Raleigh Crested Butte: Eight Years On

As seen on Mount Tabor, 30 October 2020. Note the new leather grips. Camera: Minolta SRT-101. Lens: MC Rokkor-X PG f/1.4 50mm Film: Kodak ColorPlus 200

Ah, Raleigh Crested Butte, the bike I can’t quit. I purchased it back on October 14, 2012. The previous month I bought an old mountain bike, a Raleigh M-40, for cheap. I enjoyed that bike and it got me interested in both vintage mountain bikes and plump 26″ tires. But it was too small, and the componentry was sub-par and worn out. I wanted something else, something better. This Crested Butte caught my eye on Craigslist: It was the top-of line mountain bike from Raleigh USA from 1984-86. It featured lightweight chromoly tubing, superior components, and a cushy, laid-back ride due to its long wheelbase and slack angles. I took a test ride on that October Sunday eight years ago and was smitten.

Eight years! It’s the longest I’ve ever owned a bike. There was a time where five years was about as much as I got out of a bike before I moved on. That’s not the case with this vintage steed. Oh sure, I’ve almost sold it a couple times, and when I do my period “Should I cull the fleet?” musings, it’s often on the theoretical chopping block. It will always be a bike that’s a smidge too small, a bit ill-fitting. But I put up with this, because the damn thing is such a joy to ride. And it’s such a classy looking machine, made during that brief early MTB era before they all became day-glo splatter-paint things.

The Raleigh Crested Butte has gone through a lot of permutations over the years. The only things that are original (besides the frame, of course) is the front derailleur, pedals (those lovely MKS Bear Traps!), Blackburn bottle cage (now on the underside) and the wheels. Those beefy Araya 1.75″ wide rims are near indestructible. A major componentry upgrade/redo happened almost four years ago and most of those parts are still going strong. The bike has been a testing ground for so many different setups. But ironically the setup as I have it now is pretty close to how I realized it soon after I got it: swept back bars, a modest sized front basket, Brooks saddle. I had it set up “right” from the get-go, it just took a long journey to here and back for me to realize.

An early shot of the Crested Butte in November 2012, when I first got it set up.
The Raleigh Cresgted Butte as it is now. Taken at Rose City Park on 27 October 2020. Camera: Minolta SRT-101. Lens: MC Rokkor-X PG f/1.4 50mm Film: Kodak ColorPlus 200

Heck, I’m even back to leather grips, a classy accouterment I had on in the early days. I’ve been thinking about trimming the bars, as they are a bit long. The cork grips that I had on previously need to be glued on, and to remove them is to destroy them. With lock-on leather grips, I can cut a little, test out, cut more if I need to, and not worry about the grips since they come off and on easily. Mind you, I haven’t cut yet. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But at least the grips aren’t the hindrance anymore, I just have to get over the idea of cutting. I spent a lot of money on those Nitto Bosco bars, and I’ve always had the “keep it as close to original in case I want to sell” mentality when it comes to stuff like this, even though it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve entertained the idea of finding a better-fitting mountain bike. But if I did, I’d probably sink a fair bit of money into “making it what I want to be”. And I’m no longer that interested in doing that. Years ago it was all about that journey, discovering different types of bikes, switching out setups, etc. I’m now bored by that. I know what I want, and don’t feel like wasting the time and energy. Besides, while I might find something that fits better, I don’t know if I’d find as classy a steed as the Crested Butte.

So the Crested Butte stays. And I don’t say that with reservation, but with love. I finally found a keeper. Eight years on, still smitten.

Golden. Mt Tabor, 30 Oct 2020

10 thoughts on “Raleigh Crested Butte: Eight Years On

Add yours

  1. I always enjoy seeing this bike. I can relate to the many ways you describe and praise it. I remarked (only half joking) to a friend recently that I’m not sure bikes have really evolved beyond the 80s MTB. If you decided to sequel this post with several detail shots, that would be great. Best wishes, my friend!

  2. I feel ya. I’m still riding Little Miss Dangerous, my 1981 Schwinn Super Letour. Just about nothing is original. The brakes, and the seatpost. But what a hotrod! I got her in 2010. After drooling over the latest and the greatest for lo these many years, I finally realized, “what more do I need?”. Not much!

  3. I’ve been riding/commuting on an 86 Diamond Back Apex for years, & just picked up a Crested Butte that has seen very little use. There’s just something about these vintage 80s ATB’s.

  4. Hi! I too have an old Raleigh 502 Mountain Tour. It’s an elkhorn. I was looking into putting some Bosco bars on it and I know that the quill on ye old Raleigh is 21.1 (an odd size). Are you using a Nitto quill as well? Or something else? I’d appreciate the help! 🙂

      1. Yeah man… not much out there. I like the look of your Kalloy. I’ve found a similar Sunlite Alloy Cruister Stem. I guess the Kalloy is somewhat cruiser-ish? Not many options and seems so cruel to do some massive fork overhaul

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