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Raleigh Record - AKA "The Tin Man"

The current popularity of single speed and fixed gear bicycles was one of the inspirations for this bicycle. Building a bike up reusing a bunch of parts and spending zero dollars was the other. While the simplicity of a single speed sounded intriguing the convenience and utility of multiple gears won the day. This article is the story of how one man's bicycle trash came to be another man's bicycle project.

The eldest of the three donor bicycles was an early 70's Raleigh Record frame and Raleigh thimble crown fork. Middle vintage was a Nishiki Century 10 speed that donated its original parts after a series of upgrades. The least old donor was also the least interesting. It was an unknown vintage Chinese made 'Magna' low end mountain bike.

Raleigh Record bicycle frame and fork as completed bicycle

The Raleigh Record frame set, recently spray painted, and the Magna were freebies being given away on Craigslist. The frame included a cottered crank bottom bracket. During the installation of the square tapered 'cotterless crank' axle recycled from the Nishiki I realized that the frame was a Raleigh. A quick trip through the Sheldon Brown website helped me identify the frame and also suggested solutions for the crank axle upgrade.

The next step was steering. The Nishiki's original aluminum stem was fitted along with the handle bars and brake levers from the Magna mountain bike. The Magna front chain-ring friction shifter was also reused. But it was mounted upside down and on the right side of the bar. This shifter, being friction, has the ability to control just about any number of gears on the rear cassette.

Probably the only valuable items of the entire build were added next. A set of Shimano 600 hubs with Open 4 CD Mavic rims and Continental Ultra Gatorskins, also hand me downs from the Nishiki project, were installed with some trouble. The front axle on the modern front wheel was slightly larger than the axle opening on the Raleigh's thimble crown fork. Ten minutes with a hand file solved that minor issue. The slot for the rear axle was correctly sized but the wheel width was not. I did some reading about bending steel frames to fit wider wheels. It sounded complicated. I flexed the stays apart until the wheel fit in.

Raleigh Record frame braze on cable stop and guide
Ugly discount mountain bike brakes

The ugliest component was fitted next. The Magna brakes, clearly stamped from steel and poorly chromed, were added next. The pads ended up at the end of their lengthy adjustment slot but they work. Barely. The Magna cables and sheathes were reused. And I love the Raleigh Record's rear brake cable stops and guide that are brazed onto the right side of the top tube. The seat post was pirated from the Magna and one of the many saddles from the Nishiki project was fitted without issue.

The Record frame lacked a built in rear derailleur hanger. Fortunately the Shimano SIS RD TY15 rear derailleur borrowed from the Magna mountain bike included one. The RD TY15, although designed for 5 speeds, had enough range to cover the seven speed Ultra Glide cassette. Because the frame was originally fitted with down tube shifters, it lacked a cable stop at the top of the down tube. With a hose clamp and a couple twists of stainless steel safety wire a functional cable stop was created. The 170mm Sugino cranks and generic stamped steel pedals donated by the Nishiki were used. I knew I wanted the simplicity of a single chain ring. The Sugino chain rings were riveted together so I simply cut the large one off with my hand grinder. It wasn't pretty. But it was done. A used but still serviceable Campagnalo 10 speed chain was installed with the convenience of a Connex Link master link connector.

Dual chainring converted to single chainring

The assembly happened over the course of two evenings. I had never built a bike up from scratch before. It went surprisingly smoothly. I believe I was especially lucky. During the process my wife commented on the frame color. The frame and thimble crown fork came with the blingiest silver spray paint ever created. She said it reminded her of a heartless character in the Wizard of Oz. A nickname of 'The Tin Man' was immediately adopted.

And what did I get? Just what I wanted believe it or not. My original vision was to create a bike that will be ridden more casually than my serious road bike or serious mountain bike. The Tin Man rides smooth due to most every component having noticeable flex. The gearing is wide enough for casual riding and the shifting is OK. The lack of multiple chainrings is never missed. Narrow tires allow decent speed with moderate effort. The riding position is pretty conservative compared to my Nishiki road bike. The bike is not light but that was never expected. It is a simple bike with enough capability to get me where I want to go without any unnecessary fuss.