The Raleigh 20

Not even winter can stop the inexorable growth of my small bike fleet. Last week saw the arrival of a circa 1977 Raleigh 20.

Circa '77 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 folded R20 arrives home by trailer on a snowy January night.

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.

Not going anywhere on these 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.

I love the spinning Herons!

Yet another Heron! This one has an eye.

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14 thoughts on “The Raleigh 20

  1. Tootlepedal? I bet Keith is gonna be bummed that he didn’t get that one yet.

    Yeah to Raleigh Twentys! I’ve been interested in getting one myself, but right now I have the next-best-thing: use of the Raving Bike Fiend’s Portland Twenty. I’ll see if I like it.

    As for other folding bikes, I definitely wouldn’t kick a Brompton out of bed. I’ve also been intrigued by those Citizen Bikes that pop up in internet ads. The cheapies look…cheap, but the more expensive ones look like they might be serviceable.

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    • Last night I put new tires on the R20 and took it for a spin. I like it, but the unusual headset system makes for weird steering. I’ll be changing that.

      If I bought a more recently manufactured folder it’d likely be a Brompton, but it’s way out of my price range right now. Bike Friday is on the short list, too. We bought a new Dahon from MEC for my wife this summer and it is a pretty nifty bike. I haven’t looked at Citizen.

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  2. Those tires – yikes! Good luck with the rebuild. Please feel free to talk as much as you like about it. For someone who wouldn’t know how to begin (and feels mildly unhappy about that fact) it’s a very informative read!

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  3. One of my biggest thrifting regrets was a time prior to my interest in bikes and cycling when there were TWO (!!) raleigh twenties in rough shape at a goodwill for $25 each that I looked at and was like “cool!” but left behind. Even though I found one later at a garage sale for $40, knowing that those two got away still sends me to frown town.

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  4. Lovely blog Tuckamoredew. I’m looking forward to slipping over to youtube and checking out your music also.
    I owned a Nishiki many years ago. In the early ’80’s. It was a mixte frame. Excellent bike. Wish I knew more about upkeep of vintage bikes, as I’ve had a few and would like to have more. But then again, there is only so much space in our humble abode and the 9 bikes we have crowd us sorely.

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  5. I have followed a similar course with my Raleigh 20. I retained the B/B as there is no
    reason to change. Similarly the nylon bushing works fine in the headset if it’s correctly set up. I replaced the rims with Alex units and replaced the tyres with Schwalbe Marathon 20 x 1.75″. My Twenty has 406 mm rims. Te combination works very well. I also replaced the stem riser with an alloy cut-down MTB bar and also fitted alloy bars and seat post. I had a very nice wide Selle Royal saddle that I had to hand. After I had removed the fenders the total weight saving was 6lb. However the most useful mod was to replace the original 15t sprocket with one of 17 teeth. I also replaced the original 17t sprocket on my Raleigh Sports with one of 22 teeth. What an improvement! I don’t know why Raleigh over-geared their bikes. Must have been some macho thing! I use the Twenty almost daily for shopping with a trailer and also for local trips

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    • I just popped over to the Raleigh 20 site and checked out the photos of your R20: It looks great. I could imagine myself doing the seatpost and stem riser modification as I am just the teensiest bit too tall for the stock ones. The changes I did end up making were new alloy rims, NOS tires and an Ideale saddle. I bought a headset to do the 1″ threadless conversion but have decided not go ahead with it at this time. As you say, the stock headset is fine. I kept the original BB and crankset because I like the herons.

      I actually like the original gearing, but then Edmonton is mostly a very flat city.

      I’ve used my R20 for commuting and shopping and have hauled variety of cargo with it (http://wp.me/a1lM0B-BD). It’s a fun and versatile bike.

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