Out the door: 1987 Raleigh Seneca Mountain Tour

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Another great bike out the door at Two Wheel Drive.

I am mesmerized with the chameleonic nature of vintage ATBs.  Able to swallow chunky rubber for off-pavement exploration, while still appearing balanced with a lean preparation for riding in-town or cross-country on a variety of surfaces, these bikes do it all.  Unlike the vintage road bikes and touring bikes of the era, most of these old klunkers have been under-appreciated in the used marketplace, keeping prices reasonable.  This 1987 “Northwest Salmon” colored Raleigh Seneca is a fine example of the kinds of bikes consumers were hungry to ride back in the day, even if they never found themselves “mountain touring”, or even mountain biking.  With copious mounting points for racks and fenders, as well as an integrated spare spoke holder and chainstay guard, this bike is a great platform for a modern commuting or touring bike, or even a casual cruiser.  Gearing is 6-speed Suntour XC Sport with thumb shifters, offering both a friction and index setting.  Brakes and levers are Shimano, and wheels are Shimano hubs to Araya rims.  This thing was a sweet ride back then, and is still a sweetie today.  At half the price of basic commuting bikes, this thing is steal, especially in this condition.

This bike has a unique story.  It was available on Craigslist when I first arrived in Albuquerque this fall, and I liked it– I wanted it– but I knew I didn’t need it.  Then, in January a customer entered Two Wheel Drive with the bike, claiming that she had been commuting on it but felt it was too heavy.  Too heavy?  Yes, too heavy to lift onto the bus racks.  We bought the bike from here and sold her an aluminum commuter frame with a lightweight wheelset.  The combination satisfied her.  Ironically, she was carrying an extremely hefty U-lock on her rear rack; the combination of rack and lock must have weighed over 4 lbs by itself.  Anyway, I have been staring at this bike for weeks.  Still, I don’t need it.

As the weather turns towards spring, friends have begun asking about “getting a bike”, which almost always means they want a good bike for cheap.  This is not always an easy task.  In this case, it was easy.  Jettie is tall and stylish, with a sense of utility and irony.  This bike is tall and stylish, with a sense of utility and a dose of irony.  She’s moving to Oakland soon with this bike, and I’m sure she’ll be the envy of bike-nerds wherever she goes.  It’s not mine, but this arrangement is even better.

She requested a basic cargo system, and we decided the Wald basket was most appropriate as it allows casual use of a handbag or backpack, and is also very inexpensive at just over $20.  As you know, Wald products are still made in the USA, in Kentucky.  The basket struts were left uncut to allow future adjustments to handlebar height.  I think Wald basket look “right” when mounted at an angle.  They’ve been attached to American bikes that way for almost a hundred years.

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More from the “Out the door” series at Two Wheel Drive here in Albuquerque, NM.

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15 thoughts on “Out the door: 1987 Raleigh Seneca Mountain Tour

  1. I too have an old Raleigh ‘Mountain Tour’ CroMo frame bike, set up as a beater bike. Originally came with double chainrings but I swapped in a triple. It is much happier now. And yes, it has bullmoose handlebars. Serves as a not-too-pretty but very useful bike for around town trips.

  2. Can’t beat those old mountain bikes for the very reasons you describe. I also like that the Raleigh’s bars are not the straight bars, but rather ones with a bit of curve, which allows for some fore and aft adjustment. I love thumb shifters because, well, I don’t own anything else. It’s not for lack of trying other systems, it’s just mine have never worn out! A commuter can’t go wrong with owning an 80s steel mountain bike.

    • Yes, exactly! It is not only that these bikes are cheap that I really appreciate them. I have come to appreciate larger tire clearances, higher bottom brackets and the utility of multiple frame attachment points. This bike is an amalgamation of a mountain bike, cross bike, and a ‘proper’ touring bike. Depending upon tire, handlebar and luggage choices, it could compete with many bikes in these categories. It is also a very nice color.

      • Shawn, you know I don’t need another bike. I’ve already got one too many here in NM. For now, I’ll live vicariously through your Butte, Andy’s Ridge Runner, and Cass’ Stumpjumper. I’ve still got a High Sierra to my name, which is on permanent loan and sees daily use in Tacoma. There is also a Stumpjumper in AK, when I find myself back there. And, there is a very tall Shogun Prairie Breaker frame in close association (I sold it to Lael’s brother) that could be called into service someday.

  3. I can see why you’ve been mulling this bike for some time. It’s a beaut. The drive chainstay spoke holders would have been hard to resist. I have those same derailleurs and shifters waiting for a worthy purpose in my parts bin.

    You’ve done a terrific job of matching up bike with rider. From experience, I know that accomplishment imbues a deep sense of satisfaction. Sometimes it is best to let a bike go for the greater good.

    • I was thrilled to hear that she wanted a bike, and even more thrilled when she liked the Seneca. She is moving to the Bay area soon and I expect that nerdy boys on bikes with baskets and moustache bars will be jealous of her vintage rig.

  4. I own this bike, am the original owner, and still love it. Bought it in 1987 at a shop on Stanyan, next to Golden Gate Park, when I gave up my car. Back then, there were no bike lanes in SF so if you decided to ride full-time, you needed something that would take the hills, hold up on the potholes, and still give you a smooth ride to the Sausalito Flea Market on Sunday. I still ride this bike, up and down the Valencia corridor, on the Wiggle, over the Bridge. I love my bike and hope Oakland-bound girl loves her bike too.

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