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Monday, November 21, 2011

New stuff for the Raleigh Wayfarer Mystery File

The Wayfarer reposes on the pedestrian bridge by Union Station, 10/29/11
It's been almost a year since I purchased my trusty Raleigh Wayfarer from the bowels of East Vancouver. What initially started as a lark, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a vintage British 3-Speed?" has turned into something more. An initial $30 investment turned into an almost $400 project. I made a bike that was remedially rideable into something appropriate for everyday use. In the process I learned a lot about classic bikes and vintage British 3-Speeds.

What I haven't learned much about is the particular "Wayfarer" model. When I got the bike I looked anywhere I could on the internet for information. Scant info came up. While Raleigh is/was a rather large bicycle manufacturer, this particular model was elusive. I shared what I knew in the post The Wayfarer Mystery back in December, 2010. It can be summed up as such:

  • Sheldon Brown has no mention of this model.
  • None of the Raleigh catalogs I could find online featured this model.
  • All of the other photos of the Wayfarer that I could find online were from the U.K. (See this search on flickr for more.) When I got the bike, the brake levers were the reverse of what would normally be found on a U.S. bike (left=front) but what would normally be found on a U.K. bike (right=front). This led me to suspect it was a U.K. only model that somehow made its way over here.
  • Every single Wayfarer I have seen is blue.
  • There is also evidence of a BSA branded Wayfarer. Here is an illustration of one.
  • As described by Mr. Raving Bike Fiend in the comments from the original entry: "The B.S.A. Wayfarer looks nearly identical to the Raleigh although it does not have the Heron chain ring...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."
  • As described by Mr. C of Manchester Cycling in the comments from the original entry: "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). "
In the intervening year I haven't found much more about the Wayfarer model, but there have been intriguing developments.

Firstly, I've found some photos of a B.S.A. Wayfarer. This example come courtesy of flickr user niniferrose:
Ladies frame. By niniferrose. Note BSA chainring.
Looks pretty similar to this 1971 model of Raleigh Wayfarer:
Courtesy ninferrose.
Raleigh owned BSA and the last year that I saw the BSA Wayfarer listed in photos was 1970. It's a good assumption that Raleigh dumped the BSA moniker then, as Raleigh owned like half of the UK brands at the time. They wanted to continue the Wayfarer model after that (maybe for market share or name protection) so rebadged Wayfarers as Raleighs, with minor cosmetic changes (badge, Raleigh front fork, Raleigh Heron chainring.)

On a side note: BSA stood for Birmingham Small Arms, a manufacturer of guns, bicycles, and motorcycles. The bicycle division got eaten by the giant Raleigh megalith around 1957. BSA bikes are uncommon in the States. But Americans should know about BSA. Yes, they should. At least if they were alive and coherent in 1987.

The assumption so far has been that the Wayfarer was a lower-priced model than a Sports. Though if it was, some of the Wayfarers were equipped with Sturmey-Archer Dynohubs (in the rear hub) as seen on this photo:
Courtesy niniferrose.
Wish I could have gotten a model with a Dynohub in it!

The other interesting tidbit came recently from an ad in Craigslist. Someone is selling a Western Flyer "Wayfarer".

Western Flyer was the house brand of Western Auto. Typically these bikes are American boat-anchors, usually made by the likes of Huffy, Murray, or AMF-Roadmaster. But the seller indicates that the bicycle is labeled as "Made in England". It has cottered cranks, lugs, 26" x 1 3/8" tires, and a Wrights saddle. All tell-tale signs of British bikes. It looks like Western Flyer did the same thing as some other American bike makers did in the 1960's: If you want a quality adult three-speed, import one from England and put your badge on it. Huffy did it with the Sportsman. So it's possible this was simply a BSA or Raleigh Wayfarer with a Western Flyer badge. Interesting!

Big thanks to niniferrose for gracious use of his photos in this post.


  1. I believe that Raleigh eventually used the BSA branding for bikes sold via mail order catalogues. As for the Western, it is possible that it's a re-badged Raleigh, although the fork crown doesn't look like any of the Raleigh ones I've seen in the past.

  2. They crop up on Ebay over here from time to time, along with other variations on the theme.

    We saw one when on holiday in Lincolnshire last year - not as well appointed as yours but in really good condition, and importantly, providing transport for its owner :>)

  3. Mr. C- Thank you for the insights. As for the fork, my assumption is that Raleigh would not put their distinctive fork crown on anything that wasn't badged Raleigh. Same would go for heron chainrings. I would figure they would put more generic forks and chainrings on bikes intended for other bike companies. Probably has something to do with protecting their image and all that.

    For example, here's an example of Huffy Sportsman bikes. They were definitely built by Raleigh but had generic forks and chainrings:

  4. After reading this I'm picturing you riding your Wayfarer through the streets of Portland wearing a BSA Revenge leather jacket and aviator sunglasses. You're looking pretty cool!

  5. I just wanted to share with you that I have the exact bike you posted last. The "Made in England" Western Flyer Wayfarer. Dont know much about it. I purchased it at a garage sale when I was about 14 yrs old. I was collecting old bikes. Wish I knew what it was worth.

    1. Nick, hard to say, as value is subjective. I figure if it's in good shape and is indeed a British-made bike you could get $200 for it. But I am no expert.


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