An 80’s Raleigh “Sport” Three Speed

In my wanderings on Tuesday I came across this interesting three speed specimen. You don’t see many 80’s three-speeds, especially Raleighs. This particular bike appears to be from the Huffy owned Raleigh USA era (82-87), which would place it around the same time as my Crested Butte.

While it is both a Raleigh and a three-speed, it’s a bit different than a British made three speed that would have been common just ten years before:

  • It’s just “Sport” not “Sports”.
  • Shimano 333 three speed hub.
  • Lugged Tiawanese made frame.
  • Chainring lacks the distinctive “heron” pattern.
  • Raleigh engraved on the seatstays near the cluster (just like on my Crested Butte.)

This bike looks more like the typical Japanese brand three-speed of that era than a British three speed.* And it also looks pretty much like a Schwinn Collegiate of that era. I owned an 80’s Schwinn Collegiate (my first three speed! I should talk about that more at some point.) And like this Raleigh Sport, it was a Tiawanese lugged machine with Shimano 333 hub.

Until we encounter an 80’s era three-speed, many of us probably didn’t even know they existed. Now why don’t we see a lot of 80’s era three-speeds? Because by then they were the absolute bottom, “entry-level” bikes offered by a brand. They’d be stuck at the very back of the catalog, right before kids bikes. That is, if they even ended up in the catalog! During the 70’s, three-speeds still had some small bit of market presence even in the era of ten-speeds, because they were the only upright adult bikes offered. Because let’s face it: not everyone likes drop-bar bikes, even when they came with suicide levers. But in the 80’s, mountain bikes with their straight bars came into play, so an entry-level MTB became the “go-to” for casual riders who preferred an upright riding position and style. Why get three speeds when you can get twelve or more? Then hybrids came about. Why have the “original” hybrid anymore? Three speeds quietly disappeared from manufacturers by the time the 90’s dawned, at least here in the US.

But now it’s the teens, and three speeds have made a comeback, both in interest of vintage bikes, and in new offerings. And we can be thankful for that!

*Most likely many of the Japanese branded three speeds of the 80’s were also made in Tiawan.

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