Raleigh Road Ace (and Shimano 600 groupset)

Raleigh Road Ace head tube badge Maybe I’m a bit too obsessed with order, but I can’t help being a little shaken by the variety of names on the parts of my latest machine (Sora, Tiagra, Tektro, ITM, 2200 etc). Another trip down memory lane, then: a racing bike that I bought in the 1980s. It hasn’t had a lot of use and I haven’t had to modify it much (a 24T rear sprocket to replace the 21T original); it is almost entirely assembled from Shimano 600 components. A sprinkling of rust and a few scratches. My Raleigh Road Ace:

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 gear levers

Friction gear levers mounted on the downtube. I think when I bought the bike in 1987 it was the previous year's model. Not long after I got it Raleigh upgraded the Road Ace to Shimano 600EX with SIS gearing.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 front derailleur

Older front derailleurs could cope with larger chainring differences, I believe.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 rear derailleur

The rear derailleur took a rear sprocket up to 28T. This one has a scratch from when I fell off in a multi-storey car park in Lincoln. I was racing some fellow youngsters.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 chainset

The classic racing chainrings of 52 and 42. The big ring hasn't got much wear.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 front brake

I changed the brake blocks to Aztecs. They chewed up the rims. After I hit a kerb on a cycle path and flattened both rims I put the Shimano blocks back on for the replacement wheels. Note the Shimano 600 headset.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 front brake lever

You knew where you were with brake levers in the 1980s. They were happy enough being used for braking only.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 pedals

The stainless steel clips rusted early on. A review at the time lamented the fact that the only British-made components on the bike were the Sturmey Archer toe straps. These are the originals.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 front hub

Shimano 600 front hub. Note the Campagnolo chromed dropouts. My touring bike from the same period rusted quickly around this area: the first time the wheel is replaced the paintwork on bikes without chromed dropouts is compromised.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 stem with Dura Ace handlebars

The stem was unusual in that the owner was presented with an extra long allen key wrench that came with its own metal sleeve (about 5” long) that you slipped over the shortest length of the wrench to get extra torque. It’s still in my cycling toolkit.

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 stem with Dura Ace handlebars

The stem is Shimano 600, of course. Gasp! Dura Ace handlebars. Oh, well...

Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 front hub

... here's the bike. It needs a little attention, obviously. The frame was too big for me and it is over-geared. And although I probably don't need to keep it anymore, I don't think I could part with it after all these years.

39 comments on “Raleigh Road Ace (and Shimano 600 groupset)”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    A proper bike needs a sprinkling of rust and a few scratches to show it's had a life. Good photos. Horizontal crossbars (top tubes as they are today, for some reason) look very 'classic' – my 1980s Peugeot ATB has one (plus rust and scratches) and I'm not parting with it at any price.

    Added later: reading the Feb-Mar issue of Cycle magazine, there's a Villiers-Velo advert towards the back, with a photo of a similar looking bicycle, also with a horizontal crossbar and other bits of traditional styling.

  2. Garry wrote:

    Chris, I've had almost every part on that bike in my time, except the Dura-Ace bars. Had the same pedals, brakes, derailleurs etc. and had a Raleigh Frame like that but it was red and black and gorgeous. Mine was of 531 tubing. Is this?
    I gave it away to the brother of a friend of mine about 13 years ago, as my garage was full!

  3. Chris wrote:

    There seems to have been a mini revival of cycle magazines just lately. I’m fairly sure the last one I bought (Cycle Active???) is another new one. I'll have a browse in WH Smiths, thanks, Patrick.

    Added later: Oh, Cycle is the CTC's magazine, right? When I was a member I think it was called Cycle Touring, or something like that.

    Yes, Garry, the frame is Reynolds 531C – Competition – the transfer on the forks just states 531, but the seat tube sticker suggests that the forks are Competition, too. I've been looking at scanned-in catalogues and various web sites that give advice on frame sizes. I think I must have disproportionately small legs for my height. For years I’ve grumbled to myself that the chap in the bike shop sold me a bike one size too big for me. Now I've discovered that my 21 ½ (54 ½ cm) frame was the smallest one available in the Road Ace range. Strange that. Incidentally, the Ridgeback Panorama is available from 50cm; the Dawes Galaxy range starts at 54cm, so I wouldn’t buy one even if I liked the Galaxy. I’m 5”8’, hardly freakishly small.

    I nearly sold the Raleigh to a colleague a few years ago. Even though I am a bit too stretched out over the top tube I'm so glad I kept the bike. I have the correct replacement handlebar tape somewhere (and probably the 21T sprocket too), so possibly another job for the half term break...

  4. dave wrote:

    I ride classic road bikes like Raleigh (Grand Prix,Technium), Fuji(Dynamic), Panasonic (Sport, Touring), Schwinn (Sprint, World), etc. I'm a bike restorer as well. I ride bikes that are too large for me also. The advantage is I'm less crouched over if the seat is closer to the top tube. I like a long leg extension anyway as I can can put more energy into pedaling. I compensate if necessary by sometimes replacing the qill / stem woth one that has a shorter reach. Also by sometimes raising the handlebars and stem up. Some head tubes are angled so this will also bring the stem closer towards you or the seat. Another alternative is to replace the seatpost. Some posts jut out towards the rear of the bike where it holds the seat. Some don't, Thompson brand comes to mind. All of these adjustments can make an old road bike into more of a touring type set up and more comfortable for me anyway. Dave's Bikes & Restoration

  5. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Dave. I'm sure I'm not alone in buying a frame in the 80s that was, by today's standards, too big for me. I'm not going to make any further adjustments to this bike (apart from replacing the bike ribbon) because I want to keep it as it has always been. For the most part. I'm even going to take off those screw-on clamps that allowed very tight clearance for the mudguards I once had on this bike. Having said that, I've done away with the Ever Ready Night Rider brackets that fastened to the front fork and the seat stay. That's a bit too retro, even for me.

  6. will hodgson wrote:

    Hi Chris. it was 1986 and i either bought a motorbike or spent £300 on a 1 month old road ace im so glad i bought the bike! i was the king of the village (findern derbys) where i grew up and worshipped my bike for years.i eventually sold to my dad who had a full raleigh respray in a deep red with white decalls,it looked Ace!Mine was also a 21 inch frame with dura ace handlebars(i thought it was just me and someone at the factory had made a boo boo!!.i added mavic rims and a rolls saddle as time went on. The Road ace was a brilliant bike and now aged 39 if Raleigh bought out another i would buy one once again for my 40th!
    Thanks everyone for the great reading, WHAT A BRILLIANT BIKE

  7. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Will. Glad you enjoyed this piece of nostalgia, thank you. I paid £375 for my bike – a lot of money in those days. I went out on it a few weeks ago when I lent my new bike to a friend. It still rides well compared to the new one. Hope you're still riding.

  8. Rob wrote:

    Hi, great 80s nostalgia trip. I still ride a 1986 off the peg Raleigh 531 kingfisher blue (now resprayed in eddy merckx orange – sweet) on shimano 600 sis and cinelli giro d'italia. very comfortable ride, survived many crashes (in racing caps not hardshells!). Great bike. my other ride is a 1989 raleigh dyna-tech titanium with shimano 600/dura-ace mix on campag record hubs/campag strada rims. for its age it is seriously light, gratifyingly lighter rather mates' lightweight alu rides. Ha! Retro rules.

  9. David Lodge wrote:

    WoW! This takes me back...I bought a Road Ace from Evans in Kingston around 1985, I then sold the frame (which was a size to big for me too) in 1987 when in Leicester and got a Condor built 22" frame and transferred all the Shimano 600EX components. My seat post is now Dura Ace, new saddle, handler bars, stem and now brake levers too which are more comfortable. I changed the pedals for LOOK with better cleats to go with new shoes but still have the original pedals.

    My bike is still going strong after all these years, am gonna get the wheels rebuilt with new rims (I reckon I've earned that).

    My gear set is non-SIS so same as yours I think. Shift levers on the down tube, brake levers that just...er...brake :) I have put larger sprockets on the rear which you can still get and interchange. Think I have a 28T on there but its still not low enough with that 42T chainwheel

  10. Chris wrote:

    Hi, David. I think I may have to source a 28T sprocket. I only bring the Road Ace out on special occasions, but I would like to do a few hills from time to time. Apparently there is also a Shimano 600 seat post in the range, but I think I'll stick with what I have.

  11. chris wall wrote:

    Hello Chris – great to read about your bike.

    I am currently restoring my own Road Ace which I bought in 1989.

    I have had the frame powder coated in sky blue and will finish with red relief cables and stickers etc.

    I reckon there is about 50k on the clock but I am looking forward to riding it again.

    Chris Wall

  12. Chris wrote:

    A bit rad with the colour scheme there, Chris, but if you have pictures on, say, Flickr do let us know where they are so we can link to them. Is there any of the original spec on your Road Ace I wonder.

    Actually, I've just had my 1984 Coventry Eagle Touristique – Reynolds 531ST frame – shot blasted and enamelled in black (it was originally 'pewter' I believe). Pictures to follow...

  13. chris wall wrote:

    Hi Chris – Yes, the colour scheme is " interesting"

    I have replaced the wheels, about 20 tyres,4 chains , rear cassette ( teeth wore down to nothing and chain jumped ) pedals , 42 teeth chain wheel, brakes and all cables.

    Front and rear derailleurs still going strong.

    Send email and I will post pics

    Chris Wall

  14. chris wall wrote:

    pictures posted on flickr code name xbow1949 – comments welcome !!!

  15. Chris wrote:

    I give up. Cannot find them.

  16. chris wall wrote:

    My email is xbow1949@yahoo.com

  17. Ken wrote:

    I purchased a Raleigh competion in the summer of 1987, did a couple century rides, placed 3rd overall in spring series in Seary, Akransas and then took a 1000 mile solo trip to North Carolina. Switched to kevlar tires, no flats the entire way. Broke a spoke going up and one hour climb in Western NC, had it fixed in Ashiville and then did a 5 mile climb out of Ashville. Did not turn a crank on th 20 minute ride down. I stil have it hanging in my garage, but have not ridden much lately. I could sell it at the right price. It has Shimano 600 components, smoot as silk. After a long tiring climb in mid tennesse, I got jumped by a couple German Shepherds and addrenalin will make you do superhuman things. Crashed and burned a few times, but loved it all, especially when at age 40 plus, I dropped 22-25 year olds regularly. Ken PS. I did not like getting droped by a 63 years old who had an unbelievable capacity.

  18. Martin Allen wrote:

    My mate sold me his Raleigh Road Ace just like the one in the picture. That was back in 1994. Hung it up in the garage and it has never seen the light. May look at it now!

  19. Martin Allen wrote:

    Not that interested in the bike myself.......anyone interested before I put it on e-bay?

  20. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Martin. If I was buying an old bike off eBay the most important thing after the model is the size. Google how to measure this if you're not sure. Then I would hope to see pictures of the sort I have taken in this post, showing the original kit and its condition. A Raleigh Road Ace in good condition with much original kit can fetch a couple of hundred pounds. If the components aren't up to much you might try to sell the frame only. Fix wheel types are always on the lookout for good quality Reynolds 531 frames. Best of luck :smile:

  21. Martin Allen wrote:

    Hey thanks Chris...good info.

    I will look to clean and get the bike up to scratch! I am sure that someone will get a lot more nostalgia out of it than I will. May post some picks when it is done.

    Kind regards

    Martin

  22. Steve Bailey wrote:

    Martin, what size is your Road Ace? I have a 22.5" framed bike and love it!!! Great ride. Might be interested in it. Email Steve at b41ley dot com

  23. Steve wrote:

    I have a Raleigh Road Ace and need to update the gearing to do a few hills.I am new to cycling and need to get any help I can.I have a 52/48 front and my lowest gear is a 21 on the back.
    I have been told to go for a 38/9 front and a group upto 27/8 on the rear is this achievable ?

  24. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Steve. I wonder if you might double check the tooth count on your smallest chain ring. Certainly if it is still the standard Shimano 600 I would be surprised if it is a 48 tooth chain ring. I could be mistaken, of course.

    Rather annoyingly I've just tightly fitted my seven speed cassette to another bike. However, I am 99% certain that it was too wide to fit to the freehub body of my (six speed) Raleigh Road Ace. I mention this as I think you are unlikely to find a six speed cassette easily.

    Certainly, you will struggle to get hold of a uniglide cassette – modern ones are hyperglide and you would probably have to file off part of the tab that locates each sprocket on the correct place on the freehub body.

    Actually, you don't say how many sprockets you currently have on your cassette. Let me know if you have a six or seven speed cassette as this makes a considerable difference. If you have six speed and you can bear with me for a few days I'll check out some possibilities. In the meantime, especially if you have a seven speed model, have a look at this:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/k7-7.shtml

    The Shimano 600 short cage rear derailleur (my model) can cope with a maximum sprocket size of 28T:

    http://velobase.com/ViewComponent.aspx?ID=33AD0835-DEF7-4831-A7F5-BA7EB763D263&Enum=108&AbsPos=8

    At the back end of the 1980s Raleigh fitted the SIS version of Shimano 600 (Ultegra) that was seven speed:

    http://velobase.com/ViewComponent.aspx?ID=C7069264-613F-48E1-8112-D3236E2FD096&Enum=108&AbsPos=11

    Of course, all this is rather academic if you don't have original components :smile:

  25. David Lodge wrote:

    Hi Steve,

    You have at least a couple of options here, since I have changed both my front and rear gearing to give me 34-50 on the front and 13-14-16-18-21-24-28 on the rear (yes 7 speed) with Sora "brifters".

    On the rear, you can cannibalise a hyperglide cassette and use the sprockets you want e.g.

    http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=68154 or http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=31059

    You'll need to file off the ends of the pins that hold the cassette together, and as Chris mentioned, file off part of the inside tab in order to fit it on a uniglide cassette. I did this with a dremmel and griding tool. If you want to go the whole hog with brifters or have indexed shifting then you need to use a combination of cogs and spacers that give you the required overall spacing. You'll need to keep at least the smallest original sprocket as its threaded.

    You can also change the front to compact gearing i.e. 34-50. I fitted the Ultegra chainset with hollowtech BB, but there's no reason why a cheaper square taper chainset won't work.

    Some photos here http://www.flickr.com/photos/djmclodge/sets/72157629730328236/

  26. Chris wrote:

    Nice bike, Dr Lodge. Some high end kit on there – I assume, though, that you have had to fit Sora shifters because the better quality levers don't come in a seven or eight speed version.

    The compact chainset 6750 is 10-speed. What cassette did you (break up to) use? And what chain are you using with that combination? What have you done with the old Shimano 600 kit you took off? :smile:

    Steve, my hub (6207 series) has 126mm spacing. I haven't tried it yet, but it is possible that five or six of the largest sprockets could be used from a seven or eight speed Hyperglide cassette (with the tabs filed off). You would just have to reuse the smallest sprocket from your current cassette to secure them all in place. I'm not sure for certain though. You may have some trial and error with your spacers. Do you know if you have indexed or friction levers?

    (You may want to read my latest post to realise that this could turn in to an expensive faff.)

  27. David Lodge wrote:

    I used the HG 61 cassette which is 11 – 12 – 14 – 16 – 18 – 21 – 24 – 28 – 32
    Used the middle 16 – 18 – 21 – 24 – 28 sprockets together with the existing 13-14 on a Dura Ace uniglide hub. I used the original spacers to get the right sprocket spacing.

    Chain is 9 speed SRAM.

    And yes – used Sora 8 speed shifters since its about the same sprocket spacing (5mm) as 7 speed (4.8mm) and nothing else comes close.

    So a right mix of 7-8-9-10 speed stuff on there, but it works a treat.

    The "old 600EX" grouppo is going on a Nigel Dean 531 frame, per this thread :D

    http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=40044&t=12886699

  28. George W wrote:

    I never had a crush on Raleigh cycles, not even in the glory days of the TI Raleigh team (I am Dutch). Never, until last week when I laid eyes on an ad for a Road Ace from 1984, completely original. Full 600AX, ivory coloured with a hint of blue, paint in good condition, GP4 rims, blue cables and matching white/blue Rolls saddle. All in working order. I instantly fell in love with it and to my surprise I managed to buy her for €125! If the weather isn't too bad tomorrow I know what to do...

  29. Chris wrote:

    That's a remarkable price, George. Well done. I would expect to pay that for the frame alone. The 1984 model had those brakes that were very different from later Shimano 600 calipers like the one in this thread, yes?

    http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=194697&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0a (three pages)

    Perhaps you could post a link to some images?

  30. George W wrote:

    Thank you for your response Chris.
    I think I was wrong here about the date. The serial number is WD3000073, so it dates from march 1983 right? For the occasion (and being delirious) I made an account on Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/90504804@N08/sets/72157632095692953/
    The title of the set is '1983 Raleigh Road Ace'. There's only one other set with the same name and that one shows a fixed gear model.

    The bike on the link you mentioned seems almost to be the same as mine. As far as the frame is concerned, the only difference I noticed is the spot where the seat stays meet the seat tube. And of course, mine is lacking the original bottle cage and bottle.

  31. Steve wrote:

    Hi Chris/David,
    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but what with work and a very active grandaughter things went a bit hectic.
    You are right I did mean a 42/52 gearset on the front and a 6 speed cassette on the rear 13/14/15/17/19/21.
    As I am new to cycling at 56yrs and want to build up my experience so all knowledge is good knowledge at the moment so thanks for your reply even though at this time it may be a little above me but I am willing to learn.

  32. Chris wrote:

    No worries, Steve. I'll put something together for you when I get the chance.

    George, that really is a bargain! Don't blame you for showcasing it on Flickr.

  33. Chris wrote:

    Here's a post on how to lower the gearing on a Uniglide freehub using Hyperglide sprockets.

  34. Malinki_Malinki wrote:

    Hi Chris,

    After a few knee ops (Football/running, not cycling) and a decision to lose (quite a) few pounds and get back some of my aerobic fitness levels of old, I have just had my own Raleigh Road Ace serviced and got back on the road with my first 20 miles back on the bike in years, something I should have done long ago... My own Road Ace looks in similar or even slightly better condition than your own and I have been exhilarated to get back out on it; after its service the bike now 'sings' once more! (Which is more than can be said for my backside! :-) ) (The bike was serviced by 'PedalHeaven' in Fleet, Hampshire, UK who did a fantastic job of getting it back to 'near-new' performance!)

    I found your article really interesting as I too am 5' 8" and have the 21&1/2" frame. The only changes I note on my own bike is that I have a LAPRADE Seat Post, a BBB Saddle (I still have the original) and an extended CUSTOM stem. With having the saddle a little aft of the seat post centre, the extra length on the extended stem and the bars swung up a little I now have a great comfortable position on the bike. (Previously when head down on the bars I would have to bring my neck back too far which caused some discomfort and a little pain between my shoulder blades; this has now gone.)

    Also like you I got a bargain. Raleigh were just bring out next years model, so rather than pay £500 (Circa 86/87?) I only paid £350 for 'last year's model'. :-)

    I am determined to now get many more miles in my legs and enjoy my Road Ace once more. The frame and ride has a great feel to it and is a real joy.

    Best Regards,

    Malinki_Malinki.

  35. Chris wrote:

    Malinki wrote: My own Road Ace looks in similar or even slightly better condition than your own...

    That's fighting talk, that is! Glad to hear the bike is getting used. I wonder if you could post a link to some images of this pristine Raleigh Road Ace :smile:

  36. Liam wrote:

    Hi,

    I've recently bought a Raleigh Road Ace 531c and am looking to change the original pedals to a pair of flats, as I'm more of a casual leisure rider and find them more comfortable.

    The bike is in excellent condition for its age, the blue and white paint, and still has all of its original parts.

    Is there any way to adapt the original Shimano 600 cranks? Or is it easier to fit a whole new crank to accommodate for the common pedal size? If so, what kind of size/spec would I need to look for?

    I'm new to all of this so have no idea :)

    Many thanks,
    Liam

  37. Patrick wrote:

    I'm not familiar with bikes of that age but I would remove a pedal, take it to your local bike shop, and tell them you want some flat pedals with the same size thread. They should at least know what the thread size is. Chris will be back next week so he might have a better answer.

  38. David Lodge wrote:

    As far as I know, all pedals have the same size spindle, certainly the 600EX cranks will have a standard thread for pretty much all pedals, so you just need cheap set of flat pedals. I have a pair off a Triban 3 you're welcome too, but the postage is probably more than the cost of a cheap pair from your local bike shop!

  39. Liam wrote:

    Thanks for the advice! Bought some decent white metal flats which have really good grip, and compliments the colour of the bike.

    The original strap pedals were a bit stubborn, had to give the pedal wrench hell. Keeping all the parts though so it can always be reverted back to its old self :)

    Cheers,
    Liam

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