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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yet Another New Bike? 1984 Raleigh Crested Butte ("Mountain Tour" edition)

1984 Raleigh Crested Butte.
Over the past month, I've talked a bit about my newest bike, the Raleigh M40 mountain bike. Yet just a few days ago I mentioned how I'll be selling this bike, even though I only got it a month ago. Wise readers have probably figured out by now why: I got another bike, one to replace the M40. But why, you may ask? You seemed to be having so much fun with the M40.

Yes, I was. It made me realize that I wanted a nice fat-tired bike in the stable. But the M40 had issues. For one, it was too small for me. The other issue was the worn out drivetrain. It would need to be overhauled/replaced soon. Of course, me being me, I briefly entertained the idea of turning it into a singlespeed mountain bike, as it had horizontal drop-outs. But ain't no such thing as a per-built cheap single speed mountain bike wheel, and, me being me, I wouldn't settle for a janky poor-mans conversion. So of course that would cost more than replacing a multi-speed derailleur drive train. All this on a $40 bike, a $40 bike that doesn't really fit me.

So as any reasonable Retro-Grouch would do, I asked myself, "What Would Grant Petersen Do?" Thankfully (and conveniently) there was a recent interview in Urban Velo where Grant is asked: "What is your all time favorite city bike?" And Grant responds:..If you’re asking my own preference, or what I think makes the most functional sense, the most practical sense, I’ll stick out my neck and nominate an all-steel early to late ’80s mountain bike fitted up with a higher and maybe a swept-back handlebar, fenders, rack, and basket. Platform pedals, kickstand, bell, rear view mirror, and some kind of light. It might not suit somebody’s style, and I’m not saying it’s a better style; I’m just saying for me, that’s what I think makes a lot of sense. 

I was on the right path, but I hadn't yet reached my destination.

As I've mentioned numerous times here before, I look at the Craigslist regularly. I was initially looking at a fairly new and complete Surly Troll for $600 and trying to justify in my head spending that much cash. People like these bikes, sure, and I love Surly. Many a great bikepacking adventure has happened on Ogres, Trolls, Pugsleys, and the like. But I don't care much for the look of modern suspension-corrected mountain bikes. I know I'd get used to it, but something that was a bit more pleasing to my eye (and cheaper) would suit my needs better. Besides, as nice as the previously mentioned Surly models are, you don't need them to have an appropriate dirt road bikepacking type adventure. Nick from Gypsy By Trade did quite a bit of touring and bikepacking on a 1985 Schwinn High Sierra before he got the Pugsley. A very Petersenesque choice.
Nick of Gypsy By Trade's 1985 Schwinn High Sierra, bikepacking style.

I also had my eye on an another specimen: a 1984 Raleigh USA "Mountain Tour" Crested Butte mountain bike. This one seemed much more appropriate. But the seller wanted $250 so I was hesitant. Then the seller dropped the asking price by another 50, so I said, "What the hell?" I know that this is breaking my $50 rule, but that rule more applies to casual, "I can probably use this bike" type of purchases. This was more of a "I want this bike" type of purchase.

On Sunday October 14 I headed over to deeper SE Portland to take a look at the bike. It was in great shape for the age. I rode it around a bit, testing its feel, testing how it handled. There were a couple dirt roads with their obligatory potholes, ridges, and rough surfaces, so I made sure to ride down them a bunch too. Everything worked good. (Oh sure, the front derailleur and brakes can be adjusted, but these are relatively minor things.) The seller said he got it from an estate sale, and the Crested Butte had the look of a "garage queen". But me being me, I was stressing out about the purchase. $200 is $200, eh. And he wouldn't take less than that. Hmmm...maybe I should think about it for a day or two. So I said I'd call him. But then, I got back on the M40, and it felt like night and day. I quickly turned around and paid the guy $200. Now I have a true Retro-Grouch mountain bike!

Join me next time for more about the Crested Butte!


  1. Oh now THAT'S nice and worthy of seling the M40-can't wait t read more about it (and pics,man,we need more pics! :p )

    The DC

    1. Thanks. Remember, you can always see more pics on my flickr:
      Word to the wise: Photos for blog posts usually go up several days to a week before the post itself. Get on the inside track!

  2. That's a really nice find and worth the cash.

    Until recently I thought the "Mountain Tour" bikes were all crappy department store bike shaped objects. There are a lot of them here in Edmonton under the brand Venture but with the exact same downtube decal.Then I saw a really nice one similar to yours locked up at the grocery store and it was the first one I had spotted that was branded Raleigh. I think it was an Elkhorn, one step below your top of the line Crested Butte.

    I did a little bit of internet sleuthing and it turns out Raleigh produced those low end bikes for Venture. I know that Raleigh often produced house brands for other companies but I find it weird that they used the same series name and decal.

    1. One important thing to remember is Raleigh isn't always "Raleigh", and varies country to country. Raleigh USA in the mid-80s (1982 to 1988?) was separate from Raleigh UK, and was actually owned by all things Huffy? Huffy bought the rights to the name, because they knew that people thought Raleighs were better than Huffys (and for good reason.) Huffy created a separate division to produce the Raleigh USA bikes, the highest end stuff made in the States, and other stuff made in Taiwan (including my bike.) I don't know how Raleigh of Canada related to all that.

  3. I've owned an Elkhorn and a Crested Butte. Those are great bikes. I rode them only briefly, but they were solid, stable, and designed for touring the rough stuff. If I remember correctly they have a really nice fork crown...

  4. Will you keep the bullmoose bars or switch to something swept?

    1. Yep on the nice fork crown. I probably won't keep the bullmoose bars. Cool as they are, the position feels to aggressive and forward, which I can see useful for actual MTBing, but not for what I want to do. And the bullmoose bars are a one piece stem/bar design, so there is no adjustment. I'll probably throw the Civia bars from the M40 on there. They'll be better overall, but now there will be a much bigger pain-in-the-ass factor because I'll have to find a stem and brake cable hanger, plus redo cables because the old ones will be too short. Anyway, more about all that in the next post.

  5. You must be pleased as punch. I love, love, love the 80's bikes. We have two Bridgestones (one 90's, one 80's), a Trek, and a Ross. I can't wait to see what you do with the new Raleigh. My Trek is a 1984, purchased at P-town's Bike Gallery.

  6. Niiiiiice. Looks much better than the M40. Pleasant relaxed angles on the frame for you. Looks quality too. That crankset appears solid.

    I've never seen longer brake straddle cables though! That must reduce braking efficiency.

    The most telling statement that you make is when you did a A/B comparison and found a stark difference in the ride quality. Yep, that was the selling point! Quality does make a difference.

    Looking forward to see your personal customizations and future bikepacking exploits. Keep pedaling!!!

    1. Yeah, those long straddle cables are something. Hopefully I can redo it with shorter cables.

  7. I would ride the rubber off a bike like that! I love the looks of the 68(?)deg angles. When you are done with it I'm sure it will be well disguised as a vintage English three-speed, yet more capable than the LHT. Actually, this could the be the bike to replace all other bikes in the stable.

    Nice find.


  8. Nice blog and nice bike! I own a Raleigh Elkhorn, which I've had since 85' or 86'. A few parts have been updated, but it runs now, better than ever. A few recent updates include a Brooks saddle and a PDW rack. Check it out here:

  9. Thanks adventure!

    This blog post inspired me to buy a 1984 Raleigh Elkhorn from CL. I will keep it simple old school.


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