Even though Raleigh’s current bikes wouldn’t exactly qualify for the North American Handmade Bike Show, there were two Raleighs on display in Salt Lake City that had every reason to be there. Part of a collaboration between Raleigh and Don Walker, the two parties teamed up to build two very special show bikes to commemorate Nelson Vails’ career. Don and Nelson go back to the warmups for the 1983 Track Nationals, and they have been friends ever since. Nelson would go on to win a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics for the individual track sprint and then go onto be a part of the Levi’s/Raleigh pro team.

Getting the band back together again for 2017, Raleigh worked with Don Walker to create two custom Cheetah track bikes – one very much in the spirit of Nelson’s 1984 medal winning bike, and the other a modernized track racer…

The Cheetah Replica is a Vari Wall ThermLX butted chromoly steel frame and fork built by Don Walker. In an attempt to keep them as Made-in-the-USA as possible, the Vari-Wall tubing is from Cincinnati, the castings from Henry James in Portland, and components come from Phil Wood in San Jose, Velocity Rims in Michigan, and Cane Creek in Fletcher, NC. This bike will actually be available for sale in extremely limited production, with Raleigh estimating that maybe a dozen will be made. Pricing is estimated at $6500 and they are available for preorder now with delivery around June.

The far more modern looking Cheetah Race is another Don Walker/Raleigh collaboration which features a Columbus Zona steel frame with aero tubing and a No22 Carbon Track Fork. Fitted with the latest track racing parts from FSA, Vision, and Metron, the Cheetah Race is also built by Walker in Louisville, KY.

While we’re on the subject of replica track bikes, Don Walker also had this amazing replica of the 1988 Olympic USSR Masi track bike that was raced by Ekimov. Built for Matt Haldeman (doing his best Soviet hard pose above), the bike features a number of tongue in cheek details written in Cyrillic.

In addition to the “Walker” in Cyrillic on the downtube and seat tube, other details include the phrases “built in Louisville, KY by American Capitalist Pig” and “We don’t destroy walls, we destroy records.” Clearly they had some fun with the build. The handlebar which is an obvious focal point based on its low low location, took over a year to find and is an actual team issue 3T bar. Finally, those amazing wheels were on loan from the Pro’s Closet to complete the build for the Campy build competition.






  1. Jack on

    I was assigned to wrench for Nelson when he visited Brisbane, Australia. He was a real pro. Easy to work for and a fantastic showman. The bike he had that time had a yellow rear triangle if I remember correctly.

  2. Muchachos on

    So let me get this right – NAHBS has a policy of only allowing the builder to show off the frame, and any company exhibiting there must have built the frame, not subcontracted it. However, Raleigh is given a free pass because it was built by Don Walker? WTF?

    • Don Walker on

      Unfortunately, you are incorrect. NAHBS Policy regarding subcontracted frames has always been “…. as long as the contractor of the frame is a current year exhibitor.”
      Secondly, Raleigh has chosen to support an American framebuilder for this project and not a contractor in Asia. This shift speaks volumes that they would like to get back to “Made in USA” for some of their high end bikes.
      I appreciate your concern for our policies and enforcement thereof.

      Don Walker

      • Muchachos on

        Well, didnt you change that just in time to get some sweet sweet coin from Raleigh.

        Here is the text of your own policy: “FRAME BUILDERS: DISPLAY ONLY WHAT YOU HAVE BUILT IN YOUR WORKSHOP. No bicycles are permitted in any frame builder’s booth other than those built by the exhibitor, and if branded, bearing the exhibitor’s brand. No sub-contracted bicycles are permitted. Not even those by a current-year NAHBS exhibitor.”

        • Andrew on

          Truly amazing to see a man who has sacrificed so much personal time to create such an incredible platform for American bicycle craftsmanship, getting such wonderful attention… I surely wish folks could realize how hard Mr Don Walker works to produce such an amazing show… ’cause if they did they would know that posting a comment like Muchachos’ is really like biting the hand that feeds… the industry!!! It is true that Don Walker built bikes are NOT eligible for NAHBS awards or recognition… so I most certainly hope that the man gets his worth in this deal with Raliegh, ’cause God knows DW deserves it!!! Excellent work as always Don, thank you for keeping the heart of North American Handmade Bicycles beating Sir!!

  3. JasonK on

    Valis absolutely did not win the silver medal in the ’84 Olympics when he was part of the Levi’s-Raleigh pro team.

    Vails was an amateur at the time, or he couldn’t have competed in the Olympics. Professional cyclists weren’t allowed in the Olympics until 1996. Maintaining one’s amateur status used to be a huge deal, and sometimes required turning down prize money to do it. If you called Vails a professional before the Olympics, I bet he would have vigorously corrected you.

    That said, 1984 was a legendary year for US cycling, and Nelson Vails is a vital part of the legend. This bike and Vails’ presence at NAHBS are awesome.

  4. Robin on

    Class act, in three parts;
    I. Nelson Vails. ’nuff said.
    2. Raleigh for choosing an American builder
    3. Don Walker for building a stunner.

  5. caliente on

    Love Matt Haldeman’s bike! So amazing. I’d like to hear more about the story and process of the build. He’s a solid dude, and represents the DW brand well. Steel is Real!

    • Don Walker on

      Hi Caliente! Matt and I were engaged in the conversation even before last years show in Sacramento about how cool an old school pursuit bike would be for the next years show.
      We decided on Ekimov’s Masi because it was ahead of some of the other “Johnny-come-lately” pursuit bikes and well, Ekimov dominated on it, plus, the more I looked at it the more interesting the build would become with the Bi-Laminate type lugs. Since we decided it would be in the Campagnolo booth for their build contest, we went with vintage Italian Columbus tubing and fork. It took us quite a bit of time to finalize where his hands would be in relation to the saddle and once that was nailed, the rest of the bike kind of fell into place! My shop assistant Nathan is a far better machinist than I, so he turned down the steering column on the lathe and also machined all the inner parts for the upper cup as well. I was really happy to have him on this project as his design and execution of the front end components was aesthetically pleasing and very accurate. As for the build itself, I took some old vintage lugs and cut the socket off and then the tubes went into the holes where the socket was, just like the original. Believe it or not, I found some vintage Masi track dropouts and profiled them just like the original. As for the decal set, Gary Prange of Screen Specialty Shop and I had a few discussions about making it fun and “more Russian” than normal and he ran with it. It was his idea for the seatstay decal that is translated to “Handmade in Kentucky by American Capitalist Pig”. He also had the idea for Gorbachev. He initially wanted it on the headtube logo, but I vetoed that idea. At any rate, it was a fun bike to build and an even better bike to look at when it was done. And yes, Haldeman is a great guy! I wish he and I would have become friends 20+ years ago, Thanks for asking about the bike!



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