Enter the Raleigh (36 Chambers)

You may be familiar with the term “you can’t polish a turd,” which simply means that something inherently bad can’t be made good, no matter how much time or money you throw at it.

The Mythbusters though, proved this to be untrue. I won’t go into the details, but they were able to take actual poop, and turn it into somthing that shines. Here’s how they did it.

Now it’s my turn to see if I can do the same with a bicycle.

Raleigh Portage

This is a Raleigh Portage, probably made in the early 80’s. I’d bet that millions of these were sold across Canada. Certainly enough that it’s not impossible to find one that’s complete and even still working quite well, that has probably been sitting in a garage, unused, for tens of years.

You may remember from my previous post, that I’m looking for a commuter, and that I don’t have a good option in my garage full of stuff. I was looking at a mid-80’s Norco for $90, but I had another possibility.

Remember too that I said I could get an entire bike for $50? I was wrong actually. I can get an entire bike for $10.

You get what you pay for though. It’s a lugged steel frame, super relaxed geometry, fender mounts, extra upright bars – all hallmarks of early mountain bikes. This one though, is not of particularly high quality. The shifting is OK – but it’s hard to screw up 5-speed friction shifters – but the brakes are kinda junky, and the crankset is ugly.

But the biggest issue is weight. It weighs 46 pounds.

My Dekerf is 23 pounds.

But that’s fine. I’m going to make this work.

The wheels have got to go first. They’re probably the main culprit for the weight problem anyway. The rims are wide and chromed steel; hard to get spinning and hard to stop spinning. Exacerbated by the chrome, which provides a terrible surface for brakes to grab on to.

Any two wheels I have, matching set or not, will be better. And slicks will roll even better than the center ridge gumwall tires.

Not sure about the gears though. I think I can probably run a 7-speed cassette and just friction shift it without getting a new chain.

Sugino crank

These cranks are awful – steel arms and stamped steel rings. They’ll never wear out, but I don’t care, they’ve got to go. I have a couple old cranks that’ll fit though. Some even have oval rings – Science!



Lee Chi

Up front we have Lee Chi brake levers, Shimano shifters, the ubiquitous 80’s foam grips (the best indicator on an old bike of how much use its seen – very little in this case), and a decent bar stem combo. The bar has a comfy bend and the stem allows for easy swaps if I want to go another way.

Amazingly, the top tube is 23″ which is exactly my size. The frame is 23″ too, so the seatpost won’t need to come up much. Like the rims, it’s chrome steel, so hopefully I can get it to stay in place. The seat will go too – I’ve got a beauty Kashimax suede saddle that’s just looking for a bike.

I would really like to run both¬†fenders and racks on the bike. I need a rack for growlers, so I’ll have to figure that out. Fenders, sadly, will run 3x what I paid for the bike, but, I can get yellow ones!

Which brings me to the yellow and black paint scheme. I like it. And I like this bike – ¬†I think I’ll call it The Killa Bee.

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