1971 Raleigh Super Course
Not everyone wanted a Schwinn back in 1971.
If the ubiquitous Schwinn Varsity was not for you, and whatever French or Italian brand that was on display in your local bike shop blew your budget, there were some other options.
In 1971, Raleigh was a major player in the independent bike shops across this country. If you wanted a good mid-level road bike that came with a little bit of European cache, this bike would have caught your eye. After a short test ride and an internal debate between “Coffee” and “Bronze Green”, you likely would have rolled out of the shop on this Raleigh Super Course.
Lighter and better handling than a Schwinn, easier to find (and more consistent quality) than a Gitane, Raleigh ruled.
In hindsight, the Simplex “Prestige” parts seem to work terribly, with flimsy shifter action and a derailleur that wanted to change gears automatically whenever you stood up on the pedals. In reality, and considering the state of other available bicycle equipment, the parts were all pretty good options and at the very least they utilized some aluminum and plastic in their construction, avoiding the raw tonnage of Schwinn’s heavily chromed pieces.
The Super Course came with a genuine Brooks B-15 leather saddle, not a vinyl “Schwinn Approved” seat.
The Williams crankset came with a 40/52 tooth chainring combination and the freewheel in the back had a 14 to 28 tooth spread, gearing that was pretty reasonable for most riders. The bike rolled around on light alloy rims (not chromed steel), and came to a stop thanks to Weinman center-pull brakes.
The frameset? Raleigh split the difference between basic steel pipes and precisely brazed hand craftsmanship. The three big main tubes on the Super Course were made out of Reynolds 531 cromoly steel.
Those tubes were brass-brazed into the frame lugs (a cheaper and less precise method than silver brazing), and then the back end of the bike was constructed out of simple high tensile-strength steel tubing.
While we’re at it, we should put a face and a little context into our discussion. This particular Raleigh Super Course in Bronze Green rolled out of Scott’s bike shop in Salem Oregon. At the time, Raleigh dealers in the United States were serviced by one of three traveling salesmen. Charlie Bergna (pictured) likely sold Scott his inventory.