Raleigh Twenty Folding bicycle

My Twenty in original condition as bought off ebay.

The late Sheldon Brown's infectious enthusiasm touched me with his Raleigh Twenty (aka R20). I suspect many Twenty owners owe their infatuation to Sheldon as well.

It is hard to say what exactly is so appealing with the R20. Perhaps it is the thrill of creating something unique from an old clunker. Some owners have kept theirs close to original, but others, like me (and Sheldon Brown of course) has extensively modified theirs.

My R20 has only the original frame at present. I stripped off everything, repainted the frame (not very successfully), and installed modern componentry. I still from time to time tinker with it, making changes as I see fit.

Fork matters

Twentys come with an odd headset; the top only has a plastic bush with a chrome cap, and this can have a bit much friction leading to difficult no-hands riding.

In addition, the fork has a large rake typical of older bikes, making no-hands riding even more difficult. The front hub has a small diameter axle and 90mm dropout spacing, so nothing is standard.

To get it standard, the first thing I did was to file out the dropouts to accept a 9mm axle. Note the acute rake.

After filing.

To improve handling, I straightened out the fork a bit, just clamped it lightly in my woodworking vise and hauled away. You have to know what you're doing here to get it exactly symmetrical. I also spread the forks to accept a 100mm hub.

This gives an idea of the finished rake, I think the value was 50mm. Like that with a good headset I was able to ride no-hands easily.

Stem risers are problematic. My solution for a riser involved using a threadless headset. I made an insert for the steerer to allow it to be clamped without collapsing.

The insert installed. The insert also increased the effective steerer length.

A 28.6mm tube slips around the outside of the steerer, with an extra long bolt to hold the assembly together. The bolt screws into a star nut inside the steerer, just below the level of the insert. A seat clamp holds it fast.

My R20 after painting the frame and installing the modded fork. Note the smaller rake. The stem riser length was temporary while I determined the length I wanted before cutting it to length.

I kept it like this for a while and then bought a suspension fork.

The suspension fork has pinch bolts for the steerer as well as both stanchions. The standard length caused the bike to be too high at the headset. Due to the fact that the stanchions could be removed, I carefully measured the maximum depression and cut them off as short as possible. This restored the R20's steering geometry. The tube around the steerer is effectively a very long spacer as in a threadless headset.

The bike handles very well, stable at high speed and ridable no-hands. This is the touring setup.

Here is the bike as used on my tour of Tasmania. I had no heel strike problems with the panniers.

As I mentioned, I am always tinkering. The bike got a Cane Creek Thudbuster and after the original bottom bracket wore out, got an Ultegra BB with matching cranks. A 42T chainring set the gearing a little better. But I miss the original parts' looks.The chain guard rubbed against the cranks so that had to go. And the rack, I put the original Pletscher back on again. The bike is my commuting workhorse. The kickstand has also worn out and I replaced that with a Nuovo kickstand.

One day on a pleasure ride, a gear in the 8-speed Sturmey Archer hub broke. I was able to repair it after the dealer sent me another hub to use as spare parts. But lubrication has proved problematic. The oil seals are rudimentary and designed for the original gel lube. Anything I have put in just runs out again. Very messy. Additionally, the hub is not very weatherproof. Wet riding causes water to get in, resulting in rusted bearings.