Build Report Raleigh Lenton 1951 - Part 2 Posted on 01 May 10:57 , 2 comments

Readers may have noticed that my Lenton was featured in a recent blog post on the SunXCD 120mm cassette hub, but much more work was to be done on the Lenton before that project was even contemplated!

I had got involved with an amiable bunch of guys and gals who liked to tour on traditional  hub geared bikes "Toggle Chain Tourers" they called themselves - now sadly disbanded and the "tours" have ceased. I did the first tour on my 1964 Moulton, but fancied a more traditional bike for this purpose, so over the winter I decided on a full restoration of the Lenton. Nothing drastic, just a respray and a handlebar change, to the drops originally specified for the Lenton Sports Road Model.

Choice of colour: I wanted something that looked 50's, but wasn't keen on the original green. I think the petrol-blue colour suits it well. It is  2 pot polyurethane to MOD spec and is tough as old boots. I got the correct transfers from Lloyds and borrowed a pin-striping machine to replicate the box lining.

I built the bike up pretty much as before, except I substituted some dropped handlebars, Brooks B17 leather saddle and an alloy cotterless chainset, which was the only non-period component used.

It now looked almost identical to the illustration at the top of this post taken from Peter Kohlers article in Retro Raleighs. An "invisible" change I had made was to acquire a 4 speed inner mechanism for the hub gear - an FW rather than an FM. The wide-range FW is more reliable than the FM and suits the hilly Dorset countryside better. I think it is a very clean build and instantly recognisable as a Lenton by those who remember them back in the day.

There are a couple of technical hitches with old Raleighs I should mention. Raleigh had their own threading standard for bottom brackets and headsets: 26 threads per inch rather than the now universal BSA 24 tpi. When you are the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world, you can do what you like! These parts are now rare, but they were so well made that we can strip down 60+ year old bikes and the bottom bracket cups are still fine. The headset wasn't a problem as I had bought a batch of NOS Raleigh headsets years ago and still had one or two left. You can still get 26tpi headsets and bottom bracket cups from India by the way as the copies of Raleigh roadsters they still make there still use 26tpi. They are not 60 year quality though! As I wanted to use a cotterless chainset (I hate cottered ones!), I had 3 choices: 

1. Re-thread the bottom bracket shell to 24tpi and use a modern cartridge bottom bracket. This is what I usually do with old Raleighs.

2. Use the original cups and find a square taper spindle of the correct length

3. Use a threadless bottom bracket.

In this case I went for option 2, as I did not want to destroy the integrity of the frame and wanted to keep the original 26tpi in case i wanted to go back to the original cottered chainset. 

The Lenton was then used for several Toggle Chain Tours and was used as my winter bike for some years, until the time came for the next "upgrade" (see Part 3). I did make some minor changes. The Toggle Chain Tourers  like to do a bit of "rough stuff" now and again. On a tour of Rutland including a circuit or 2 of Rutland Water, I found that braking from the hoods inadequate on steep descents off road and braking from the drops somewhat terrifying, as it felt like I was going to be pitched over the 'bars! So I fitted some "cross tops" brake levers which are very convenient and powerful. The non period chainset was bugging me a little so when I came across a set of "period" Stronglight 49D cranks, they were fitted along with a TA "Cyclotouriste" Pro Vis 5 chain ring. So although it was thoroughly usable as a modern bike for everyday use and light touring, the Lenton was in a spec. that a clubman could have specified if he had a bit of spare cash to invest in upgrades to alloy rims, chainset, handlebars and stem.