Earlier today I was chatting to a customer about the pros & cons of Raleigh’s high-tensile carbon steel frames of the 1980s when all of a sudden I felt a tingle of nostalgia.  Back in the day my riding buddies and I cut our teeth – and knees – on ‘gas pipe’ Equipes, Flyers, Winners and Pursuits long before we owned bikes with frames made of fancier butted, heat-treated cro-mo tubesets from the likes of Reynolds, Tange, True Temper, Columbus, Ishiwata, Ritchey Logic etc.

Much like Peugeot’s carbon steel bikes, the humble 18-23 Raleigh – of which there were dozens of variants with the same basic frame – gets overlooked in favour of the lighter & stronger Reynolds tubed models as they were essentially low budget replicas, especially when dressed in eye-catching Panasonic, Kellogg’s, Milk Race and Team Banana livery.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t be tweaked into a decent machine and to my mind they’re still iconic.  Indeed, they’re likely to be the ‘first kiss’ of much of my generation’s love affair with steel bikes…

18-23 tubing, much like the 20-30 tubing it superseded, was used for low-cost mens & ladies racing bikes, light tourers, hub-geared roadsters, step-thrus, loop frames, mixtes and even early hybrids and MTBs – some of which used one-piece cranks and 21.1mm stems left over from the BMX craze era – many of which still roll around the UK to this day.  In fact, barely a month goes by without one going through the workshop.  Read up on Raleigh’s official history here and discover what the inimitable Sheldon Brown has to say here.

Here’s a few of the 50+ steel Raleigh bikes I’ve worked on over the years – some standard, others not so much…