As of the time of writing this, I have few retro holy grails left. I have acquired or re-acquired a lot of the retro things from my youth that I had or that I had always wanted. Sure, I still have a list of Most Wanted items, but that list has been getting smaller and smaller and some of them are more blue sky, perhaps unobtainable, items such as getting a carded He-Man or a boxed Sideswipe Transformer. But one of my last main retro holy grail items that I really wanted to get was a Raleigh Vektar. As of last week, I don’t just have one, but I have two.

But let’s take a step back, and talk about what the Raleigh Vektar is, for the uninitiated. You could describe it as a high tech computerised BMX with built-in digital speedometer, radio and sound effects. You could describe as a Raleigh Burner with a plastic shell. You could describe it as Street Hawk for kids. Or you could just describe it as perhaps the most awesome looking BMX ever made. All of the above would be true. I mean, it had a computer on the bike. Seriously, a BMX with a computer, just sounded like next-level technology in the mid-80s. I think it came out in 1985. And to be able to have a radio whilst riding around? In-bloody-credible.

I always, always wanted one of these. I didn’t even know anyone else who had one, but whenever I saw the advert in an issue of Roy of the Rovers or on the back of a Weetabix box I was just in awe. I also got a flyer from the local bike shop, which I’ve managed to reacquire from eBay and I used to pour over the thing. I was so jealous of those kids in the photo shoot. Here’s my article about that brochure.

Here are some great clips and articles on the internet about the Vektar.

Fast forward about 30 years and I’m still craving one. Then steps in my knight in shining white plastic armour, Ally the Retrohunter. He and his brother used to have one each. Ally used to ride his whilst dressed in a StreetHawk outfit and wearing a StreetHawk helmet. He was living my actual dream, in his real life! He still has the two bikes from their youth, but they have seen better days. He didn’t think they would sell for much money in the state they were in, and he didn’t have the time to work on them himself, so he and his brother have extremely graciously and generously donated their bikes to the Retromash cause. Very, very exciting. He thought that some bits might be beyond repair, but that between the two bikes I might be able to salvage enough bits to make one complete bike, with a bit of work. And so begins my new project… restoring a Raleigh Vektar back to full health.

Here are photos of the bikes in their current state. Some bits are very rusty but other bits are not too bad. I’ve not tested the electronics yet. Some of the plastic has gone a bit yellow too, but I know there are ways to improve that. 

One additional job I may give myself during the restoration process is that I may try repainting one of the frames. The Vektar that I always wanted was the one with the black frame and the white plastic. Ally’s ones are both the red frame versions. I’m very tempted to look into how difficult it is to repaint the frame. A friend of mine apparently did this himself recently to a bike and it went very successfully so I will be asking for some advice from him.

Here is my rough list of what might be the various stages of the project. It’s likely I will write a blog post about each stage, in the same way that I did with my Home Arcade Build project.

  • Cleaning and auditing
  • Online resources
  • Improving the rust
  • Testing the electronics
  • Fixing the electronics
  • De-yellowing the plastic
  • Spray-painting the frame
  • Repairing the bike mechanics (chain, brakes, tyres etc)
  • Replacing any parts / reapplying stickers

As it happens I actually acquired an old Raleigh Vektar handbook about 3 days before I got the bikes, so that could prove useful during the repair process. I will scan in the pages and post that full handbook in a future post.

I am extremely inexperienced when it comes to bicycle maintenance though, so I will be hugely relying on advice from friends and family and also the good old internet/YouTube. If nothing else, I (and my kids), will learn something from the process!

And so begins the Raleigh Vektar restoration!