1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

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1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

Postby jordan_217 » Fri Jul 06, 2012 08:35 am

A work colleague has had enough of his Raleigh Esquire town bike and has decided to buy a new commuter on the C2W scheme. He's asked me if I'd like to buy it. I believe the bike to be a 1981 (checked the stamp on the hub) and it's a very nice burnt orange colour.

The frame is a bit rough in places (mostly superficial wear and tear) and everything seems to be original, he's only just replaced the original tyres :shock:

I haven't had a good look at the bike (mechanically) but apparently the 3spd SA gears are completely buggered and it generally needs some TLC.

Is it feasible that I could buy this bike and just salvage the frame and update and upgrade everything else? I'm not sure of the exact spec but after reading several online sources (Sheldon Brown, etc) it appears that certain parts/ threads were made to Raleighs own standard/spec and upgrading and sourcing parts may prove difficult. Though, I'm not sure if this is the case with the more contemporary Raliegh bikes.

Any advice and info would be appreciated. This bike the same age as me and I have to be honest, I would only be interested in keeping the frame, IMO it's a thing of beauty.

It would be a little project, if it's worth taking on at all. I would use the bike though!

Thanks in advance.
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Re: 1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

Postby supersonic » Fri Jul 06, 2012 19:05 pm

I wouldn't spend too much on upgrading it - by the time you have replaced say all the drivetrain, brakes, bearings and so on, you might as well have bought a new bike which would probably be lighter anyway!

Unless you can source 2nd hand parts cheap: I'd try and service it first, see how much you can fix.

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Re: 1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

Postby corshamjim » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:30 am

The hub gear should be easy to sort either by getting it serviced ( or do it yourself - there are some excellent videos at http://togglechaintour.co.uk/?Technical ), or it's even easier just to buy a complete 'innards' and swap them out. I have a '90s Raleigh Mambo which has completely non-standard stem and headset so I wouldn't say '80s is at all contemporary!

If it were me I'd simply clean up and repair what's there, unless you really like ferreting about for obscure parts, but there are plenty of people about mad enough to do the full rebuild job too. :D

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Re: 1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

Postby Teuchter » Wed Jul 18, 2012 13:01 pm

I'd buy it and get it back on the road but then I like old bikes.

I've got a similar bike to that, a 1978 Raleigh Transit.


It weighs a ton (about double what my 2011 Allez weighs), it's slow (limited hub gears and weight), it took a lot of fiddling to get it to stop rattling (adding bits of old inner tube into mudguard mounts, etc) but I love it. It's got old world, classic looks, can be ridden in any clothes you happen to have on (no changing shoes or tucking trousers into socks necessary here), takes minimal maintenance (drip some oil into the hub every once in a while) and is very comfortable (steel frames are coming back into fashion don't you know?). I often use it over winter and it cleans up perfectly afterwards with just a once-over with an oily cloth.

Your bike will likely have steel rims which will make things scary in heavy rain (though it's fine in the general damp conditions we normally get). I plan at some point to replace the front wheel on mine with an alloy rimmed one - available on eBay for under £30. This would sort out the wet weather braking. The rear which incorporates the hub can stay chrome. The old tyres will be fine if not overly cracked but a wide range of new ones in the correct size are available.

It takes adapting to a different style of riding. Learn to relax and enjoy the scenery and you'll get the point in it.

These bikes were built to be practical everyday transport and to last. Lots of parts are avilable second hand and also new from places like SJS (who stock loads of new spares for Sturmey Archer hubs).

For some reason these bikes have a far bigger following in America than they do here these days. Take a look at this thread to get an idea.
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.ph ... h-3-speeds

Before you know it you'll be investing in a Carradice saddlebag and attending tweed runs!


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Re: 1981 Raleigh Esquire - buy?, restore?, upgrade?

Postby Danny1962 » Thu Aug 02, 2012 06:39 am

Older bikes like this are very solidly built and reliable. Get it set up right and it will last for another 30 years, and then some. I wonder why the seller thinks the 3-speed hub is buggered -- they don't go wrong that often. It might be just needing an adjustment... it's a five second job but only if you know how. If the seller has owned it for many years but can't tell you how to adjust the hub, then the adjustment could be some way out unless the bike shop were doing the maintenance. Don't assume it's the hub... if it won't hold the gear but is otherwise adjusted properly it's more likely the shifter that's worn. That's a very easy and cheap thing to replace. At worst, replacement hub innards are readily available for a few £ secondhand or you can have a go at fixing it yourself. Consider getting a larger rear sprocket put on -- if the chainring is 46 teeth you'd probably want 22 teeth on the rear unless you live somewhere really flat. Again, a very simple job.

Don't get carried away on restoring it fully unless you want to do it as a hobby project. Otherwise, clean it up and only fix what's actually broken.

If you are used to modern bikes you will notice a difference. You will need to develop a more relaxed riding style, go at the pace of the bike, look ahead more and brake earlier (much much earlier in the wet!). But I warn you, they are addictive. You won't want to go back to modern bikes once you've run a vintage one.

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