Friday, February 18, 2011

Raimo Ahti's Raleigh Team Replica

My two similar Europe design Moth Boats.  One is a beautiful woodie the other is the boat Meg Gaillard
used in the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens.  Which one will I take to Gulfport?  Decisions, decisions...
Your diarist has been distracted with preparations for the up-coming Classic Moth Boat Mid-Winter Regatta, to be held down in Gulfport, Florida the last weekend of Feb.  I'm still trying to decide between two boats.  But more about that in a future post.

Currently Bowie, Maryland is enjoying a rare couple of days of 70 degree weather in the middle of what is generally the coldest month of the year.  I don't plan on launching into a discussion about global warming or whether or not human activity is contributing to that other than to say as long as I don't have to shovel anything I'm not going to complain.  The warm temps have gotten me thinking about my bicycles resting in the garage since last November (yes, I'll admit it: I'm a cold wimp).

While I'm rummaging around in the garage looking for boat parts I may as well introduce you to one of my bikes: A Raleigh Team Pro Replica from the early 1980s.  I picked this little bike up after seeing her malinger through several bid cycles on a certain popular on-line auction site without attracting a single bid.  The seller relisted the bike for one final time stating that if nobody bid this time he'd break her for parts. The bike although missing her head badge was unmistakably a Raleigh Team Professional Replica, i.e. built to the design of Gerald O'Donovan but constructed at Raleigh's main Worksop factory rather than the SBDU or Special Bicycle Development Unit in Derbyshire.  I also have a pukka SBDU Team Pro frame but I'll talk about that one in a later post.

The bike in question retained a mish-mash of  period correct Campagnolo Nuovo Record components, but mostly with Campag patent dates which were slightly out of sync with the age of the frame. However, the most curious aspect of this machine was that the frame had been repainted an attractive but admittedly unauthentic shade of blue and sported an unusual name painted on both sides of the down tube:"Raimo Ahti".  I think the combination of odd component dates, and that paint job contributed to the reason why this particular bike failed to attract the lust and bidding frenzy from the usual bike snob crowd that lurks in the dark corners of "Flea-bay".I placed the minimum opening bid and waited to be snipped at the last second.  Much to my amazement that didn't happen and I won the auction.

Raimo Ahti's Raleigh Team Pro Rep
After receiving the bike I did a little web search to see if I could discover anything about this mysterious Raimo Ahti.  Obviously the name was Finnish.  What I discovered is that my bike was the one time property of a 70+ year old stone mason who lived in Lunenberg, Massachusetts.  It turned out that Raimo's first love is cross-country ski racing and he used to run in the summer months to keep fit.  As he aged he switched from running to bike racing because cycling left him fresher. In a quote from the Worcester, Mass Telegram and Gazette (http://www.ltolman.org/93arch/60996.htm) Raimo said of his training rides "You can go three to five hours, and when you come back you can wash the floors and cut the grass. If you run three hours, you can't go dancing afterward. My wife and I love to dance."  (Ah, the allure of Nordic dancing--diarist-woman also loves it but your diarist is clumsy and can't get the steps down to all those dances...).  In his mid-60s Raimo was still winning citizen races in his age group. 

 Raimo, now in his 70s, still skis.  I was able to track him down via contact with a Finnish-American cultural society up in Massachusetts and we exchanged some enjoyable letters.  Someday I  hope to get up to his neck of the woods and shake his hand in person.  It's not every day you meet a multi-discipline champion via flea-bay!  This man very definitely has "sisu".   As for the mish-mash of component dates on the bike it boils down to this: Raimo was a racer, stuff broke during events and he replaced them with whatever a local bike shop had on hand without worrying about what a bunch of collectors might think years later.  To me those mismatched patent dates are a silent testament to the bike's racing history and make her all the more special. I also like the Finnish blue paint  job and will always keep Raimo's name on the down tube.  I told him that I do plan to change one little thing:  I'm going to paint the lug cut-outs on the frame bright yellow since my bride is a Svenska fickor!

Heart shaped lug cut outs will soon be Swedish yellow.

6 comments:

  1. Hello, When i was a 18 year old, i hooked up with the Ahti family, through one of Raimo's son's Erik. I use to see that bike hang in the basement of the house. Many sets aged of silk sow tires were around. Raimo and his son were the harest training people i ever met in my life. SISU, is a word i say with awe. The awe was instilled in me by Raimo and his son. It was nothing for us to run 10 miles before working a day of stone work, and then to ride a boke time trial that same evening. I cannot describe how hard core they were....But God himself would have stood in awe of their efforts. Someone wrote a book in WI about Raimo, it was called the "Iron man of the Berkeibiner" a famed marathon Xcountry ski race in Wisoconsin. I'm telling you this because the man is a living legend. I used to run a "26 minute" 5 mile, and when i would turn to look, there would be Raimo not to far behind. He did the Boston Marathon like 10 times, he almost made te Olympic Race walk team, he jumped out of an airplane and lived...His shoot didn't open! He has competed in about every sport imaginable, and is as honsest and as good of man as i have ever met. You had a brush with true royalty, when you encountered Raimo. I am so sad to hear his wife and son i used to train with passed away, that must hurt him very deeply. I cried today when i head about there deaths. It has been over 30 years since i lived with their family for a year. I stayed out at Fort Pond in their summer home that year. It was one of the best of my life. He must have painted it years after i was gone, it was the standard color last i saw it in 1982 :) Peace to you, and congratulations on having met Raimo, he is an amazing man.

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    1. thank you for the kind words about my dad.

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    2. My pleasure, Marilyn! I'm typing with one hand and temporarily I can't ride the bike because a week ago I fell while practicing for an upcoming figure skating test and broke my right arm! I can't shift gears and can only work one brake, so the famous bike of Raimo will get an 8 week rest. Please give your father my warmest regards! An old shipmate from my days in the Coast Guard lives in Ashburnham, Mass so maybe one day I'll get to meet your father if I get up that way.

      All the best,
      George

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  2. Hello and thanks for your comment! I have not met Raimo in person but have exchanged letters with him after acquiring the bike. The bike will always have his name on the down tube as long as I'm able to ride it!

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  3. Hi George, I just happen to be playing on the computer and came across you. Enjoyed all of your photos. The bike with Raimo on it, I never got to ride that bike. However, I did see it alot. I had my own bike. Raimo is my father.

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    1. Hello again, Marilyn: Raimo's blue bike is one of my favorites! She's a sweet little machine with perfect balance and quick, sure handling. I hope you subscribed to the comments so that you see my replies.

      Best,
      George

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