Yes, I was giddy as she arrived at my front door for the first time. The stories I’d heard were true. She is a classic English beauty. Casual and refined. Comforting. She looks like she’s aged gracefully; a few signs if you look hard enough. My heart started beating quicker as I lay my hands on her for the first time. She was exactly as he’d described her.
She is a vintage Raleigh Tourist bicycle that a friend asked me to keep an eye on for a little while. Who was I to say no? After all, the mid-1970’s Raleigh catalogue for this made in Nottingham, England vintage cruiser promised “many carefree years of cycling pleasure”. I had to experience this pleasure for myself.
Toronto’s Wychwood Park enclave stands in perfectly for an English country town on a hot summer day. A subtle gated entrance indicates that you’ve arrived. Huge trees and lush greenery immediately surround you, providing a canopy to help cool down the blazing sun. The bumpy road casually winds in a meandering loop that has many hidden entrances and long driveways. Blending into the natural landscape are large old homes that wouldn’t be out of place in the countryside. In this idyllic setting, you quickly forget that you’re in the heart of a big city.
Riding the Raleigh Tourist is equally as relaxed. Seating is very upright, leaving little room between the slung back handlebars and your knees when pedalling. As a result, any turns must be deliberate and slow. The straight pull brakes look better than they work. Sudden stops aren’t really possible for this all-steel bicycle. The catalogue calls the Raleigh Tourist “lightweight”. Not so much. It’s heavy and plush. Wide 28” tires and a springy Brooks leather saddle help soften the bumps on the road. A Sturmey Archer 3-speed internal gear hub provides some help; but you don’t really want to stare down too many hills while in the saddle. Small details like the full chain guard, the classic Raleigh tubular fork and red “R” adorned axle nuts are nice finishing touches.
Like strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, a leisurely pedal through the park on a vintage Raleigh Tourist is a perfect summer activity. Your relaxed pace allows you to stop and admire your surroundings–which also includes gazing at this graceful bicycle. The Raleigh Tourist is definitely a keeper. Hopefully she won’t have to be returned anytime soon; giving more opportunities to enjoy the moments of “cycling pleasure” she promises.
Designed and styled after the traditional London Bobbies bicycles to provide many carefree years of cycling pleasure. – Raleigh Bicycles
(Images courtesy of: Blair Smith)
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