Interested in the history of Raleigh, Sturmey-Archer, Brooks, Pashley or Moulton? Or maybe in the wider development and changes the British cycle industry has undergone in the last 50 years? Then this interview, which I recorded on 23rd March 2016, is for you.
John Macnaughtan spent 48 years at Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer. Early in his career, he was sent to Raleigh South Africa and he soon became Director of Raleigh Industries East Africa. Later, with David Duffield, he set up Raleigh Australia. John joined Sturmey-Archer in 1977 and became Sales and Marketing Director in 1981. After the sale of Sturmey-Archer to Sun Race, he became Managing Director of Raleigh International. He was instrumental in saving the Brooks saddle company and became a co-owner of Pashley. Today, he spends much of his time at Bradford-on-Avon, dealing with the export of Moulton bicycles.
The interview, in two parts and full of unique insights and recollections, is now on the Veteran-Cycle Club YouTube channel.
Part 1: John Macnaughtan interview Part 1
Part 2: John Macnaughtan interview Part 2
You may have seen elsewhere on this site (in the comments on John Allen’s hub gear table in the Gears section) that Wiel van den Broek has created some very useful Excel spreadsheets for gearing choices involving hub gears and bracket gears. You can enter the tyre format, chainwheel and sprocket sizes and instantly compare the results given by different gears.
The gears covered range some more than 100 years old to others that are in current production. There is a metric (distance travelled per pedal rotation) chart and a gear inches chart (equivalent direct drive wheel diameter), both of which you can download from here: http://fietssite.jouwweb.nl/downloads
Many thanks to Wiel for creating these spreadsheets.
For the full and most up-to-date version of my article on the recusant Hydes of Berkshire, see the 10-page PDF file here: Hydes
It’s amazing to think that 28 years have passed since my book The Sturmey-Archer Story was published. You can still buy it from the Veteran-Cycle Club’s sales officer (email: email@example.com) or from Dorothy Pinkerton (telephone: +44 (0)121 350 0685). Remarkably, the price has hardly changed, despite decades of inflation.
Whether you are a new purchaser of the book or bought it years ago, don’t forget to read the free supplement. It contains a host of information, some of which is not available elsewhere:
- Product developments by Sturmey-Archer and its competitors in the period between publication of the book and the closure of Sturmey-Archer’s British operations.
- How Sturmey-Archer ceased to be a British company and became Taiwanese.
- The auctioneer’s detailed list of Sturmey-Archer plant sold off when the British factory closed.
- Additional information about the period covered by the book.
The supplement is available free of charge on this website by clicking on the Cycling tab above and following the drop-down link to Gears. But if you want a printer-friendly version, so that you can print out a tidy 26-page A4 version, click here: S-A Story supplement
You can also save the supplement as a PDF file to read on your desktop computer, tablet or phone by right-clicking the link above and ‘saving link as’.
In a recent post I described a 1974 Raleigh 20 FE, in near original condition, that had been in the same ownership for 40 years. The husband of the FE’s owner also had a 20, which was a folding version, badged as a BSA 20, and made in 1978. I rescued both bikes from an almost certain final trip to the local tip. I sold the FE on eBay for less than its replacement lamp cost me. I didn’t mind though, as I needed the space and it saved the bike from a prematurely ignoble end. As for the BSA 20 folder, I decided to keep it and refurbish it.
My aim was not the ultimate ‘hot 20’, which could cost quite a lot of money. Instead I decided to upgrade the less desirable old components, mostly with items from eBay or the spares box, plus a few from St John Street Cycles or Amazon Market Place dealers. The following annotated photo sequence shows the end result, a very rideable hack which, because of its colour scheme, I call Cappuccino.
The 1974 Raleigh 20 FE, described in a previous post, weighed a hefty 37 lb (almost 17 kg) in orignal form but without its rear bag. (That, however, is a pound and half less than my grandson’s modern but relatively inexpensive mountain bike!) The BSA folder weighed 32 lb (about 14.5 kg) in its original form but after the modifications described below, it weighs 30 lb (about 13.6 kg) without bag, despite having the addition of a rear carrier. Further weight savings could be made by replacing the original wheels with new ones having alloy rims, alloy hubs and narrower tyres, and by replacing the handlebars and stem with alloy equivalents.
Above: A general view of Cappuccino, complete with the Carradice handlebar bag which, via Klickfix fixings, gets used on several of my bikes.
Another view of the bike, this time from the left side.
I decided to keep the original steel stem and handlebars, as they are in fine condition, are nicely rigid and allow lots of adjustment, both vertically and fore and aft. The Carradice bag (great for day rides) is easily detachable via a Klickfix bracket on the handlebars and has a handy shoulder strap. The ergonomic handlebar grips (cheap but adequate copies inspired by Ergon) make a big difference to comfort. The Tektro brake levers are also a huge improvement on the cheap steel originals, having far superior leverage, adjustable reach and cable adjustment.
A rider’s-eye view of the handlebar cluster, showing the Klickfix bracket, the Sturmey-Archer 3-speed trigger and a bell, tucked away to the left of the bag bracket. This set-up enables the bike to be stood upside for maintenance, with stable three-point support via the handlebar grip forward extensions and saddle.
A view of the handlebar cluster with the bag removed, showing the front of the Klickfix mount.
I decided to ditch the chainset and bottom bracket axle and bearings, and replace them with a cotterless assembly. The chainset was an inexpensive unused item from eBay but nonetheless has a proper detachable chainwheel. This enabled me to move the chainwheel to the left hand of the spider, which was very important to get a reasonable chain line. The chainwheel was sold as being for 1/8-inch chain but actually works fine with older style 3/32-inch chains (e.g. for 6-, 7- or 8-speed derailleurs). Also in shot is an MKS all-metal folding pedal, which replaced the very heavy solid bearing original pedals and enables the width of the bike to be usefully reduced very easily for transit or storage. I dispensed with the hockey stick chainguard and its mounting bracket, filing off the sharp corners of what was left of the fixing point on the strut behind the chainwheel.
Raleigh 20s and their badge-engineered brethren have ultra-wide (78mm) bottom bracket shells and are Raleigh-threaded. This is very limiting when it comes to converting to a cotterless set-up, especially at a reasonable price. So I reduced the width of the bottom bracket shell, on the chainwheel side, by 5mm. This enabled me to fit a relatively inexpensive Oxford 73mm-wide threadless bottom bracket cartridge. The letters and numbers stamped onto the bottom bracket are not a serial number but the postcode of the previous owner.
This shot clearly shows how the chain stays of the Raleigh 20 series were flattened and wrapped around the bottom bracket shell (to which they were brazed) before continuing forward to form bracing struts, brazed to the underside of the main beam.
A wider view of the same area. Note the struts, which join the main beam below the frame hinge on the right of the picture.
Another view of the MKS folding pedal and surrounding area. Note the frame hinge on the left and the TI ‘made in Britain’ sticker at the base of the seat tube.
A similar view but showing the pedal in folded mode. The difference may not seem much but a pair of such pedals can reduce the stored width of the bike by about 5 inches (12.5 cm).
Another view of the folded pedal, with the frame hinge at top left.
The wheels are in very good condition, the original Sturmey-Archer rims being true and almost perfect cosmetically. The front hub and rear hubs are also fine and the spoke tension is OK. So rather than spend a small fortune on new 451 wheels, I decided to keep the originals and just fit new inner tubes and new Schwalbe Kevlar-protected whitewall tyres. Yes, steel wheels have poorer wet weather braking but I don’t intend riding this bike much in the rain. Also, I upgraded the brakes, about which more below.
This bike did not have a carrier (rack) but I found this original Swiss-made Pletscher on eBay. This model of carrier was original equipment on some Raleigh 20s and fitted perfectly. It has a sprung parcel clip and I have added a couple of old-style toe-clip straps – often handy for securing items of luggage (such as a rolled up jacket).
Another view of the carrier.
And yet another shot of the carrier, but this time including the new longer and alloy micro-adjust seat pillar. This replaced the original steel seat post, which, for no good reason, was slightly shorter than the standard Raleigh 20 item, and which had an old-style steel saddle clip. The saddle now fitted is quite a nice one from the spares box. The original, supplied with the bike, was a very cheap vinyl-covered mattress saddle, with no main chassis springs – unlike the relatively plush Brooks item fitted to the FE described in a previous post.
Another view of the saddle and seat pillar. Also in shot is the Sturmey-Archer AW wide-ratio 3-speed hub. As can be seen, this was made in the days when they still fitted a lubrication point, so it’s easy to add a few drops of oil from time to time. The AW is a very efficient hub but the original gearing of Raleigh 20s is on the high side. So, although I kept the same number of teeth on the chainwheel (46), I fitted a larger rear sprocket (17 tooth). This lowers the top gear to 71-inches, a great gear for pootling along at a reasonable speed, without hunting between top and middle gear. Middle gear is now reduced to 54-inch, fine for many moderate slopes. Low gear drops to 40-inch, enabling easier hill climbing. For most people, reducing the gearing in this way is one of the easiest and most worthwhile upgrades you can make to a Raleigh 20 or derivative.
The original pressed steel calipers are not great (poor leverage and flexible arms), so I replaced them with these Tektro R365 dual-pivot brakes. The leverage at the caliper is much better (aided also by better brake lever leverage), they are quick-release and incorporate adjusters for brake block clearance and cable tension. As the brake fixing bolt that passes through the fork crown is retained by a threaded sleeve (rather than a standard nut) it is necessary to enlarge the hole through back of the crown slightly. Also, these calipers fouled the forward extension of the original mudguard. This was easily resolved by trimming back the mudguard. Visible in this picture, against the lower steering bearing, is the chrome-plated stop that prevents the forks being reversed. I took the opportunity of fitting new balls to the lower steering bearing. (The upper bearing is solid nylon, which damps the otherwise rather light steering. It can be replaced with a ball bearing unit, if desired.)
Despite the long reach of these brakes, the fixing hole for the rear brake caliper needed to be elongated downwards by a few millimetres to get the brake blocks low enough to avoid the risk of them rubbing on the tyre sidewall during braking. Slightly longer brake arms would avoid this problem.
The Raleigh 20 was the archetypal British city bike of the 1970s and Raleigh’s biggest selling product line in the middle of that decade. The company made up to 140,000 a year and the bike was in production from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. You can read more about it here: https://hadland.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/raleigh-twenty-r20/
Recently I acquired a 1974 Raleigh 20 FE (‘Fully Equipped’) that had been in the same ownership for 40 years and was in almost completely original condition, apart from modest wear and tear. It is a testament to the fitness for purpose of the product that the owner kept it and used it for so long. Here is a photo tour of the bike in question.
A general view of the 1974 Raleigh 20 FE.
A front view. Originally the bike would have had a plastic clip to hold the three cables together in front of the head tube more neatly but these clips tended to fall off and were not really necessary. The headlamp shown here is a replacement but differs only slightly from the original, which still worked, despite having a missing ‘glass’. All Raleigh 20s had a restrictor to stop the bike being ridden with the forks reversed. In models fitted with integral lighting, the stop was combined with the headlamp bracket.
Rear carriers (racks) varied between Raleigh 20 models. Some had none and others had a Pletscher alloy carrier with sprung parcel clips. The FE had a steel carrier with a plastic tray. This helped hold the removable holdall (shopping bag) that came with the bike. It’s rare to see the original holdall and this bike had lost its one. At the front and back of the tray you can see the elasticated cords that held the holdall in the tray. The rear lamp is combined with the rear reflector in the neat and very robust unit fitted to the rear mudguard.
The chain stays were flattened to wrap around the underside of the wide (78mm) Raleigh-threaded bottom bracket, to which they were brazed. The stays then carried on forward and were brazed to underside of the main beam. The result was a very stiff frame. Note the Raleigh heron’s head motif stamped into the steel chainwheel. The pedals were Raleigh’s own low maintenance type, which used non-adjustable, solid, sintered metal, oil-retaining bearings instead of cones and ball bearings. The end caps often fell off, as can be seen here. The hub is a Sturmey-Archer Dyno-Three AG3, combining a 3-speed wide-ratio hub gear and a Dynohub alternator to power the built-in lighting.
The rear hub seen from the left-hand side of the bike. The wider section of the hub houses the alternator. The hub gear was operated by a twist-grip on the handlebar. This had a friction clutch within it to automatically take up slack that might develop in the gear control cable. There are instructions for re-setting this function in the ‘Gears’ this website.
This bike is fitted with Raleigh’s Design Centre Award-winning self-adjusting brake levers. In common with many old-style automotive drum brakes, these detected increased brake lever travel and, via a ratchet mechanism, automatically tightened the cabled to compensate. Sadly, this was all too complicated for many bicycle mechanics and the levers were soon dropped.
A proper metal heron’s head Raleigh head badge, riveted on by hand. None of your cheap self-adhesive stickers in those days!
The type of saddle fitted to Raleigh 20s varied somewhat but was always a vinyl-covered sprung mattress type. A cheap version, sold under another Raleigh-owned brand name such as BSA, might well have a very basic, unbranded saddle, with no main springs. This FE, however, is a high-end model and therefore has a Brooks fully-sprung mattress saddle.
A view down onto the top of the main beam. As the label shows, the bike was sold in Newbury in the days when that town had 4-digit phone numbers. Some time later, in an office over a shop in Newbury, a company called Vodafone started life. Now most phone numbers are so long we can’t remember them!
This view shows, among other things, the twin bracing struts formed by extending the chain stays around the bottom bracket and up to the main beam. You can also see the Raleigh pedal, complete with the Sir Walter Raleigh logo moulded into the heavy solid rubber body – and the typically missing end cap!
The final picture shows the bottom bracket area from the left-hand side. The fixing for the very robust and reliable propstand is brazed to the underside of the bottom bracket. A nice touch on the Raleigh-branded 20s (as distinct from the versions sold under other Raleigh-owned brand names) is the cotter pin nuts bearing the Raleigh monogram.
Here’s something you don’t see everyday. It’s a UK street-legal moped based on a Raleigh 20 and was created by consulting engineer Chris Sawyer. It has a Cyclemaster engine and front suspension. Apparently it works quite well and it demonstrates the rigidity of the folding version of the bike. Many thanks to Chris for permitting use of his photo.