on adopting a raleigh grand prix
My husband recently found this 1978 Raleigh Grand Prix on Craigslist. He thought it would be a good fit for him, but upon seeing the bike, it became clear that it was just the size for me. Although we recently purchased a 2008 Schwinn Le Tour GS roadbike for me, we just couldn’t pass this beauty up.
We found it for a steal – only $35. It came with a dynamo powered headlight, the original Brooks saddle, a great paint job with the cool retro lettering and embellishments, and the original stem shifters. Our seller said it was his grandfather’s bike and that he no longer rode it. My lucky day, right?
But here’s the thing: while old bikes like this can be found at real bargain prices, they are far from a rideable product when purchased and it’s more the money you invest after the purchase that determines how much this new (old) bike will actually cost you.
We couldn’t even test ride the Grand Prix because the tires were completely flat and unusable. One tire wouldn’t hold air at all, so trying to ride it would be have been impossible. The wheels were rusty and corroded and definitely needed replacing. Thus, our first investment was to get new tires and new wheels installed. We traded the old steel rims for aluminum ones and updated the brake pads to Kool Stop Continental ones (as recommended by many readers on my previous Raleigh post).
These upgrades hiked the price of the bike up to around $250. Were I to list the bike on Craigslist now, I don’t think I would receive that much for it. Therefor, another consideration when restoring old bikes is whether you’ll end up spending more on it than what the bike is worth (in monetary value, and not sentimental value, that is).
The Grand Prix still needs some work: the cable covers from the headlight are a make-shift job that leaves much to be desired (as you can see the cable hanging down and barely held in place by a zip tie we added). But the new wheels and tires make it a smooth and fast ride, and the steel frame, the handlebar tape, and the headlight are in good condition.
I was also able to find out from the serial number stamped on the seat tube that the bike was indeed manufactured in Nottingham in January of 1978.
Right now I’m deciding whether to sell my Schwinn Le Tour GS and keep the Raleigh Grand Prix as my sole road bike. Questions I have:
– Will I be able to ride the Grand Prix on century rides or on week-long bike rides (like Ragbrai) and not suffer for having a (heavier) steel bike?
– Will I miss the very easy gear shifting of a newer bike?
I love the Grand Prix for its aesthetics, its charm and history, for its quality construction and durability, and am very much leaning towards keeping it as my only road bike. I would love to hear from others who use all-steel bikes for distance riding!
And yet another question:
– When I turn on the light generator, it becomes very difficult to peddle. Could that be the actual generator and could something like that be upgraded?
For now, despite our volatile beginnings, the Grand Prix and I are off to a good start. We enjoyed a lovely 30 mile ride together this past weekend and I also took her around town to yoga and to the grocery store. And this is something that I never felt like doing on my Schwinn road bike – ride it for transportation. But with these shiny new wheels, a chainguard (!), and such beautiful colors and striking retro aesthetics, the Grand Prix just begs to be taken out and riden.