Raleigh revival

The hunt for a bike is always a bit of an adventure, it's always a balance between risk, price and convenience.  I happened to be looking for a ladies bike for my partner and I'd been scanning eBay and Gumtree for the past few weeks.  Specifically I was after an English 3-Speed, preferably with a chaincase - however these are less common than the typical "hockey stick" style chain guard bikes you find more commonly from the 50's onwards.

We went to a few second hand shops around London, and there were some nice bikes but they were generally all in the £150+ range, personally I thought we could get a better buy going on Gumtree or eBay as the going rate for that type of bike is about £100 or thereabouts.  However one weekend when we were determined to just look at a few, we found a guy around the corner who had about four similar ones for sale.

There was one quite interesting bike here, it was an old Trent sports branded bike which was pretty unassuming however at a closer inspection it had a Sturmey Archer AM medium ratio 3-speed hub and 26 x 1-1/4 wheels, not so common.  Typically this type of hub would have been found on the racing style English "club bike"which are not so garden variety, in fact they are quite uncommon these days.  This particular hub dates from 1957 and appears to have an alloy shell as opposed to the standard chrome steel shell of the ubiquitous AW hub.

The 26 x 1-1/4 wheels are also a bit of an odd one as they were only also found on high end racing bikes back in the day, they are actually a rare size as well and tyre choice is limited to only a handful of tyres, they are only a smidge bigger than the standard 26 x 1-3/8 size common on English 3 speeds.  The standard 26 x 1-3/8 is 590mm bead seat and the 26 x 1-1/4 is 597, the seller wasn't even aware that they were an oddball size until I mentioned it, it trips up a lot of people because they are almost the same diameter.  The 7mm makes them different enough that they aren't interchangeable but close enough that people would mistake them for one another.

The trigger shifter and the double ended brake cables also mark this as something not so garden variety, however I would assume at least the wheels were taken from another bike, also the chainguard looks like it was taken from a later bike, possibly from the 70's.

However of the four bikes there was one which stood out to me as the best value, it was a 70's Raleigh Caprice with a 3 speed Sturmey Archer AG dynohub, it also had the original quick release rack similar to the one I used to have on my old Raleigh Twenty.  Similarly enough, I had a LED dynamo light upgrade in mind, it's fantastic that you can take a 40 year old dynohub and hook up some modern lights to get a really solid set of lights for a city bike.

  First things first, I had to make some brackets to fit the light onto the rack using some aluminium flats I got from the hardware store.  This is almost the same as how I did it on the Twenty.  I used a B+M Lyt up the front and a B+M Toplight flat on the back which both have standlights.

For those who have never seen these, the little handle is spring loaded and pulls out with one of the rails which originally allowed you to quick release a basket.  Quite ingenious and very simple indeed.

The only thing about wiring up these old dynohubs is that you have to use an extra run of wire from the dynohub to the front light and then back again to the rear.  All modern dynohubs are front wheel based so you only have to run wire up the leg of the fork.  However one positive is that you can upgrade to a drum brake on the front and still have dynamo lighting, without having to resort to the expensive combined drum/dynamo hubs like I have on my Raleigh Superbe.

The rear light had to be mounted pointing down because of the design of the rack struts, we may replace this rack anyway as the rat trap spring on it is broken and it looks quite flimsy.  Once it was all hooked up it all worked fantastically, just in time for the dark rides home in the winter.  A very straightforward upgrade for an old bike to bring it into the modern era, in fact it probably has better lights than most modern bikes you see on the road with battery operated blinking lights, testament to how long lasting these old 3-speeds are.


  1. I didn't realize how hard it was to find to find an old ladies frame three-speed 'round there. I've seen several decent specimens come up on Craigslist here for $50 to $100. Of course, that doesn't help you one bit! (And all of them were the "hockey stick" chainguard. Full chaincases are super rare in the US.)

    That 26" x 1 1/4" wheeled one is interesting. Yeah, the tire selection is very limited and crappy, one to avoid if possible. You'll see the 597 size turn up in the States, as Schwinn's lightweights used that size. However, they labeled the 597 as 26" x 1 3/8", causing endless headaches and confusion.

    Nice score with the rear dynohub, especially if you wanted to rebuild the front wheel. The rear wheel does the least braking, so you can still get by with caliper brakes on a steel rim.

    Looking forward to seeing how this one goes.

  2. Heya, they are actually quite common here, but I guess I'm quite picky. Yep that's exactly what I was thinking as well with the front drum and caliper rear.