Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Raleigh "Marathon" Bike

Back in early August I rolled into the Glenn Ave. Junk Man's Barn--and just as predicted--I found a diamond in the rough. Among several hundred other bikes and other junk, this bike was in a pile of of old Huffys, Sears girls bikes, and knock-off mtn bikes.

This Raleigh "Marathon" probably dates from between 1984 to 1986. From What I can tell its either been taken very good care of, or hardly ridden. Saddly, its looks like its been sitting in that old dude's barn for well over 10 years. The striking thing about this bike is that the frame is quite large. My guess would be at least 67 centemeters--only very tall, big fellows much like myself can ride a large frame like this--and being all steel--these large frame bikes are soft riding and have a certain feel on the road that I can't describe; sturdy, secure, powerful might be a few words that come to mind.

This emblem is the Raleigh Heron and although it reads, "Cycle Company of America" it is not made in the United States. From some blogs and discussion lists on the web, its most certainly not made in England either--but Japan, or possibly even Taiwan. From what I read, Japanese-made frames, like my 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix, are supposedly of superior quality. If this bike (the frame) I aquired for a mere $50.00 is Japanese made, then I am in luck--Taiwanese are said to be hit or miss. On a bike discussion list, someone said they bought a bike like this in 1984 for $350.00, which he said was quite a bit of money at the time.

The large ring here looks a little worn but the frame has almost no scratches--and no cracks, so its not been crashed or smashed by the other bikes while stored in the barn. Anyway, I have a good feeling about this bike and since its not made in England (I've now found from my research on the web that Nottingham-made Raleigh frames are very desireable) I'm not opposed to converting it into a single speed/fixed gear bike. This means stripping it down to frame and wheels. I believe when done it will be a work of art.

All this will go, however when Phil looked this bike over briefly at Pima Street Bikes (I dragged it into the shop right before they were closing on a Friday late afternoon) He noticed the wheels were made by a Belguim company. Since he builds wheels, they may be the only thing of value on this bike as far as he's concerned.

"Sport Touring Geometry, 12 Speed 39-100" Not sure exactly what they're boasting about here exactly--so if you know, get word to me.



aggie said...

I have one of these bikes. It is made in Taiwan. I bought it for 50$ which seems good for me.
I recently got a flat tire. Do you know what size of tube I should be looking for? I am not familiar with bikes. I am trying to buy the tube and bring out the wheel(it's front wheel) and change the tube.
I thought you might be professional in bikes and could give me some advice.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Hi! Very happy that we have the same bike! To answer the question about an intertube for your bike--you can use the standard size 25 inch tube that road bikes use. These bikes have, or at least I believe my bike has, the original larger wheels and needs the 27 inch tires--and if you can buy a 27 inch tube that's great. Again, a tube that fits the newer and 25 inch wheels that most bikes have these days will work. But you need to make sure that when you buy new tires, you buy the 27 inch size.

Good luck and let me kwow if there's anything else you need.



grape said...

I have a Marathon 502 that I know nothing about. It looks a lot like this one, but shorter, and it has 27" wheels. I've been trying to research it since someone decided to steal the quick release from it.
Any info is appreciated.

Packmule said...

I picked up a smaller version of this bicycle at an auction a few months ago for $50. My inseam is 32" and I have about 3 inches of standover room over the top tube. The stem shifters that it has aren't even easy to use, and the thing tends to not want to go into gear when I shift. I got it mainly as a spare bike, and also as a parts bike for my Trek 400D Elance (1987 model), since the wheels are the same size and type (quick release) and the gearing is the same (2 front, 6 rear), and the parts are Shimano. The wheels take tubes with Schrader valves. The bike had hardly been ridden, the tires were almost like new. I stole the saddle off of it and switched it out with the worn saddle that was on my trek, and stuck the beverage container holder on my trek as well. As far as I'm concerned, it's worth every bit of $50 just for the wheels, derailleurs, and chain.

I think this would be a solid bike if I could get some downtube shifters installed on it, and stick some cleated or toe-strap pedals on it. It's really not a terrible bike to ride as is, as long as you're on fairly flat terrain and don't have to shift much. The unreliable shifters can be a nuisance on long rides, and definitely keep one from going very fast. From what others have told me, stem shifters were popular in the 80's but are eschewed by serious riders because they are hard to use and are, in general, a sign of cheap componentry.

Does anyone know how hard it would be to change this bicycle over to downtube shifters? I'm not mechanically inclined, but it seems like it might be expensive to have a bike shop put downtube shifters on a bike like this.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Dear Packmule,
Thanks for writing--I also thought about down-tube shifters because the shifters on the stem where pretty sorry. The problem for me is that the frame is so large that I wouldn't be able to reach them. The alternative would be handle bar end shifters--that's for my situation. If you can reach to where down tube shifters would be then that is the way to go for you.

I'm not sure what I will do right now. My frame has eyelets for fenders and panniers, so I am thinking that this will make a good commuter.

It has done well and is comfortable on long rides--I've done a few century rides but mainly 40 and 50 mile "Sunday Rides" and the stem shifters always require a bit of adjustment. Good Luck and let me know how it goes.

Cheers! Bruce

Ronsonic said...

""Sport Touring Geometry, 12 Speed 39-100" Not sure exactly what they're boasting about here exactly--so if you know, get word to me."

Almost certainly the gear range, from 39 to 100 gear inches.

patricio said...


i have this same bike but know nothing about bike parts

i was wondering if one you highly knowledgeable guys could help me

i want to replace the crank set and wheel set

i would like to install a single speed free wheel and wanted to know if you guys what size i should buy or any other inforamtion about the size of the bike


Bruce's Bike Blog said...


I have wanted to do a similar conversion. I'll ask around for you. Cheers, Bruce

Jack said...

I have a 1986 Raleigh Marathon that I used as a project bike, I replaced the stock stem shifters with some NOS Shimano 600 clamp-on downtube shifters and put a Shimano freewheel on it (it came with a Suntour one), and stuck a vintage steel rack on the back. It's a very slow bike, I can barely get it to 17-18 mph on flat ground, I think it is because the bottom bracket is bad and not letting the cranks spin freely. The frame is small, about a 21" frame. Although it is not as nice as, say, a Trek bike of the time period, it has been a fun little bike to have.

Jack (packmule) said...

By the way, Bruce, I am the "packmule" that posted to this blog a little over a year ago about the Raleigh I'd bought and wanted to put downtube shifters on...I'd forgotten that I'd written in this blog before. The Shimano 600 downtube shifters I put on there seem to work a lot better than the stem shifters, although they are still in need of adjustment (which I've just been too lazy to do). I also changed out the original tire tubes that were in it for more modern, thinner tubes (the tubes that were originally in it were the old school, very thick rubber tubes, which practically never go flat, but give the bike a heavy, "clunky" feeling when you're riding it. I also changed out the tires, since, although they were not worn from riding, they had started to dry rot after 20+ years of the bike sitting around in someone's garage.

Jack said...


I've played around with the crankset on mine, too. Basically any Shimano crankarms that are made to fit the square-tapered bottom brackets will work on this. Your best bet would probably be Ebay, they have a lot of NOS (new old stock) shimano parts for 80's and 90's bicycles. You can buy the bottom bracket removal tool for about 10-15 bucks at any bike shop, they will probably be even be willing to walk you through how to use it.

As for the wheel set, just make sure it is either a 27" wheel or a 700c wheel (either one will fit, though the bike is made for a 27" wheel), you can probably just keep the front wheel that's on it and just change out the rear wheel (since you're wanting to change just the freewheel, buy a rear wheel that's made to hold a one speed freewheel, most bike shops should be able to sell you one.

Good luck on doing your conversion.

kevin said...

HOw Much Does the raleigh marathon 502 bike cost?plz answer