My 1971 Raleigh Twenty
My first introduction to the Twenty was at a talk given by John Allen a few years ago who seemed quite proud of his bike and gave it a promenant place onstage alongside him
About two years ago I somewhat rashly purchased a folding bike through eBay called a Raleigh Twenty. The idea was that I would bring this thing with us on an upcoming trip to Florida as luggage and have a reasonable bicycle while on vacation rather than be victim to whatever the local rental places might have to offer.
As things go, it wasn't practical to bring the bike and I highly doubt if I could have folded the bike compactly enough to work as baggage. Also one of the crank arms had been bent in shipment; it was rideable but not ideal.
So, for the last couple of years the bike has hung from the rafters in the basement waiting...
I recently began a job in Montpelier that requires me to walk 4-5 blocks distance from where I park to where I work, which is just long enough to have to add time to the commute. Thinking about the situation I suddenly saw where the Raleigh Twenty could fit into my life! The next time I drove into work I brought the bike with me, conveniently folded and placed in the back of our car. Upon arrival, I swiftly removed the bike, unfolded it and biked the short distance to work. Voila!
The Raleigh Twenty gets its name from it's wheel size--a 20 inch rim. This model of bicycle was made from the late sixties up through the mid-eighties and at one point in the seventies was Raleigh's biggest seller. As modern folding bikes go it is something of a tank and does not fold all that small, but it is a bike with a great heritage and a really fun, stately, retro-groovy vibe that I am completely enamored with.
Since I've started using the bike I've been researching how to put this charming object on a diet. It weighs more then my intuition expects when I go to pick it up. Everything that might be alloy today on a bike is steel on this thing, such as the wheel rims, the seat tube, the fenders, the handlebars, etc... Even crappy bikes today have lighter components then this thing does. Steel rims, in addition to being heavy are also notorious for poor braking, so that's where I've focused my first effort at revamping the bike.
I acquired some cheap yet fine BMX alloy-rimmed wheels from a local bike coop called Freeride in Montpelier. As luck would have it BMX sizings often overlap with the Twenty and I was able to dismantle one of the rims and re-lace it with the original hub from the Twenty front wheel and create a lightweight wheel that provides improved braking surface. Having never before built a wheel, I was quite pleased with myself and somewhat surprised at how easy it is. Buoyed by this experience I carefully measured the rear Sturmey Archer three-speed hub and ordered spokes so I can build up a rear wheel with the original hub laced to a better rim.
These new wheels are a great step towards improving the Twenty's weight and stopping power. Next up will be switching out the brakes. I'm going to start with the front (since that's where 70% of the stopping power happens on a bike) and perhaps work on the rear after that.
Some people go really far with re-habing their Twentys, but I want to retain as much of the original look and feel as possible while improving the weight and function at the same time.
Sheldon Brown was a big fan of Raleigh Twentys.