bike with a 15" frame and it barely works with 26" wheels.

    Excellent article as usual!

    Aaron

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  14. So don't they still build the old style DL-1 bike in India somewhere? Any comments on the quality of these products? I had thought of purchasing a Pashley at some point but am now a little put off! Maybe my brother in England could hunt old DL-1 bikes for me and ship them over to the N.W at enormous cost!

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  15. Aaron - I would not say that the Pashley's geometry is borrowed from Dutch bikes; only the handlebar height is Dutch-like. Dutch bikes have seat tube angles that are just as super-slack as English Roadsters, whereas the Pashley's angles are considerably steeper than either. If you can imagine a Raleigh Lady's Sports with a looped top tube and higher handlebars, that is more like it. I would put the Pashley in the category of the "Nouveau Roadster" - along with the (much newer) Velorbis and Retrovelo, which have the same 26" wheels, not too slack seat tube and similar handlebar setup.

    Cosmo - the bars on mine came pointed upward, like little antlers or squirrel ears. I pointed them down intentionally to match the Raleigh's set-up.

    ChipSeal - Thank you; it's the poetic academic in me. The vintage Raleigh has a longer wheel base. See 4th photo from the top. LOL regarding a carbon DL1 frame!

    NormanF - I disagree regarding 650Bs. There is a place for them, and that place is on Randonneur-style bicycles with petite frames. On larger frames they can look ridiculous and feel not so comfy, especially on a Dutch / Roadster style bike. I would love the look of 650Bs fitted with some nice and wide Grand Bois Hetre tires on a nice petite mixte, but not on a ginormous, hi-ten steel roadster.

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  16. ChipSeal again - the vintage Raleigh cranks are longer; though I do not have specific measurements. As I understand it, long cranks were one of the key features of the English Roadster.

    Carinthia - I vaguely remember reading something similar in the Pashley material as well, but I have a hard time believing that a lady's bicycle with such relatively steep angles is a design from the 1920s. They might have meant that it looks the same in a general sense? It is hard to know, because it really is impossible to find photos of vintage Pashleys online. A few transport/work bikes yes, but not Roadsters and certainly not loop frames. I would be very interested to see one of their early designs.

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  17. Threespeeder - They do still build DL-1 style roadsters in India and (I think) Indonesia, but these are made of lower quality materials and components. Many recommend to stay away from them.

    Vee - Thanks so much for your nice comments : )
    Yes, A.N.T.'s designs reflect English Roadster geometry over Dutch bike geometry, particularly the classic proportions of saddle vs handlebar height.

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  18. Filigree! There's a hint of reticence when you speak of Eustacia Vye. Could this be the beginning of the end of an entanglement?! :-o

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  19. Yeah for DL-1!!!
    I spent over a year and a half searching for my DL-1 and finally found her locally (buy local!) via Craigslist. Now to start at the beginning; 2 years ago I originally wanted to find a Euro-style or Dutch bicycle. However I soon learned my options were to fly to Portland, fly to Boston area, or fly to Europe. No chance I'd find one of these at a LBS within 200 miles of me. (Oh, how times have changed in those two years!) Long story short I've always been an eco (recycling) loving, vintage loving girl so I was naturally driven to look at vintage bicycles in my quest. I like you, learned a lot from the Classic and Vintage Forum on Bike Forum (I was a weekly digest reader, archive searcher and confirmed lurker)... So DL-1 it was to be!
    Sadly to this day I've yet to test ride a single new Dutch, Euro-style bicycle, though if I am to trust your very good review I haven't missed out. That is a very good thing for my pocketbook as well. According to your analysis I have saved myself a small fortune. For what it's worth my next money is on old mountain bikes as potentially good buys for conversions into 'grocery-go-getters' makeovers, this again gleaned from Bike Forum / Classics and Vintage. ssshhhh!

    p.s. You are right though on the ‘Sit Up and Beg’ position for basic good ergonomics, so I am not quite so sure I should be recommending the MTB, but the price is right especially for expedient flippers or the cheap bargain hunters among us in need of decent eco transpo.

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  20. Hmm... history of the Pashley Princess. After a little more investigation it seems even the current owner of Pashley is a little vague about it. There's an article in the UK Independent newspaper about the company. "...the history of the Princess is surprisingly hard to come by. No one, not even Mr Williams, has any record of when Pashley started to make its flagship bike." Serene and mysterious, a coy Princess to the end...

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  21. Giffen - Well, not quite. Eustacia the Pashley is a very pretty bike, very sturdy, highly tolerant of heavy loads, and immune to weather conditions. Cycling on her almost feels like I am not cycling but driving a very slow-moving (and fuel-less) vehicle, which helped me a lot when I was first starting to cycle in Boston traffic. When I cycle on the vintage Raleigh, I do have to go without many things, including load capacity, good lighting, and proper brakes in the rain. The Pashley, on the other hand, is a reliable friend when it comes to all of those. I will keep messing with the saddle and handlebar positions to see whether I can make the geometry even more to my liking.

    Carinthia - She is well serviced and running smoothly. Prior to riding the vintage Raleigh, I was not unhappy with the Pashley's capacity to accelerate; I thought it was normal for this style of bike and it was in fact better than the Dutch bikes I had tried (and still occasionally try). So it's only trying the vintage Raleigh that's made me wistful!

    Riding Pretty - Oh, you should still try a Dutch bike if you have a chance, they are great fun. And I know many people who prefer them to any other bike. I still think Gazelle is beautiful. Comfort is such a personal issue and has so much to do with individual anatomy, that it really cannot be said which bike will be right for whom. I do agree with you that vintage is both exciting and can save the cyclist a great deal of money. The biggest problem with vintage bikes is the brakes, which tend to be not as functional as modern brakes. On 90's mountain bikes this would not be a problem... but of course those are not very pretty.

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  22. Carinthia again - Re the history of the Princess... I reviewed my research and I have not been able to find any evidence that the Princess was produced prior to the 1970s. It is my understanding that until that time, Pashley was predominantly a maker of transport and cargo bikes. The earliest images of the Princess I have found are from the 70s-80s, and earlier today a reader sent me a particularly good specimen after reading this post. Those earlier models had rod brakes, metal chaincases, and very simple head-badges. The overall look seemed closer to the vintage Raleighs than to the Pashleys of today. I will upload the photos after I get the sender's permission and link them.

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  23. Velorbis (http://www.velorbis.co.uk) is the only bike company that I know of that gives you a choice of both wheel sizes (26" and 28" with proportional frame sizes) on all their bicycles.

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  24. Interesting to see such a detailed comparison
    I haven't been able to ride my new baby yet since I brought her home- all these posts on yours make me anxious to do so.
    I had felt that the Pashley was the most nimble of the new "old" city bikes available (Workcycles, Velorbis etc) and it's interesting to hear that it's still slower and more stately than the DL.

    Have you seen the Sturmey Archer dynamo hub/ hub brake combination? It's not terribly expensive ($90). I'm contemplating that as a rod-brake solution.
    The other thing that I've got to figure out is carrying capacity. Even if my DL is a Saturday bike and not a commuter, I need to be able to carry stuff as I run errands, and a back of seat saddlebag isn't enough. In England you can easily find a "basket support" just a piece of bent steel that fastens through the axle and supports the basket so that all its weight isn't hanging off the handlebars and interfering with the rods. I haven't had any luck finding one in this country yet though...What do you plan on doing in terms of racks/ baskets etc?

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  25. Pashley also make the bikes the posties use here (where they still deliver by bike). They have a reputation for being easily maintained and bomb-proof, so I suspect your Princess will last and last, even if she doesn't have quite the heritage pedigree she might have implied.

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  26. Okay, I am posting these photos sent to me by Kristen, who spotted this Pashley in Williamsburg:

    Vintage Pashley 1
    Vintage Pashley 2
    Vintage Pashley 3

    Looks like a 70s model for sure, and it's the oldest one I have seen photos of. Note the mattress saddle, rod brakes, and the shorter length of the head tube & stem. It definitely looked similar to the Raleigh DL1. I wonder what size the tires were back then.

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  27. Cycler - I actually have a spare new 5-speed SA hub/ drum brake. To install it, I will have to replace the rim and spokes on the rear wheel, because the old Roadsters have 40-spoke rims in the back and the new hubs are made for 36-spoke rims. Also, are you thinking of replacing the rods with standard brake levers altogether, or keeping the rods and figuring out a way to activate the drum brakes with them?

    Re load capacity: Right now I just have the saddlebag, which of course is not enough for grocery shopping or carrying anything significant. I am considering a rear rack. The Plecher 28"wheel rear racks, like the one that came with my husband's Pashley, would fit. You can order one of those from Harris Cyclery. You can also get one of the original racks; I would check with Old Roads. No clue where to get a basket support here, other than attaching a nice but expensive front rack from Wald or Nitto. I have a very old one from one of the 70s Raleigh Sports my father had, but it is all rusted out and beyond saving, you wouldn't want it.

    townmouse - Yup, the posties are great!

    Stephanie - Where did you find this information? Because according to both their website, and the distributors I spoke to, you can only get the women's models with 26" wheels; the frames cannot accommodate 28" wheels.

    From the Velorbis website:
    we have equipped our ladies commuter bike model with 26" wheels that are smaller and better proportioned than the normal 28" classic wheel size, often seen on the continental, Dutch style bicycles.
    This is the exact same thing Pashley says about the ladies' models.

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  28. I want to hear Mike from Ant Bike's thoughts on this stuff -- it would be so great to hear from a frame builder on some of the differences. . .

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  29. Anon - As it happens, I met with Mike Flanigan yesterday evening to discuss this. He measured the heck out of the DL-1 and we talked about the feasibility of reproducing its geometry given the modern materials and components available. This will most likely turn into a collaborative project between ANT and Lovely Bicycle. We shall see and I will keep everyone updated.

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  30. Hi Filigree, thanks for the vintage Pashley pics. Components such as brakes aside, certainly a slightly different-looking bike to the Pashleys of today. The head tube over the front wheel looks more vertical and more akin to the Raleigh you have. The badge is a hoot - how 60s/70s is that!? :-D

    Your comments about acceleration are now making me want to try a vintage Raleigh out ..! :-)

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  31. Longer cranks may be part of the difference in early fatigue you mention.

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  32. ChipSeal - You have a point there. But I don't think that I can just switch out the Pashley's cranks as that would make the pedals dangerously close to the ground?

    Justine again - Right, the vintage Raleigh does not have the drum brakes or front dynamo hub and this no doubt plays a role in it. But does it account or all of the difference? I am not so sure. Wish I could experiment and add one element at a time!

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  33. There were DL-1's available at one time with rod activated drum brakes. I've only ever seen one in person as I believe they are quite scarce today.

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  34. kingsting - That's an interesting piece of info; I did not know that. I wonder if parts from those bikes are even theoretically possible to get, like from a used bike shop in the UK or maybe even from Yellow Jersey...

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  35. Filigree - That surprises me as when I visited the Velorbis shop in Copenhagen I test rode the large model and it definitely had the large wheels on. I e-mailed them after your comment just to double check and it's a new development; they said that they'll update this info on their website soon. It's a great discussion as usual :)

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  36. Stephanie - That is so mysterious! The dealer specifically told me "no" when I asked (granted, a while ago). Maybe it is just for the DK market? Also, I am guessing that only the Victoria can be had with 28" wheels, because the Fat Franks on Scrap Deluxe only come in 26"? In any case, would love to see more info from Velorbis.

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  37. Update: Regarding crank arm length, I was wrong! I just measured and the vintage Raleigh's is identical to the Pashley's: 190.5mm end to end. Looks like crank arm length is not the issue.

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  38. The Raleigh DL-1 is still currently in manufacture. It's made by a company called "Eastman" they bought to old Raleigh tooling when Raleigh stopped making the DL-1 in 1985 and the Eastman DL-1 is nut-and-bolt compatible with the Raleigh DL-1 (yup, that includes the odd 26 tpi threading that Raleigh persisted with before the ISO standard 24 tpi existed).

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  39. Funny I read this review after a ride on my DL-1, where I said exactly the same thing to my girlfriend, "I can't believe they don't make a bike that rides exactly like this, with modern brakes!"

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  40. I love your raleigh! I have a raleigh sprite much like your green raleigh sport and it is a fast bike despite being 5 speed. I do like the pashley's but they are heavy, expensive and have 26 inch wheels. I don't care what anybody says, I swear that wheel size makes a huge difference in ride and speed. I have a surly long haul trucker and I hate that the wheels are 26 inch because of the small frame. It is so slow. And now surly has made 26 inch wheeled long haul truckers for large frames. Unless one truly is touring to Katmandu there is not going to be a shortage of 28 inch or 650 b sized tires. It must have been a tough decision to sell the pashley, but I think you kept the better bike.
    Heather

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  41. What do you think about Raleigh Denmark ? They still make the roadster models.

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  42. I have a 70's rod-brake Raleigh Roadster and it's a magical ride. Since it's a 70's and not a relic, I'm going to redo EVERYTHING! Give it a worthy crank, brakes that actually stop those big 28s, and a wheel rebuild with new spokes and rims. The rod brakes are a great conversation piece and look cool, but this bike is too awesome of a ride not be functional in a real world.

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