Let the WD see the 40

It’s a bank holiday weekend, and the weather’s been lovely. Have I ridden my bike? Not much. I’ve been stripping and cleaning Major Tom. That and watching Hamilton’s magnificent win in Monaco.

The new addition’s been fully stripped down, and it’s always fun when working on a new bike to discover and understand how the bike was put together. BSA was at this time the ‘economy’ brand for Raleigh, and it’s clear what we have here is a bike designed to use up some old Reynolds racing frames by bolting on slightly second-rate components – this was a bike aimed at the serious but impoverished amateur. It also has a more cosmopolitan feel than my three-speed, in that while Crichton’s made up of generally English-made Sturmey Archer components that name is virtually non-existent on Major Tom, replaced by Weinmann, Maillard of France, Suntour and Tange of Japan, and some rather cheap-looking Chinese tyres that I doubt are original. Here’s everything waiting for a clean:

 The one thing that absolutely smacks of budget bike is the use of caged bearings, and while I as a production engineer can see exactly why this has been done I still want to swap them for loose ones – the improvement isn’t huge but it is there, and the only reason not to is the time it takes. Raleigh must have made this switch between 1980 and 1982 because my Tour of Britain (aka Bikey McBikeface) had loose bearings all round.

The other feature of the bicycle, pretty obvious but interesting nonetheless, is the attention to weight-saving. My three-speed was built to be rugged and long-lasting, and literally everything is steel apart from the tyres, the saddle and a few other bits like outer cables. On Major Tom chrome is now transformed into some weird exotic material as it’s only to be seen in the bearing races and parts of the derailleur, largely replaced with aluminium. It’s not light by modern standards, but it’s a damn sight lighter than the three-speed – probably approaching half the weight all told!

So now the geeky details, just in case anyone needs the info. The hubs are quick release and made by Maillard, the rims by Weinmann. The wheels are 700c 17-622, with 700/25c tyres at 100psi. The brakes are Weinmann 500s with Weinmann levers. Until I get used to the new riding position I may use the levers from McBikeface as these have the additional L-shaped levers so I can still brake when sitting up. The brakes cleaned up lovely:


The gearing is 52/42 on the front and 14/17/20/23/26 on the rear with a Suntour Vx shifter at the back and Raleigh-branded Suntour Compe-V at the front, giving a range of ratios from 1.62 to 3.71 compared to the three-speed’s 1.92 to 3.41. The down tube shifters (also Suntour) have a lovely action, with a little ratchet as you pull them back. They might not be Campagnolos like the Raleigh version would have had, but they feel like a quality item. 

The bottom bracket cups are Japanese, made by ‘Tange’ whoever they are, and are 24tpi. They look incredibly modern compared to the old-style cups on Crichton, who’s five years younger. The cranks are Suntour alloy again, and fix on to the axle in the conventional cotterless way. I had to buy a new tool but I’m glad I didn’t have another cotter pin to deal with. The bracket cups came off without a fight and inside there was a bit of a greasy mess but very good condition underneath. I love the way when you hold a component like an axle you can feel the forging process that made it, and the hardness that gives it. 

So the frame itself has been cleaned, all the cables taken out for replacement, new blocks on the brakes, loose bearings fitted to replace the caged ones and everything bar the wheels has been thoroughly, thoroughly cleaned. I’m just waiting for bar tape and some time spent getting the crud off the hubs (and particularly the cassette) and with a little adjustment he’s ready to go.

One thing struck me though. The riding position is VERY different to Crichton, you couldn’t get more different, and yet it felt strangely familiar. Then I realised it reminds me very much of my first ‘proper’ bike:


(This isn’t it exactly, but it was a very similar model)

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3 thoughts on “Let the WD see the 40

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