Tire Talk: NOS Winfield 451 (20″ X 1 3/8″)

It can be tough finding new tires for some old bikes. There have been quite a number of wheel sizes over the years and for those which have fallen into disuse manufacturers may be making few or no replacements at all.  In our household fleet we have two bikes that fall into this category: my 70’s Raleigh 20 folding bike and my daughter’s 80’s Norco Squire junior road bike.

Not going anywhere on these tires.

The Raleigh had its original tires when I bought it. I wasn’t riding anywhere on these.

The Raleigh takes 20 X 1/38 (ISO 451) tires and the Norco takes 24 x 1 3/8 (ISO 540). These fractional sizes are not compatible with the readily available 20″ & 24″ decimal tires ( eg: 20″ X 1.75). New tires do exist for both sizes as they are still used on some recumbent bikes or BMX racing bikes but bike shops in my city don’t stock them. I found one set of 451 BMX tires but they were pretty knobby, not what I had in mind for my Raleigh. I didn’t find any 540s at all. I could order replacements online of course, but they aren’t necessarily cheap and shipping can be steep. I have enough project bikes in the works that I don’t like spending any more than I absolutely have to.

A while back I heard that Bikeworks South had received a donation of some less common fractional tires. Back in the summer I had found a set of grey wheelchair tires there that fit the Raleigh. They worked fine but were in rough shape and didn’t look great on the bike. Maybe there would something better now.

Tucked among the hooks of used tires I found a mismatched set of 540s for my daughter’s bike. Nice. The real find, however, was a set of unused 451s still in the original wrapper. The plastic wrapping was yellow with age but the tires inside were in perfect shape and the rubber still seems supple. I’ve never heard of the Winfield band and I assume they were nothing special. It did tickle my brain’s nostalgia center that they were from Woolworth,a department store long vanished from the Canadian retail landscape. I haven’t mounted them yet as I won’t be riding the Raleigh until the unimaginably distant end of winter. I’ll provide an update then.

Still in the wrapper with tags attached!

Still in the wrapper with tags attached!

Winfield 20 x 1 3/8 Tires

I think I will like the combination of the flat center strip with the side blocks. You can jut see the dynamo strip on the sidewall,  an option that lots of tires don't have these days.

I think I’ll like the combination of the flat center strip with the side blocks. You can jut see the dynamo strip on the sidewall, an option that lots of tires don’t have these days.

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14 thoughts on “Tire Talk: NOS Winfield 451 (20″ X 1 3/8″)

  1. Ah yes, “weird” tire sizes. There is the other problem with odd sizes: if you do find an appropriate tire, it can be cheap crap. This happens a lot with older Schwinn “lightweights”, i.e. adult bikes before the 10-speed craze. A lot of Schwinn lightweights used their specific 26″ x 1 3/8″ size, which was different than the common British 26″ x 1 3/8″. The only tires you can find for the Schwinn size (ISO 597) are cheap Kendas. This was one reason why I gave up my old Schwinn.

    I like the profile of that tire. The whole “block” tread really fell out of fashion. The dynamo strip are still found on some modern tires, like all Schwalbes (figures that the Germans would do it right) and on my Rubena Cityhoppers. (Even my Kendas!) Like the middle “smooth” strip too.

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    • Yeah, I’m glad to not have to deal with oddball Schwinn sizes, not the least because I’m almost completely ignorant of them. There are lots of good options for 451s out there (Intense, Maxxis, Primo). There are less for the 540s though. Schwalbe offers the Delta Cruiser in this size but it doesn’t seem to be stocked many places. I occasionally see them show up for sale on ebay over in the UK.

      I have Schwalbe tires on two of my bikes and both have the dynamo strip. Neither of those bikes is likely to see a bottle dynamo mounted but I might do it with the Raleigh.

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  2. Nicely done, but I wonder why you don’t turn to the magic of the internet to solve your resupply problems. I certainly appreciate loyalty to the local shops, but if none are to be had then why not indulge yourself?

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    • Oh, it’s not a question of loyalty, but rather of budget. I usually try to get my project bikes back on the road with a minimum of new parts purchased. Most of my parts I get used from the bike co-op I volunteer at, and some others at gear swaps or from classified ads. On the Raleigh I had already spent almost $80.00 buying new rims online so I was delaying buying new tires.

      Regarding loyalty to local shops, I’ll usually try 3 local shops before looking for a new part online.

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  3. You are fortunate to have found some used parts. I just ordered a new ISO 590 mm (26 x 1 3/8″) rear wheel for my 1970’s Norco. It has definitely been a learning curve to find new parts for the bike.

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  4. 24 x 1 3/8 (37-540) grey is still a common wheelchair size and most medical stores will have them in stock (or can order them) for about $25 CAN each. Matter of fact, one of the biggest wheelchair wholesale parts warehouses in Canada is in Edmonton (Nighthawk) so no dealer should charge you freight. Cheers, Bill

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    • Thanks for the tip. I wasn’t aware of Nighthawk. Before I found the Winfield tires I actually WAS using 540 wheelchair tires on the R20, but neglected to mention that in the above post. Although they are functional and affordable, I do think that grey tires are ugly on bikes.

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      • True, the basic grey tires are ugly. Nighthawk has a premium line (Primo) with 6 different tread patterns (37-540). Most of them have black skinwall sides and are just grey on top (one even has a kevlar belt). Any medical dealer will have a Nighthawk catalogue with pictures.

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