Here’s a pic of a nice old Raleigh (a real one, not a Chinese one) that I found at the end of Degraves St. in the city. It epitomises for me the kind of bike that I think should be more common out on the road: a frame made out of high quality tubing – robust enough to take a few knocks, light and springy enough to feel good riding it. It caught my eye because someone I know has one, it was their first real bike, and she did mega-miles on it before supplanting it with something lighter and faster.
Raleigh of Nottingham made many of this sort of high quality road racing bike, and it came with a kit of parts from France and Germany – Maillard hubs and freewheel, Weinmann brakes, Sachs or Campagnolo gears (if you were a bit particular), maybe Japanese (Sugino or SR or Suntour) cranks. etc. etc. However, the heart of this machine is the frame, made in Nottingham by old guys with gas welding torches and greasy milling machines. The tubing is Reynolds 531, for a long time the sine qua non of a quality bike frame. Anyway, if you’ve got one like this, maybe European/Italian and made of Columbus tubing , dust it off, get things updated and running, and ride it, because the only thing you can ride nowadays that is better than it are made in imitation of it. Some notable contenders are the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Allegro Tour.