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Category: 20-inch wheels

Raleigh Twenty winter bike-to-be

Raleigh Twenty winter bike-to-be

Week before last, via Kijiji, I bought this slightly scruffy Raleigh Twenty folder for the very fair price of $160:

Grande Mocha

I believe it’s already made an appearance on the Raving Bike Field’s blog this spring, when he did work for its prior owner – I suspect he’s behind the sensible addition of KoolStop brake pads at the rear. It rides very nicely, with only the usual complaints that come with vintage steel three-speeds (weight, brake mushiness).

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Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Yesterday I was lucky to be able to try the new Bobbin Shopper, thanks to my favorite LBS RedBike. I rode it around for about 20 minutes in the neighborhood around the U of A, and stopped on the path on Saskatchewan Drive for some quick iPhonography. You should also check out the more detailed review by Lovely Bicycle! – but I thought I’d share my observations.

Bobbin Bicycles' Shopper
Bobbin Bicycles’ Shopper

It’s fun to ride! A comparison with a Raleigh Twenty is inescapable, because its’ design is so similar. Like an R20, it feels like riding a full-size 3-speed, but the smaller wheels make the steering a bit more responsive and the whole bike more maneuverable. Unlike an R20, it has a front caliper brake and a 3-speed coaster brake. The small wheels do mean you can feel every bump – not so good on a pothole-ridden stretch of construction-abused 110th Street, but perfectly fine for most sidewalks.

It is adorable, too. I had three different people I passed during my ride give me big smiles and say “nice bike!” – including an elderly woman who had looked apprehensive when she saw me coming up the sidewalk, before I hopped off the bike, pulled onto the grass, and gave her a friendly smile. Mary Poppins Effect in full effect!

BobbinShopper2
A nice big front basket, front caliper brakes, and Sturmey-Archer 3-speed.
BobbinShopper3
A unicrown fork, 20 x 1.75 whitewall tires, a sturdy little kickstand, and fenders. I love the British racing green paint, but it also comes in burnt orange and robins’ egg blue.
BobbinShopper4
A short rack marked “max 25 kg” with a Pletscher-style clamp. This would work well for panniers, a small crate, or those pretty Po Campo bags.

I’m strongly considering this bike as a fun-but-practical summertime ride that could become my winter bike with the addition of studded tires (Update: I’d have to DIY these with EBC’s help, because I just looked it up and the Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires are 20 x 1.6 not 20 x 1.75, darnit!). In my neighborhood, the MUPs and sidewalks are (mostly) cleared, but only the major roads get plowed, so a bike designed for sidewalks is preferable for winter use. Yes, I could pick up a Raleigh Twenty for cheaper, but by the time I upgraded the wheels and brakes to improve the braking and make it winter-worthy, I’m not sure I’d be saving any money. Yes, a Twenty’s frame might be a higher-quality build, but it’s also a bit heavier. I’m also not sure I’d feel comfortable desecrating a pristine R20 with modern upgrades so that I could subject it to winter abuse.

(PS: What the heck has 20 x 1.6 tires? A Dahon folder? Who are Schwalbe making those studded tires for?)

(Update: Read the comments for tire info!)

(2014 Update: This year’s model has a very nice looking porteur rack in place of the front basket, so has upgraded cargo capacity, and teal or ivory paint. I am still strongly considering it, but haven’t pulled the trigger because I need to sell part of my stable of bikes first. I’m also tempted by the Tern Swoop and Dahon Vitesse folders, but haven’t yet found a local LBS where I can try them out.)

 

The Twins: 1983 Norco folders

The Twins: 1983 Norco folders

Allow us to introduce the Twins:

They’re folding bikes! Here they are in the back of Angel’s mom-mobile after she bought them back in mid-November.

The red one is Angel’s, the blue one is mine, and they are practically identical. They have a Raleigh Twenty style folding mechanism (ie, a big hinge in the middle of the frame – and that’s all), 20-inch white wall tires, and to our enormous surprise, Sturmey Archer 3-speed shifters and hubs. They were cheap like borscht, and look like they’ll be reliable little bikes once we tune them up and add milk crates to the rear racks.

After some digging, this is what little information we have been able to find:

Norco are a Canadian marque based in British Columbia, who started selling bikes (mostly copies or rebadged bikes from other makers) in 1964. They’re best known for 1970-80s BMX-style imports and the suspension-fork mountain bikes they manufactured starting in 1993 with names like the Sasquatch and the Wolverine. Unfortunately there is very little information on their history or their older bikes online.

– A wonderful History of the Folding Bike helped us identify the frame style as a U-frame, produced in quantity by a number of European makers starting in the 1970s.
– This is the only other photo we have been able to find floating around out there of a Norco folding bicycle. It turns out it’s the subject of this bike forum discussion, which confirmed that it’s called a U-frame.
Another discussion of U-frame folders on the same forum yields this nugget from user LittlePixel:

It’s one of a slew of similar ‘U’ frame [as they are wont to be described] designs that enveloped Europe in the late seventies/early eighties that were cheaper to make than their earlier more sturdy cousins by Puch, Raleigh, Dawes. I don’t know the name as a lot of these kind of frames were pretty generic and perhaps not even a Peugeot design at all. They can be fun bikes (my sister had a non-pug one named a ‘Marathon’ as her first real bike aged about 10) but most people in these forums would not consider them beyond occasional or light use as the position of the fold and single downtube without extra strengthening can make for a slighty flexy ride.

(Emphasis mine.) Meh, we can live with that.
– A discussion of U-frame folders on Bikehugger tells us that the Phillips Folda was a U-frame. Since Phillips was a TI-owned marque, that could explain why our bikes have Sturmey Archer parts. This recent discussion at The Raleigh Twenty confirms that TI sold U-frame folding bicycles starting in 1984 – and their History page indicates they started calling it the Compact in 1987. And photos in Flikr’s Foldr vintage-folding-bike pool show Raleigh-badged, Raleigh-badged and Hercules-badged U-frames with similar curved rear stays and rack as our Norcos – along with Italian-made Cinzia, Graziella, TicTac and Bianchi Aquiletta (which has a 3-speed SA hub). More about Cinzia’s folding bicycle can be found here.

– Back to that bike forum, someone asked a question about a Norco 3-speed folder that’s marked Made In Italy.

What we know from careful examination of the bicycles:

Folded.
The stainless-steel fenders are stamped INOX.
The brake calipers and levers are stamped WEINMANN.
The shape of the brazed-on rack and rear stays is fairly unique.
Interesting Y-shape in the chainwheel. Cottered cranks. Stainless steel chainguard.
Aluminum kickstand on blue bike is marked Made In Italy; red bike is missing its kickstand.
Italian-made AMBROSIO rims with SUPERGA SPORT 20 x 1.75 nylon whitewall tires.
The saddle is stamped on the painted underside of its metal pan:
ISCA SELLE
ROSSANO V.TO – ITALY

 

The headtube is stamped SIGUR BREVETTATO.
Brevettato is a word associated with adjustable handlebars.
The top of the ring is stamped OMEGA, and the lever is marked SIGUR BREV.
The lever on the folding mechanism (seen here from the front when not folded)
is also marked SIGUR BREV.
Folded. Those are the three-speed and brake cables.
ITM stamp in triangle on top of handlebars. (ITM Italia are still a component manufacturer.)
NORCO decals on headtube (above) and U-tube (below).
Made In Italy decal and sales decal from The Sports Stop, Edson, Alberta on the seat tube.
COMPACT decal on rear stay.
Front hub marked IMB.
Rear Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hubs stamped 83 2 (red, shown) and 83 3 (blue, not shown).
Plastic 3-speed Sturmey-Archer shifter
Union pedals.
Both bikes are missing the axle nut on this side of the rear wheel for some reason,
but otherwise need very little work.
Can anyone tell us more about these bikes? Does anyone know which Italian manufacturers Norco was working with?

Update: It appears that (Illinois company) KTC’s Hyda Bike was made by the same Italian manufacturer, and sometimes has the Cinzia’s star-shaped chainwheel and sometimes the Y chainwheel seen above. Here are links to one on eBay, two with the Y chainwheel on IBikeDB, and one with the star chainwheel on a blog.

1970s made-in-Canada Raleigh Cyclone High Riser

1970s made-in-Canada Raleigh Cyclone High Riser

We bought this – for the kids to ride – from a 32-year-old in Fort Saskatchewan who remembers riding it in the mid-70s. The Made-In-Canada sticker (white rectangle above the bottom bracket) means it was manufactured after 1972 at the earliest, since that’s when the Canadian factory in Waterloo, Quebec began production.

I haven’t been able to find the serial number on the frame – does anyone know where I should be looking?

Based on the above photo from Kijiji, I was expecting it to be child-sized, but it turns out that it’s teenager-to-adult-sized. The seat is set about 28 inches above ground level, and could easily go higher – in a pinch, I could ride it (although the front tire needs attention before it can go for a spin). The dark orange paint has inspired a temporary name: Gina. Orange Gina. Get it? Although it looks more like a boy. Gino, perhaps.

(Ahem.)

A better view of the Made In Canada sticker. The kickstand is just for looks – a couple of inches too short, so the poor bike falls over when you try to use it. Needs replacement. Also, notice the cotterless cranks.

Canadian-made Raleighs, like the Nottingham-built Raleigh offlabels built for foreign markets, often had names that were used for completely different bicycles that had been made by a company that TI (Raleigh’s parent company) had bought out – which can make it hard to find information about them. In the case of the Cyclone, all that comes up in Google searches are references to a 1980s Raleigh(UK) mountain bike. Apparently it was groundbreaking – but it’s not the same bicycle at all.

For starters, look at all the visible welds. Tsk, tsk.

The frame architecture of this bike is really similar to the Raleigh Burner or the (also Canadian) Raleigh MX, but with traditional forks and 20-inch wheels instead of BMX ones, and the handlebars, sissy bar, and Troxel pleated vinyl banana seat seen on the Fireball and Rodeo High Risers that Raleigh(America) introduced in about 1966 (pre-Chopper/Fastback) in response to the popularity of similar bikes that had been available from the American manufacturers Huffy and Schwinn since 1963.

Rear view.

The original seat cover has split on both sides, and that’s rusty metal you see.
Front forks, with the remnant of the front fender bracket.

The rear coaster brake hub, in good working order, is (sadly) not a Sturmey…
…it’s a Shimano.

One last beauty shot: the headbadge decal.
I think it’ll clean up really nicely – especially the chrome, which has only superficial rust – and make a really fun ride.
I’d love to hear from anyone else who knows about Raleigh’s high risers, or other Canadian-manufactured Raleighs, and hear how this one compares! I bet a few of you have memories of riding bikes like these as a kid…