I’ve covered my Raleigh International before, but decided to post again about some changes I’ve made to the bike. This bike would qualify for the L’Eroica, but there were no bike requirements for the Heroic. It was encouraged to bring an old bike, if you could, so the Raleigh was a natural choice.
First off, I have to say this bike handled beautifully on the rural gravel roads. Steel frame, longer wheelbase, generous fork rake- this bike was made for this kind of riding, a true pleasure to ride.
I made a few key changes to this bike, which helped for this event, and really worked well.
Wheels- later 80’s Mavic/Shimano 600 wheelset. Rear hub was retrofitted with a Uniglide freehub, the axle shortened, and respaced to 126mm. More about Uniglide will come later here.
Gearing and Drivetrain – For a long, hilly gravel course, I felt I should have more of a touring or ‘cross like gearing. 52/42 chainrings were replaced with 48/39. Ramps and pins on the 48, they do make a difference. The Uniglide freehub conversion allowed me to create a custom 7 speed cassette, which turned out to be 13/26. It was a little humbling to find out the winner’s small chainring was a 44, and another guy who finished far ahead of me rode a fixed gear!
Tires- Challenge Parigi-Roubaix, 27c. It was mentioned on some forum that tires with more aggressive tread patterns aren’t necessarily better or more helpful on gravel roads, at least in dry conditions. These tires worked well for me. Occasionally loose gravel patches were a little challenging, but not overly so. On the well packed smooth lines I was able to find most of the time, these tires were perfect.
Brake pads- I was starting to doubt the old Shimano Golden Arrow side pulls. They just weren’t stopping well. Although the rubber in the still original pads didn’t seem dry or brittle, they just didn’t stop well. I replaced with some cheap Serfas pads, which work great. I am a fan of these (and other cheap things that work very well).
I switched to a drop bar, and Suntour bar end shifters. These shifters are tried and true. It is nice to be able to keep your hands on the bars and shift on road conditions that can change pretty quickly. They work well with the 7 speed Uniglide Cassette, but with a higher cog count they start to lose their effectiveness. The handlebars were re-bent from a standard bend road bar. The ends are bent and flared out. Yes, I bent aluminum handlebars!
I cobbled together the water bottle holders on the handlebar. I thought it looked a little old-timey, even with modern bottles and cages. There is usually no support or water stops on these rides, so I wanted to be sure I had enough hydration. As cold as it was the day of the Heroic, I actually did drink all 3 bottles.
It’s a wonderful bike, I am privileged to own it, and now race it!
Mark Skorpahl showed up with his Raleigh International, too, and he won!