Raleigh Twenty: Forking it up

I know, I know.. no-one likes a wall of text like the last update.  I’m the same – all we really want are nice pictures of bikes to marvel over!  I don’t have any new photos, though.  It’s not that I forgot to take any; it’s because I’m too embarrassed to take photos in front of the wife!  She thinks the bike obsession is weird enough, without me sitting there taking close-up photos of bolts and bushings.  😛

But that doesn’t stop me putting up photos of other people’s bikes, wot I have found on the interwebs!  Therefore, before further ado, here is the only photo I’ve ever found of a Raleigh Twenty sporting mag wheels:


It appears to be a near-stock bike, with just the wheels, tyres, and seat replaced.  It’s quite stylish!  I particularly like that shade of bronze paired with black wheels and tyres.

Anyway, why was I posting?  Oh yeah – my fork issues!  It turns out that I should’ve seen my problem coming.  Standard R20 forks only have a 90mm gap between the fork dropouts, which is quite narrow.  For a little while, I was tempted to replace the fork with a small BMX fork and a tube extender.  It would mean there’d be no thread, but I could use a couple of seatpost clamps to hold it in place.  However, in the end I decided on getting a fork that’s not actually much different from the stock fork, except that it can take normal wheels.  One of these:

It not only works out cheaper than the fork/extension plan, but it has a thread.  Quite a lot of thread – the steerer is 20mm longer than the stock fork!  It’s most probably a fork intended for use on recumbents, as they seem to be about the only type of bike that has a steerer that’s anything like a Raleigh Twenty.

of course, this will mean more hammering, as I’ll now need to replace the lower head race and attach a crown race.  Nearly there, though.. nearly there..


Raleigh Twenty: aaargh!

Time for a project update! It’s been a while since I last made an update, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m practically finished. I’m not. In fact, I’ve barely progressed at all since the last update! Since my 3-year-old son dropped his naps, I no longer get the 80 minutes of nap time on Saturdays and Sundays that I used to use for doing bike stuff. I can do some stuff in the evenings, but if it requires hammering/sawing or using something messy and/or stinky, the project stops in it’s tracks.

Hence, my projects are at the current states:

  • Saracen Kili Racer: Stopped due to requirement of hammering and probably need for using acid to get rid of the seat post and BB.
  • Reflex ALX89: No longer riding due to cracked headset. Need to hammer it out, then hammer the new one in.
  • Saracen Tufftrax: Needs a dose of stinky linseed oil. Can only really do it outside, when it hasn’t rained for a couple of days. It hasn’t stopped bloomin raining! I’ve also got a new headset, but it’s not essential.
  • Raleigh Twenty: Need to file the fork dropouts to fit a 10mm axle, and hammer out the cotter pins. Need to saw off chain guard fitting.

Despite all that, I have managed to progress the Raleigh Twenty a little bit. I found out that the axle on the front wheel was removable, so I can avoid having to file the dropouts for a bit. Knowing that, I decided to fit the new headset…

The plan for getting the headset on was to use a threaded bar, some nuts, and some large diameter washers. The washers push against the races as the nuts are tightened, and should seat the headset race perfectly! If the race can be kept straight. Which was apparently impossible. 😐 I tried and tried and tried, using different washers, different ratchet spanner heads, and bottom bracket cups. It would all be aligned, I’d tighten the nuts a tiny bit, check, tighten, check, tighten, gah! Every time, the race would slip slightly to one side. It didn’t seem to matter how careful I was.. the washers just weren’t a precise enough fit, it seems.

The reason I tried to be clever, rather than just hammering it home, is because the top of the head tube has a notch taken out of it, which is used to seat the nylon bush. I was worried that hammering it in could result in accidentally splitting the head tube if done badly. After wasting several hours trying to get it in cleverly, I decided to just hammer it using a steel hammer and a piece of wood, which meant hammering it in while my son was about.

Recently, my son has not been very happy when he hears weird noises. He was getting upset whenever he heard something rattling, or the sound of an extractor fan. Even loud lorries were scaring him, which was bizarre – he’d always loved lorries, no matter how loud they were! Guy Fawkes night had gone alright, though. He wasn’t at all scared by the fireworks (even the crappy airbursts), so I hoped that meant he was over that weird phase.

I brought the bike in, and got the hammer and wood out. The sturdiest place to do the hammering was on the step between the kitchen and the lounge, so I put the bike in the kitchen, with the head tube resting on a bit of wood on the step, almost dead straight. Seeing the bike got my son’s curiosity, so he came to sit in the chair opposite and watch. I explained what I had to do.. “I need to get this silver bit into this blue bit, which means I need to bash it in with a hammer! Is that okay with you?” This was met with a “Yeaaaah!”, and much bouncing up and down in the chair. I put the other bit of wood into position, and lifted the hammer in the air.. “Are you ready?” “Yeaaah!” BAM! BAM! BAM! He still seemed okay.. he seemed happier, if anything! So I started hitting it properly, and watching the angle. It didn’t take many hits to get it into position, and it didn’t look as though I’d bent the head tube at all. I finally had a proper top race on my Raleigh Twenty! Huzzah! Also, my son didn’t dissolve into tears, so I can probably hammer my other bikes, too. Huzzah!

Anyway, last night, I set about trying to put it all together. The headset fitted together pretty well, and now it just needs about 10mm of spacers to go where the QR used to be. No biggie! With that (nearly) in place, I set about putting the other parts on, starting with the front wheel. I had to disassemble the hub to put it on, as with the axle removed, a pointless-looking metal bar falls away. I guess it’s there to stop the hub from being over-compressed. I put the axle through the RH fork dropout, through the hub, and.. I couldn’t get it to align with the other dropout? What was stopping it? The axle seems loose enough at one angle.. but when I.. oh.. oh nooooooo!

One of the good things about Acorn Freestyle mag wheels is the hubs. Unlike most other mag wheels, the hubs can be dismantled and serviced. The hubs are quite snazzy looking.. they’re kinda bulbous, with 5 bolts going through them – one for each spoke. What I hadn’t noticed is that the hub is also quite.. erm.. fat. They’re designed for BMX forks, where the dropouts are level with the inner of the fork arms/blades/whatever you call them. R20 forks have short dropouts that aren’t level with the inner of the fork arms, so the fork protrudes out to where the hub wants to be. I’m sure there’s probably a nice technical way of describing this, but I don’t know what it is, so I’ll just say that the Acorn hubs are too fat for a standard R20 fork. The only way it’d fit would be to cold set the fork, but it’d require expanding the width by about 10mm in total, I think. Maybe more.  I don’t really trust cold setting forks by that much distance.  I barely managed to align the rear stays when I did them on the Cobra, and from what I can remember, forks are more vague.

So, what now? Do I get different wheels, or a different fork? Maybe attempt cold setting the fork?  I wouldn’t mind a different fork, to be honest, but the ebay seller who had them (one of the bankrupt parts sellers) has been sold out for over a month, and I can’t find an alternative. Wheels are easier to come by, but I’d have to sell the Acorns at a loss, and I’d lose the coaster brake..

What a pain in the bum!

Going Retro

People who glance at my blog may have noticed that I’ve gone full on retro with my bikes. The oldest bike I own is from 2004, and that’s been dismantled for storage because I consider it too modern. 😛

To be honest, I’m a bit of a retro nut generally.. I’d much rather have a car from the 70s than my Honda Jazz (the wife’s not averse to this plan – we just can’t afford it). I have a small collection of VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) calculators from the late 70s/early 80s. I’ve still got an old Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a Commodore 64 in the loft. My main buying criteria for my phone was how well it’d adapt to playing emulated 80s computer games (slide out keyboard – pretty good!). My music taste is currently EBM, which is a genre that never really progressed since the 80s..

Other than just being old and funky, retro stuff also carries vague memories of the year of their construction. A 2010 bike is just a bike. A 1981 bike is a bike which carries 1981 with it!

So, today I’ve been looking up exactly what was going on in film and music when my bikes were constructed. I’m not going to list everything – I’m just going to list what’s interesting to me, because it’s my blog and I can do what I like! 🙂

1977 (Carlton Cobra)
I was 3 years old in 1977, so you might be able to forgive me for not remembering this year from my own memory. Presumably some of it must’ve filtered into my brain, affecting my tastes in later life.

Punk and disco were just starting to become popular in 77. I’ve never been a huge fan of punk, so I’ve chosen I Feel Love by Donna Summer, which was released that year. Bob Marley also released Exodus, and Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express.

1977 was the year of Star Wars, and I don’t think you can beat that. 🙂

1981 (Raleigh Twenty)
I was 7 in 1981. I had a vague taste in music, but not very well developed. My mum liked the new romantic stuff, however, and it definitely filtered in.  I think I was probably riding a Raleigh Striker at this point!

The New Romantic stuff was just starting to take off in 1981, with Vienna and Fade to Grey both being released that year. Depeche Mode released their first album, Speak & Spell (the only one with Vince Clarke), and Kraftwerk released one of the best albums of all time; Computer World! This was also the year that DAF released Der Musollini.

A really good year for films! Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, Escape from New York, Evil Dead, Mad Max 2..

1988 (Reflex ALX89)
I was 14 in 1988, and my musical taste was just starting to form properly, thanks to Cold Cut and Bomb the Bass. I remember one of my friends from school being heavily into hip hop, taking pride in owning lots of albums that were imported or having the ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers on them.

I wasn’t much into hip hop at this point, preferring the slightly more genteel sounds of Bomb the Bass, Stakker, and MARRS/Cold Cut. A super-special mention has to go to The Timelords (aka The KLF), who ripped off Cold Cut to make Doctorin’ The Tardis. This was also the year that the Pixies released Surfer Rosa, which is a phenomenal album.  Despite all that, I’m going to stick up a video of Eighty Eight by Public Relation, which was released that year, but has only recently come to my attention.  It is awesome.


1995 (Saracen Tufftrax)
Poor old Tufftrax.. it’s not been liking all the wet weather, and has been leaking orange water from the dropouts and headset. I really need to do something about that. Anyway, I was 21 in 1995, and I’d just started university. It was a year of heavy drinking and heavy partying, so I don’t really remember much about it. 😛 I do remember lots of nights of watching Chill Out Zone on MTV when I came home.

I was heavily into IDM at this point, and I was buying albums and singles by the shedload. Autechre, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Black Dog, Spooky, Scanner, Panasonic.. the list goes on and on! I reckon the best album was Vakio by Panasonic.

Some good ones this year.. Twelve Monkeys, Strange Days, The City of Lost Children, and.. er.. Judge Dredd! If you try to blot out the main characters, and concentrate on the scenery, it’s a pretty good film!