Vintage Velo: 1976 Raleigh Tourist DL-1

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Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #12, published in August 2011. Words and photos by Jeff Archer.


Before there were 29ers, there were 28ers! The 28 inch wheel was the standard at the turn of the last century when tubular tires were still being glued onto wooden rims. As clincher tire technology took over, the 28 inch wheel size stuck, usually with a 1.5 inch width.

In the U.S., the introduction of the 26 inch balloon-tired cruiser in the early 1930s orphaned 28 inch wheels. Since early mountain bikes were based on these cruisers, 26 inch wheels became the standard mountain bike diameter as well.

Road bikes in the U.S. typically used 27 inch diameter for entry-level bikes and 700c diameter on the nicer models. The 28 inch size was rarely used, but in much of the rest of the world, the 28 inch wheel remained a common size, especially on city bikes.

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The Raleigh Tourist DL-1 uses these 28 inch wheels. It’s often referred to as a Bobby (policeman) or mailman bike since that is how they were often used in England. This basic design was produced for decades with very minor changes. The reliable three-speed internal gearing is from Sturmey Archer and the spring leather saddle is from Brooks, both English companies at the time. The large steel rack supports an oversized seat bag and there’s a pump on the down tube. Generator head- and tail-lights are mounted fore and aft for riding after dark. Other classic Raleigh touches include the white paint on the rear fender (reportedly from a mid-1930s law to improve the visibility of bikes), the chainrings with Raleigh Heron logo cutouts, and the “thimble” fork featuring a tubular fork crown.

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Raleigh outfitted this bike with rod brakes. The brake levers pull up on rods, instead of the traditional cables, that travel in front of the head tube. The front brake simply pulls up on the brake stirrup, which pulls the brake pads up against a flat area on the rim next to the spoke nipples (Westwood-style rims). The rear has a more torturous path: It begins the same as the front brake, but pulls up on a yoke mounted on the down tube behind the head tube, which then pulls the under-down-tube rod, which is connected to another yoke under the bottom bracket, which then pulls the brake stirrup up against the rear rim. It is a more complicated system, but it does eliminate the need to replace rusty cables, which would be a common occurrence In England due to the soggy weather.

The Raleigh catalog of the era describes the Tourist as ” … the limousine of bicycles: It gives you the smoothest, most comfortable ride you’ve ever had.” That just about sums it up.

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This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at www.mombat.org.

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