TI-Raleigh 40th anniversary road bike review

Raleigh harks back to its glory days with this evocative, limited-edition replica of the bike Joop Zoetemelk rode to victory in the 1980 Tour de France – and it's a real blast (from the past)

TI-Raleigh
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Regardless of whether the TI Raleigh 40th anniversary bike is an accurate replica or not, it’s made of the legendary 753 tubing, has a beautifully smooth ride and 100% looks the part. If you’re a Raleigh collector or want to ride L’Eroica in style, you’d probably better be quick because there were only 250 of these made!

Reasons to buy
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    753 tubing

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    Smooth ride

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    Luscious paint

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    Sensible modern ratios

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    Iconic look

Reasons to avoid
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    Brazing at rear dropouts

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    Not made in Britain

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Yes, I know, we’re a year late with this and now it’s 41 years since Joop Zoetemelk won the Tour de France on the iconic TI-Raleigh.

This bike only came to us in December when the lanes were rivers of mud and although it’s only a replica of Zoetemelk’s, I’ve no doubt if it could talk it would say what all ex-pros say: “I’ve done my time riding in foul weather and now that I don’t have to any more, I won’t.”

So, out on dry roads on the first properly warm weekend in March, the iconic red, yellow and black paint looked absolutely pristine and the spokes sparkled in the sunlight just as they used to in the races and clubruns of yesteryear. I half expected a gang of cheeky kids with long hair, flares and Starsky & Hutch T-shirts to surround me on their Choppers demanding ‘hey mister, give us a go on your bike?’

TI-Raleigh 40th anniversary: frame

The time-travelling retro aesthetic is what this bike is all about, and Raleigh has taken considerable pains to replicate the all-conquering TI-Raleigh team machine, right down to commissioning some new Reynolds 753 tubing for the limited run of 250 bikes it produced. At the time 753 was the ultimate tubeset: a steel alloy so strong it could be drawn with such thin walls that it had to be brazed with silver solder at a lower temperature so as not to damage it. Framebuilders also had to be accredited by Reynolds to build with it.

TI Raleigh

Raleigh decided to have the 250 frames made by a Taiwanese Reynolds-accredited manufacturer. Some will view this as a shame and a missed opportunity. There are talented, accomplished framebuilders in the UK who, with enough notice, could have made 250 frames and lent this bike a bit of British-made kudos – and perhaps more tangibly made a neater job of the brazing at the rear dropouts which is, at best, workmanlike. However, let’s not forget the tubes themselves were made at Reynolds’s Birmingham factory.

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Purists also may not like, for example, that the fork crown is horizontal rather than sloping like the original and indeed if you go over it with a fine-tooth comb there are plenty more things that aren’t identical. So in order to avoid disappointment, it’s probably worth thinking of the TI-Raleigh 40th anniversary bike more as a tribute than a replica – especially given that the components, which are all modern lookalikes, will be even more different from 1980 Campagnolo Super Record than the frame is from the Ilkeston-built Raleigh SBDU original.

If the original is what you want, there’s no way round it: you’ve got to hunt down a Raleigh SBDU frame and vintage Campagnolo components yourself, and it is entirely doable.

But to my mind Raleigh has done a commendable job, and that includes some canny sourcing of components that at a glance look like the polished silver ones on Zoetemelk’s bike but that work more like modern ones.

Components

You’ve got 10 sprockets on the cassette and a special Campagnolo Veloce rear derailleur that doesn’t have the Veloce name on it. Shifting is via down tube friction levers that don’t even have an indexed shifting option like later Shimano ones. It’s all by feel, which gives it a really nice authenticity.

The silver unbranded chainset also looks the part, with 53/39 and no messing about with compact or semi-compact ratios.

The skinny brake levers with gum hoods are by Dia Compe, thankfully cabled via a nice, curving loop over the bars to some modern, powerful Campagnolo Centaur calipers.

TI Raleigh

The cockpit is probably the most original looking and feeling: the famous Cinelli 1A stem, as used by Merckx, and Cinelli Giro d’Italia 64 bar, wrapped with actual cloth tape. The lovely smooth quill headset actually is Campagnolo Record and looks as gorgeous as it feels.

The seatpost is not quite as nice by comparision, and of course nothing like the fluted Record seatpost, but it’s solidly unobtrusive if not perfectly period correct and is functional and easy to use with the Turbo saddle (which I personally still find both comfortable and good looking).

Raleigh had Mavic reproduce the classic diamond logo for the Open Pro rims, and the unbranded large-flange hubs recall the classic Campagnolo Record design.

Lovely supple Challenge Criterium 23mm tyres finish off the look perfectly.

The pedals – Raleigh has done a good job of replicating what probably would probably have been the Christophe toe-clips and Binda straps, but I whipped them straight off. Possibly sacrilegious, but clipless pedals have got to be one of the best things ever to happen to road cycling. My concession to retro would have to be wearing lace-up shoes (the excellent dhb Dorica Carbon).

The ride

I’ll admit I was expecting the TI-Raleigh to be mostly mouth and not all that much flared trousers, especially with its weight of 9.8kg, but I was completely wrong. It was lively, responsive and exciting yet smooth. When I mentioned this to a framebuilder friend of mine, he said: “Of course. It’s 753.”

I have three bikes made from different types of steel tubing (Reynolds 531, Columbus Gilco and a True Temper mix) and slightly to my chagrin, the Raleigh rode better than all of them.

It was hard to believe the tyres were only 23mm, the bars were covered in the thinnest layer of cloth and the seatpost was a short, fat piece of aluminium: the ride quality was wonderfully plush. I’ve heard it said that all other frame materials try to emulate the ride of steel, and based on this, you can see why.

TI Raleigh

The geometry is based on Joop Zoetemelk’s, according to Raleigh, and feels racy in a classic kind of way.

Friction shifting is what it is, and if you’re more accustomed to Di2 you won’t like it. Since it’s a bit of a faff to reach down and change gear, what it does do is encourage you to think about your gears and shift only when it’s necessary – which can lead to smoother and faster riding, as time triallists will know. Fortunately there are more ratios at the modern rider's disposal with this 10-speed 13-29 cassette than Zoetemelk had.

However, for speed the Raleigh will of course never match a modern lightweight carbon aero bike no matter how smooth it and your riding style are.

The TI-Raleigh 40th anniversary replica will no doubt be collectible – in its limited run it is already rarer than the original – but it’s great to ride too. It would qualify for L’Eroica despite being ‘new’ and vintage events like that would be perfect for showing it off, and I could see it getting a lot of admiration.

Value

£2,500 for the full build or £1,500 for the frame and fork isn’t crazy expensive for a modern steel bike, especially considering it’s made from the legendary 753. It’s hard to put an absolute value on this bike, but if you are a retro Raleigh enthusiast it will seem like a fair price.