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1978 Raleigh Super Grand Prix townie (SOLD)

Bike tags: Road bike | Commuter | 1970s | bay area | campagnolo | more tags >>
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1978 Raleigh Super Grand Prix

Sun Ringle lowrise/no-name 1" threadless

Tange cro-mo/Cane Creek 1" steel threadless (STS VP-A32)

Shimano RSX hub/Matrix Aurora rim/Vittoria Zaffiro 700x28

Sturmey-Archer drum brake hub/Salsa Delgado rim/Conti City Ride 700x32

POS Lun Shi triple 175, stripped down to single chainring

Avocet Touring I/Summit 25.4mm

KKT Top-Run/SRAM PC870

SunRace friction thumbshifter SLM10RF0S0HP/Shimano R derailleur (Exage?)

Campagnolo Veloce F, Sturmey-Archer drum R/junky old mountain canti levers

Suntour Pro-Compe (14/17/20/24/28)/Lun Shi 46T junker/Wald 582 baskets

This started as a seems-like-old-times fantasy reconstruction of a Raleigh International that was stolen in 1983. I bought the frame from an eBay seller thinking he was in the town next door; my idea was that I'd save a bunch on shipping. No such luck; he had moved from San Francisco's East Bay to Philadelphia, and the frame shipped out over Xmas/New Year's, so I had plenty of time for research while it crawled across the country. When I did some research on the frame, I found that the Super Grand Prix was the top end of Raleigh's in-house gaspipe steel tubing, instead of the low end of the Reynolds tubing frames.

Plus, it turned out to be kinda too big for me anyway. And while I had been waiting for the frame to arrive, I'd picked up much swankier Fuji and Marin road frames from local Craigslist deals (i.e., free!).

What to do with the thing? It was in good shape, for a beater; a neat spraycan job, with nicely detailed lugs and a new Tange threadless chrome fork.

An old buddy of mine started reminiscing about his long-gone 70s Raleigh Record (the bottom end of the gaspipe range). I suggested a single-speed build for an errand bike. He's a much bigger guy than me, with a history of breaking spokes on the rear wheel of machine-built wheels. I started looking for parts, with ruggedness and low price trumping 'build elegance'.

The breakthrough part was the rear wheel, which I bought on eBay from a big-guy rider in Washington State. He'd had the wheel custom-built with the 29er rim and a NOS Sturmey-Archer drum brake hub for an oldie 10-speed. I figured the wheel had several advantages:

  • Handbuilt/stress-tested for a heavyweight rider
  • Drum brake for stopping power in bad weather
  • Bolt-on axle for security (this is not always a good thing*)
  • Brake mechanism bolts to frame separately from wheel - more security
  • Heavy-duty rim

Once I had that wheel, I realized I'd have to redish it to get a single-speed freewheel to place correctly. In the meantime, my bud decided that, being a fellow forty-something guy with knees to match, maybe gears wouldn't be such a bad thing. Great! That meant I could avoid redishing, and just set it up with a 5-speed freewheel; so I built it up as a 1x5, with a junk crankset/BB/derailleur/brake levers salvaged off an old mountain bike, a new SunRace friction shifter (under 5 bucks!), and a newish Campy Veloce front caliper brake (really powerful for the money). In order to uglify, the continuous cable housing is Zip-tied to the frame.

Some build oddities:

  • The bit of shiny metal on the non-drive side chainstay is a chunk of galvanized electrical conduit. My build-guru James is an ex-San Francisco bike messenger; he told me that back in the 80s, a lot of messengers in San Francisco used drum brakes, and snapped through their chainstays because the clamp attaching the fixing arm of the drum mechanism focusses all the stress on a narrow point of the non-driveside chainstay. I hacksawed the conduit in half to fit over the chainstay, then clamped the fixing arm on over the bracing conduit. The stress of the brake now transfers out over about four inches.
  • Although a bolt-on wheel may be less easy to steal than a QR, getting it to seat correctly in the dropouts is a headache; every time you torque one nut down, the axle shifts in the dropout and the wheel pulls to the drive side. I have no idea how the fixie kids do it without going ballistic; I was cussing for about an hour, trying to get everything locked down.
  • A lot of older steel frames have no derailleur hangers. SunRace makes a bolt-on hanger (about three dollars each) that bolts into the dropout; it has a dimple on the inside which fits into the dropout to hold it in place, then bolt-clamps to the dropout. That alone works fine if you have a QR rear wheel; but if you have a dropout with no bolts to align the axle, how do you get the axle to stay in the right position? Allegedly, SunRace makes a non-drive side spacer; but what I ended up doing was hacksawing through a second hanger I found at my local bike kitchen (in order to get the dimple to fit into the dropout slot, you have to eliminate the hanger part so it clears the seatstay lug), and mounting it on the left dropout as a spacer.
    EDIT: I have since discovered that there are (or were) spacers manufactured specifically to offset the axle on the NDS side, when an add-on derailleur hanger is used. I've installed one on my Bertin and one of my Follises, which also have no native derailleur hangers.
  • The drum brake hub came with the original Sturmey-Archer cable, which has double-ended fittings - a mountain bike-style round fitting on the lever end, and a drum-shaped fitting to hook into the drum activating arm in back. Unfortunately, the original cable was too short for the frame run. I tried a variety of different pinch bolt mechanisms to act as a brake stop, with unimpressive results. Eventually, I located Bike Tools Etc. in Ashland OR, who stock a variety of old Sturmey-Archer parts for drum brake/coaster/internal geared hubs. They stock a pinch bolt mechanism with a flat middle section that fits across the two arms of the drum activating arm. It's not an exact fit for the particular hub mechanism; the cuts on either side of the activating arm are slightly different diameters, but a few washers made an acceptable fit. Figuring that the pinch bolt will vanish the minute the cable breaks, I got 6, so my pal will have some spares.
  • I put on the biggest tires I could fit, just to cushion the ride. Since the fork is fairly new, it's done to modern clearances; 28mm just barely fits. In the rear, I have just enough clearance to get a fully-inflated 32mm into the chainstays near the bottom bracket. Because of the brake arrangement and the solid axle, getting the wheel in and out of the frame is a brutal task requiring at least two socket wrenches, an Allen key, and ideally a stand. I figured a big cushy fatso tire with thick tread would help decrease tube changes. I suspect I could get a 35mm into the rear triangle, but it would have to go in deflated.
  • The standard Raleigh seatpost clamp bolt is some weirdo size that I was never able to determine exactly: 13mm is too small, and 14mm is just a little too large. I wasn't able to find an SAE wrench that fit right, either; 17/32" would probably be perfect, if anyone made that size. Since Raleigh was such a huge company (at least between 1950 and 1980), they made a lot of their own components and tools, with their own sizing and threading specs; I'll betcha there's a specific socket wrench designed just to take of the seat post clamp nut - yuck. You'd think you could just get the hex nut off the clamp bolt with an adjustable Crescent wrench, but no; the seatstay/seattube join has a flange that prevents you from getting a firm fit. I resorted to using a 14mm cone wrench to get the old clamp nut off, rounding the corners of the nut pretty badly in the process. I found that the seatclamp bolt itself is a standard diameter/thread (M10, I think), and will take a standard 13mm hex nut. I replaced the original Raleigh nut with said 13mm hex nut, which has a little more clearance inside the flange, and can be adjusted with a standard socket wrench.
  • And on the subject of Raleigh and their only-at-Raleigh thread standards: Older Raleighs didn't use the standard English bottom bracket (68/73mm wide, 1.37"(34.9mm) diameter x 24 threads per inch). They used their own system: 68mm wide shell, 1.37"(34.9mm) diameter, 26 threads per inch.


    Dealing with the bottom bracket was one of the two tasks I delegated to my LBS (mounting the headset/fork was the other). They managed to hard-thread a steel English cup in on the variable side as a permanent fixture, and rethreaded the fixed side for English as well. I've now installed both an ISIS BB and the current POS square BB in the shell, stripping off the variable cup and using the one already in the BB shell; the assembly seems to be holding up fine.

It looks pretty good, and it rides a lot better than I expected. I can just barely get on top of it if I crank the seatpost all the way down; my bud (who has seven inches on me) will ride it with a more normal standoff. In tribute to Sheldon Brown, the gain ratio chart (6.6/5.5/4.6/3.9/3.3) is Scotch-taped to the seat tube.

And a shout-out to James at Missing Link, my guru for this build!

March 6, 2009 update: Replaced the newer rear rack with an assembly scrounged from the used parts bin at my LBS - a crusty rack with two Wald 582BL collapsible wire baskets. Each basket is just big enough for a single paper grocery bag. Cost to me and my pal: Bupkis (Scott, the repair guy at the LBS who's also my Bianchi-build guru: "Well, we really don't sell used parts; we normally toss that stuff into recycling. Just get it out of here and put it to good use"). Pretty, it gave me an opportunity to raise the saddle a little more, and to tighten up the rear brake enough to stop my friend's mass. He's really pleased with it, now that he's getting readjusted to friction shifting. The next thing: Nab the Delta front rack that keeps showing up at the local REI's used gear sale, once the REI used gear sale illuminati re-institute the Sunday afternoon get-this-junk-the-hell-out-of-here 50% markdown, so I can get it for dirt cheap - like, twelve bucks.

Hey, this stuff costs a lot. Scrounging up useful parts for cheap is a survival skill.

People who friended this bike stevieg, HoldenShreds, TJW, buildFinch, Main Mill Valley, raleighgranprix, ragnar.jensen, jay denman, sikner, campystamp, velocepedestrian,

At the Cyclofiend site,

At the Cyclofiend site, under the Current Classics section, check the Nishiki section, this ol' boy took a Nishiki Continental and gave it a facelift to make it look like an 'International', is that legal? Don't know, fine with me as long as he doesn't sell it and be deceptive but his notes are real good on it, with the Lugs "sanded them with fine sandpaper, then polished them with Simichrome." and those Lugs are something, Hey, I love this creativity...we've got to recycle parts and that is one reason, I don't think Cyclists like me at least often don't like to pay for a new part, cause we've scrounged so many freebies, I forever use old tires though I do have a decent pair on a Tourer.

What color was this Super Grand Prix originally?

your bike...

your bike and story is a testament of the joy and fun that is both building and riding a bike.

Anyways nice ride.


My bud has been riding it around for about six months, locking it to chainlink fences, dumping it at train stations and whatnot. He hasn't trashed it, and it hasn't been stolen, which I think were the real standards for build excellence here :-/

Well-told story

It's awesome to hear an experienced rider/builder talk about the rationale behind his bike. Your description of the process reminds me of Sheldon Brown's technical yet readable style. Cool bike, too!

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