Build Report 1951 Raleigh Lenton Sports - Part 1 Posted on 30 Apr 12:44 , 2 comments
The Raleigh Lenton Sports is an iconic bike. See Peter Kohler's article and is still much sought-after 65 years on. I was fortunate to acquire a few years back, that rare thing - an untouched original Lenton. It was complete and original down to its original Brooks B15 leather saddle. This was no barn find however, the bike had been very well used and there were a couple of problems too. The lightweight Bluemells white celluloid mudguards were long gone and had been replaced by some ill-fitting white painted steel objects, which I suspect were Post Office surplus from the original postmen's bikes (now sadly replaced by little red vans). Also inside the original alloy shell of the rare 4 speed Sturmey Archer FM medium ratio 4 speed hub gear, was nestled a common or garden 3 speed AW wide range mechanism.
It was also encumbered by a heavy Sturmey Archer "Dynohub" hub dynamo along with the headlamp and "Allrounder" type handlebars that I didn't fancy. I wanted my Lenton to look like the picture above! However I do believe that the Dynohub and straight bars had always been with the bike, possibly as a factory fitted option, or maybe fitted by the bike shop for the first owner.
Here is the bike as I received it.
Apart from the saddle it looked quite serviceable, so I was surprised when the previous owner shouted "I wouldn't ride it until you have had it checked over", as I loaded it into the car.
I ignored the advice, gave it a quick once over, swapped the saddle and took it on an 8 mile ride to get the full Lenton experience. I enjoyed riding the Lenton immensely, so I swapped out the mudguards for some white plastic ones similar enough to the originals; changed the rusty rims for new alloy ones of a similar section (Ryde Sputnik); discarded the broken Dynohub and headlight and fitted an alloy stem and handlebars and used the bike as my daily runabout. Considerably more sprightly than in its original guise, I was beginning to see the attraction of the Lenton to the clubmen of the 50's.
Replacing the rims was a problem. The 50's clubmen favoured 26 x 1 1/4" (597mm) rims and these have been unavailable for decades and even if I could find some NOS chrome ones, tyre choice is very limited. There are in fact 3 alternative solutions to consider: the closest being 26 x 13/8" (590mm or 650A), as used on traditional English "3 speed" bikes. These are still very numerous and alloy rims are readily available, as are tyres in this size, but mainly in the "utility" weights. if I were just going to use the Lenton as a local runabout/commuter bike the this would have been the logical size to go for. However it was essential to me that the original 40 hole alloy shell for the hub gear was retained, not least because it showed the build date of the bike, so I needed 40 hole rims.
The other 2 rim choices: 700C or 650B, both of which would require changing the brakes, as the cheap and nasty steel calliper brakes original fitted by Raleigh would not adjust enough. Why on earth did Raleigh fitted these low spec. brakes to a lightweight bike, especially in view of their fitting an alloy hub shell and even an alloy seat post? Perhaps this reflects a blind spot they had at the the time. The main competitor at the time, the Viking Hosteller (still easy to find) was much better equipped. The need for a 40 hole silver rim dictated 700C.
As implied above I would not regret upgrading the brakes! This was complicated by Raleigh's habit of having different "reach" (distance between brake bolt and rim centre) requirements for front and rear. However, I was able to find period Weinmann centre pull brakes individually of the necessary sizes and matching Weinmann "Red Dot" levers of the same era.
So while the photo above shows a bike, at first glance very similar to the original, quite a lot of work was required to get to this stage. However, I loved the bike, but its spec would not be adequate for future plans I had for this bike...
More to follow