1977 Raleigh Merlin

As it sat idly in my workshop awaiting its turn over the last couple of weeks, Brian’s bike has attracted enthusiastic comments from nearly all my customers.  So, now I’ve done my bit, I thought I’d post a few photos of the Merlin out on a test ride.  Aside from some new 27″ rubber and leather-faced brake pads, the bike was in good enough mechanical condition to warrant a fairly simple tune-up – improving the wheels, brakes, shifting and steering.  A joy to ride – though sorely in need of a more suitable saddle – the Merlin is a lovely machine that at some stage has had a sympathetic ‘roadster’ handlebar conversion, making it even more suited to its watchmaker owner’s genial commuting duties…

4 thoughts on “1977 Raleigh Merlin”

  1. I owned a Merlin back in the late 70s. It was an absolute joy to ride and pretty good looking too. In fact I would probably be in the market for another, especially if it was in the same mid-blue as mine. I have the ladies equivalent, the Misty, sitting in my shop at the moment but it’s huge and really only suitable for ladies around 6ft or over.
    Incidentally, those handlebars and shifter are correct and not a later addition.

  2. Mine was the green one bought for £115 from JE James himself. £15 deposit and agreement to pay the rest weekly and pick it up when fully paid. My father said he would pay half the remaining £100 once I had reached £50. I worked on fixing washing machines, TVs, cassette players and triumphantly announced my achievement of raising £50 to which he answered “now you have got that far complete the task” which I did.

    JE James ran the cycle shop in a row of terrace houses joined together, it was an alladins cave full of bikes and spares. I collected the bike and rode it back 15 miles home. I was 14 years old. It had the 5 gear Shimano Positron gear set.

    Over the following year the bike was ridden everywhere but left behind when I left the house at 15 and and was emancipated. At 16 I was reunited with the bike and other property. JE James had a “super store” in Chesterfield. I “upgraded” the bike through the next 18 months. Stronglight 56T campag 12-21, campag brakes. It was not a racing bike but it did get me across the country with a rack that had tent and primus stove.
    The bike was totalled in a crash when I was 18. I hit a car that pulled out of a side road to cross to the other side. By then I was time trialing as a guest rider and was regularly hitting 50mph down long hills. It took six months to overcome the bruising, I was still double strapped to the crank at hospital – the bike and my glasses were destroyed. The £1000 payout by the drivers insurers was used as a deposit on a JF Wilson 531c short wheel base – I went on to be signed up with a french touring team but was robbed of the £100 funds to get me to the Winchester spring race and pro licence – I ended up building a contracting firm instead and learning how to make computers useful. I did not ride again until into my 40s but in a twist of a computer related scam was assaulted leaving me with a prolapsed disc in my neck and 5 fractured vertebra. The new bike was stolen from my unattended garage during the years it was not ridden – I am not sure when but its replacement was also unused until 2020 lockdown when the roads were empty. This bike was “enhanced” with a Dillinger electric front wheel. The young me would never have thought of electric assistance having once covered 56 road miles in 1:57 mins.

    The Merlin was a part of my emancipation, one of the details of a childhood that made me independent and able to put my body through some heavy workloads for weeks on end that has enabled me to create my own employment and for careers for others.
    One of my colleagues was with me when we raced down “slack hill” he had speed wobble at about 45mph on a Carlton – I briefly hit 55mph – at least thats what it looked like when I was alongside the driver of a Morris Minor who looked shocked to see a cyclist alongside.

    The stronglight 56 with campag 12 x 27″ wheels also had me pulled over by police on Bolsover hill at a claimed 42 to 48 miles per hour as I overtook the bus !

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