The Raleigh Record Ace
Back when I was a lad the two most prestigious bikes in the Raleigh catalogue were the Professional Team bike and the Record Ace. The former was the machine on which Joop Zoetemelk had just won the Tour de France, and the latter was the bike named after the record-breaking rides of the best British cyclists. To have one or the other would have been impossible for me growing up, but I could dream about owning one.
My Other Car is a Maserati..
So explains my surprise when I saw this large version of a Record Ace in the barn of a friend’s French house. Unbeknown to me, he had owned it all these years but had kept it stored away in his other house in England. For me it’s a bit like someone you know owning a Maserati but never bothering to tell you. He remembers that he bought it in 1976, from a shop in Melksham for £400. That, in today’s money ( and time of uncontrollable inflation ) is worth around £2500. However, I don’t think it is from 1976.
There are some good sites to read about the history of the Record Ace, especially the times of its heyday, which in the 1940’s and 1950’s. In 1958 Ray Booty broke the 100 mile time record on a ( fixed ) Raleigh Record Ace, just one of many distinctions riders using this model bike came to achieve. Collectors would appraise those models as the most desirable of all the Record Aces ever built by Raleigh. Nevertheless, in 1976 Raleigh were still producing some beautiful high end machines, designed for road racing and exquisitely made. Just a look at the Haden long pointed lugs give you a sense of what type of machine they wanted to build.
This is a large bike. It’s much too big for me, which is a shame as I’d like to ride it and see how it feels properly on the road. From centre to top, it is a 63cm, which s more than 6cm bigger than my ideal frame size. Am I wrong to say that bikes this large are considered less aesthetically pleasing? The same is true, I believe, about small frames, and there’s a reason why all the bikes in the catalogues all had mid-size frames. This big frame is in decent condition for its age, and well worthy restoring.
The serial number of this Record Ace, found under the bottom bracket, is WD200914. The W, I’m quite certain, stands for Worksop, the Carlton division of Raleigh where the frame was made. Curiously, the 3rd number, which is generally accepted as the year stamp, is “2”, which would mean the frame was made not in 1976, but in 1982. There is therefore an anomaly of 6 years between the stamp and the owner’s version of its history. Here is a good page that has lots of information on 1970’s Raleigh bikes.
There’s a lot of grease on all the transmission parts, so all the parts of the 12 speed drivetrain don’t look or work at their best by any means. The SR Custom crankset requires a thorough clean, the teeth of the 52/44 chain rings have a layer of road dirt and the chain is clogged though miraculously still works alright. Above it is the Campagnolo Gran Sport front derailleur, the logo is barely visible under the dirt but I imagine it could be brought back to life with a good clean. The matching rear derailleur is in similar condition, but under those layers of filth is a lovely old mechanism crying out for a good clean.
The few Raleigh Record Ace examples I’ve seen for sale of late seem to be valued between £200 – £400. If you think about it, that’s a lot of bike for such a price, hand made, high quality craftsmanship and components that can last for decades into the future. This is also a piece of history, a capture in time of British engineering in the 1970’s that was itself looking back to the glory days of post-war British cycling records. What’s not to like? The only major drawback – well, there are two actually; the two major drawbacks with this bike are the mountainous size of the frame and the swapped out fork.
With a collectible and desirable bike like this which is over 40 years old, I would prioritise keeping as much of the original parts as possible. Much of what it needs is just a thorough cleaning, especially the moving parts that have endured a build-up of years of dirt. However, the spokes are no longer salvageable, so lacing a new stainless steel to the original Weinmann 700c clincher rims would add a great deal to the bike’s aesthetic. I would personally revert to the original cloth tape for the handlebars, and add a set of black and tan tyres as the original bike would have sported.
The Fork Issue
I imagine it’s difficult to find an original RRA replacement fork in this very same colour. Perhaps, though, it is more feasible to track down a colour matching fork from another Raleigh or Carlton bike of this era, made with 531 steel. It would really enhance the bike’s appeal if the frame was reunited with a Reynolds-made fork. The suede saddle is still in reasonable condition but personally I would ditch the old rack, call me old-school but I like my racing bikes with clean lines and as light as possible.
- 1972? Raleigh Record Ace
- Reynolds 531 Double Butted Tubes and Stays
- Haden Royal Sovereign Long Pointed Lugs
- Replaced Fork ( Roughly 7 Years Later )
- Campagnolo Gran Sport Down tube Shifters
- Campagnolo Gran Sport Front Derailleur
- Campagnolo Gran Sport Rear Derailleur
- SR Custom Crankset 52/44
- SR Custom Seat Tube 27.2mm
- SR Ultra 6 Freewheel
- Weimann 605 Side Pull Brakes and Levers
- Weinmann 700C Rims