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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Wayfarer Mystery

A short while back in the post "Bike Crazy", I talked about my latest acquisition, a blue Raleigh Wayfarer. It's a classic British 3-speed bike, a type known commonly as a sports roadster in the UK, but also known rather inaccurately as a "British Racer" this side of the pond. Raleigh was thee major British bicycle manufacturer, so a Raleigh in itself is common.

But the Wayfarer? It's the first time I've seen this model. And I'd love to figure out more! Searching ye olde internet brings up scant information. Most of it is in the form of photographs, as seen here and here on niniferrose's flickr account. Even "the bible" on bike info, Sheldon Brown, does not mention the Wayfarer model in his Retro Raleigh page.

I've also asked people who are more knowledgeable about British bikes. Todd Boulanger hadn't heard of it, so he speculated that it might be a Canadian model. Good speculation, but if that's the case, then Keith in Edmonton should've heard of it. And he hasn't. In fact, every mention that I've seen of it online has been from the UK. Could it have been a model only available in England?

The only other interesting lead is here, depicting a BSA Wayfarer. BSA was one of the bike manufacturers gobbled up by the great Raleigh machine. My very uneducated guess is that the Wayfarer was originally a BSA model, then whenever Raleigh decided to drop the BSA badge (as the UK bike market shrunk in the '60's, even in the face of the burgeoning bike boom), it "took over" the Wayfarer model for a while, until maybe the mid-70's, when the 3-speed sports roadster started to fade away. It also looks like it might have been subsumed by the Traveller model in the later '70's, as they look pretty similar. I'm also guessing that it may be a lower-to mid-level model, as it lacks the distinctive Raleigh "triple crown" front fork (but still has the herons on the chainring.)

Does anyone have information on the Raleigh Wayfarer? Please leave a comment if you do!


  1. Raleigh was the giant of the bicycle industry for many decades and acquired many smaller companies like Phillip's, B.S.A., Triumph, and Rudge.

    They were the 800 pound gorilla of their time much like Shimano is now.

    Raleigh (and Rudge) branded bicycles were kept at the top of the line up and the sub brands like BSA and Phillip's were used to market bicycles at lower price points and in different markets.

    The B.S.A. Wayfarer looks nearly identical to the Raleigh although it does not have the Heron chain ring.

    The lack of the Raleigh fork crown and lettering on the seat tube points to this being a later 70's model (the hub is a replacement).

    It would be a good guess that Raleigh kept the Wayfarer model in production after dropping the BSA variant and offered it at a lower price point than the Sports.

    The forward facing herons on the chainwheel may also offer a clue as they did not start pointing backwards until 1977.

    This model does not appear in any U.S. catalogue I have seen and do know it was sold in England, I have never seen this variant in Canada either.

    B.S.A. branded bicycles are still in production in India and are made by TI Industries.

  2. Thanks for the, Sixty-Fiver. Things are starting to make more sense. Guess the best way to figure out more is to find Raleigh UK catalogs from the '70s, since Sheldon Brown only has US scans. Maybe I'll hit up some British specific sites for info.

  3. And two more points/questions:
    1)Seems like Raleigh was the GM of the bike world
    2)If the Wayfarer was a UK-only model, wonder how it got States-side?

  4. Whoa. So cool.
    I believe this catalogue archive might be the one you need:

  5. Deborah, thanks for the link. Unfortunately it looks like most of the Raleigh catalog scans are from the US market. We stumbled across a source of the UK catalogs on the web, though you have to pay for each catalog. I don't know if I want to spend a bunch of money on that if I don't know what year it's from.

  6. I see many old Raleighs around here in Manchester. Raleigh had an unhelpful habit of using the same names on different bikes and at different times (for example, the Stowaway). many times the same basic bike was given a different name or a different captive brand was used so that Raleigh could sell what was essentially the same bike to different companies with the benefits of calling them exclusivity deals. The main differences between these models would often be no more major than the chainring pattern, headlamp bracket or chain-guard style (in addition to bundled acessories). I have seen the same basic bike here branded as the "Coinosseur" or the "Transit" or "Traffic Master" etc.

  7. Thanks for the info, Mr. Colostomy. Sort of proves my hunch that Raleigh was analogous to General Motors. They would make the same basic car for its various divisions (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick) but have different options and slightly different styling.

  8. This, this, this, this, and this are some of the examples of the same basic bike seen around where I live. Your General Motors analogy seems spot on.


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