Ambush Makeover, Bicycle Edition


Did you ever see that TV show Ambush Makeover? The cast would snag some frumpy-looking person off the streets of NYC and have professionals style their hair, apply makeup, dress them in a flattering outfit, then bring them back in front of the cameras for everyone to admire. You get the idea.  Anyway, I drive or ride past Kyle’s Bike Shop nearly every day, and can never resist a quick glance at the pre-owned bicycles that are frequently on display outside the shop.  A couple of months ago, I thought I saw a coffee color Raleigh bicycle there. Over the course of the next couple of days, I had a few more pass-by looks at it, and finally stopped to check it out. It was, indeed, a 1974 women’s 3 speed Raleigh Sports, in pretty good condition. I decided that I didn’t need another project bike, so had the willpower to resist. Of course, passing by Kyle’s a few more times that week weakened my resolve, and I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I went back to get it. And why did I have to buy this bike? It needed an ambush makeover.


What’s wrong with this picture? Notice anything right off the bat?








Here’s another view.





Now THAT is an abomination! I couldn’t wait to get that big fat seat off the bike!




This is the underside.









And  here is a comparision with some other saddles.

This saddle measures 12 inches across and 12 inches from front to back. It weighs a whopping 4 3/4 pounds. But as I looked it over, I was impressed by how sturdy and well-made it was. The heavy steel frame has heavy rubber padding and a heavy rubber cover, and looks like it could survive anything.  I found the brand name “Persons” , and when I wiped off the dust, I found very faintly the words “Worksman Cycles” on the back edge of the saddle cover. Now it made sense. This was probably a saddle made for use on Worksman American-made heavy duty industrial trikes. It would be ideal for that use: sturdy, comfortable, and built to last. Curious, I looked up Persons on-line, and found that it is a a family run business, now known as Persons-Majestic. The history of this century-old  family-owned business is interesting, but to get back to my story, I found from the company’s website that they had a limited selection of Brooks women’s saddles for sale at a very good price. How’s that for fortuitous!




The new brown Brooks saddle was the perfect complement to this bike.






A new Sturmey-Archer 3 speed shifter, new Kool-Stop brake pads, new tires and tubes, a good cleaning, a tune-up, replacing a rear reflector, straightening a bent fender, and the bike was almost ready. I added a black classic rear rack.

And here she is! Ready to ride in a comfortable, upright position. It’s a classy, easy riding, city-transportation bicycle appropriate for Copenhagen or Amsterdam, or even Orlando. From manufacture in Nottingham, England in 1974 to the streets of O-town! Let’s ride! Or let’s vacuum! Your choice.

3 replies
  1. Tom Armstrong
    Tom Armstrong says:

    Ver’ Nice!! Great find!! I’d be jealous, but…

    I have a ’74 Superbe the same color (one of several pictures here: ). Mine was in worse shape, after a fair bit of time and neglect–the rims were rusty and warped (so I built new wheels on the original hubs), the stem was too short for me (new stem, handlebar, the aforementioned grips, brake levers).

    I spent way more money on this project than it was worth, but I also did all the work myself (I have been a bike shop guy for a good portion of my life, and enjoy building wheels).

    I got lucky in my find: The Superbe came with the Raleigh rear rack, the dyno hub and lights, and the steering lock. Sadly, the lock tumbler had been cut, so it doesn’t work. The dyno puts out the specified voltage and amperage, as near as I can tell, so modern dyno-powered ligths would work on this bike.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      That is true, but the Kool-Stop brake pads make a huge difference. Making sure the brakes stay adjusted and properly toed-in is also important. You kind of cancel out the advantage of riding in the rain with full fenders if your wet brakes don’t even slow you down.

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