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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Giving the Wayfarer a little love

I've been talking an awful lot about bikes on this blog as of late. Most of the attention this month has gone to the Rudge, and we've heard a bit about modifications on the Long Haul Trucker and the return of the Cycle Truck. But what about the Raleigh Wayfarer?

Well friends, it is still very much a part of my stable. In fact, it's become my "go-to" bike for daily riding. The Rudge is the special fun bike (read: can not be ridden in the rain and has negligible cargo capacity), the Long Haul Trucker is the "let's go ride!" bike (read: headset needs work), and the Cycle Truck is the cargo bike (read: big and slow). So the Raleigh has become the workhorse. And it suits this stately steed, since that's what an old British three-speed is for, right?

The biggest improvement that has been made recently is installing a larger cog on the rear wheel. When I bought the bike it had a 19 tooth cog, so I upgraded it to a 20 tooth during the initial restoration. That was fine, but I wanted to get an even bigger cog so the low gear is lower, and that I can use the high (or "3") gear for more flat riding. (This is what Sheldon Brown recommends, if I recall correctly.) The Rudge only had an 18 tooth cog, so it would be appropriate to swap the Raleigh 20 tooth cog to the Rudge, and get a bigger cog for the Raleigh. I decided a 22 tooth would do, the largest recommended for Sturmey-Archer internal gear hubs.* The 22 tooth cog and 46 tooth chainring, it gives me the gear-inches of 40.9" for 1 (low), 54.4" for 2 (normal), and 72.7" for 3 (high).** Compare this to what's on the Rudge: 46.8 inches for low (1st) gear, 62.4 inches for normal (2nd), and 83.2 inches for high (3rd). Not a humongous difference, but still a difference!
Yes, I'm a nerd.

The gearing is definitely easier, a big bonus. (Though the low on the LHT still trumps it!) One of the reasons for doing this is I intend on doing a bit of three-speed touring this year, going on short overnight trips around Portland. The Raleigh can definitely carry stuff and can do well under many conditions, but I wanted to make hill climbing easier. The photos by "jedo2", aka Jeremy, of three-speed touring in Denmark has inspired me.
A trusty three-speed rests by the River Tuel near Alsted, Denmark. Photo courtesy flickr user jedo2

There's a few more things I want to do in the coming weeks. Firstly, I'm thinking of replacing the cork grips and doing the cork tape/twine/shellac style grips like I did on the Rudge. What can I say, I like that look! And it will make the bars look a bit more special. I also want to replace the rear rack with something a bit more modern yet still aesthetically appropriate. While the Dutch-style rack currently on there is definitely beefy and has served me well over the year, it's not really compatible with modern panniers. I've made it work, but barely. Now I could get Dutch-style panniers that work with these racks, but I already have enough panniers, no excuse for more.*** A rack will be cheaper than new bags.

And what about those pedals that prompted so much talk?

Well, I have grown to like them. They work, and work well. They've been grippy in wet weather too. As Mr. Raving Bike Fiend says, "When the pedals are beneath your feet, who's going to notice them?"

*The conventional wisdom is that you don't want to go smaller than a 2:1 ratio on the drivetrain of a Sturmey-Archer bike, as anything smaller (like 1.5:1) is too much for the hub and can damage the internal mechanisms. With a 46 tooth chainring and a 22 tooth cog, the ratio comes pretty close to 2:1
**From the same chart that I got the gear-inches on the Rudge
***I say that now, but you know I'll figure out an excuse for new bags at some point.


  1. "***I say that now, but you know I'll figure out an excuse for new bags at some point."

    You sound a lot like me,my friend! :p

    I love these old Raleighs,and the SA 3 why have I not owned one for so many years (speaking as a 38 year old,mind you-and I know exactly how many years since I've owned a Raliegh...I haven't had that pleasure yet)?

    Nice bike porn,my friend :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

  2. Nice bike! I use a 40x20T combo on my old Speedwell 3speed (shimano 3s hub) on a 27" wheel and find it works better in hilly areas too.

  3. You could probably get away with slightly less than a 2:1 ratio with 590 wheels. As for the headset, if you do any work on it, remember to keep the nut from the top as it has weird Raleigh threading. The rest can be replaced with a modern headset easily enough though.

    Also, you just know you want a set of Dutch-style permanent panniers.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, all! And good to see you back Dr. C, and providing good tidings of info. I'll be sure to save the nut from the headset on the Raleigh, but right now it's the Long Haul Trucker that needs headset work.

    As for bags, I definitely wouldn't mind a set of Dutch panniers but can't really justify the budget. Plus, my convertible pannier/backpack is just too handy.

  5. Glad to hear that it's only the LHT in need of some headset attention, that'll be much easier to sort out.

    I'm about to take the DL-1 below the 2:1 gear ratio (down to 1.8:1). I'll let you know if it destroys the hub, but I expect it'll be fine

  6. Lovely looking bike, is it just a single speed?

    1. Thanks UK Cyclists! (Wow, really, all of you?)
      Regarding the question of "how many speeds", I suggest you re-read the post. I think it makes itself abundantly clear.


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