Raleigh Twenty Stowaway

The Sturmey Archer AW hub which was used for the pictures taken to make the hub servicing guide which formed my last post was from this Raleigh Twenty Stowaway; the folding version of the classic Raleigh Twenty. This Twenty belonged to a friend of mine and I was servicing the hub before selling it on her behalf. Prior to servicing the hub, I had done just about every conceivable bit of maintenance on this bike including front wheel, headset and bottom bracket bearings, a complete disassembling, cleaning, greasing and reassembling and replacement of the tyres, tubes, chain and saddle. As a result of this, the bike rides just like a brand new bike, despite being from 1976.
Raleigh used the ‘Stowaway‘ branding on some of their folding Twentys (in addition to several unrelated models).
The main hinge in the frame is perhaps inelegant but very sturdy.
Difficult to see on the picture, but the rear reflector is branded as Sturmey Archer.
Pletscher rear rack, complete with a rat-trap for carrying a newspaper.
Sturmey Archer AW hub, as featured previously.
The original Sturmey Archer grip shifter, controlled by rotating the entire grip to switch gears. In practice it works better than I expected.
Raleigh TwentyR-20‘ branding.
Seat-tube decal.
The Raleigh‘ Nottingham headbadge.
Brand new Raleigh Record tyres, as originally specified with the bike.
The Raleigh Twenty design has undoubtedly passed the test of time. It is a shame that the equivalent models subsequently made by Raleigh have failed to match the comfort, handling and practicality of this model. Clones of the Twenty do exist, although they have their drawbacks including price and the use of V-brakes on the UK model. There is nothing to stop Raleigh bringing back the Twenty properly, a good, small utility bike could be a good addition to their range. A few concessions to modern manufacturing techniques and componentry could be made, such as a welded frame (rather than brazed) a unicrown fork (rather than lugged). These minor sacrifices could easily be offset by a few improvements, such as dual pivot caliper brakes (or drum/coaster brakes), 406 mm aluminium rims (allowing a greater choice of tyres and the ability to stop during rain) and a proper headset (rather than a nylon bushing at the top of the head-tube).
After courting the ‘sporting goods’ and ‘bicycle shaped object’ markets extensively for the past few decades, perhaps it’s time for Raleigh to look back on one of the models which once made them great, and bring it back.

Five years on a bike (Part Two)

This is the follow-up to a recent post of my reflections on the five years since I started to cycle again as an adult. The first part can be found here: Five years on a bike (Part One).
I had finally gotten the kind of bike I had been coveting for quite some time but which I could never seem to justify the expense of, a traditional roadster, the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. After owning the bike for more than a year, I can honestly say that it (or an equivalent bike, such as the Pashley Roadster Sovereign) would have been well worth the full price tag.
Whilst I had finally stopped the hunt for a better bike, some of my friends and family started to express an interest in the sort of bikes I had been getting into, and over the summer and autumn of that year I did a number of Raleigh Twenty and roadster restorations. I was happy with my DL-1, but I was still always on the look out for nice things to go on it, such as new tyres, dynamo lights or a lovely Carradice saddlebag. Even now I like the idea of swapping the rear hub at some point to add more gears. The Yuba was also treated to some dynamo lighting and a Brooks saddle.
By this point, whilst I was a confident cyclist who was well versed in the vehicular cycling techniques outlined in Cyclecraft, I was acutely aware that the road network in the UK was designed without any care or consideration being given to the safety or convenience of cyclists (and very little given to pedestrians either), instead primarily focussed on the needs and whims of the private motorist. Whilst I, and a minority of people still cycled in these dire conditions, I came to realise that without radical alterations to the road network, the vast majority of people never ever would (at least not above and beyond the odd bit of recreational cycling in parks or on trails). I was aware of cycling campaigns, but none of them really seemed to capture my interest, seeming primarily focussed on sport-cycling, or on merely mitigating the problems encountered by the minority of existing, fast, confident, vehicular cyclists, rather than seeking measures to make cycling accessible to a much wider audience. Thankfully, it was at around this time that I stumbled upon the initial founding of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, which at the time seemed like one of the first, sensible glimmers of hope I had encountered in the UK cycling ‘scene.’
By the beginning of 2011, my situation had changed so that I was travelling on Virgin and Cross-country trains regularly. Both of these operators have cycle carriage policies (and risible cycle carriage capacities) designed to discourage passengers from taking cycles on their trains (the extra effort, planning and in effect gambling required making it viable for only perhaps for the occasional trip). This presented me with a problem, I wanted to be able to finish my journey by cycle after departing the train. A trip to London, with its recently scrapped Western extension of the congestion charge gave me an opportunity; a glut of Bromptons for sale at good prices, sold by people who could now afford to ditch their bikes in favour of driving again (another win for common sense in policy making there, Boris). Londoners’ loss to their liveable streets, health, safety and ability to get around was at least turned to my gain, I had acquired my own Brompton M3L in red.At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Brompton, but I knew that I could probably sell it for as much as I paid, due to the shortage of Bromptons on sale in the North. It was certainly a departure from the kinds of bikes I had become accustomed to, making me even more surprised to discover that I really liked it. The more aggressive, but still quite comfortable riding position made it the fastest of my bikes. It also surprised me by remaining pleasant and comfortable to ride over longer distances; to this day I often ride it from Macclesfield to Manchester a few mornings a month. If, by some cruel twist of fate, I was only allowed to own a single bike, the versatility and sheer all-round brilliance of this little bike means that it would have to be a Brompton.

The Brompton completely filled and exceeded my Twenty’s niche, and with space at a premium, I could no-longer justify keeping it. Thankfully, my father was in need of a bike. His modern Raleigh P1000 hybrid was a little bit too big for him to really feel safe when riding it. The 18 gears were more than he needed. I decided that the Twenty would be better off with him, and that it would be a better fit for his needs.

If I had spent the past five years using a bicycle for transport, but without the same enthusiasm I have for bikes, I probably could say that cycling has saved me a lot of money on public transport. However, as an enthusiast, I have probably spent about as much money on bicycle-related things as I have saved on bus, train, tram and taxi fares. The key differences are that I have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia. Firstly, I am significantly more healthy than I was before I started cycling just over five years ago, despite rarely venturing out on a bicycle with the intention  of doing so for the benefit of my health. As someone who was particularly unfit for much of my life, I truly appreciate this side-effect. Secondly, unlike money spent on public transport, I still have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia; the actual bicycles and paraphernalia which continue to be useful to me to this day.

I hope this account of my experiences of cycling as an adult can help novices to avoid making some of the same mistakes I did:

  • If you are cycling to get from A-to-B, don’t buy a ‘full-suspension’ mountain bike, especially if it is in the same price-range as mine was. Spending more money on a quality bike will always be a better idea. Most of the bikes made by Pashley, Velorbis or Gazelle for instance will include many of the accessories needed to make cycling more pleasant & lower maintenance. Whilst it may seem like a lot of money, quality bikes hold their value quite well; if a year passes and you feel that the bike isn’t quite right for you, you can sell it and recoup much of what you spent. The same cannot be said for a low end bike, despite it being more likely you will feel this way.
  • Mudguards are better than waterproof over-trousers.
  • If you can only ever own one bike, get a Brompton. The folding solves the storage problems which can afflict flat-dwellers, concerns about leaving it locked up outside and concerns about your own fitness as a new cyclist; it is easy to be ambitious with longer distance journeys when you know you can give up and hop on a bus, tram, train or taxi with your bike if something goes wrong along the way.
  • For purposes where reliability is an important factor, hub gears are a better choice than dérailleur gears, especially if coupled with puncture-resistant tyres.
  • If you find you are using your bike as a main means of transport, make the investment in dynamo lighting as soon as you can. The sooner you make the change, the more money you will save on replacement battery lights and batteries in the long term. Most of the equipment can be ported from one bike to the next relatively easily if you decide to change your bike in the future.
  • If you are carrying stuff on your bike, sweaty-back problems can be avoided by carrying the load on a front or rear rack, handlebar bag or saddlebag. It may surprise you how much this improves comfort if you have become accustomed to cycling with a backpack.
  • Although requiring a discomfort period, a tensioned leather saddle, such as a Brooks or Velo Orange will be more comfortable than a plastic saddle.

Five years on a bike (Part One)

This summer marked the fifth year I have cycled as an adult. Of course for the vast majority of my life I have owned and ridden a bike, from my first bike at around the age of three, to my last childhood bike which I gave up on at around sixteen. After my last childhood bike and I parted ways, four years passed where I did not cycle at all, depending on walking and public transport for getting around. It was only because of the disproportionally high cost of public transport that I decided to buy another bike, in order to avoid paying £35 each month to get to the part-time job I had whilst I was an undergraduate.
A Shockwave SUS450, the first bike I bought as an adult
That first bike I owned as an adult was truly a real piece of crap, a £90 bicycle-shaped-object from Halfords. I bought it from White City Retail Park and rode it home, a distance of a few miles which seems a completely trivial distance now but which at that time left me completely exhausted. Simultaneously I was also enthused with the feeling of cycling, which I realised I had missed during the previous four years. At the time this bike worked quite well for me, I had no specialist knowledge of bikes or cycling whatsoever and so ignorance was bliss. Within three months of not paying for the bus the bike had paid for itself.
Those early rides to work along the main road from the city centre to Failsworth were a terrifying experience, like most inexperienced cyclists I rode in the gutter, terrified of being hit from behind by a motorist. Thankfully, the rides home were enough to make up for it. Finishing my shift after 10 pm meant the ride home along the same road was much more pleasant and after five hours of manual labour the experience was always refreshing, even in the rain (which on a bike without mudguards, I simultaneously experienced from above and below). I started to use the bike for shopping too, riding to the nearest supermarket with a backpack (the bike had no provision to fit a rack) and riding home with the weight on my back. As an arrangement it was far from ideal, but it was preferable to walking or paying for the bus again.
After three months of using this bike to get around, I had my first altercation with a motorist in Rochdale. The driver had decided to overtake me going down hill on Drake Street in order to make a sudden left turn. It is the sort of stupid manoeuvre on the part of the motorist which, with enough experience, most cyclists learn to expect and compensate for. I hit the left wing of the car and went flying over the bonnet and landed on the road, head first. I suffered some pretty nasty road rash down the side of my face and around my eye, in addition to grazes on my elbow and leg. My bike was relatively unscathed. After leaving the hospital later that day, I knew that I had to get back onto the bike right then, or I might be put off forever. I rode back to the trains station and then on home that night, and luckily the experience didn’t put me off cycling for good.
Despite being a terrible bike, I rode it for nearly two years. Throughout those two years, as problems with the bike arose, I started to learn about the basics of bike maintenance courtesy of the excellent writing of the late Sheldon Brown. Sheldon’s infectious enthusiasm for all things cycling shone through everything he wrote, even articles about brake adjustment or tracking down mystery creaks, clicks & clunks. After nearly two years of riding the SUS450, the bottom bracket spindle snapped as I was trying to pull away from a set of traffic lights. Whilst initially annoyed, not possessing the tools or knowledge to fix this problem gave me the perfect opportunity to rationalise buying a new, better bike, something which had been on my mind for a few years.
By this stage I was a little bit more knowledgeable about bikes, I had realised that the alleged ‘rear-suspension’ on my previous bike was little more than a mechanism to leech my pedalling effort and drive me slowly insane with persistent creaking. I also realised that riding with a backpack sucked. However, I was still largely unaware of several important practical features which existed on other bikes, such as the merits of having fewer gears, hub gears, proper mudguards, chain-guards, the irrelevance of front suspension for the type of riding I mainly did and of course, upright geometry. The next bike I purchased was a Revolution Cuillin Sport from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative. At the time I knew little about the specific merits of different types of bicycle brake, I only knew that after riding with some incredibly weak, low-end V-brakes for a few years I wanted something better, and I promptly set my heart on having a bike with disc-brakes.
Despite still being quite an impractical choice of bike for my needs, the Cuillin Sport was definitely a step in the right direction. Being slightly better suited to my needs, I naturally started to make more of my journeys by cycle, and as this bike represented a more significant investment to me at the time, I started to learn more and more about bicycle componentry and maintenance. Over the next 18 months I acquired the tools and expertise I required to keep the bike in tip-top condition, whilst occasionally upgrading the odd component to make the bike more suitable for my needs. After around 12 months, I had converted the bike from a mountain bike to a hybrid, and my level of knowledge had increased to the point where I knew that the bike was not really the right choice for my needs. I also learned about the Yuba Mundo through reading blogs such as Urban Simplicity, and became interested in just how capable a bicycle could be.
By this stage, I was aware of vehicular cycling, Cyclecraft and the range of measures which cyclists can use to minimise the problems which arise when riding on a road network which is designed solely around the needs and wants of the private motorist, where the needs of cycling and cyclists are usually not considered at all. I was mostly confident on the road but could still remember what it was like to cycle as a novice. I was still not quite fast enough to survive on some of the most hostile parts of the road network and blissfully unaware of how things like Cyclecraft, speed and cadence become irrelevant with the right infrastructure.
Eventually, a minor windfall from overtime meant that I could afford to buy a Yuba Mundo of my own. The Yuba Mundo represented something of a turning point for me. Whilst it did not completely representing the frame geometry I would come to evangelise, it gave me a new experience; riding a bike and feeling truly comfortable whilst doing so. Despite its size, the Yuba Mundo became my primary bike. When I did occasionally choose to instead venture out on the mountain bike, I was acutely aware of how uncomfortable it was; riding hunched forward, a fair amount of weight carried by my hands and with a triple chainset making use of the full range of the gears unnecessarily difficult. The Yubawas much more pleasant to ride.
I had not intended for the Yuba Mundo to take over as my primary means of transport, and its sheer size meant that using it as such was a bit of a compromise. I decided that what I needed was a smaller equivalent to the Yuba for everyday use, and I found that with the Kona Africa Bike. The Africa Bike was the first bike I owned without dérailleur gears, which was a revelation. Initially a single-speed, I acquired a Shimano Nexus three-speed rear wheel and decided to upgrade the Africa Bike to a three-speed. Shifting when stationary, the lack of maintenance and the ease with which they pair up with a chain-guard (or case) made me wonder why most bikes used for transport didn’t come with hub gears. The only downside to the bike was the front V-brake; I hadn’t yet fully forgiven the crappy V-brakes on the SUS450. I decided to remedy this by investing in a new front hub. I was very interested in the idea of the bicycle providing its own power source for the lights, and had been reading up on dynamo hubs. When I saw the Sturmey Archer X-FDD drum-brake and dynamo hub, I knew I had to try it. The hub wasn’t available in a production wheel, so I read and re-read the Sheldon Brown Wheelbuilding article and decided I’d have a bash at building myself a wheel. To my surprise, the wheel turned out just fine first time. The Africa Bike, with some modifications had been turned into an ideal shorter-range utility bicycle.

Reading Sheldon Brown’s site had infected me with a curiosity about the Raleigh Twenty. After reading about it on his site, I realised that these things were everywhere. After looking on eBay I realised that I could have one of my own for around £20-30 and I promptly took that offer. The Twenty gave me the opportunity to completely strip and re-build a bike for the first time. I had done almost all of these jobs before, but never all at once and on the same bike. After a weekend or two of work, I had re-painted and completely refurbished the Twenty and found it to be a delightful little bike, with the added bonus of it being worth practically nothing allowing me to leave it locked up outside without worrying about it. The Twenty was primarily used as a loaner bike, so I could still use the bike to get around when I had guests. When I later came to acquire a Brompton, the Twenty no-longer had much to do, so I sent it off to retirement at my father’s house.

Whilst I was quite happy with the Kona Africa Bike, I was becoming aware that it’s hybrid geometry was somewhat limiting on longer rides, where after around 20 miles or so in a single day it would leave my legs really very tired. I was aware that the right geometry, roadster geometry, would allow me to use my leg muscles more efficiently on longer rides. At the time I wasn’t planning on changing bike again, until I saw the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe (DL-1) on eBay at a price too good to pass on. Whilst not a huge departure from the Kona, the slightly different geometry was much more comfortable on longer rides, whilst also making it easier to put power down when setting off from stationary. The DL-1 also represented my first experience with Brooks saddles; whilst not exactly comfortable at first, I would later come to put a Brooks on every bike I rode.

Bicycle Work Digest

It has been a while since my last post, mainly due to all of my free time being used up with doing bike-related things, leaving me without the time to write about them.


I noticed that in addition to the noise from my folding pedal (which I can live with based on the cost of a replacement), There was some noise coming from the bottom bracket. The Brompton uses a FAG-type cartridge bottom bracket, and the replacement part is relatively expensive. I decided to opt for a cheaper generic bottom bracket cartridge with Shimano-style splined cups.

The standard Brompton bottom bracket, with soft plastic cups

I initially expected that I’d be able to remove the old bottom bracket with a hammer and punch because I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. However, I discovered that the cups on the original bottom bracket are made of a fairly soft resin which simply splits when approached this way. I eventually bought the proper tool and the bottom bracket co-operated with the removal process after that. The bike is quieter now, but there is still a fair bit of noise from the (non user-serviceable) folding pedal.


The new bottom bracket cartridge, sitting in the bike.

In other Brompton news, lovely girlfriend has managed to get hold of a 2000 model L5 (equivalent to an “M5L” in the modern nomenclature). This model comes with the Sturmey Archer 5 speed Sprinter hub, which offers a good gear range with a price, it requires particularly perfect indicator rod adjustment to get all of the gears to work at the same time. I believe that the right-hand cone needs adjusting slightly, as I am only able to consistently get gears 1,3,4,5 or gears 2,3,4,5 to work at the same time.

The L5 also needed a new front brake cable, indicator rod and rear mudflap, which have all since been fitted and the bike is currently working very well. The Marathon Plus tyres it has make the bike feel noticeably smoother and faster than my Brompton, and the wider gears range is pleasant too. Hopefully Brompton will see sense and start speccing the X-RF8 hub as an option in the near future. It also came with the special Brompton version of the Brooks B17 saddle, a luggage block and an older version of the Touring Pannier (now T-bag) from back when they were made by Carradice.


After fitting the anti-rotation washers to the back wheel last week, I rotated the reaction arm slightly to compensate for the re-positioning of the axle in the frame. In the process of doing this, I inadvertently over-tightened the left-hand cone making the ride feel “draggy.” Thankfully this was an easy fix once the wheel was out thanks to the two grooves on the “washer” which locks into the cone on the other side of the drum brake. This allowed me to adjust the brake position and re-tighten the locknut without it tightening the cone at the same time.

Xrd3 axle

Taken from the X-RD3 manual, the special washer (31) which sits between the cone (not shown) and locknut (29) is highlighted in red.

because this job was non-urgent, I put it off for quite a while. Now the bike is back to normal I really appreciate just how wonderful it is to ride.

Kona Africa Bike:

After giving this bike to lovely girlfriend, she never really felt safe in start-stop traffic because of the coaster brake preventing her being able to rotate the pedals into an ideal position to set off. In the end, we decided that replacing the 3 speed Nexus hub with a roller-brake version would be best. I disassembled the wheel and intended to use the old spokes with the new hub, only to find out the flange diameter of the new hub was slightly bigger and the old spokes were too long. After ordering some new spokes which were a few mm shorter, I built the wheel up without too much trouble (no severe dishing required as with derailleur gears).


The new wheel, before the cable had been installed. Note the brake arm with the hold for the cable clamp to sit in.

The roller brake idea is particularly good, unlike Sturmey’s drum brakes, the roller brake is a completely separate module which sits on some splines on the left hand side of the hub. If the brake fails, or you want to fit a better version, it can simply be replaced without re-building the wheel. The brake slots onto the splines and is held in with a simple locknut. Other than that, the mechanism is similar to Sturmey Archer drum brakes, except they don’t need a special brake cable, the barrel adjuster and cable clamp come with the brake, all you need to use is a standard brake cable. Upon testing the bike, the roller brake provided an impressive amount of stopping power for a low-maintenance, non-performance-oriented component. This is one of the most basic model roller brake Shimano makes

Raleigh Twentys:

I recently acquired a pair of Raleigh Twentys which I am reconditioning on behalf of a few friends. One is a 1974 “Shopper,” the other is a 1980 model with a rear Dynohub. I tested the Dynohub with my Brompton lights and it was perfectly able to power the front and rear LED lights despite its lower official power rating than modern dynamo hubs.


The Dynohub AWG on from the 1980 Twenty

A previous owner has attempted to fit road bike caliper brakes and drop bar brake levers to the 1980 Twenty, which will have to be swapped out for the appropriate brakes. The rear wheel had a broken spoke, but I happened to have some spokes of the right length already due to a mistake made when ordering spokes for a Twenty wheel last year. Other than that, both bikes only need a bit of de-rusting, new chains and new tyres and they will be ready for their new owners. So far I have only serviced the rear wheels of each bike.


The 1974 AW hub, after disassembly, cleaning and re-assembly.

Universal Folding Bike:

This is another bike I am servicing for a friend, a Universal folding bike with a Shimano “333” 3-speed hub and 20 inch (406 mm) wheels. The riding position is quite comfortable and upright, making the bike an ideal runaround machine. The 333 hub is in good condition, although the cable has rusted seized. 333 hubs were a lot less popular than Sturmey Archer hubs, meaning a replacement cable was not forthcoming. Thankfully, I should be able to come up with a suitable bodge using a cable clamp nut/bolt and a Sturmey Archer gear cable. Other than that it just needs a bit of rust removal, new tyres and a new chain.



The 333 hub shifts via a bell-crank and push-rod mechanism in a similar way to modern Nexus 3-speed hubs.

Meta-Bike 2

On Sunday I went to the Fallowfield Loop (Thanks to Twitter henceforth known as the Floop), to help a couple of friends who are currently learning to ride for the first time. Having exhausted the possibilities open to them close to home, the Floop seemed like the perfect place to practice. Because the Floop exists, there is no train service to Fallowfield, so their bikes had to be taken there and back, courtesy of the Yuba Mundo:


The Twenty is attached to a rail made from old building supplies. I decided to turn the Twenty around after I had travelled for a few km, so that the heavier end would be better supported.


And here is the contraption being re-made in Chorlton, with a little help from Jonathan from the GMCC. Riding with two bikes on the back of the Yuba is a bit more challenging than one, but still easier than you might expect. I was able to ride this lot back into the city centre via Fallowfield with relative ease. Of course I had to use the road rather than the Floop because of the barriers which are presumably designed to stop wheelchair/scooter users from enjoying the Floop

Re-painting the Twenty

Last year, after I got my Twenty a friend of mine, AC also decided she would like to invest in a Twenty too. She named it Beatrix and now blogs about her experiences with the bike. The bike was re-painted at the time, but the result did not stand the test of time well, I believe due to the lack of a final clear coat. She asked me to do the re-spray.

Instead of all-over blue, AC asked me to paint the mudguards and chain-guard white, and re-paint the frame and fork in the same blue. When I applied the first coat of blue, the old paint bubbled off on the main tube to reveal the old Raleigh decal. I decided to take the initiative and leave this old decal exposed in a Time Team kind of way, a trench in the paintwork showing the history of the bike. To preserve the decal, I masked over it and cut around the decal.

To get the paint to adhere to the frame well, I gave the whole thing a sanding with fine grit sand paper and applied several thin coats of blue, with light sanding in-between coats. The white on the mudguards was not covering the blue appropriately, and I decided to get a can of cream paint to go over the white. After painting the frame, I used a combination of masking tape and bin bags to cover all but a small section of the main tube near the decal, which was then painted cream to frame the original decal.

The frame, fork, mudguards and chain-guard were all sanded lightly and coated with several layers of clear enamel spray, and the bike was re-assembled.

Beatrix as she was, on the back of the Yuba with my old Twenty


Beatrix after the re-spray


The Raleigh head-badge has been stripped and returned to prominence


The “rustic” original Raleigh decal, framed in cream


The blue, white and clear spray used were from Halfords’ enamel range, the cream paint used was made by Plasti-kote.

Farewell Raleigh (Triumph) Twenty

In June of 2010 I was fortunate enough to spot an Raleigh Twenty, marketed by Raleigh as a Triumph Traffic Master, on eBay for just over £20. Having long been interested in these bikes thanks in large part to the late Sheldon Brown I decided to splash out and give it a try.


After completely disassembling the bike, stripping the paint, rust-proofing and re-spraying, replacing the bearings, cables and chain I was left with this:


I even made a carrier so that the Twenty could ride on the back of the Yuba Mundo. Shortly afterward, I was able to acquire a drum brake hub and decided to incorporate this into a new front wheel. The results were so impressive that I never got around to re-installing the original back brake at the time.

Already owning 2 other bikes, I used the Raleigh Twenty as a loaner bike, or for when I didn’t feel great about leaving the DL-1 locked up for long periods of time in certain areas. Having said that, the Twenty was a joy to ride, fast to accelerate, comfortable and quick to stop once I had upgraded the front brake. The Twenty is a good all-rounder and I would recommend it to anyone.

However, times change and I found myself wanting a compact folding bike which I could take on rush hour trains and/or without the need to book in advance, in short a Brompton. The new bike was able to replace all of the existing roles which had originally been filled by the Twenty. I did not really have the money to spare for the Brompton without doing a bit of wheeling-and-dealing, which included selling the Twenty to replace the money spent on the Brompton (although I expect it would have paid for itself within 5-6 months anyway).

The front wheel was promptly flogged to Jim of CycleA2B and the original brakes were restored. I kept the V-brake levers in place and found the ancient calipers seemed to work better than with their original levers. For the first time in over 6 months the bike had a rear brake. On Thursday I took the bike to my dad and swapped the Twenty for the Raleigh P1000 I gave him for a birthday a few years back. He had always found the P1000 a bit too big and seemed very pleased with his new Raleigh Twenty. As a fair-weather cyclist, the original brakes shouldn’t pose much of a problem.


The last ride on the Twenty was actually quite enjoyable, despite having cycled from Macclesfield to Manchester on the Brompton that very morning (very tiring due to the speed of the other traffic). The P1000 is currently being restored and will also be flogged soon, with the proceeds covering the last of the money spent on the Brompton.

I am glad the Twenty is staying in the family and I hope my dad gets a lot of enjoyment from it. As for the P1000, despite the ride home on it being almost exclusively downhill it was still a harrowing reminder of the limitations of the “hybrid” geometry, the P1000 felt simultaneously slower and much less comfortable than my DL-1, a bike whose design is nearly 100 years old.

Small Wheels Good

Amongst the more performance-oriented parts of the cycling community, there is something of an aversion to small wheels. Large wheels have certain benefits, they deal with uneven surfaces better than small wheels and the wheel does fewer revolutions for a given distance, leading to longer tyre life.
There is a common misconception that larger wheels are faster. At very high speeds, there are benefits to larger wheels due to the gyroscopic effect, but these only come into effect at speeds seldom sustained for long by even professional cyclists. At low speeds, the reduced weight and air resistance of a smaller wheel makes them faster than their larger counterparts, making them ideal for transportation use in start-stop traffic.


An original Moulton bicycle from the 1960s, spotted in Chorlton.

The 200 m flying start world speed record for a bike using the conventional riding position was set on a modern Moulton in 1985.
Another advantage of a smaller wheel is strength. Shorter spokes make for a stronger wheel, just look at the amount of punishment the 20 inch wheels used by BMXers are put through. The strength of smaller wheels is also put to clever use in the Madsen bicycle and the Bakfiets (images taken from respective sites):


Madsen bucket bike


Workcycles bakfiets

Smaller wheels make hub-based brakes more effective. Drums, rollers and discs all work better on smaller sized wheels due to their central location. I use a drum brake on my Raleigh Twenty and it is more powerful than the same unit on my DL-1.
As has been discussed over at Lovely Bicycle! smaller wheels increase the range of rider sizes which can be accommodated. Sadly, the desire on the manufacturers’ part to only use one wheel size for a given model means that proportionally smaller wheels are seldom used for smaller sized frames (such as 650Bs on a smaller touring bike rather than 700Cs). Added to this is the common misconception that smaller wheels are slower, meaning that small wheeled bikes for touring are still a niche market (The Moulton being the only small-wheeled dedicated touring bike which springs to mind).


The Raleigh Twenty was Raleigh’s more-affordable answer to the original Moulton. Raleigh eventually owned Moulton for a time.

Small wheels are also more manoeuvrable, which is a desirable trait when riding in traffic, as many Bromptonauts will agree. Finally, small wheels are easier to store. This is not just useful for folding bikes like the aforementioned Brompton, but also for rigid bikes such as the Moulton and the Twenty. The Twenty doesn’t get the same special treatment on the train as a folder, but it is much easier to take in and out of a train, or to squeeze into a gap somewhere during busy periods. It is also easy to take into a house rather than lock up outside, and the small wheels make the whole package easy to carry up a flight of stairs.


Type M Brompton. Brompton, like Pashley and Moulton are one of the few companies to still make their bikes in the UK

Small and large wheels each have their own advantages, when choosing a bike, don’t count small wheels out too quickly.

It’s always dark

If you work office hours you may have noticed that it is dark during almost all of your free time. If you want to cycle during your free time this means you need some lights. This year I am fortunate enough to own more bikes than this time last year (when I only owned a single bike, a hybridised mountain bike at that). This has the added advantage of giving me more experience with different kinds of lights, experience I am happy to share.

Battery Lights:

Battery lighting I have used falls roughly into two categories; lighting for you to see with, and lighting to ensure you are seen by others.

Lighting to be seen by is sufficient to discharge your legal obligation, in well lit urban areas it will also be enough for you to get by. A popular example of lighting to be seen by are Knogs, also known as “Hipster Cysts.”


The Knog lights are basically only as effective as the £2 blinkies you can get from Tesco, but do not require you to attach a mount to your bike.

Unlike lighting to be seen, lighting to see with used to mean halogen lamps. Halogen lamps are bright and produce a lovely warm light but because batteries run out, ideally it is best to use a more efficient method to produce light with batteries. At present this takes the form of LEDs. Halogen lamps powered by batteries are still available and may even seem like a good deal, but any money you save will be paid for with batteries and often shoddier build quality. Currently I am using Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s Revolution Vision set:


The front lamp is a 1 watt LED with a re-assuring aluminium exterior. The beam is  relatively wide for an LED, although the light it produces is a cold blueish-white which is harder to see by than the yellow of a halogen bulb. The lamp also has a flash mode for when you are more concerned with being seen than with illuminating the path ahead. Replacement mounts are available for the front lamp making it easy to share one between several bikes (as I do with my Yuba Mundo and Raleigh Twenty). The rear light comes with 4 flash patterns in addition to the steady state flash. Sadly replacement mounts are not available for the rear lamp, although the EBC catalogue currently residing in my bathroom suggests the rear light has recently undergone a redesign which may filter through to the shop stock soon.

I also have a permanent rack-fitted light/reflector on the Yuba Mundo which is useful if I am caught out after dark:


Dynamo Lights:

Dynamo lighting is generally powerful enough to fall into the “to see by” category (apart from the rear lights for which being seen is the only purpose). Back in July I purchased my first ever dynamo lamp thanks to some advice from LC. I had owned a dynamo hub for a while before that, but I was initially more interested in the drum brake and the possibility of using the dynamo to charge my phone. The lamp I ended up with is a Busch and Muller Lumotec Retro (with standlight and switch):



Shown here on the bike before I installed the new tyres, also conveniently doubles as a reflector to make the bike street-legal. 

Because the dynamo provides an effectively inexhaustible source of power, halogen lamps become feasible once more. Whilst they are less durable than LEDs, they do produce a warmer, yellowish light which I find easier to see by, and the brightness is generally greater than that of my LED battery lamp and the beam is cast wider which enhances my visibility to others. The lamp includes an LED standlight, which on its own is about half as powerful as my battery-powered LED lamp. This is designed to ensure you remain visible even when stationary or at very low speeds.


This dynamo lamp is couples with a battery-powered permanent rear light which I originally considered replacing with a dynamo equivalent. In the end I decided to keep the existing light due to its low power consumption compared to a front light. So far I’ve had a few hundred hours out of the pair of AA batteries which came with the bike.

At present I do not have any experience with bottle dynamos, although Ian at Lazy Bicycle Blog has one on his new bicycle and seems positive about it. I am currently considering adding a bottle dynamo and lamp to the Yuba Mundo. I have become accustomed to the superior light level produced by the lamp on the DL-1 when riding in total darkness and after spending £4 on batteries a few days ago, the initial outlay doesn’t seem too bad anymore. It will also free up the battery lights for exclusive use on the Twenty. Whilst I am happy with my hub dynamo I favour the bottle dynamo approach on the Yuba Mundo because of the disk brakes. The only disk-brake compatible dynamo hubs are Shimano’s, and they use Centerlock mounts for the rotors. This would mean replacing my rotor with a Centerlock version (at an extortionate price for a piece of metal) or buying an adapter which may cause further problems.

Depending on the type of riding you do I would advise using dynamo lighting over battery lighting, at least for the front of the bike. A dynamo front lamp will be bright enough to illuminate the way when riding in total darkness. Whilst the initial outlay may seem high, the level of illumination provided is significantly higher than a £25 pair of LED lights, the battery won’t run out at an inopportune moment and you won’t have to continuously spend money on batteries. If most of your riding is on well lit streets and you are happy to have lights merely to be seen, cheap LED blinkies should suffice.

Cambridge Trip

As many of you may have noticed from an earlier post of mine, I have recently been to visit a friend in Cambridge. Whilst I was there I was shocked at how prevalent the bicycle was as a means of transport. Based on what I saw I’d guess a modal share of 10-12% which is unprecedented in the UK of the 21st century. This is despite a lack of any real pro-cycling intervention, sure there are painted cycle lanes and ASLs as in Manchester, but there is no proper infrastructure. The main differences are that everyone cycles, so motorists expect to see cyclists more and there is more cycle parking around because of the demand. The popularity of cycling in Cambridge could be due to the affluent university culture, or perhaps due to the number of historical buildings which have prevented the spread of car-centric traffic planning such as the wide, fast modern roads you see in Manchester.

Pairs of bicycles locked together in gardens and outside terraced houses are a common sight in Cambridge.

Traditional English roadsters from the era of rod-brakes are a very common sight.

Every available object is covered with locked bikes. Bikes left leaning against walls and locked through their frame were also a very common sight.

Pashley bicycles are very popular in Cambridge, although the Princess outnumbers the Roadster by around ten-to-one.

The Raleigh Twenty is also very popular here. Cambridge definitely has the highest usage of internal hub hears and mudguards I have seen in the UK, which is odd considering the reputation the UK has for its lack of rainfall.

Obligatory touristy photographs.

Re-assuringly, Cambridge isn’t all picturesque.

What I have learned from looking around Cambridge is that you don’t necessarily need to invest in cycle infrastructure to get people cycling. It can also be done by not increasing the capacity of motorised traffic the roads can accommodate, making it a pain to drive. people will see that there are better options and take them. People always say that cycling could be a lot bigger if there was the political will to build things such as segregated Dutch-style infrastructure. The political will to do this is always absent. Cycling can also be encouraged by doing nothing to increase road capacity or traffic flow, letting motorists create gridlock and subsequently finding a better way to get around. There isn’t the political will to do a lot of things which would make life better, but I genuinely believe that there might just be the political will out there to do nothing to make it better.