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Friday, 18 November 2011

Raleigh Twenty Stowaway

The Sturmey Archer AW hub which was used for the pictures taken to make the hub servicing guide which formed my last post was from this Raleigh Twenty Stowaway; the folding version of the classic Raleigh Twenty. This Twenty belonged to a friend of mine and I was servicing the hub before selling it on her behalf. Prior to servicing the hub, I had done just about every conceivable bit of maintenance on this bike including front wheel, headset and bottom bracket bearings, a complete disassembling, cleaning, greasing and reassembling and replacement of the tyres, tubes, chain and saddle. As a result of this, the bike rides just like a brand new bike, despite being from 1976.

Raleigh used the 'Stowaway' branding on some of their folding Twentys (in addition to several unrelated models).

The main hinge in the frame is perhaps inelegant but very sturdy.

Difficult to see on the picture, but the rear reflector is branded as Sturmey Archer.

Pletscher rear rack, complete with a rat-trap for carrying a newspaper.

Sturmey Archer AW hub, as featured previously.

The original Sturmey Archer grip shifter, controlled by rotating the entire grip to switch gears. In practice it works better than I expected.

Raleigh Twenty 'R-20' branding.

Seat-tube decal.

'The Raleigh' Nottingham headbadge.

Brand new Raleigh Record tyres, as originally specified with the bike.

The Raleigh Twenty design has undoubtedly passed the test of time. It is a shame that the equivalent models subsequently made by Raleigh have failed to match the comfort, handling and practicality of this model. Clones of the Twenty do exist, although they have their drawbacks including price and the use of V-brakes on the UK model. There is nothing to stop Raleigh bringing back the Twenty properly, a good, small utility bike could be a good addition to their range. A few concessions to modern manufacturing techniques and componentry could be made, such as a welded frame (rather than brazed) a unicrown fork (rather than lugged). These minor sacrifices could easily be offset by a few improvements, such as dual pivot caliper brakes (or drum/coaster brakes), 406 mm aluminium rims (allowing a greater choice of tyres and the ability to stop during rain) and a proper headset (rather than a nylon bushing at the top of the head-tube).

After courting the 'sporting goods' and 'bicycle shaped object' markets extensively for the past few decades, perhaps it's time for Raleigh to look back on one of the models which once made them great, and bring it back.


  1. As someone who remembers the heydey of the Raleigh 20, they were popular with mothers as shopping bikes in the days when we still had decent local shops and the use of a car for a huge weekly shop at some dreadful giant supermarket was unknown.

    They had an easy life, which perhaps explains why so many of them survive in good condition and can be bought relatively cheaply.

    I think dual pivot brakes would be overkill on the new Stowaway, and expensive. Even cheap dual pivot brakes can stop a road bike from a high speed in a short distance, not something which is ever going to happen on a Raleigh 20. V brakes are ideal as they are cheap and effective.

    The new Stowaway isn't that expensive. The 3 speed one can be bought for about £220 if you shop around.

    The only thing missing which is of practical value to its old target consumers is the chainguard.

  2. @Pete,

    I think you have a fair point about the dual-pivots, on an aluminium rim single pivots would probably be fine. Having said that, the Twenty is easily capable of 20-25 mph+ with the right rider. I'd have to protest at V brakes though (especially inexpensive ones) because I hate them for their poor modulation and 'binary' nature. The chain-guard from this Twenty must have cone missing somewhere along the way, it has the braze-ons for one.

  3. Brilliant bikes.

    My 9yr old asked me the other night how much growing room was left in her Stowaway..."Well I'm 5'10 & can ride it" was the reply. She was happy with that as she loves it :>)

    I'd have to protest at V brakes though (especially inexpensive ones)

    Yep, work of the devil. Even the expensive ones. Each to their own. Still haven't tried a coaster but would consider a front caliper/rear coaster to be a simple set up.

  4. That font on the bike reeks of 1976. Some things don't age well.

    A Twenty Stowaway turned up on Portland Craigslist this week for only $100. If I had the cash I'd get it.

  5. I find many Raleigh Twenties are missing the chainguard and/or the rear rack. It is rather an annoying problem as it is very hard to find anything else available today to replace it! Aluminium alloy rims and good quality brake pads make for better riding and stopping power but otherwise the original design works well. Sadly, the sort of market which it was originally designed for (typically mothers going shopping) is gone with the rise of the motor-car and the once-weekly giant shop becoming the norm. I still pass through shops at least 3 or 4 times a week and manage to carry everything home in my hands or in my panniers.


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