Red Lantern Cycles
1982 Raleigh Team Professional, Reynolds 531, designed for Dura-Ace AX
This 1982 Raleigh Team Professional is from the year of a whole new design movement for road bicycles: aerodynamics. Cinelli introduced the new streamlined Laser bicycle at the New York and Cologne bicycle shows, while Shimano unveiled a huge production, promoting an entirely new components group with every part designed specifically for aerodynamic efficiency, all the way down to elliptical section cable adjusters. This new way-of-life was entitled 'Dura-Ace AX', and Shimano just immersed itself entirely within it, with racer-models in silver full-cover helmets and full-body skinsuits, projected in promotional videos with hissing streams of air passing over the low profile riders on silver AX'd bicycles. Every single AX component was tested and attributed with a specific percentage benefit against its conventional counterpart's aerodynamic drag. From a Shimano company timeline: '1982: Dura-Ace AX components are introduced at the International Cycle Show in Cologne Germany. The group is based on an innovative new aerodynamic design theme. Through the use of the bicycle industry's first wind tunnel, Shimano engineers developed a component series with 20% less drag than contemporary designs.'
I was just awe-struck by all of this at the time; I still am. Never before nor since has a leading bicycle parts company just laid it all so completely on the line, all at once, with such an entirely radical theme applied to every single part in the group. Every component that touched the frame was utterly redesigned as if from zero. The designs were aesthetically fantastic, and certain parts even performed reasonably well. Unfortunately, the subsequent real world comparisons in European stage racing against the gold standards (Campagnolo Super Record, and even the Dura-Ace EX knock-offs thereof) were less than entirely favorable. Somehow, Shimano survived its near-death experience with Dura-Ace AX, but proved its mettle as an innovator and shortly thereafter commercialized SIS indexed shifting very successfully, all this in spite of (or perhaps because of) the painful financial exposure associated with its AX predecessor.
Still, Alexi Grewal won the 1984 Olympic Road Race on the matched Dura-Ace 'DynaDrive' pedals and crankset that were the core of the AX group, and Lance Armstrong used the very low profile center-pull 'ParaPull' brakesets on his TT bicycles in the majority of his Tour de France time trial victories 20 years after they were first manufactured. These parts did provide performance benefits, and were beautiful to behold as examples of completely passionate, deep-dive industrial designs of the early 1980s.
Back to this particular 1982 Raleigh: the new Cinelli Laser of that year was built around a completely special aerodynamic frameset, with the bicycle featuring mostly standard components that were slightly modified towards the aerodynamic cause. This particular Raleigh Team Professional of the same year showcased the completely new and aerodynamic Dura-Ace AX component group, but with its Reynolds 531 frameset only slightly modified to accommodate the very special parts. That included the shifter braze-on hidden behind the leading edge of the down tube, the sloping fork crown, and what Raleigh called the 'shot in' seat binder bolt option behind the seat tube. These were the kinds of options you’d see on custom British road TT frames in the 80s. One more modification was unique to frames built for AX: no cable stop for the rear derailleur cable housing. The bare rear shift cable routes directly from shift lever to bottom bracket guide to rear derailleur; an integrated 'ear-piece' on the derailleur arcs over the skewer to receive the cable core without a housing.
In 1980s group rides, I'd become just about speechless when someone rolled up on a red and yellow Raleigh Team Professional frameset like this one. Almost all were fit with Campagnolo, but just about every bicycle brand on earth rushed to produce a Dura-Ace AX bicycle in that first year. I've been accumulating the AX parts one at a time for a while now, and once I picked up that proper water bottle, I finally had enough together to build this bicycle right.
Now this is different. The center pull cable pulls a triangular wedge upward, which when adequately lubricated levers the upper brake arms outwardly and so brake pads inwardly in a nearly symmetric motion. The brakes actually work reasonably well - believe it or not the large gap between pads and rim on this bicycle is matched to the throw of the brake levers, and the pads hit the rims well before the brake levers bottom out. Still the lowest profile functional brake ever.