Classic Lightweights UK
Raleigh Record Ace - 1948
Author: Peter C. Kohler
Machine: 1948 Raleigh Record Ace, serial no. 599283P
Owned by: Peter C. Kohler
How long owned: 3 years
How it was acquired: purchased from Paul Raley in March 2004 who bought it as a frame from the UK and completely restored it himself. Won “Best of British” at the Cirque de Cyclisme, 2003, Greensboro, NC, USA.
The Features that make it special:
A lovely example of a top-end British club lightweight made by a large manufacturer rather than a small, bespoke framemaker.
Introduced in 1933, the RRA went through three distinct phases as Raleigh’s top-end lightweight until it was withdrawn from production in 1958. This machine represents the best known of the series which was manufactured from 1947-1953. “We are satisfied that in the RRA we are offering a Speedman’s mount which is without equal in the industry” said Raleigh in the 1947-48 catalogue introducing the new no. 26.
The RRA frame, entirely made of butted Reynolds 531, had frame angles of 73 deg head and 71 deg seat, in frame sizes of 20.5, 21.5, 22.5, 23.5” with a maximum wheelbase of 41 9/16”. The fork, also Reynolds 531 including the steering stem, had a lamp bracket peg on each blade. Buyers could specify any of the following silver-soldered fittings:
cable clips, bag support studs and carrier (left), rearlight clip, chainguard clip and pulley boss for SA gear wire. Teclamit pressure lubrication ports to the head races, bottom bracket races and pedals. Exclusive to the RRA were the alloy and steel pedals with nickel-chrome steel spindles, lightweight chainwheel, similar to the Williams 1200, and the lamp bracket, each bearing the Raleigh heron and “R” shaped wingnuts. The Reynolds 531 handlebar stem was special to the RRA as well although the buyer could specify Hiduminium. Others options included a choice of Airlite, Harden, Coventry Ultralite, Solite or Airlite Continental hubs or Sturmey-Archer rear hub gears. Rims could be had as 26” or 27” x 1 ¼” Dunlop HP or, at extra charge, Conloy Asps or Conloy Sprints. Brakes were usually GB Hiduminium with hooded alloy levers but Raleigh calipers and levers could be substituted. The saddle was a Brooks B-17N with an alloy seat pin. Finally, the buyer could specify any colour (lustre, polychromatic, pastel, black enamel or Raleigh Green enamel). Fork ends and rear triangle were chrome-plated and the RRA has its own distinctive transfers.
In 1948, the complete RRA (with SA AM three-speed hub gear) cost £39 9 s. 4 d. (including the breathtaking Atlee era purchase tax of £7. 9s. 4d.)
By 1949, the RRA included as standard the new FC close-ratio hub gear with alloy shell or, if desired, the ASC, FM or AM hubs. In 1950, the Brooks B-17N saddle previously standard was replaced by the new B-37 with alloy undercarriage and the AC hub was standard. By 1953 the RRA was out of production, its demise hastened by Raleigh’s loyalty to SA hub gears instead of the preferred derailleur gears. The model was briefly revived in 1957-58 as the RRA Moderne with a choice of Benelux 8-speed derailleur or SA hub gears. Of course Reg Harris rode a RRA track bike and gave the marque its last hurrah as late as 1974 when the 54-year-old Harris won the British Professional Sprint Championship at Leicester astride one of his two carmine red 25-year-old RRA brought out of store at Nottingham.
This machine, 23.5” frame, is fitted out with Sturmey Archer FC four-speed alloy shell hub (date code 4.49), GB Hiduminium brakes, 27 x 1 1/4" Conloy Asp alloy rims, Harden front hub, Brooks B17N saddle (restored), Reynolds 531 chrome-plated stem and GB Maes Bend ‘bars with shellaced white cotton tape. Bluemels "Noweight" mudguards with alloy stays and Bluemels pump. Accessories include a Terry’s watchholder and British Army pocket watch, Coloral small alloy bottle and anodized blue alloy carrier and Brooks Leabrook saddle bag. This example has the quick release RRA rear saddle bag support, RRA alloy/steel pedals, RRA lamp bracket and RRA wingnuts and all of the RRA braze-ons except the chainguard clip. The colour is based on Raleigh’s Polychromatic Electric Blue.
Anything else: we Americans revere Raleighs possibly more than the British since it was the first “lightweight” imported bicycle to find widespread favour in the USA. Many of us grew up riding what we called “English Racers” (really the three-speed Raleigh Sports) in the 1960s. To me, the RRA is the ultimate Raleigh and British lightweight. She handles confidently, an FC hub gear is a sublime pleasure to use and she can and does take on the newest carbonfibre jobs. Best of British awheel!
© 2006 Classic Lightweights