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Remembering a legend – Joop Zoetemelk’s TI-Raleigh-Creda replica bike

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3 Dec 2021
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To celebrate Joop Zoetemelk's 75th birthday, we look back at his iconic TI-Raleigh bike. In association with Raleigh

Hendrik Gerardus Joseph Zoetemelk is a legend in the sport of cycling. Often the word legend is flagrantly thrown around in the sport of cycling with little care but the term is completely accurate when discussing ‘Joop’ Zoetemelk.

One of the great natural climbers within the professional peloton, Zoetemelk’s long 17-year career saw him start and finish 16 Tours de France, win the 1979 Vuelta a España, become road World Champion at the ripe age of 38 in 1985 and race to three Paris-Nice titles. However, the defining moment in Zoetemelk’s career came in 1980. The Dutchman was at risk of replacing Raymond Poulidor as the Tour de France’s ‘eternal second’ having finished runner-up five times over the previous 10 editions, losing battles against icons Eddy Merckx, Lucien Van Impe and Bernard Hinault.

However, locked in a battle with the mighty Hinault, Zoetemelk finally broke free of the curse on his 11th attempt at the maillot jaune, winning his one and only Tour title. Granted, his French rival abandoning due to knee pain helped Zoetemelk to victory but his seven-minute advantage by Paris was enough to immortalise him in history.

Only increasing the legend was the iconic team and its bike he used in that race – the evocative red, black and yellow of Ti-Raleigh-Creda and their postbox-red steel Raleigh race bikes that were hand-assembled in Nottingham using Reynolds tubing. On 3rd December, Joop celebrates his 75th birthday and to mark the occasion Raleigh is reissuing the iconic postbox red Ti-Raleigh-Creda replica team bike that guided Zoetemelk to his career-defining Tour triumph and, best of all, you can buy one.

Redefining a classic

Raleigh product manager Jason Boness was given the important job of spearheading this classic remake and, as he tells Cyclist, found it to be a bigger task than just rehashing a few replica frames.

‘I was lucky enough to get the geometry chart for Joop’s bike from an ex-colleague who had worked at Raleigh,’ says Boness. ‘That made it more special as it meant that not only could we replicate the bike, we could use his geometry as a basis.’

Zoetemelk rode a 56cm frame, so that was the starting point, with other frame sizes being scaled up or down as appropriate. 

‘We’ve made five sizes, but if you buy a 56 you’ve got what Joop would have ridden.’ The next hurdle was that of tubing. The original TI-Raleigh was made from Reynolds 753 steel, which while revolutionary at the time – having been heat-treated to make it stiffer allowing for thinner, lighter tubes – had long been taken out of production.

‘Unfortunately it has been out of production for quite some time, but our goal was to use 753, so we reached out to Reynolds and they were excited,’ says Boness. ‘They talked to their material suppliers and agreed to produce 250 sets of tubing in Birmingham that were the same as used in the original.’

The tubes were sent off to Taiwan to be brazed into frames and painted, while Boness set about sourcing a groupset. ‘Some enthusiasts have asked, “Why didn’t you use Super Record?” Well, if you could find me 250 new old-stock Campagnolo Super Record groupsets at original prices then we’d have done it, but sadly that wasn’t possible.

‘Modern Super Record is carbon fibre so wouldn’t look right, but what Campagnolo does offer in alloy is its 10-speed Veloce. Sure, it’s not Super Record, but for looking like a period groupset it ticked the box. Just for us, they didn’t brand it Veloce. Instead it’s branded Campagnolo, which then mimics the original derailleurs.’

All in the detail

‘The chainset was another challenge as the modern Veloce one didn’t look like the old one,’ says Boness. ‘We found a supplier in Taiwan that would make a replica of the Record chainset. For the bottom bracket we’ve used a Tange Japanese BB, because they’ve done an old-style cup and cone version and the finish is as good as any Campagnolo bottom bracket from the 1980s.’

Another bike component of a bygone era is the down tube friction shifter as seen on the original bike.

‘To keep that period feel we used Dia-Compe shifters, which look very similar to the Campagnolo ones – they’ve got that nice bobbled edge,’ says Boness.

‘Friction shifters really take you back to the 1980s. Once you get the hang of it, it’s nice to ride. It’s more organic and just makes you feel more involved – you can feel it all. The brake levers are also from Dia-Compe as they do a nice classic lever with a brown hood to match that period.’

For the wheels, Boness turned to obvious choice Mavic and its Open Pro C rim, which is the nearest profile to the Mavic GP4 that would graced the original bikes, with the branding having been altered to replicate the original rectangular yellow and red Mavic label of yesteryear.

Those rims then needed to be laced to hubs, but Boness struggled to find modern hubs that looked like the ones on the 1980 TI-Raleigh.

‘Eventually I got in touch with a hub manufacturer in Taiwan and got them to replicate the Sheriff Star large flange hubs to maintain the look.

‘We’ve fitted Challenge tyres with that period, light skin-wall on them. And when it came to the pedals we went to MKS in Japan, which makes a really nice replica of the original Record Quill pedals. We then added some steel toe clips and black leather straps to complete the look.

‘The handlebar is Cinelli Giro d’Italia, which has a classic shape and comes with the Cinelli etching. That’s matched up to its 1A quill stem in that lovely milky anodised finish, and that is inserted into a Campagnolo Record headset. All in all, it’s as close as you can get visually, using components that are available now.’

Ready to ride

There was one component that couldn’t be matched closely to the original, though.

‘We’ve used Campag Centaur dual pivot brakes, which was a contention point for me,’ says Boness. ‘I didn’t really want to use them. I wanted something with a centre-pull to replicate the original, but we wouldn’t have been able to pass the EN ISO safety tests.’

It’s a necessary concession as, after all, this bike isn’t meant as an ornament. Raleigh made sure that the man himself, Joop, got one with the 75-year-old using it as his daily bike, riding 40-50km on it, looking not much different to when he was winning Grand Tours in the 1970s and 1980s.

‘When you ride it, it just feels nostalgic. It’s a little bit more involved than modern bikes. When you get on it, you’ll be riding it with a smile.’