Friday 17 May 2024

1955 Raleigh step-thru bicycle.

Change; 14-06-2024, 19-06-2024

Purchased in May 2024, a low-geared, four-speed Dynohub traditional bicycle.  The bike would not have had a Raleigh forever guarantee.   Later, Raleigh merged with Tube Investments in 1960 to 2012, but their bikes continued to be nice bikes to ride.  The bobbly handlebar grips are nice, and I am told they are original 1950s grips and the Dunlop tyres, which have metal caps on the valves and the brake rubbers look original as well? 

Light, comfortable and nice to ride a traditional steel bicycle.  With a bell which has a heavy brass resonating cap, a Terry saddle (was made by Raleigh are also branded Brooks) and a basket which I have treated with linseed oil.  Carrying any weight in the basket makes the bike a bit unstable, so you will need a little more speed. 

Although the frame is not high enough performance to feel the differences between Normal gear and other speeds or possibly difference between modern greased bearings and these thin oiled bearings you can fee the difference between the hub dynamo lights on and off.  They consume 2W including about 10% losses in the generator due mostly to winding resistance.  Sturmey-Archer claimed there was no noticeable difference, but there is a just discernable difference.

Steering lock and a key.  The tyre tube valves are the old-fashioned Dunlop type, in which the valve can be removed but take care there are two sizes of valve, one is slightly too big but those fitted are the larger size type.  The hole for the valve in the rim is also slightly smaller, but modern Presta valve tubes also fit, but a car type called a Shrader valve will be too fat. 

The Frame Number is 590491 T, and the variable speed hub is dated 50 1 (January 1955).  From Sheldon Brown's website, the frame number is consistent with manufacture early in the period 1954 and 1955.

The bike's frame is very like the 1975 Hercules that I ran for a while, but that bike did not have a fully enclosed chain case.  It is probably the same frame.  This bike needs to be turned over and tilted to empty rainwater out of the chain case, I did not know that that was an issue until I took the bike home.  It is a shorter wheelbase bicycle than the Lenton sport, you can cycle at a lower speed, and it is not so exceptionally comfortable as a Reynolds 531 steel touring or sports frame bikes of that time.  You also won't notice differences between the efficiency of the gears such as between N and other speeds or that it is an all-oil, rather than a grease transmission lubrication bike.


I have not removed the rear wheel and the chain-case, it looks fiddly.  The three inspection covers slide out easily and the chain wheel cover, pops out with the blade of a thin screwdriver.  It is very clean inside, but for rust on the section of chain that had laid in rain water inside the chain-case.  I put back together with a smear of grease in the groves.  There is a cover with two screws for wheel removal, but I have not investigated how to do that.  Here are some YouTube videos explaining a few things with this type of chain case;

Install a chain

Resolving noisy Chain case

Access to the chain

Bike restoration including the chain case


The above indicator rod is in Normal and Low gear positions respectively use ether for adjusting the cable.  Bottom gear is a hard pull on the selector, but not excessively hard.  DynoHub is FG 55-1, (January 1955) it differs from the FW on my Lenton Sport in that it is, chrome-plated pressed steel and all four speeds are easy to select, that it is not worn.  That is, it is not so heavily sprung on the Bottom gear. 

The lights worked anyway, but I have corrected the wiring and the switch now includes the rear light properly.  Surprisingly the generator return path was through the bike frame, and it worked, so the brake cables may have been connecting the return path? 

The switch on the underside of the front lamp offers;  

Dynamo - Off - Battery.

Front Lamp clamp provides power return connections to;

  • Battery unit (not fitted), 
  • Rear Lamp mounting bolt, 
  • Dynamo - terminal.
And Front Lamp Live connections are inside the lamp go too;
  • Battery Unit, (either outer connection)
  • Rear light live, (must be to the centre connection)
  • Dynamo - other terminal. (the other outer connection)

There was a frame return connection wire, but I have replaced it with a longer return wire to the front lamp clamp.  Nothing in the circuit will cause electrical interference, for example, the Dynohub is really an AC generator that has no brushes unlike a dynamo to cause interference, so no frame connection is required for screening.  Connections may be made to the bicycle frame, consequently fitting the lights. 

Two 6V lamp currents in parallel should add up to 280 to 300mA, therefore the lamps are 40mA rear and 240mA front.  These lights do not illuminate the road ahead much but ensure you are seen when you are moving.  I also use modern lights with batteries, so there is light when the bicycle is not moving, and I have blog pages on dynohub lighting strategies with battery charging, but these projects are not all fully developed see below.

Using the bicycle frame to carry power is not a reliable method for connecting one of the two power wires.  In this case, it is slightly better to have just one rather than many connections to the frame in order to minimise bicycle frame corrosion.  This advice contradicts good practice for electrical interference avoidance and general Earthing strategies within equipment and buildings. 

If one bulb fails, the other bulb is likely to be driven over the current and fail.  It is therefore useful to turn the lights off if one bulb fails.

The crank is oil-lubricated with a spring-loaded capped filler tucked out of the way or can be greased.  Everything else in the transmission should be thin oil lubricated, but thin engine oil is suitable and won't harm the gear hub.  There is also an oiler port for the chain on top of the chain case, which you unscrew.

The paint and the decorations are in very good order, and I think the rims are steel, so the braking is quite good.  But unlike earlier bicycles the pedal arms, brake callipers and neither wheel hubs are not stainless steel, but the rims are good steel or stainless steel.  The brake adjusters are the modern, plainer style typical of that era of post-war bicycles. 

The brake shoes are the old type made until the 1960s, in which you could slide in a new rubber rather than need to replace the whole shoe.  They used to be difficult to replace because they could rust or stick.

But the brake cables are the old type with soldered nipples on each end.

Other Bicycle Blogs.

Electronics design project - Bicycle Dynamo maximum power and battery charging manager

Pandemic cycling and bicycle selection, going forward

Bicycle Dynohub maintenance

1946 Lenton Sports bicycle



The Raleigh bike is lovely and is nicer to ride than many modern bikes, but being a bit newer than my Lenton Sport does not have many stainless steel parts and the brake adjusters are a plainer style.  The spokes are all galvanised steel, both front and back.  But it is not a sport or touring frame, so you don't have the greater speed and comfort of those bikes made at that time.  The frame is stiffer for slower riding and carrying weight on a rack and panniers if fitted.  The brakes are quite good for their time because they are cable and the caliper operates on the sides of stainless steel rims.

1997 Universal, La Riveria, pictured left, is a faster, light to pedal, comfortable, modern and cheap British-made bike.  It is a heavy bike, that can carry a lot of weight high on the rack and remain stable.  Plus, despite the surface rust it had been looked after, let rust and I have looked after the bike for the past 5 years.  Typically, of bicycles and particularly chromed rim braking, it stopping in the rain is poor.