The Raleigh Twenty is widely regarded as the best of the old folding bikes. This one has its original dark green paint and lettering, as well as the Raleigh badges. It sports the ubiquitous Sturmey-Archer AW 3 speed rear hub, with the date of 2/71 stamped on it. It is missing its rear fender as well as the chainguard, and the front fender's attachment mount is rusted out. But the hinge, seat adjustment and stem adjustment all work just fine. The frame and hinge are stronger, and Raleigh was known for their robust bikes. The Twenty is much like those old 3 speeds that Raleigh sold in the last century (hmm, the phrase "last century" takes some getting used to); built for toughness, not speed, and millions of these 3 speed bikes were sold over the years. The Sturmey hubs seem to run forever, and are fine unless you have big hills to conquer (here in Ottawa it's pretty flat throughout, so a 3 speed actually works quite well for most of the terrain).
While the current crop of new folders are lighter, ride better, and fold more compactly, the Twenty just has a certain "je ne sais quois" about it. It certainly is no lightweight, so it is a bit of a workout to pick it up and put it where needed when folded. But by dropping the seat and handlebars, and folding it back on itself, it does fit where other bikes can't. And with its 3-speed hub it's a pretty non-fussy beast. I have fitted mine with a sidewall light generator, and so it's a fine little bike for cruising, and a decent back-up bike for getting around (though I wouldn't want to do more than about 10 km on it!). It is certainly not the fastest bike in my fleet, but it scoots along at its own pace, and is at least faster than my elderly coaster bike.
If there is a serious deficiency with these bikes, it's in the braking department. Steel rims combined with long-reach side-pull brakes make for barely adequate stopping power at the best of times, and pretty well non-existent in the rain! One of the first things I did to this bike was to put on some alloy wheels. The front one came from a BMX bike, and is perhaps overkill with 36 spokes, but hey, the bike now stops! For the rear I was rather lazy, and instead of bulding up a whole new wheel with a 3-speed hub, I took the easy way out by buying a 20" alloy rim, and simply transferring everything over to it, old spokes, nipples and all! If things had not transferred well then I probably would have started from scratch, but the bike hadn't been used in the winter so things were not rusted solid. The new wheels do two things: they provide much better braking (though those brake arms are way too long), and they also lighten the bike a bit. For the best possible stopping power I fitted KoolStop "salmon" brake pads all 'round.
Another thing I had to do was get that seat up a lot higher. These bikes were probably designed as "one size fits most", but if you're much above five-ten in height you'll have to get a longer seat post. At my height of 6'3" none of the alloy posts I looked at in shop catalogues were long enough, but Carey Chen at Urbane Cyclist in Toronto gave me a good idea. The trick was to find a scrap bike with a tube with an outside diameter that was the same as the inside diameter of the seat tube on the Twenty (which is 28.6 mm, by the way). I was able to find one, and sawed off as much of it as I could and de-burred the edges. I then made sure that it fitted the Twenty, then sawed out a slot at the top so a seatpost clamp could be fitted and tightened down. I found a regular seat post that could fit inside this new tube, and it fortunately was fairly long, so once it was all fitted together, I was able to get proper leg extension. The top tube goes into the middle tube far enough that there's only about one inch of the middle tube that isn't double-wall before it goes into the Twenty's seat tube, so there's lots of strength there, and I've had no problems with it.
This bike is fun to bop around on, though it really is too small for me. But I keep it for the odd times that I do need a bike that can fold, and it's also handy for visitors with shorter legs than mine that would like to borrow a bike. Oh, and the other mods I did to this bike were to replace the rusted out fenders with ones from a scrap Twenty I found (though that one was from the late '70s and the green colour was a bit lighter), and I also added a plastic chainguard and wire basket.
As always, just click on the small pics to see the bigger ones.
Close-up shot of hinge area
Folded up (though I didn't swing the handlebars down).
Close-up of the extra seat tube.
Carey Chen (of Urbane Cyclist mentioned above) also sent me some pics of his Raleigh Twentys. The first is a souped-to-the-max hot-rod. He wrote:
(photo by C. Chen)
The next one is also modified, but to a lesser degree. Again, Carey's words:
(photo by C. Chen)
With my volunteer work at the re-Cycles Bike Co-op, I get to see lots of different machines come through. This little bike is an "Auto-Mini Executive", made in Austria, with a single speed and coaster brake, and in basically original condition. My friend Nancy (who loaned me her digital camera for these and other photos on this site) bought the 'Mini from the co-op, and seems happy with it. There is almost zero stuff about this bike on the Web, so I just thought I'd add in what know and have found out about it. I also got some tech tips on this make of bike from Carey Chen at Urbane Cyclist in Toronto. It seems that the bottom bracket on this bike is a non-standard size, and Carey wrote to me about what he did for a customer's bike:
The Auto-Mini Executive, with its new front brake lever.
Up close, showing hinge and name.
New for June '06. Got an email from Rick Seifert about his Mini:
"I just bought a three-speed Junior Auto-Mini folder here in Portland, Oregon. It carries a Montgomery Ward label and says it was made in Austria. So it must be very similar to the 'executive'. I'm not sure how it differs from the one in the pix on your site. If there are particular things I should look for, let me know. I thought you would want to know that Montgomery Ward sold these. I took the decals off to give the bike a cleaner look."
And Rick sent a long a few photos:
New for October '07. I received an email from Martin Zeplichalt about his radical Mini re-do:
"It has been a while since I wrote you about my re-work of an Auto-Mini 20" folding bike. I just finished the work and here come the photos. How do you like it? I'd love to see the shots on your homepage.
still original remain only the quick releasers."
Folding Bicycle Interest List - For "discussion of folding and collapsible bicycles, related equipment, rides & trip reports, folding-related forsale and want ads."
Raleigh Twenty - The always informative Sheldon Brown has a great page about the Twenty at his website. He also has info on old Raleighs in general.
Retro Raleighs: the Twenty Folder - Sheldon also now hosts the Retro Raleigh site, and this is the Twenty page.
NEW for Jan. '07 Bikes That Fold - "A Resource For Folding Bicycles And The Folding Bike Devotee"
Chop's folder links - an A to Z of Folding Bikes
Lenny's Taylor's Twenty - Some good upgrades done here.
Twenty years on a Twenty - John S. Allen's Raleigh Twenty page. He also has a page featuring an original Raleigh Twenty instruction sheet.
Guy's Twenty - From La Belle Province, Guy Bouchard's Raleigh Twenty page. This bike may be the most modified Twenty yet!
1973 Raleigh Twenty - Tarik Saleh's Twenty page.
Tim's Folding Bike - Tim Paton has a page about his old folder. His site also has some very good info on homebrew lighting systems.
1973 Raleigh Twenty A rather mint Twenty in original condition, from the collection of the Rydjor Bike Shop (check out the '66 RSW in their collection as well!).
Mike's Royce Union - Mike has a new page on his old Euro folder.
Ryan's Auto-Mini - Finally, another 'Mini on the Net, and this one has a cool Duomatic hub!
The Folding Society - A very good place to start. "The Folding Society exists for the owners of ALL folding and separable cycles and related equipment. The Society basically provides a forum for the exchange of information and views between people with similar interests."
A to B Magazine - Info on "Folding bikes, electric bikes, trailers, trikes and alternative transport".
Folding Bikes - Mark Chandler's (host of the above-mentioned folding bike list) page featuring links to member's bikes
Folding Bicycle Information - This is a very thorough listing of various folders, but it hasn't been updated for quite a while now.
Homebuilt Folding Bicycle - Drew Devereux has built himself a very cool and very compact folder.
Sturmey-Archer Bicycle Hubs - Sheldon Brown again with all you need to know about S-A hubs, complete with timeline history.
Installing and Adjusting 3-Speed Wheels - Another site with brief details for Sturmey-Archer and Shimano hubs.
Sturmey-Archer Repair - A copy of a 1956 Sturmey-Archer Master Catalogue, in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format.