Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Our Teenager Rides an Old Raleigh Grand Prix

The Raleigh Grand Prix, after our son removed toe clips, fender, and rack.

My husband brought this vintage Raleigh Grand Prix back to life several years ago, acquiring the bike from his sister. He stripped the bike to the frame then added parts from his old Peugeot, which included nice Wolber wheels, old ESGE fenders, and a svelte English steel rack (one I've coveted ever since).

Fast forward to this summer when our 14-year-old son's mountain bike needed repair and was unavailable, waiting at a local shop, and he was responsible for getting himself to his summer program (the course agenda coincidentally was Bike Mechanics). He's tough on bikes, like some boys are, pushing a bike's limits on jumps, barreling off curbs, etc. - the reason he was now facing an old ten speed as his primary means of transportation.

But first, he insisted the Raleigh's metal toe clips had to go - a wise choice, no need for complications on an unfamiliar bicycle - and our boy proudly removed tiny screws that held the clips in place. But then there was the old niggling problem that neither my husband nor I could figure out - how to keep the rear brake from locking up. However, our son took one look at it and tightened the long bolt that attaches the brakes to the frame - a simple fix indeed! He also removed the wobbly rear fender (it was missing an integral bracket) before he was satisfied.

For the better part of a week, our son rode the Raleigh with two friends 8 miles round-trip to his bike mechanics program. He marveled how fast the bike was, compared to his mountain bike, and his buddy wanted to know how to acquire an old ten speed of his own.

One afternoon our son came home, his knee and elbow a bloody mess. His wounds were cleaned by the time my husband and I arrived around 6 pm. - hours after our teenager had returned from his program. It took a while before he recounted his accident - not because he was distressed - he's clearly a rugged individual and he knows bike wounds come with the territory, but rather he eventually felt like recounting the incident.

"So I was riding to Hunt's when I tried to shift, the chain got stuck, the bike locked up, and I went over the handlebars."

I know the Raleigh requires finesse, with its down tube friction shifting, much like my Miyata. I also know my son, who is often careless, and was probably rushing to get to class on time. The two are recipes for potential problems, as we've experienced with this child in the past. So I asked, what'd you do?

"Well, we had to get the chain unstuck, then when I got there the teacher helped me to fix the handlebars."

I wondered who'd cleaned him up. So I asked, did you show the teacher your knee and elbow?


Kids heal amazingly fast, as it turns out. A day later he'd forgotten about the incident.

The Raleigh, however, has more scratches, the bar tape is shredded, coming loose, and there's a new tear in the seat. Our son has since removed the beautiful steel rear rack.(sorry, no photos with rack)

Two weeks later the novelty of riding a zippy ten speed has worn off, especially now that his mountain bike sports a new derailleur. He's back to his regular antics: flying off jumps in the backyard, barreling downhill on our neighborhood street to go airborne off homemade plywood ramps, plus the additional twist, typical of today's teens: recording these boyhood feats on video and sharing the results with his friends.

We can take away one good experience from the week. Our son has confidence and new skills to begin fixing his own bicycles. Hallelujah.


  1. Nice bike. I do love old lugged steel and how simple those older machines are to wrench on. I'm so glad you kid is learning how to do his own repairs. It's very liberating! (By the way, did you swap out the first photo? Somehow I'm missing the rack you mentioned.)

    1. I didn't snap a photo of the bike with the rack. Sorry for the confusion. I'll change the blog post to reflect that.

    2. Kendra--It is indeed liberating to learn how to fix your bike.

      I'm glad, Annie, that your kid is learning from someone who knows. I had to teach myself!

  2. My first bike as an adult was a Raleigh Grand Prix. I rode it for 13 years, most of them car free. When the fork blade fell off during a ride and the Suntour click shifters would no longer work, I decided it was time for the bicycle graveyard. Got more than my money's worth out of it though.

  3. It warms my heart to hear old ten speeds being put to use and young folks wondering "how to I get ahold of an old 10 speed?" One of the first bikes I rebuilt was a bronze green Raleigh Grand Prix and I learned a lot about cottered cranks with that bike - mostly by doing it wrong lol. You can learn a lot about bikes by tearing one down and rebuilding it cool that your Son can go to bike mechanic class during the summer.

  4. Do you have your Clem Smith Jr. yet? Jim D Massachusetts

    1. Not yet and getting anxious...

    2. I have one from the first batch (high top tube). Just interested in opinions of bike "pros" like yourself and Lovely Bicycles. I really like mine, even things like the high bars and seat, that I did not think I would like. (Jury is still out on the bosco bars for the long term.) Jim D Massachusetts


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