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22 June 2012 @ 1pm


Rebuilt Raleigh Sprite bicycle

Raleigh Sprite bicycle

I rebuilt a Raleigh Sprite bicycle, one of the old step-throughs, circa 1976.

Raleigh Sprite bicycle

Unlike the Raleigh Record I built up, I replaced most of the old parts, and kept just a few that worked fine and had some charm, like this torn seat.

Velo Orange Triple Crankset

The biggest upgrade was swapping out the old bottom bracket and cottered crankset for a new Velo Orange threadless bottom bracket and Velo Orange triple crankset with a 170mm arm. The old ones were heavy, had a lower gear range, and I mashed one of the cotters taking them out to clean them up.

Velo Orange threadless bottom bracket installed

The genius of the threadless bottom brackets is that their two ends screw together and expand to fill the bottom bracket cavity in the frame–you don’t need to use the existing threads and you can choose from a variety of lengths. Compared to the other bottom bracket replacement options, it’s easier than rounding up perfectly-sized cotterless old stock and cheaper than going the phil wood route. I knew that if I tried to put cotter pins back in, my obsessive side would kick in and I’d end up buying a cotter press. Not worth it for a single use.

There was some angst over which length threadless bottom bracket to choose. This review was super helpful, as was this VO blog post. The Raleigh Sprite’s bottom bracket cavity measured 71 mm and I went with the 116 mm threadless bb and it fits nicely.

Here are some views of the chainline.

Raleigh Sprite chainline

Raleigh Sprite chainline

Raleigh Sprite chainline

On the second chainring, the chain is straight when it’s on the fifth sprocket in the back.

Raleigh Sprite freewheel and rear derailer

This is an all-purpose city bike, and the rider likes versatility and is no big fan of hills, so I put a megarange mountain bike freewheel with a giant granny gear on the back. The other day I was at the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop and I saw that the classy-looking Public Bicycles special edition International Orange step-through has the same freewheel on it.

Between the 34 teeth on the rear sprocket and the 24 on the smallest chainring, you can go pretty low on this bike. Edit: After being in use for a while, it’s become clear that this gear combo is overkill. A double cahinring would have done the job just fine.

Raleigh Sprite front brake

Last bonus pics: the original front brake, cleaned up just enough to keep a little patina.

Raleigh Sprite handlebars

And the handlebars.


Posted by
Barry Kafka
28 June 2012 @ 7am

Nice build, thanks for sharing.

What kind of shifters are those?

Posted by
28 June 2012 @ 9am

Thanks Barry, I used the Shimano Tourney SL-TX50 shifters. Only the rear is indexed, which is good because the gear spread is so broad in the back that you sometimes want to tweak the front derailer a hair to the left or right to keep the chain from scraping it.

Posted by
Mike E.
29 June 2012 @ 11am

hot bike!

Posted by
15 August 2012 @ 8pm

I’ve pulled apart my bottom bracket to do the same conversion you did. There’s a plate over the drive side of the bottom bracket shell that needs to come out to fit one of the bb conversion kits. Do you remember if yours had the same plate and if it was pressed or threaded in?


Posted by
16 August 2012 @ 10am

@Lateracer do you mean the bottom bracket cup? Both sides screwed out for me, but it wasn’t easy. The drive side is reverse-threaded, so it needs to be unscrewed clockwise. It is really tight in there and the wrench flats/tabs that the wrench fits on are so thin that the wrench slips off. Sheldon Brown explains it here, especially in the fixed cup section, but the part on fixed cup tools is kind of confusing. You basically need something that clamps your wrench onto those little flats so that it can grip it while you crank the heck out of the wrench handle, or even knock it with a rubber mallet. I went to a bike ktichen and they had a tool they’d made by putting a long bolt through a piece of wood. They stuck the bolt through the other side of the bottom bracket so that the wood held against the bottom bracket shell and the bolt end poked out through the hole in the bottom bracket cup that was still in the shell. Then we took a second piece of wood with a hole in it and put it onto the bolt and screwed it down with a nut until it held the wrench onto the bb cup. I’d turn the wrench a little, then loosen the clamp a little, turn the wrench a little, and so on.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out these on flickr. This guy used a slightly different way to bolt the wrench to the cup. Here’s the easy cup still on the bottom bracket, and then the hard cup, with a bolt through it, and, finally, the cup removed with the bolt-clamp assembly still attached.

I hope that helps.

Posted by
16 August 2012 @ 4pm

Thanks for the great explanation! Yeah, the drive side cup is what I was asking about. Digging through my junk bins to make a wrench clamping setup this evening.

Posted by
20 December 2012 @ 1am

HI. I’m redoing a sprite as well. Can you tell me where you got the 116mm bottom bracket? THKs

Posted by
20 December 2012 @ 10am

@Robert, the bottom bracket came from Velo Orange.

Posted by
1 April 2013 @ 3pm

Nice job!

Posted by
13 May 2013 @ 2pm

I am just curious if you widened the rear to 130 mm. If not can you indicate what rear hub you used along with the free wheel sprockets. I notice they are shimano but would be grateful if you could confirm.

Posted by
13 May 2013 @ 2pm

@ Viv, I used this rear one, a 27 x 1 1/4 wheel with a 126 mm hub. I think I might have had to widen the back a hair, but not much. For the freewheel, I screwed on a shimano MF-TZ31 Mega Range that goes from 14 to 34 teeth.

Posted by
2 July 2013 @ 1pm

Looks great! Thanks for sharing the details.

My sister just gave me her 1974 Women’s Sprite 10-speed. I’m assembling the parts for a similar overhaul after reading your account. I’m wondering which crank length you went with and whether it made a noticable difference in the way the bike pedals.

Posted by
4 July 2013 @ 2pm

@Linda, I used a 170 mm length. I’m not sure that it makes a difference. One other note (which I should add to the post as an edit) is that the combo of the triple chainring and the megarange freewheel is probably overkill. In the end, the extremes don’t get used very much, if at all. If I did it again, I’d use a double chainring in the front.

Posted by
Willis Montgomery III
21 February 2014 @ 12pm

Thanks for the post. I’m rebuilding an old Raleigh and I was wondering how the veloorange BB would work.

Posted by
21 February 2014 @ 12pm

@Willis, so far it’s working great.

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