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I'm shopping around for a vintage bike (maybe an old Raleigh or Schwinn), but I'm looking for two things:

  • Fenders and a Chain Guard
  • Drop Handlebars

I'm starting to think that drop handlebars are newer than most of the vintage bikes I'm looking at. Is it realistic to expect a 50s-70s bike with drop handlebars?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can have mudguards and a chainguard, mudguards and drop bars, but not drop bars and a chainguard:

http://sheldonbrown.com/retroraleighs/

To use an automotive analogy, you are looking for the station-wagon version of a two-seater sports car.

That said, why not put drops on an old Raleigh 3-speed? The 3-speed Sturmey Archer lever will be simple enough to mount, you will just need new bars, levers, all-important bar-end plugs and tape. Obviously the bars will need to be the older 25.4mm clamp size, but you should be able to acquire these bits and bobs second hand for not much money. The alternative option of getting a chainguard to put on a retro Raleigh is a bit harder - those were a bit model specific whereas handlebars are not.

Personally I have a 12 speed Raleigh Gran Sport with the drop bars and a Raleigh Sports 3 Speed with the 'Northroad' bars. I would not swap the bars over on either because they are well thought out and go with the frame geometry. The 'Northroads' bars are a real treat and, if I did not already have a 3-speed with them, I would look for a bike with them.

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When I bought my old Raleigh in 1972 the shop had a number of bikes with drop handlebars. And I'm reasonably sure they went back to the 50s, at least (and maybe much further), though probably the popularity was less until the 70s.

But you're unlikely to find the combo of fenders, chain guard, and drops on a bike of any vintage.

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So it wouldn't be a travesty to switch out the handlebars on an old Raleigh? –  Peter Oct 14 '11 at 3:08
1  
Anything you do to a Raleigh can only improve it. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '11 at 3:25
    
Haha... are you saying a Raleigh is a bad choice? –  Peter Oct 14 '11 at 4:06
    
@Peter - Only the newer Raleighs. I had one in the 70's and loved it. –  Neil Fein Oct 14 '11 at 4:24
1  
@Peter -- Just a little frivolity. Snobs have always turned up their noses at Raleighs (at least since the 70s), but they used to be pretty decent bikes. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '11 at 11:20

Drop handlebars have been around since the dawn of cycling.

Generally speaking, a bike witha chaincase is likely to be a commuter and thus not likely to also have drop bars. There is nothing that prevents you from retro-fitting chaincase or dropbars, however.

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2  
Wow, it's amazing how little things have changed in over 100 years. That old bike isn't much different from the fixies a lot of people are riding now. –  Kibbee Oct 17 '11 at 1:55
    
Yep, even so, you'll notice a few differences. For instance the wheelbase and fork rake are MUCH longer than bikes today. This was done to accommodate for unpaved roads and cobbles. It gives smoother ride at the expense of crisp handling. Those old drop bars, however, are very much the same shape as traditional sprinter bars that you see on the track today. –  Angelo Oct 17 '11 at 13:15
    
Yeah the amount of curve in the front fork seems excessive. I'm guessing it has something to do with adding shock absorption. –  Kibbee Oct 17 '11 at 14:25

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