English Roadster Bicycles



Contents


1968 Hercules 3-Speed English Roadster
"Roland"

Made in Nottingham, England


Photo 1. 1968 Hercules roadster - restored condition - December 1988
21" frame with 26" wheels
Camera: Pentax 6x7

I favor this style of bicycle more than any other, primarily because of its tough, workmanlike appearance. At one time, I knew them collectively as "English Racers" but that may have been a misnomer, and had no basis in historical fact. It was probably just a convenient way to categorize all similar looking touring bikes produced in England from about the middle of the 20th century, up through about 1970 — give or take 10 years. Genuine English "racing" bikes (reference the Raleigh "Clubman") may be distinguished by the ram's horn (wrap-around) handlebars and lack of mud guards (fenders) to name but two features. Anyway, the roadster, or touring style bikes such as this 1968 Hercules were certainly, if nothing else, a familiar form of dependable, human-powered transportation for many years around the world.

Sometime around 1985, I saw this 1968 Hercules 3-speed roadster advertised in a local newspaper. The previous owner was a retired gent who took the time to license it through his town hall. The license sticker was still affixed to the rear fender when I got it. Initially, after purchasing it, I gave it a set of new John Bull rubber brake shoes, gum-wall tires, tire tubes, a lube job, a touch-up paint job, a generator head lamp (from my former c. 1974 Royce-Union 10-speed), and a Pletscher (Switzerland) "Modell C" luggage rack with a spring loaded parcel holder. The results of the refurbishment can be seen in the photo. It had 26" wheels, and a 21" frame, which was a bit small for me, but I still enjoyed riding it around the neighborhood (to the local pub) for a few years. To determine the frame size, I measured the seat tube length from the center of the bottom bracket to the middle of the top tube.

I am still the "custodian" of this bike, but it needs to be detailed, and tuned up again. The bike was 17 years old when I bought it back in 1985, and has since aged another 27 years (as of 2012). Note that the luggage rack design was still available in 2006 but is now a product of China, rather than Switzerland.


1950 Raleigh 3-Speed English Roadster
"Sir Walter"

Made in Nottingham, England

More recently (September 19-21, 2006) I visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and noticed quite a few old bikes being ridden all over town. At one point, I asked a young lady who was locking her vintage bicycle to a municipal hitching post if she might know why there were so many old bicycles on the streets. She explained there was a shop on 9th street called, "Via" that handled sales and service of the old relics. Most of the bikes on the streets of Philadelphia were not as old as my 1950 Raleigh roadster, but rather, probably dated from 1965-1980, which was old enough to grab my attention. I was inclined to visit Via before leaving Philadelphia, but unfortunately, never made it until September 2011.


Photo 3. 1950 Raleigh roadster - original condition - December 2, 2006
A "Tourist Model 2" a.k.a. "DL-1"
24" frame with 28" wheels
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990


Photo 4. The day it was rescued


Photo 5. Flat tires and missing the reflector

This photo shows the 1950 Raleigh roadster (serial number: AV 28223) as it appeared when I brought it home on Saturday December 2, 2006. Complete with two flat tires, and the rear reflector and rear Dynohub tail light lens both missing. Otherwise, it looked intact and seemed to be fitted with all OEM parts. 

Photo 6. Original Brooks model B73 leather saddle

It features a full chain guard, an aluminum air pump stamped, "MADE IN ENGLAND", a Brooks "GENTS MODEL B73" leather saddle, 3-speed (Sturmey-Archer model "AW") rear hub gears, roller-lever "rod" brakes, and a 6 volt, 2 or 3 watt * Sturmey-Archer (model GH6) Dynohub AC generator. 

* The Dynohub output level of 2 watts contradicts much of the information available on the Internet, which suggests it is 3 watts. According to The Story of the Raleigh Cycle (authored by Gregory Houston Bowden / published in 1975 by W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd.) "in 1946 Raleigh incorporated a number of new features. Sturmey-Archer produced a new type of three and four speed hub with a dynamo built into it. The new hub and the old-type front-wheel dyno-hub had an electrical output of 2 watts as compared to the pre-War 1¼ watts."

Photo 7. The three speed AW hub was made in February 1950

The rear hub is stamped with "50", "2", and "AW", which designates the year (1950) and month (February) of manufacture, as well as the model (AW) of the hub itself. The bike did not have a kickstand or saddle bag.

I discovered the bike on Thursday November 30, 2006, in an antique shop in Rochester. I was waiting for my car (1982 Mercedes-Benz 240D) to be repaired, and rather than sit in the waiting room for three hours, decided to enjoy the unusually warm weather (65°) and walk around the urban landscape. After pondering the bike for a while, and also talking to the seller directly on the phone, I walked over to Towner's Bike Shop and asked a few questions regarding the availability of parts, its value, and so forth. What they told me was not very encouraging, but that night when I got home I continued to do more research on the Internet, especially regarding its value, because I did not think it was worth what he was asking. It was marked $495, which was way out of line, but fortunately, there was a "50% off" sale that brought the price down to a more reasonable $250. When I talked to him on the phone, he said he would take $225. I tried to get him to take my 1968 Hercules in trade, but he was not interested. I also went to a bicycle repair shop near my home and got some suggestions on where to find the missing bits, as well as some sage advice on evaluating its worth. Basically, it is worth the price if you want it bad enough! 

The next day, Friday, I went back to the antique shop to scrutinize it again, but this time, armed with a bit more information on what to look out for. I definitely liked what I saw, but figured I did not need another specialty bike, especially for that price. It felt good to have finally reached a decision! But later that night, I was e-mailing a bike shop in Toronto (Bicycle Specialties), and was referred to a website in England (The Old Bicycle Company Showroom) so that I could make some comparisons. After seeing the prices (with the currency exchange rate factored in) and condition of the bikes in England, I decided the bike I found was not such a bad deal after all. So, wearing my rose tinted spectacles, I brought it home with me on Saturday December 2, 2006.

Initially, the tires were flat, but I soon discovered they held air, so on Sunday December 3, 2006, I took it for its maiden voyage. The skies were dark and overcast, the roads were dry, and the temperature was at the freezing mark. For the first few minutes, I had some difficulty controlling the handle bars because they are narrow, and positioned very close to the saddle, thus making for a more upright, and unfamiliar riding position than what I was accustomed to. After a few stumbling starts, I managed to head off to a nearby trail. The gears shifted and performed well, and there were no untoward noises coming from the chain or anywhere else. The free-wheel clicking of the rear hub sounded good to my layman's ears. Not too dull (a sign of dried-up, or too thick an oil) and not too bright (a sign that too light an oil had been used). The wheels spun true, but the performance of the rod brakes seemed a bit antiquated — making it difficult to stop, compared to modern bikes. The Brooks "gents model B73" leather saddle was not too comfortable at first, but it scored massive points for adding to the overall retro feel and appearance. In general terms, I had purchased an old gent's bike, in good condition.

When I cleaned and polished the fenders and frame, the white rag picked up a lot of brown grime that had settled onto the paint. I then used saddle soap and mink oil to rejuvenate the leather Brooks saddle. It came out real well and the mink oil has a nice smell. I then learned about a product made by Brooks called, Proofide, which is designed specifically for cleaning these leather saddles. I ordered a kit that included the Proofide, a cleaning rag and a spanner (wrench) to adjust the tension of the leather seat. The Brooks company is still in business today, but a good leather saddle is not cheap. I used Kiwi brand black shoe polish to spiff up the tires a bit, as they were browning around the edges, from lack of use, more than anything else. I applied the shoe polish with a rag and wiped down the tires afterwards. This will have to suffice, until I order new tires.


Photo 8. 1950 Raleigh roadster - renovated condition - December 16, 2006
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990

This photo shows the new items since the previous photo was taken, a fortnight ago. Notice the rear reflector. I sourced this from a bike shop on the west coast. It was in good condition, but the reflector housing (escutcheon) should be made of black rubberized material to be period correct. I sourced one from England, but still need to install it. Additional appointments: adjustable kickstand (modern), front and rear Fibrax (OEM) brake shoes, saddle bag (Cannondale, c. 1985), a chrome bell mounted on the handlebar, and the rear Dynohub light (c. 1960-1970) I also used black shoe polish (Kiwi brand) on the tires. From what I understand, the 28" tires were only ever supplied in black. Smaller tires were also offered with gum wall sides. The Cannondale saddle bag dates from the mid 1980s and can be crammed with all sorts of tools and extra bits. When the saddle bag was new, I used it on the handlebars of the 1968 Hercules. In any event, the bike cleaned up very well, with a wonderful patina, commensurate with its advanced years.

With the bike having been stored in the stable for a few days, my initial impressions were that it was a rare period survivor with a certain amount of panache and road presence, but somewhat less forgiving than modern bikes. That is to say, the 24" frame and the 28" x 1 ½" (635 mm) tires make it one of the tallest bicycles I have ridden, thus leaving very little room for "operator error" when coming to a standing stop, or simply standing astride the bike. The rod brakes leave something to be desired as well. Stops must be planned well in advance, or else risk embarrassing oneself, or crashing into the scenery (one would imagine). Obversely, by virtue of its tall stature and road manners, which demand the cyclist be skillful and focused, this mid-20th century British roadster places one into a class virtually all by themselves, both on converted canal and railroad bed trails, and out on the open road. Note to self: Some additional vintage accessories for future rides may include leather riding shoes, a tweed sport coat, and a pipe to clench in my teeth whilst riding to the pub for a spot of grub.


Facts and Features of the 1950 Raleigh Roadster


GH6 Dynohub Head Lamp and Tail Lamp Bulbs

One of the curious features of this bicycle is the Sturmey-Archer Dynohub. This one happens to be a model GH6. It is a 6 volt AC electric dynamo (generator) located in the front wheel hub used to power the head and tail lamps. I verified the Dynohub was indeed functional by hooking a meter to the output terminals of the front hub and spinning the wheel by hand. However, the bulbs were intermittent. Upon further investigation, I determined that one of the lug crimps inside the head lamp assembly was loose and causing the problem. Specifically (for reference) the 6 volts was not getting to the base of the head lamp bulb socket. I also found that when either the front or rear bulb is removed from the circuit, the other bulb does not light. Both bulbs must be working to complete the circuit. This contradicts some web page I read that suggested that if one bulb blows, the life of the remaining bulb will be shortened due to the higher voltage. Maybe that was for a later Dynohub model or circuit configuration.

Also, the generator circuit shorted whenever the chrome bezel was placed on the head lamp assembly. I discovered, after considerable time spent trying to figure it out, the concave head lamp reflector was touching the hot terminal of the switch inside the assembly. So I used electrical tape to prevent the reflector from touching that terminal. When I opened the head lamp up the first time, some old electrical tape fell out. It might have been used for the same reason.

I have found documentation on the Internet that suggests the GH6 Dynohub puts out 3 watts of power. That is not much, and the bulbs for the headlamp and tail lamp need to be chosen carefully so as not to go over this limit. The challenge begins when you realize that modern bulbs are not readily available in the original specification sizes.  Let me start by posting the original values as found on the piece of paper glued to the back of the concave headlamp reflector. The reflector is the part the bulb pokes through and focuses the headlight beam.  The original sticker on back side of head lamp reflector says:

Bulbs
Head 6V .25A
Tail 6V .04A

The .04A is not a typographical error. That is how it appears, very clearly printed, on the sticker. The interesting thing was that the bulbs I found in the sockets correspond exactly to these values.  Here are the values of the bulbs I found in the bike when I got it:

Head lamp bulb (screw base) data stamped on base: 
"CRY5 ENGLAND 6V 0.25" 

Tail lamp bulb (screw base) data stamped on base:
"CRY8 ENGLAND 6V .04"

Thus far, the paper sticker in the headlamp assembly and the bulbs were a perfect match, but they were not working. The tail lamp bulb glass was broken, so that was obvious, and the headlamp had a loose connection, which took more time to diagnose.

The following data and narrative are the result of a continuing search for a source of modern replacements for the head lamp and tail lamp bulbs.

Bicycle Specialties in Toronto said replacement bulbs should be:
Head lamp: 6V 0.2 A (1.2W) (screw base)
Tail lamp: 6V 0.1 A (0.6W) (screw base)

A trusted European automotive lighting specialist and bicycle enthusiast said the replacement bulbs should be:
Head lamp: 6V 0.4A (2.4W) (screw base)
Tail lamp: 6V 0.1A (0.6W) (screw base)

Harris Cyclery sells the correct style glass bulbs with what seems to be the values that are generally considered correct.
Head lamp: 6V 0.4A (2.4W) (screw base)
Tail lamp: 6V 0.1A (0.6W) (screw base)

The generally accepted tail lamp values work fine. However, the head lamp bulb does not produce much light at all. It is nearly impossible for the cyclist to see anything on a dark country road with the 6V 2.4W head lamp.

I tried using a standard Type 40 lamp (bulb), which is 6.3V 0.25A (1.5W) (screw base) and it produced about 300% more light than the 6V 0.4A (2.4W) (screw base) bulb. This increased light is still barely enough to see what is in front of the bike when traveling down a dark country road, but so far, the Type 40 bulb is the brightest one I have tried. They are readily available at antique radio specialty stores and are commonly sold in boxes of 10 each.

Reflectalite, Ltd. (England) was found to have replacement bulbs for the Dynohub generator. Reflectalite said, "Dynohubs are not 3W, they are more like 1.5W to 2.0W." This corroborates the passage from The Story of the Raleigh Cycle, which says the Dynohub was increased to 2 watts in 1946. The bulbs Reflectalite Ltd. has available (as of December, 2006) for the Dynohub are: GH107 for the headlight and GV601 for the tail light. This gives a brighter tail light than the original, and using the GH107 (halogen) for the headlight gives a whiter light and makes the best use of the limited power available. Further, he stated, "Note that GH107 is 5V 1.5W, but it works okay and has been well tested."

Head lamp bulb: "GH107", halogen, Screw-cap, 5V, 1.5W (0.3A), $6.40 each.
Tail lamp bulb: "GV601", incandescent, Screw-cap, 6V, 0.1A, 0.6W, $1.28 each.
Shipping (airmail) $3.20 per small package to USA.
They accept Paypal. See their website for details.

Summary Notes on Dynohub Head Lamp Bulbs:


Parts Ordered for 1950 Raleigh 3-Speed

04-dec-2006:

07-dec-2006:

11-dec-2006:

The tires are marketed through Pyramid but manufactured by Kenda in Taiwan. They are labeled with maximum pressure of 50 p.s.i. The tubes are also marked through Pyramid and have Schrader valves.

12-dec-2006:

15-dec-2006:

17-dec-2006:

Notes:

19-dec-2006:

23-dec-2006:

24-jan-2007:

Jon Sharratt (ABCE / All British Cycling Event) supplied these parts:

08-feb-2007:

Wife got me the following item for my birthday:

07-mar-2007:

Peter Paine (England) supplied these parts:

Rolling Total:


Photos from June 17, 2007

These photos show the 1950 Raleigh Roadster ("Sir Walter") with a few new period appointments. Notice the NOS Black Midland "Roadster Model" Presstube rear luggage rack, reconditioned Brooks leather saddle, handlebar bell, saddle bag, kickstand, period reflector on the rear mud guard, and functioning Sturmey-Archer Dynohub lamps at the front and rear.


Photo 9. 1950 Raleigh 3-Speed English Roadster - refurbished condition - June 17, 2007
A "Tourist Model 2" a.k.a. "DL-1"
24" frame with 28" wheels
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990


Photo 10. Note the NOS black Midland "Roadster Model" presstube rear luggage rack


Photo 11. The rear fender reflector (in black, rubberized housing) was sourced in England and shipped to New York


Photo 12. Two of my favorite summer rides!
1957 Mercedes-Benz Type 190 sedan — in the stable since June 17, 1989
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990 / July 9, 2009


Update: September 20, 2011 - Finally made it to Via Bicycle. Spoke briefly with Curtis Anthony, who seemed to be running the place, but they were so busy there was little time to hob knob. Here is a photo of the exterior.

Photo 13. Via Bicycle Sale and Service / 606 South 9th Street / Philadelphia 19147
Camera: LG Rumor Touch - Sprint cell phone / September 20, 2011 / 2:02 p.m.


Photo 14. The Mendon Cyclesmith (Mendon, NY)
Camera: LG Rumor Touch - Sprint cell phone / October 21, 2011 / 9:45 a.m.


Photo 15. Lehigh Valley trail / Mendon, NY
Camera: LG Sprint cell phone / Saturday June 2, 2012 / 4:09 p.m.


Honorable Mention

Photo 16. Definitely not an English Roadster
Schwinn, aluminum frame, 16-speed, off-road hybrid
Camera: LG Rumor Touch - Sprint cell phone / March 9, 2012 / 07:28 a.m.

This Schwinn 16-speed, off-road (hybrid) has been fairly reliable with the exception of a few broken spokes, and (more seriously) a broken frame — where the seat post slides into the frame. On the enlargement, one can see the aluminum weld that was done by Hansen Metalworks of Farmington, NY to get the bike back on the trails. They also lengthened the seat post to avoid having the same problem again. This was a Walmart special around 2004, and cost about $99. The plastic mud guards, and water bottles were after-market accessories.

October 24, 2013: Due to the onset of an almost constant slipping of the gears, the Mendon Cyclesmith replaced the following on the Schwinn. Total came to $132.84.

Photo 17. Loaner: Surly Krampus "lefty" with fat tires and Brooks leather saddle
Camera: LG Rumor Reflex - Sprint cell phone / October 24, 2013 / 4:56 p.m.

October 24, 2013: Craig (Mendon Cyclesmith) loaned me a Surly Krampus "lefty" while my Schwinn off-road hybrid was being repaired that afternoon. The Krampus model uses 29" wheels and 3" tires. The term "lefty" comes from the front fork design (see enlarged photo). This bike was fitted with a narrow Brooks leather saddle. With the slightly under-inflated fat tires, the Krampus seemed a bit unwieldy out on the Lehigh Valley Trail (a flat, gravel path), and the front shock absorption was surprisingly cushy. Only had time to make a single, four-mile round trip from the shop to my house and back again. He had a shipment of brand new (some still in the box) Surly bikes at the shop — priced around $1,600. Another popular Surly model is the Pugsley, which uses 26" wheels and 4" or 5" tires.

June 19, 2014: Broke the Schwinn's freewheel shaft (a.k.a. rear axle pass-through bolt). Ordered a new one at the Mendon Cyclesmith, and installed it June 26, 2014. Cost: $15.


Still Looking For These Parts

Here is a price comparison for the Brooks "Millbrook" carry-all saddle bag. Using the three examples shown here, I would use "Wallingford Bicycle", unless the "Old Bicycle Showroom" had something that was simply unavailable in the USA, such as inner tubes with metal stem Schraeder valves, etc. Also, freight will be higher from England when compared to US ground rates.


References for English Roadsters and More


Contemporary Roadster Bicycle Manufacturers


Community / Discussion / Photos



c o n t a c t / h o m e
English Roadster Bicycles
Established: December 2, 2006
Last Update: June 27, 2014
© Black Sparrow Photography / Jeffrey P. Miller (N2AWA)