In the 1960's Alex Moulton designed the original Small-Wheel bicycle. It was revolutionary in it's design for the time with it's uni-sex step-through frame, tiny 16" wheels, and complete with front and rear suspension. Raleigh were to manufacture it, but dealings went sour and Moulton bicycles were manufactured elsewhere. In order to cash-in on the new craze for small-wheel bicycles, Raleigh first introduced the RSW-16 (Raleigh Small Wheel), which was essentially a simplified Moulton, notably with a lack of suspension. To compensate for this 2" balloon tyres were used.
The evolution of the "Twenty" design owes much to it's pre-cursor, the RSW-16 - many components are extremely similar - the handlebars possibly being identical.
1962 - Moulton Bicycle Introduced
1964 - Dawes Newpin (separating version)
Produced this year only.
1965 - Raleigh RSW-16 introduced (pictured right)
- Dawes Kingpin introduced
(Newpin name reused on another model)
The "Twenty" Period:
1968 - Raleigh "Twenty" Introduced
1969 - Folding "Twenty" sold in Canada (anecdotal)
1971 - Folding "Twenty" introduced
1974 - RSW discontinued
- Moulton Mk. III (Manufactured by Raleigh) Discontinued
1977 - 140,000 "Twentys" sold in UK
- "Twenty" made in New Zealand
1984 - Raleigh "Twenty" Discontinued
1984 - H-frame "Twenty" replaced by a U-frame
bicycle called the "Safari"
1987 - "Safari" renamed "Compact"
1989 - Raleigh stops marketing adult-sized small-wheel and folding bicycles
1990's - Sheldon Brown publishes his web-page about the Raleigh Twenty
2009 - Webmaster purchases a one-owner "Twenty" frame from Adelaide, South Australia
- raleightwenty.webs.com established
The first port of call for dating a "Twenty" is by looking at the date stamp on the rear hub. Typically there is a year and a month number. Sadly, quality of these stampings deteriorated during the 1970's. I have one example of an AW hub where only the 7 in the year code is visible. Usually, a hub is built into a bicycle wheel within a couple of months of manufacture, and the practice has been to date bicycles with 11 or 12 month codes as being of the following year. eg 72-11 indicates a manufacture of November 1972, but the bicycle would be said to be a 1973 model.
A more accurate way of dating the bicycle is to look at the frame number. This is on the back of the seat-tube for most Raleigh Twenty's. For this information I have referred to Sheldon Brown's Raleigh Dating Page, and other sources but I am reproducing the information relevant to the Raleigh Twenty here. Serial numbers are usually on the back of the seat-tube, although there are some reports of the "Twenty" having them on the left rear drop-out.
From 1966-1973 Raleigh used a serial number system with a letter code indicating the year of manufacture hence:
1966 - A
1967 - B
1968 - C (First year of manufacture for the "Twenty")
1969 - D
1970 - E
1971 - F
1972 - G
1973 - H
Some cross-overs at the start and finish of years did occur, so it is not 100% accurate, but it is a good indication.
From 1974 a new Serial number system was used. It was two letters followed by a series of numbers. Eg. My "Twenty" is NA5000029.
"N" - Should be the first letter for the Raleigh Twenty, denoting "Nottingham"
"A" - A-Z indicating which fortnight of the year that the frame was made.
"5" - A number from 0-9, the last digit of the year in which the frame was built. "5" might designate 1975 or 1985 - the decade should be determined by examining the rest of the bicycle. Since the "Twenty" was discontinued in 1984, "5" indicates the year 1975.
"12345" - Frame number, sequential. Mine must be a very early 1975 model. It is frame 29, made in the first fortnight of January!
However, Raleigh serial numbers are a hot topic of discussion on the internet, and new information is coming available all the time! Raleigh seemed to change their serial number system quite regularly and it seems that different systems were run in parallel to the point that similar serial numbers could mean vastly different ages! This is why hub date-stamps are usually your first port of call for identification, followed by examining other known original parts. The Headbadge has published the following information on the first letter of the Raleigh Serial numbers from 1974.
"D" - Ireland (probably Dublin)
"E" - Enid (USA)
"G" - Gazelle (Holland)
"H" - Handsworth (U.K.)
"M" - Malaysia
"N" - Nottingham
"R" - Canada
"SB" - Ilkeston (U.K.) "Special Build" - although no Twenty's were built there
"W" - Worksop (BSA, Triumph, Sun, Carlton)
There have also been reports of a "B" and/or a "P" prefix, but it is not currently known what they denote. I also do not have any information on serial numbers of the "Twenty" as produced under license by Morrison Industries in New Zealand.