Two Boston Beauties: Rare Vintage Raleighs

Today I visited the bicycle collector Neal Lerner and photographed some of his beautiful bikes. I am posting pictures of these two in particular - not only because they are rare and stunning, but because the owner is offering them for sale [note: both bicycles are now sold]. Here is more about the bicycles, for your viewing pleasure and for longevity:

The loop-frame bicycle is a 1938 Raleigh Lady's Tourist. This model was the predecessor to the DL-1.  The frame is 22" with 28" wheels. It is a similar bicycle to the one I wrote about here; only this one is in ridable condition.

The main difference between the earlier Tourist and the later DL-1, is that the older bicycles are not quite as long - meaning that there is less distance between the saddle and handlebars. At the same time, they look "taller" than the DL-1, because the head tube extends quite a bit higher. Another difference, is that the older Tourists have a lugged connector between the downtube and the "loop" top tube which is absent from the later DL-1 model.

The handlebars on these older models are quite short and narrow - which makes sense, because of how closely the rider is seated to the bars.

The bicycle is in ridable condition and rolls surprisingly nicely (I've ridden it for a short distance).  The shifting needs to be worked on (the gears slip) and the rod brakes need to be adjusted, but it is a stable and buttery-smooth ride. Sadly, there is a piece missing from the rear of the chaincase; it is so difficult to find these chaincases intact. The shifter, saddle and grips are replacements and are not original to the 1938 model.

Being from the WWII period, this bicycle has some "blackout" components - including the headbadge.

The second bicycle in the pictures is one I'd never heard of before: It is a 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist. The Dawn Tourist was apparently the predecessor to the Sports. It was lighter and more agile than the original Tourist, and featured a straight step-through frame instead of a loop frame. The frame size of this bike is 21" with 26" wheels.

Unlike the later Sports, the Dawn had rod brakes, just like the Tourist did. However, its handlebars were wider and had considerably more "sweep".

The seat-cluster of the Dawn looks just like that of the later Sports (whereas the seat clusters of the original Tourist and the later DL-1 were bolted together).

The rear fender with original glass reflector are in very clean condition on this bicycle. These reflectors are highly thought after (both of the bicycles pictured have them).

The middle bit is missing from the original full chaincase, but otherwise it is intact.

"The all-steel bicycle" is written on the downtube. The pain on this bicycle is in very nice, even glossy, condition throughout.

It is rare to see even one of these bicycles "in the wild", let alone two - so I felt privileged to take these pictures before these beauties go to new homes. Hope you enjoyed the show and tell.


  1. Such beauties, thanks for sharing!

  2. Gasp.

    (ridiculous image of large, scruffy man falling into a swoon.)

    Was the ride quality of the loop-frame roadster closer to your DL-1, Velouria, or that of the much older 1936 model you have?
    Did this one feel as cramped in the cockpit as yours?

    I like the Dawn very much, too. It's really kind of incongruous to see rod brakes with a straight step-through frame, but there they are. Both are very nice examples.

  3. Beautiful! I recently started looking for an older Raleigh for personal use. Between small (okay, near-negligible!) budget, short legs (5'2"), and the cutthroat craigslist bike market in Boston it looks like it may be a while before the planets align and I find the right one. :) These pictures make me wistful!

  4. Corey - I have never ridden my 1936 bike (it is not in ridable condition); I only theorised that it would be cramped. However, having ridden this one, it does not feel cramped; somehow everything fits together just right. The seating position is more upright than on the DL-1 though. In terms of geometry, the 1938 bike is identical to my 1936 bike, as far as I can tell.

  5. Oh no. This is terrible. Sometimes I hate you, Velouria.

  6. You're welcome : )

    (Come on, you know one of these ladies is just dying for a coaster-brake wheel rebuild! We need more 1930's bicycles on the streets of Somerville, I say.)

  7. Neat bikes, Are the wheels on the dawn also 28"? I have never seen rod-brakes on smaller wheels but always wondered if there were. These appear to be 28".

    (A competent metalworker could make new parts for those chaincases without too much drama...)


  8. Oops, forgot to include that info (will add it to the text of the post now): the Dawn has 26" wheels. From what I can tell, its geometry seems to be identical to the later Sports. It is also considerably lighter than the Tourist.

  9. Also, I saw what I think was a Dawn Tourist at Quad Bikes the other day, and the owner just happened to stop by while I was in. I asked, and she said she had been reading this blog-- wonder if she's a commenter? That one was quite a mish-mosh though. Rod brakes, no chain case, one bar end shifter on the left handle in addition to the thumb shifter on the right, (original?) dynamo lighting front and rear, and to top things off, a very nice Ideale saddle! Very interesting-- I'd been wondering what it was since it had the DL-1's rod brakes but not the loop frame. Mystery solved!

  10. Absolutely gorgeous.

    I wish the loop frame would fit me -- I would buy it in an instant. 22 inches is probably too big for 5'3", though? Even a longer legged/shorter waisted 5'3". I will find my DL-1 someday.

  11. Swoon! If only I were anywhere near Boston.

  12. Hi Velouria,

    Ah, beautiful bicycles!
    I especially like the look of loop frame with the long head tube.

    On a slightly different note:
    Society tells me that I should be riding a diamond frame, because I am a guy, but I find riding loop-framed bicycles much more attractive. I also like the convenience of stepping through the frame. Does co-habitant ever get any comments when/if he rides a step through/loop frame?

    Thanks for sharing the photos.

    John I

  13. Thanks for the reply, Velouria. For some reason, I thought your older one was rideable, but you were loathe to do so. Looking at some pictures of mid-1930s Gazelle Omafiets, the 1938 Raleigh comes pretty close in terms of geometry.
    A "missing link" of sorts?

    Re the Dawns- I have noticed that the English bike market tends todivides rod-brake bikes into two classes; 28" wheeled models are Roadsters, while 26" wheeled beasties are City Bikes. This is very evident on E-Bay UK.

    Man, I wish the stars and the checking account were in alignment.

    Corey K

  14. Christina in WicklowAugust 1, 2010 at 3:29 AM

    Oops, I left a comment on your blog yesterday referring to you lovely restored DL-1 but I thought it was an old Tourist. Duh, I should learn to read properly...
    Here in Ireland there are lots of those old Dawn Tourists to be found-some still in use, usually ridden in rural Ireland by old men with flat caps who've had them for 50/60 years :)
    We call all those English and Dutch upright type bicycles 'High Nelly's'.
    There are tons of them (thousands I should imagine)to be found rusting away in old hay barns and out buildings. I know, it's such a shame isn't it?
    Most people don't see any value in them, they want shiny new bikes. Occasionally they turn up in newspaper ads. or Buy and Sell magazine.
    Going back to the early 20th century right up to the 70's everyone cycled here because they simply didn't have the money to buy cars. Now the car is king on our roads. Sadly.

    Have a look here to see what to-day's version of the Tourist looks like:
    I'd almost take a trip to Copenhagen just to buy one :)

    Love those old Raleigh's you have there, especially the Tourist, though at 22" the frame would be a bit too big for me at 5'5".
    I hope they find good homes with people who appreciate them who will restore them to their former beauty.

    Meanwhile my search here continues for a 20" frame Tourist or DL-1 that's not rusted to bits (all the rain we get in this country is not kind to these old lovelies I'm afraid)for me to restore. That's my dream :)

    1. Too many yanks over there now stealing the old bangers. The rustier the better. the old ladies I mean. You know it is not an easy thing to pry one away from some old gubber. You must first apply lubrication such as Jameson.

  15. Mmmm... truly lovely bicycles! Thankfully for my bank balance (to say nothing of shipping one of these beauties half way across the globe) the frames are probably too big for me. That loop frame Tourist is just dreamy though; the 28" wheels make it look very elegant. Glad to hear the ride is as good as the looks, especially considering the age of the bicycle.

  16. Don't miss the 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist!

    I agree with Spindizzy that "A competent metalworker could make new parts for those chaincases without too much drama..."

    In fact, I think I could do the reconditioning at home with the help of some "hovering gentlemen' ;))..:D heeehee

    Unfortunately I'm to far away! :(

  17. neighbourtease - You may be able to ride this loop frame, even with it being 22". I'm 5' even and have had lots of people take measurements from the ladies tourists for me and have discovered that with a Brooks B66s on it, as far down as it will go, it ends up being about 3" too tall for me (as in I could not reach the pedals when riding, not even with my tip toes.) If you are ok with hopping off at stops, then it might work out for you.

  18. Spindizzy,

    Raleigh made (relatively) lots of 26" bicycles with rod brakes. A friend of mine has a 1953 Sports (23" frame); I have a 1964 Rudge. I've also seen them listed on eBay in the past.

  19. Velouria, I saw these two lovely bikes Thursday on CL and I almost emailed you for your thoughts and like magic you blog about them two days later. Now I really must go and check them out. An older Raleigh my be in my future. That would make five bikes for me alone. Can you ever have to many bike??

  20. neighbortease - I don't think this one would fit you, though of course you never now.

    johni - He never rides one unless he is testing one of my bicycles. Don't know how he feels about it in principle, but he is 6' tall, so it would be hard to find one in the US that fits.

    Christina - I have both a DL-1 (1973) and an original Tourist (1936), but the latter needs to be restored before it's ridable. And you're right that the modern incarnation of the Raleigh company still makes tourist-style bikes, but unfortunately these are not available for sale in most countries. It is sad to hear about Ireland's roads being more and more car oriented. We will probably go there later this year and it will be interesting to compare it to the US.

  21. I was tempted to take a trip to Boston just to look at them, and possibly take a ride. Plus, I'd love to see what kinds of reactions I'd get--and, possibly, to hear the kinds of conversations that might start--upon bringing one of those bikes on Acela!

  22. Christina in Wicklow - How does this Dutch price compare to that in Denmark?

  23. Erg, I emailed Neal and was going to go over to see them today but changed my mind overnight! I just can't make room-- physically, financially, or mentally-- for another bicycle right now, no matter how much I'd like to!

    I think I'm just going to go give Frida a hug and sing the Dutch national anthem to console myself.

  24. margo - I think the drama with your Raleigh Sports took a toll on you. I get very upset when bike projects don't work out, so I understand re "making room mentally".

  25. Margonaut,
    The Dawn with the bar-end shifter on the left and the thumb shift on the right...that sounds like it could be either a Sturmey Archer 4 speed or 5 speed. If that is what it is and it's original that would be really neat...

    I have a 5 speed Sturmey on one of my mongrels that is set up that way(friction shifter for the left side cable and a normal 3 speed trigger for the right), It works better than the combined shifter they made for these hubs or an old worn-out original but it is FANTASTICALLY confusing and counterintuitive to use. If the rider of this bike has mastered it I wish she could give me a tutorial...


  26. It's probably a good thing that I don't live in Boston. I'd be too tempted to buy those :)

  27. Yeah. $150. It's always tempting. But I already have enough two-wheeled orphans to take care of. Hopefully some thoughtful soul will impart some TLC on these bikes, and ride them, and they won't get carved up for parts.

  28. I've received a note from the owner that both bicycles are now sold. But don't worry, they haven't gone far! I have a feeling that you will be seeing these beauties on another local bicycle blog soon : )

  29. Spindizzy,

    I'm not in Massachusetts so I can't give you a real tutorial, but I can offer some comments on your 5 speed. (The 4 speed had a single trigger with 4 positions, so if the Dawn Tourist had a 2nd shifter, it was more likely a 5 speed)

    I find the easiest way to understand shifting is to think of the 5 speed as 2 concentric 3 speeds. The middle gear is direct drive, so it is the same for both the inner and the outer 3 speed. (The duplicate 2nd gear is why there are 5 different gears, not 6.)

    The right cable shifts the gear to high or low. The left cable shifts between the inner 3 speed or the outer 3 speed. With the left cable loose, you get a slightly narrower range (.79, 1.00, 1.26) than a regular AW . With the left cable tight, you get the low low (.67), direct (1.00) and the high high (1.50).

    Effectively, you shift to high or low with the right cable; if you want a super low or super high, shift the left cable for the extra shift. With two shifters, you can stay on the outer gears, and skip the intermediate gears.

    I've read 2 shifters are more reliable than the combined shifter; I have a regular AW shifter for the left cable on my 5 speed, rather than a friction shifter, but there were certainly many Raleighs that came with 2 lever shifters on the top tube.

  30. John I,

    I have a bike with step through frame I frequently ride. In general, no one has made any comments.

    I did buy one diamond frame bike from a teacher who found the step through frame much easier on his back. He said the students commented but he didn't care.

    One member of the local bicycle club did complain facetiously that I had an old 3 speed with a girl's frame and still beat him up the hills. Ride the step through if you like it better.


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