When you see a retro-looking bike, one image may come to mind: self-righteous hipsters in porkpie hats yelling at cars as they struggle up hills on their fixies.
The Raleigh Record Ace is not meant for those dudes. Its retrotastic styling brings to mind everything from Major Taylor whipping around tracks in the 1920s to Jackie Earle Haley shakily riding around a track in the 1970s film Breaking Away. (If you haven’t seen it, see it; it’s one of the best sports movies of all time.) It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as the Ace has been making the rounds for almost eight decades. The flagship model came out in 1933, right in the midst of the golden era of cycle racing in Britain. True to its name, it was the ride of choice for record-breaking cyclists of the time until the great Bike Boom of the 1970s. And the $1,900 Ace is without a doubt meant to go fast; attached to its round, lugged-steel tubing is a high-tech Shimano Ultegra groupset. The break components don’t quite measure up to the Ultegra … but then again, brakes make you go slower, not faster.
Keep in mind that just because carbon fiber rocket machines are available on the mass market, most of us don’t need them. Given a certain set of circumstances — say, a 2,200-mile Gallic race featuring near-identical cyclists over a period of a few weeks — a more modern, streamlined frame design would have an advantage over the somewhat rotund tubing of the 20.15-lb. Ace. But for those of us who don’t weigh our food and sandpaper down our brake handles, the upside of a machine that gives you bike wood before every ride far outweighs even the most stealth bomber-ish CAD tweaks. Besides, shaving 10 pounds off your ass — it’ll suit the Ace’s Brooks saddle — will make you a lot faster than shaving .3 ounces off your handlebar tape.
Now, when we talk about the Ace, it’s a sin to only talk about speed and style. This roadster also boasts of sturdiness and endurance that you’d normally see in high-performance suspension mountain bikes, such as the popular polygon bikes. Its lightweight 700c tires kick up its market value for a good reason—they give your more ease and more boot. It can get you across almost any terrain and can keep up with steep uphill and downhill sprints.
One look at its geometric beauty and you’ll know why the Ace has persisted through time. A nice mix of the classic Raleigh design and a sleek steel framework, it certainly looks the part of a bike built for long-time riding. It looks too vintage for a modern bike, with features that are too modern for a vintage bike. Somehow, the Raleigh Record Ace embraces its mark and makes it work.