Not even winter can stop the inexorable growth of my small bike fleet. Last week saw the arrival of a circa 1977 Raleigh 20.
There has been an awful lot written on the internet about the Raleigh 20, so I am feeling serious lack of motivation to write much here. In brief, the R20 was a small wheeled (20″) utilitarian bike produced by Raleigh from ’68 until ’84. Some were folding bikes and some were solid frames. There were even a few tandem 20’s produced. Although certainly it was certainly a good seller for Raleigh it was not a prestigious bike. However, in the ensuing years the R20 has come to have something of a cult following. This can largely be attributed to the late Sheldon Brown, bicycle guru and internet writer on all things bicycle. Sheldon was a R20 fan and spread the word of the bike’s virtues. The R20, unlike many of the folding bikes from the same period, was very solidly built and handled much more like a full sized bike. The well made frame is a boon to anyone wishing to modify and modernize the R20. The internet is awash with examples of modified 20s.
I’ve been interested in folding bikes for some time now. Several years ago I bought an ’80s era Dahon V. In many ways, that was a very bad bike, with a rickety, creaky ride and twitchy steering. However, the folding capability and the ride was good enough to make me want to keep looking for a folder that suited me. There are some fantastic folding bikes being made these days, but the good ones are rather expensive. I really couldn’t justify one for the small amount I would use it. When I read about the R20, it seemed to suit both my budget and my functional criteria. Since then I’ve been patiently waiting for one to show up for sale locally. When I spotted one for sale last week on Kijiji I snapped it up.
The bike is in quite good condition and appears to have seen very little riding. One advantage of the “coffee” paint colour is that the few scratched rusty places don’t stand out. It will still need a bit of TLC to get it into smooth operating condition. As near as I can tell the components are all original. The tires are almost certainly original and will have to be replaced before I can even take the bike for a test spin around the block. Unfortunately, this bike has 20 X 1 & 3/8″ wheels and tires that size are uncommon around here. Luckily, when I was at Bikeworks today I scrounged up a used pair that will do for now. I think they are actually wheelchair tires.
My plan right now is to ride the bike for a little while before deciding on any upgrades or modifications. I really like some of the modified 20s I’ve seen online but the bike has a lot of charm just the way it is. One change that many people make is to replace the cottered cranks with the square taper variety. However, I do like the Raleigh Herons on the chainring so I may not go that route. Wheel upgrades? Improved headset? All these decisions will have to wait for now. There is a great resource for all this information over at “The Raleigh 20“. The internet certainly is a boon for these sorts of projects. Without it I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. For a great example of how far you can take a project like this check out this page by a fellow Edmonton cyclist the Raving Bike Fiend.
And now I think I’ve spent enough time writing about this bike. Instead, I will be spending some quality time in the garage pulling wrenches and hopefully some time riding shortly thereafter.