Often imitated, but never duplicated

Someone that thought I would appreciate it gave me a bike last week. What do you think?

It’s not as old as it looks. Even though it has 28″ wheels and old- timey brakes, my bike was built in January 1977 in Nottingham, Egland although it looks as though it is from the ’30’s. It has “roller lever” brakes which people that don’t know what they are talking about like to denigrate.

This bike, the Raleigh DL-1, was knocked off unmercifully, by the Chinese, the Indonesians, and the Indians. In fact, parts for this bike are available from those countries bit-for-bit, so if something bad happens, there will be no shortage of spare parts. In fact, knock-offs are still being made today although original production by Raleigh stopped over 20 years ago.

If you wish to buy a knock-off of my bike, you may see brand new ones here and here.

18 replies
  1. Doohickie
    Doohickie says:

    Gotta love it. Does it have original Brooks seat & Raleigh handgrips & pedals? Is the pump original (Britannialloy)? Looks like 36 spokes front and rear, not 32 & 40 like they used to do them. How does the Sturmey Archer shift?

    That right there is a holy grail for some bike collectors. Looks like it’s in great shape, too!

    I really enjoy my DL-1, although I haven’t gotten it out this spring as of yet. I was just thinking about it today, too…

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Here is what it has:
      Brooks B-66
      Original pump — needs a new leather. Can I make a new leather? How? Is it just a big leather washer?
      36 spokes in front and 40 in the back
      The SA AW works fine. Didn’t even need adjusting. The plate is missing on the shifter.

      Other things on it is a Rampar headlight with a handlebar mount. The wire from the dyno in the rear was taped on using duct tape. Getting the old residue off is a real chore.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        Sorry, also has “Dare” handgrips. They look original.

        I think this bike spent most of it’s life garaged. It took a couple of hard falls though and on the wrong side. The chainguard had to be bent into shape and the dust cap on the pedal is badly scuffed. Poor me.

  2. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    I think I’m a little jealous, but glad you’re enjoying it. I have 2 DL1s plus a Dutch Gazelle, but I’ve had to buy all of them, they were not gifts. They do ride very smoothly and are very comfortable

  3. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Are those dunlop (woods, english) valves? Wikipedia says you can fill them with a presta pump, but I’ve not been able to do so.

    Cottered cranks too! So very retro

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Original tires and tubes are long gone. Since this bike was built for the North American market (as evidenced by some CPSC required reflectors) it probably didn’t have presta valves.

      Needs new tires. Not many for sale in the US market, but Schwalbe makes a Marathon tire with a Kevlar belt in the correct size. Glass shards in between the bricks around here makes a puncture resistant tire the wise choice.

      This is a really big bike! Along with the 28″ tires, it has a 24″ frame. It is almost too big for me. Even though I am 6’3″ tall, my inseam is 32″ when I stand over the top bar, it’s a little close. For the first time in my life, I actually had to lower the seat.

      Cottered cranks are not my first choice. I think I need to repack the BB, so I’ll have to remove the cotters. I doubt they have ever been removed. On the web, I read where people are using a vice rather than a hammer to press the cotter out.

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        I “cut my teeth” working on bikes with cottered cranks. I overhauled the crank bearings on my Raleigh a while back, and was surprised that I had to drill out one of the cotter pins (again, Sheldon Brown’s site has much to say on the matter).

        You mentioned a couple of copies, but you didn’t mention the “uncle” to your Raleigh–the Pashley (see: http://www.pashley.co.uk/index.php for details).

        I have a set of the same model Schwalbe Marathon tires (www.schwalbetires.com has them, as you know), albeit in my 37-590 size, and am quite happy with them.

        • Eric
          Eric says:

          I’ve removed cotters before, but it was a long time ago. When I was 12 years old I think?

          In this case maybe Sheldon has too much too say? Because with lots of wood to hold things in place, the way this fellow did it worked for me the last time I did it.

          Still it was not as easy as this fellows says, as I recall.

          Drilling is always an option, but one I would prefer not to do that. I like the pressing option myself since I already know about hammers and I’m ready to try something new.

  4. Tom
    Tom says:

    Some friends you have! I would LOVE to get my hands on such a bike.

    I have a 1974 Raleigh Superbe that I found for $25. It was in the inventory of a local agency’s donated bikes (they had a sweat-equity program for a while, in which folks could work on a bike and earn that bike).

    I’ve had to replace a lot of parts to get the bike really comfortable for me (stem, handlebars, grips, brake levers) and rideable (the rims were rusted and way out of true), but the DynoHub works (now if I can find bulbs for the factory-supplied headlight and taillight), the Sturmey-Archer AW hub shifts perfectly, and the replacement Brooks B66 saddle is fine.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      $25 is almost free. I right away noticed that stem is really short and that the riding position is a bit more forward than the Dutch or German bikes.

      I can look at the bulbs in my light and tell you what kind they are. It is a two-bulb model that is all chrome.

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        I found a company that has the right bulbs through the magic of Sheldon Brown’s site. However, the company is in England, and I’ve not gotten around to ordering the bulbs. I’ve not been able to find them locally–Radio Shack isn’t what it once was for such things–despite my having some idea on bulb wattage and voltage (6V AC, 2W).

        $25 was indeed close to free, but it’s a good thing I work on them for a living and could get the parts I needed as a good price. A friend notes that he was looking at buying the thing before I bought it, and he’s really glad that I have it, as I’ve done a lot more to and for it than he would have been able to do.

  5. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Eric wrote:
    “This is a really big bike! Along with the 28″ tires, it has a 24″ frame.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    That’s almost as big as my bike! Of course, I’m 6’8″ tall. So I got the Pashley Roadster Sovereign with 28″ tyres and 24.5″ frame. It fits me just right!

    My wife, the fashionista, insists that it is very stylish too. Particularly when I’m riding in my nice suit and tie in the morning going to work. There is a photo of it on the Pashley website at:


    Mine is the variant in the lower left, with the double top tube. A noteable knock-off of this design is the famous Chinese “Flying Pigeon.” Which had the largest production run of any bicycle ever with over 500 million of these bikes still on the road.

    The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres have never, ever got a puncture. Never. Ever.

    A comment on the DL-1: No chaincase. Why no full chaincase? With an internal hub gear, I am used to seeing a full chaincase. Both to protect the chain from turning into a pile of rust due to road salt, and to protect my nice clothes.

    Also, no rear rack.

    Otherwise it is a beautiful bike. It even has classic British styling touches such as the white patch on the rear fender.

  6. Brian
    Brian says:

    Hey, Eric. I’m glad you got a DL-1 — they’re great bikes. Just a note on crank cotters: the best tool for the job is made by a guy in Minnesota, here: http://bikesmithdesign.com/CotterPress/index.html

    It costs $62 including shipping, but it’ll save you a lot of frustration. I am in no way related to this business — just an owner of many old bikes.

    The next-best thing is an automotive ball joint separator like this one: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00996404000P . Much cheaper, and it works, but you’ll probably need to file down the sharp edges so’s not to press a mark into your cranks.

    Also, North Road Bikes in Yanceyville, NC (again, no relation) carries lots of stuff for the DL-1, including tires and brake pads.

    By the way: although I love my DL-1, it’s not just “people who don’t know what they’re talking about” who don’t trust the brakes. They work fine when they’re dry, but in a rainstorm they can give you a nasty surprise. Be careful.

    Kevin: I take it you’re in the UK; in the US, the DL-1 was sold with the “hockey stick” chainguard rather than a full chaincase. A rumor has spread that the decision was made to avoid import taxes, but it appears that Raleigh really just took the cheap way because US buyers weren’t accustomed to chaincases and didn’t demand them.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Thanks for the links. Looking at these makes me think I may have something around here that might work. I’ve got a lot of tools so I have to look and think.

      The brakes are no worse or better than a different brand three speed I used to have that was built about that time and no better or worse than some bikes I rode in the ’60’s. These bikes had side pull brakes and I also rode a road bike that had center pull brakes in that era.

      Compared to today, all the brakes were horribly bad. I mean really, really bad, especially in the rain. Some people have said it was the change to alloy rims, but I had a bike a few years ago that didn’t have alloy rims (it was a BSO) and braking was weird in that the vibration was really loud, BUT the brakes worked.

      I think it was the pads they used back then. The pads I use now on my V brakes wear out pretty quickly. I have to change them out about every 6 months, but they are they best brakes I have ever used (other than the rear hub kind).

      But these old rubber block pads almost never wear out. They are no good when they are new, then they get old and hard, but don’t worse so why change. I may have to get some material and make some from the old ones, but before I do that how does those Fibrax work.

  7. Brian
    Brian says:

    Hey, Eric. The Fibrax pads for rod-pull brakes work reasonably well — you should definitely get the extra-large, heavy-duty ones.

    Kool-Stop salmon pads are the best thing out there, and I use them on my other bikes with steel rims (actually, on all my other bikes, period), but I haven’t figured out how to mount them in the rod-pull pad holders.

    BTW, if you’re getting a lot of vibration while braking (with calipers), the problem is probably the toe-in angle of the pads. If the brakes are made of steel, you can bend them to the proper angle; if they’re aluminum, you need to use shims. I think Sheldon has some useful info.

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