Raleigh Arena

I was recently asked to take a look at A Grim North senior’s 70s Raleigh racer. Upon hearing the description of something feeling a bit wrong at the back of the bike, I had assumed the problem would be loose bearing cones or damaged bearings.
When I got the bike I was rather surprised by its small size, it appears to be designed for a teenager or small adult, although it makes a reasonable upright bike for an average sized adult. I took a picture of it with the DL-1 for scale. What really strikes me (apart from the diminutive stature) is the practicality of the bike; unlike modern racing frames, the Raleigh Arena has relatively slack geometry, mudguards (albeit miniature ones to protect the frame rather than the rider, with eyelets for full mudguards) and even the traditional Raleigh lamp mount (although present on the right fork blade rather than the headset).
The Raleigh Arena has Olympic branding and sports a sticker stating that Raleigh’s team won the 1977 Tour de France. This suggests the bike is likely from 1980, the next Olympic year following the 1977 TDF win for Raleigh.

Friction down-tube shifter controlling a 5-speed dérailleur set-up. The vestigial front mudguard can also be seen.

Very large rear reflector with the vestigial rear mudguard. Oddly the caliper brakes are Weinmann rather than Raleigh’s own in-house caliper brakes as seen on the Twenty
Raleigh-branded dérailleur. Could do with the having the transmission cleaned up and re-greased.
When I saw the bike I had assumed the wheels were 650A (590mm rim size) as seen on smaller roadsters such as the Pashley Princess. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be the even less common 597mm rim size which was traditionally used on Club bicycles and has since fallen into disuse.
The reported problem with the rear end of the bicycle appears to be due to a snapped spoke on the rear wheel, which has led to a slackening of the spoke tension on the rest of the wheel. I’m surprised that the wheel survived being ridden on when the bike was brought to me. With a replacement spoke and some tightening the wheel should be easily fixed, although the obsolete wheel size means that if this bike is to be put back in service, it will eventually need converting to a more common wheel size, such as 650A or 650B.


After replacing the broken spoke, re-tensioning the rear wheel, breaking a few more spokes and re-tensioning the rear wheel, the Raleigh Arena is back in action with its owner. I’d still recommend replacing those 597mm rims with some 650As as it would open up the possibility of fitting some wider tyres, such as the Schwalbe Delta Cruiser


23 thoughts on “Raleigh Arena

  1. This takes me right back to my teenage years when I was given a very similar Raleigh for my birthday. I can't remember if it was an Arena, but I remember going with my Dad to see the bike in the shop, before he surprised me with it.I thought those little mud-guards were the coolest thing ever!Don

  2. Interesting! I wonder who made the "Raleigh" derailleur, since I didn't think they did that in-house. I think by this point Shimano wasn't desperate enough to sell rebadged anything. And that wheel size, too. I thought that the 650/597mm/EA1/26" x 1 1/4" size wasn't used by Raleigh after the '60's. It was, however, used by Schwinn through the 70's on their lower-priced "lightweights" especially anything that had a 3 speed hub or only a 5 speed derailleur. To make it all the more confusing, Schwinn called the 597mm size 26" x 1 3/8", so here in The States you have to differentiate between 26" x 1 3/8"Schwinn and 26" x 1 3/8",British. (Ah, the things you can do when you are the most important bike manufacturer in the US!) This means that the 597mm wheel size is still available here in the US, though either you have to find a good condition used wheel from a Schwinn, or buy a really crappy new steel rimmed 597mm wheel made who-knows-where. I had to do that on my Schwinn Collegiate, and the "new" wheels are shit.

  3. As I remember, the Arena was aimed at people who wanted a trendy 5 speed racer for pottering about on rather than any serious road cycling, just as today many people will use a cheap mountain bike. That explains the gentle geometry.The Weinmann brakes were probably just a way to give the bike at least one component brand in common with quality road bikes of the era. Then as now, people were very brand conscious.It's the kind of bike that would feature in the huge mail order catalogues of the era which sold everything, and available on 52 week terms. 27 x 1 1/4 inch wheels and tyres were used on most road bikes of the era, before being superceded by 700c.The 26 x 1 1/4 tyres fitted to this bike were a smaller and much less common equivalent fitted to some smaller framed bikes. It is still possible to get Raleigh branded ones.

  4. That old paint scheme brings back memories – I vaguely recall silver also being a popular colour with Raleighs of that age which also looked good against the decals.

  5. Talking about wheels and tires, here a clear and concise diagram of 26 inchershttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tyre_and_Rim_Technical_data_02-es.png and according to the graph, it seems that tires were sized like the "Plus One" tire setup in cars, Georg

  6. Looking at that diagram, it makes so much sense, I personally think that tyre manufacturers standarized rim sizes for marketing reasons, particularly when bicycles were overshadowed by the automotive industries monopolizing of the roads. If you take into account bicycle dynamics, It makes More sense switching from a 50-559 to a 32-597 than to a 32-559. So i believe the whole bicycle and tire industry needs a revamp, Georg

  7. @ Georg, Adventure!I can see the benefit of offering a wide range of rim sizes so that different tyre thicknesses could result in the same gearing and frame/bottom bracket clearances. With the increased popularity of hub-based brakes )disk, roller and drum), changing rim size is not as difficult as it was. What I find odd is that when these different sizes were popular, bikes generally used rim brakes which introduces problems when switching rim size. However, with modern tyre manufacturing, large volume tyres can have remarkably low rolling resistance, as is the case for large tyres such as the Schwalbe Fat Frank, which rolls more easily than many narrower high-pressure tyres, for example.

  8. Hi, great bike, i have the same one only i have part restored it now and converted it to 10 speed with genuine parts from the gold version they had out…mine is the blue one. Ive replaced every nut and bolt, chrome parts from shorty mudguards to seat post. I have removed one sticker and im going to remove the rest when i can find a person who can replicate them.Have a look, i had just started restoring it and i will post a new vid on Youtube with the new parts and work ive done to it soon.[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeFKfcNmAJ0&feature=[/url]

  9. My first proper bike was raleigh arena , I had it for Christmas and was hoping for a new bike as never had one before, but on unwrapping yes my parents wrapped it up , it was atleast in mint condition , I gave it some stick and it never let me down , fond memories.

  10. I have recently bought a raleigh arena and snapped a spoke too, just wondering what size spoke you need and where you can buy them? thank you

  11. Does any1 know what size seat post this bike takes? , Also is it ok to put type 810 & 730 brakes on the bike or should they both be 810?
    Any info would help. Cheers. Dave.

  12. The seat post on the Arena is 25.4mm which on mine is now A modern Zoom clamp alloy I fitted a new Allen screw type seat bolt but kept the original brooks B18 saddle. I replaced the 26″ wheels with CFX Mach 1 quick release 700’s as spares (amber walled tyres) are readily available and they look better in the 19.5″ frame. Finally I sourced an old but in good order Raleigh cotterless chain-set and blue MKS pedals to finish off.

  13. My Mum bought me an Arena for Christmas 1977. In September we put down a deposit at the local shop Shirehampton Pram and Toy Centre and opened a payment book. Every now and then she would send me up with some change to pay it off. It seemed like an eternity to pay of the whole £58.50. Somehow the last £10.00 was covered and the brand new bike was in our lounge behind the sofa on Christmas morning. I covered so many miles Christmas day I could barely walk on Boxing Day morning.
    Years passed and I sold by beloved bike to a guy called Vince, but recently bought one on ebay. My intention is to restore it and spend time looking at it and reminisce.

  14. Thank you for this – I’m working on a blue one right now…. having ridden a green one to high school in the late 80s I stupidly recycled the frame thinking “I have a car now” What a moron I was as a 20something!

    So the blue one is coming along – it had been cobbled together with the wrong headset bearings and running on the outside of the race for a long time.

    Crazy – I still had the fork and bars from my highschool bike. The fork survived because the boys and I had made a trebuchet, and the bars had been fitted to a kid’s scooter for high-speed dog walks.

    I’m working on getting a 3×9 shimano 105 gear fitted, presently blocked by the fork headset and getting whacky shimano spokes for the wheelset. Brakes will be a blocker in the future, but cross that bridge when it comes.

    Some photos to be found here:

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s