In 1984 Nelson Vails rode his Raleigh track bike to a silver medal in the individual 1000-meter Match Sprints at the L.A. Olympics, becoming a pioneer in the American cycling community. Known to fellow riders and fans as The Cheetah for his exceptional speed, the former New York City bike messenger was (and still is) one of a few African-Americans to compete at cycling highest level.

 

 

To celebrate their shared history and ongoing partnership Raleigh worked with Nelson’s childhood friend and graffiti artist Andrew Witten, aka Zephyr, on a line of three new bikes. The drawings and designs on the frames are a graphic tribute to Nelson and Zephyr’s friendship and early year’s spent grinding on the streets of New York City.

The showpiece of the new line is the fixed gear single speed Teaba (above, $1,099.99). A straight-up racing whip, this custom-shaped aluminum frameset features a feather-weight carbon-fiber fork and a parts package chosen by Vails himself.

The line also includes a fresh take on the Rush Hour and the Back Alley ($399.99 ea.) – two of Raleigh’s best messenger-style bikes (below). The Rush Hour is track ready with more traditional drop bars. The Back Alley has mountain-bike style riser bars and wider tires for those who like a ruff ride. Both bikes have fixed free capabilities to run as a single speed or fixed gear.

Bikes will be available for purchase from mid-June at raleighusa.com.

 

 

The frame features unique top tube art and meaningful original illustrations by Zephyr including Nelson’s signature Converse Chuck Taylor Hi Tops, an iconic dime (what Nelson used to call his messenger service for the location of his next job), the flags of the Checkered Cab (onto which Nelson grabbed bumpers to catch rides), the notorious TOGA bike shop (where messengers hung out), and Cat’s Paw Hill in Central Park (where Nelson and the crew met to ride and skate), among others.