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.
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.