A by-product of Covid must be Raleigh 3-speeds.
In the past I’ve usually run across one locally every year or two. Sierra Cyclery sold Raleighs in the 1960’s-70’s, but the population of Reno was only 50,000 so there were never too many out there to begin with.
Since Covid started Raleighs have been coming out of the woodwork, to the tune of 8 in as many months. The first two arrived last March, a pair of beautiful deluxe Sports. Next came a Raleigh Twenty, then a women’s Superbe followed by a pair of black men’s Sports, and then another pair of Sports, this time blue and red. All but the Twenty had stickers from Sierra Cyclery.
If my three-speed overhauling skills had ever fallen off they’re certainly getting refreshed now. I’ve been overhauling Dyno hubs, re-keying locking forks, re-dyeing Brooks saddles and generally having a fantastic time.
I also got Covid which wasn’t so fantastic. …Not much of a fan of the virus but I do love the Raleighs so in some small sense it’s been worth it.
(The green Raleighs are done, the Twenty is mostly done and all the others are most certainly not done.)
The bike is back up and running. Even with the narrow bars and short stem the International isn’t a bad fit for me. I am also surprised by how stable yet peppy it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve been test riding a bunch of Raleigh and Schwinn 3-speeds of late, but the International is, dare I say, sporty.
Highlights of the bike in my mind are the rebuilt wheels with those shiny stainless spokes, the high polish on the brake calipers (I don’t often go to that extent) and the NOS gold bicycle chain. I wouldn’t dare put a gold chain on a new bike but it’s perfectly at home next to the gold on the Suntour freewheel.
e been spending time in the cellar, sanding out minor blemishes on the non-anodized Campy parts, followed by some serious work with the buffing wheel and rouge.
Though it’s dark, hopefully you can see that some of the parts are really beginning to shine.
I also spent an hour on the rear Campy brake caliper digging grease out of crevices. It’s very meditative with hints of dental care mixed in.
Since there are no windows downstairs I’m left with my Hamm’s rotating sign. It has a 5 minute rotation; mountains, waterfall, canoe. Mountains, waterfall, canoe.
I received photos of the Gios, all painted up and ready to come back to Reno.
As always, Jim Allen did a great job.
The bike is apart and I’ve started working on cleaning things up. The main focus has been on the wheels. The spokes were rusty and the hubs themselves were starting to corrode so that seemed a good place to start.
Photos show the hub before and after polishing and overhauling.
When I was 13 years old my parents took me to Carson City to buy my first road bike. The bike shop we went to, the only one within 40 miles, was a Nishiki dealer. After perusing the lineup I settled on a Nishiki Sport, a decent enough bike. Lots of my friends either rode hand-me-downs or department store junk – for example, Fluff’s parents bought her a Coast King – so I considered myself lucky, sort of. Was the bike suited to my riding aptitude and ability? You bet. Was it what I actually wanted? No way. I wanted an International.
First off, the name. My Lord, what could one do with a bicycle so worldly? If the Sport was the town constable, the International was James Bond. I had no real idea what made the International so, you know, international, but I knew there had to be a big difference. Maybe it came with a martini shaker.
As far as curb appeal went, they both came in a rich burgundy color, but that was were the similarities ended. My Sport was spec’ed with a host of chrome-plated steel parts. You know, steel; what they make cars and battleships with? The International was outfitted with aluminum components, all matte finished and purposeful looking as hell.
The International also weighed nothing comparatively. Not that I was allowed to heft it, mind you. 13 year old boys were not permitted to pull Excalibur from the stone. I only knew it to be nearly weightless because the catalog said so. If not properly ballasted with a water bottle and CyclePro handlebar bag, well, the thing might just up and float away.
My Sport never left the ground except for maybe once or twice when I imprudently jumped a curb with it (I quickly learned it wasn’t a BMX bike). Also, the time I crashed riding down Muller Lane after a long day pulling weeds at the Jubilee Ranch. I lost concentration for a moment and down I went. It was a magnificent pile-in of the first order and I shudder to think what would have happened If I’d actually been on an International that day. The Sport, on the other hand, took the tremendous crash with aplomb. That day its battleship components did right by me.
The Sport stayed with me throughout my middle and high school years with nary an issue. I rode it in the snow, I rode it through the 4″ of water that the town irrigated Minden Park with every week, and I rode it up and down Kingsbury Grade countless times. It would shake and shudder a bit above 40 mph, but it never hinted at pitching me into a guardrail and it always stopped at the bottom.
My parents eventually bought me a fancier bike for my high school graduation. I settled on a Nishiki Olympic 12 after discovering I’d have to wait an extra 2 months for an International. The Olympic was a great bike, but I always wished I’d had enough patience to wait for Excalibur.
The pictured International recently turned up on ebay, and for under $175 shipped I decided I’d waited long enough. The bike had seen some coastal living with rust apparent on some of its steel parts (yes, even the International had a few ferrous pieces). The frame, however, was rust free and the bike was pretty much original so it seemed as good a place to start as any.
I’ll try to post more photos of the bike after I start refurbishing it.
There were so many different bike companies during the 1970’s boom. Sooo many. I swear, each time I hear of another brand I think, “Well now I must have heard them all.” But, no.
The name Victoria sounded British to me, but the bikes were actually made in Germany. Shows what I know. This particular one was internally wired for from and rear lights and has a bracket for a generator on the fork. It also was plated for a little wheel lock.
The bike is so original it even sits on its original skinwall tires. They still hold air at “show” pressure and might very well stand up to full psi. If I get off my posterior I’ll take it out for a ride and find out.
Bahh! I couldn’t stand it! The frame was just too chunked up for my liking so the Gios is going out for paint.
I currently have no idea how to pay for it, but the good Lord watches over children and the simple minded.
I’ve always wanted a Gios, I think because of the beautiful blue paint. If it’s not called Gios Blue it should. I also have a thing for the coins in the fork crown, a Gios-specific touch.
I got a least part of my wish when this early 1980’s Gios showed up last week. It was blue, but no coins, as this Gios had the sloping fork crown. No matter. I’m wasn’t gonna be picky.
It’s previous owner obviously rode and loved the bike for years, so much so that it was pretty used up. The Gios had a combination of worn original parts, worn replaced parts, and finally, positively dead parts. The Silca pump had cracking into three separate pieces- dead; The rims were a mismatched set of Ambrosio and Mavic- both dead. The brake levers had been replaced and then worn out- wrong and dead. In other words, a great, though rather large project. I couldn’t be more excited. Who cares that it’s going to eat up $500 in parts and untold hours in the shop stand.
As far as the paint goes, we’ll see how Fluff responds to a potential refresh. I don’t remember having perpetrated any major acts of insurrection lately; I might be able to talk my decidedly better (and less compulsive) half into a Jim Allen paint job. If not, the bike will get a refurbishment rather than a restoration, meaning that I’ll replace the non-original parts and give it a good solid cleaning and overhaul, just no new shiny Gios Blue.
“Ok, gang. This is the interactive portion of our show, where folks chime in to share their knowledge on a specific topic.
Today, our discussion focuses on Sovereign bicycles of England. We’ll be discussing their history, their legacy and anything else we can glean from the you, the general public.”
So, seriously if you know anything about the brand please chime in. I’ll post updates as info comes in.
In the meantime, here a Sovereign. It looks to be a mid-1970’s bike and is sitting with its original Shimano components and a mix of other period-correct bits. It was built with Reynolds 531 tubing so I’m fairly confident it wasn’t just some production job that some company slapped their name on. Hell, it says “hand made” on the head tube decal so there’s more to this story than I can currently find.
I received the bike from a gentleman named John Peterson here in Reno. It was hanging in his garage above a Citroen 2CV, which I didn’t get. At the time I didn’t take any notes or even ask any questions because A: As per usual, I was excited about the score, B: The 2CV had me all discombobulated with its beautiful 2CV-ness, and C: I honestly thought I’d be able to come home and read all about Sovereign bikes on the intergalacticweb. Uhh, wrong. (bad bicycle collector,,, baaadd!)
There is info about the Sovereign model made by Free Spirit (blecch!) and more than a few hits for a more modern edition made by Pashley. No Sovereign as a brand or manufacturer, though. Not that I could find.
I’m pretty darned good at online research which likely means I’m experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect and that I’m simply awful at it so, again, I’m reaching out to you, my loyal readers. If either of you knows anything, here’s your chance to shine.
And now, without further ado, the Sovereign.