But is this retro-faithful bike from the 1980s any match for the shiny new Aircode DRS 8.0 from Lapierre – the bike that’ll be ridden by Team Groupama-FDJ in this year’s TdF?
Back in 1980 Raleigh was a global powerhouse of a brand but, in recent years and with the advent of new materials and methods for bike production, Raleigh’s mastery of metal became a footnote in cycling’s recent history. Raleigh needed to rethink its business model and so, over the subsequent four decades, it moved away from manufacturing and into distribution.
Today, Raleigh is one of the UK’s biggest distributors of bikes and components, supplying shops throughout the UK with the likes of Lapierre, Haibike, Basil, Vaude, XLC and many more.
TI-Raleigh 40th Anniversary edition frame and kit
In July 1980, when Olivia Newton-John, Bob Marley and Kate Bush were riding high in the charts, the TI-Raleigh-Creda team – riding steel bikes hand-made in Nottingham – were leading out Dutch rider Joop Zoetemelk to overall victory in the Tour de France, securing Young Rider classification for fellow Dutchman Johan van der Velde in the process.
The original TI was built using Reynolds 753 steel tubing, expertly braised and finished at Raleigh’s special bikes division in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. For the 2020 replica, Raleigh has gone back to the original specification for inspiration.
This replica uses custom Reynolds 753 tubing throughout, brazed to original Raleigh-design lugs (Raleigh also produced a replica back in 2015 that used a lesser 525 Reynolds tubeset).
The frame is lovingly finished to the exacting standards of the original and even uses a period-correct, one-inch Campagnolo Record headset to mount the 753 steel fork.
Raleigh has looked to Italy to source period-style components using Campagnolo’s polished silver Veloce 10-speed groupset (the original would have run 12-speed – 2 x 6) combined with Dia-Compe classic down-tube shifters and brake levers complete with natural rubber grips.
The stem is a retro-style Cinelli 1A, which clamps Cinelli’s Giro d’Italia bar. The seatpost is a true-to-the-original polished aero design, and even the saddle is the vintage-looking San Marco Turbo 1980.
There’s some beautiful attention to detail on the TI with the Mavic Open Pro alloy rims bearing period-correct Mavic diamond logos wrapped with skinwall Challenge high-cotton content tyres. The bike even comes with a set of classic MKS Quill pedals replete with leather toe-straps.
TI-Raleigh 40th Anniversary edition geometry
The TI-Raleigh boasts a classic combination of skinny steel tubes and slender fork, which has been expertly crafted with Reynolds 753. This lightweight tubing was originally launched in 1976 and was the first to be heat-treated, which hugely enhanced both the stiffness and strength of the material.
Reynolds 753 ruled the roost in racing with riders of the calibre of Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond winning the Tour de France on bikes crafted from these tubes.
Step aboard the TI and you’re immediately shipped back to a time before electronic shifting, disc brakes, carbon fibre, aerodynamics and the myriad modern enhancements seen on today’s bikes.
The geometry comes from the classic road-bike playbook: parallel 73-degree angles for head and seat, a wheelbase a centimetre over a metre, and the main triangle featuring a 590mm seat tube and 580mm top tube on this 59cm frame. Its classic, flat top-tube design looks wonderful and the ride isn’t far behind.
|Bike Size (cm)||50||53||56||59||61|
|Seat tube (mm)||500||530||560||590||610|
|Top tube – horizontal (mm)||535||545||560||580||595|
|Head tube (mm)||115||128||143||165||185|
|Head angle (degrees)||72||72||73||73||73|
|Seat tube angle (degrees)||74||74||74||73||73|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||72||72||72||72||72|
|Handlebar width (cm)||40||42||42||44||44|
|Stem length (mm)||90||100||100||110||110|
|Crank length (mm)||170||170||170||175||175|
TI-Raleigh 40th Anniversary edition ride impressions
Pedalling the classically styled chainset (with modern compact chainrings) is an adjustment if you’re used to riding in a more aggressive aero position. Yes, the TI has a long reach with the frame’s long top tube and the 110mm quill stem, but the ride position seats you a little behind the crank centre, rather than over the top of the bike’s heart.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the pedalling position, the TI is a truly rewarding ride. The pleasure comes in thinking about how you ride – much more so than on a modern bike, with tech such as Di2 that gifts you carte blanche to shift where and whenever you like.
The Raleigh’s clockwork-like efficient Campagnolo derailleurs are operated by down-tube shifters that are retro-styled to perfection by Dia-Compe. It’s all about anticipating your shifts, making gear changes in advance of a climb and feeling the chain’s smoothness to ship gears as the climb progresses.
There’s something exciting about cresting a rise and pushing the down-tube shifter forward, advancing the gears in anticipation of out-and-out efforts. On modern race bikes you can feel somewhat detached from the slick mechanics at work, whereas on the TI you feel absolutely part of it.
The Dia-Compe brake levers, with their natural rubber hoods, are minimal compared to modern all-in-one units, but the curved brake-lever blade feels natural in your hands.
The dual-pivot Campagnolo brakes work well with these levers, while the friction interface with the Mavic Open Pro rims provides plenty of stopping power and feel, even in the wet. You may not get the progressive feel of discs but rim brakes on metal rims still cut the mustard.
The wheels are beautiful to look at with the flat-matt aluminium Open Pro rims combined with retro-styled large flange hubs. They roll sweetly with smooth bearings and are built with plenty of lateral tension, but retain plenty of life so they feel smooth even on rough roads when shod with the slender 23c Challenge tyres.
The Challenge Criteriums, with their high-cotton count casing and skin walls, are as close to an eighties performance tyre as you’ll find. What’s remarkable is just how comfortable the bike feels with these skinny tyres, which work harmoniously in combination with the lively springy-steel frame and smooth-running wheels.
The contact points stick to the eighties theme well with a Cinelli 1A stem and Giro d’Italia bar. The alloy seatpost is topped with San Marco’s classic Turbo saddle. With its rounded shape and plentiful padding, it still has a firm feel, while the slick surface reduces friction as you pedal.
By modern standards, the slim diameter of the bar and unpadded cloth bar tape don’t offer the isolating comfort of modern carbon bars and PU padded tape. I didn’t find it uncomfortable and the raison d’être of the TI is that you feel much more connected than on a modern-day bike.
You won’t ride your regular routes as rapidly, but you’ll have an absolute ball on the Raleigh. I would recommend the TI-Raleigh wholeheartedly on the proviso that you turn off Strava, leave your Garmin (or Wahoo, Bryton et al) at home, unplug from the data-driven world of road cycling and revel in the sheer joy of riding.
TI-Raleigh 40th Anniversary edition overall
The TI-Raleigh is as good a homage to its 1980 predecessor as it’s possible to get from modern manufactured parts (without breaking the bank that is).
The frameset is gloriously accomplished, smooth, lively and bags of fun with it. Of course, it isn’t nearly as technically accomplished as new era models, but 40 years’ worth of development in bike design has passed.
It’s a love letter to road racing’s glory days and testament to the joy of cycling for cycling’s sake.
|Available sizes||50, 53, 56, 59, 61cm|
|Tyres||Challenge open tubular 23c|
|Stem||Cinelli 1A quill|
|Shifter||Dia-Compe Classic Down Tube|
|Saddle||Selle San Marco Turbo 1980|
|Rear derailleur||Campagnolo Veloce|
|Handlebar||Cinelli Giro d’Italia|
|Brakes||Campagnolo Centaur with Dia-Compe classic levers|
|Grips/Tape||Velox black cloth bar tape|
|Front derailleur||Campagnolo Veloce Braze on|
|Frame||Reynolds custom 753|
|Fork||Reynolds custom 753|
|Cranks||Full Alloy, 50/39T|
|Cassette||Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed 13-29T|
|Wheels||Mavic Open Pro C|