Your ever-expanding web resource for the Raleigh Twenty
and other classic small-wheel bicycles.

Touring Twenties

The Raleigh Twenty has proven itself to be an excellent frame for a folding tourer. Certainly, there are many better tourers out there, but as with all bicycles there are a range of features which should be considered. All tourers are customised to some extent, and the Twenty gives you quite a few good options.

Some of the features that make the Twenty a good basis for a Tourer:

1.) Sturdy frame.

It was intended to carry shopping. The frame is truly over-engineered and can easily accommodate the additional weight for use as a tourer.

[image of my bottom bracket to be added soon!]

2.) Low bottom-bracket.
Especially if using 406mm rims and 170mm cranks. On my own Raleigh Twenty I am using 406mm rims with 1.5" Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres. The centre of the spindle is about 260mm from ground level, and about 20-25mm lower than my Raleigh Royal Tourer. For short riders, you will probably want to stick with 165mm cranks, but I am making use of a set of 170mm Sugino cranks which I picked up for a steal years ago and previously did duty when I briefly ran my Raleigh Royal as a 48/34 double. This places the overall saddle height considerably lower than on most modern bicycles, ideal for tourers. One thing you must watch for, common to all touring bicycles, is pedal strike. Low bottom bracket height makes pedal strike a problem. Make sure that your outside foot is down when riding around corners, and if you see that you will be going over a hump in the road, keep your cranks level. It's good to learn this habit anyway. I'm 6'2" tall and with the stock seatpost and Brooks Mattress saddle, I am about 1" short of my ideal saddle height, even then the saddle is relatively low.

3.) Lower centre of gravity.
The smaller wheels, lower bottom bracket height, lower luggage racks, etc give you a lower centre of gravity compared to regular touring bicycles.

4.) Stable handling.
Even with the original nylon bush top bearing, the Twenty has much more solid and stable handling characteristics than many other small-wheelers out there. This can, of course, be improved by reducing the fork offset slightly or replacing the stock forks either with a 20" suspension fork or newer BMX forks which have a better geometry.

Bodhbh's Raleigh "Stowaway" on the train.

5.) Folding Frame.
Whilst the frame doesn't fold down as small as modern small-wheelers like the Brompton, with the removal of the pedals, dropping the saddle and the handlebars, the whole bicycle folds down into a standard bicycle box without having to remove the wheels. Once you arrive at your destination, unfold the frame, put the saddle and bars back to the height you like, re-attach the pedals, put on your luggage and you're off! The image above shows my folding Twenty at an early stage. It was very easy to fit into a standard bicycle box once the pedals had been removed. A bonus was that there was room in the box for my saddle bag, and I imagine that I could have also fitted a pair of panniers in there if I had a rack at the time.

6.) Inexpensive.
A folding Raleigh Twenty frame is much cheaper to acquire than any other modern folder, and alloys you a wide range of customisations.

Some of the problems you may encounter (and suggested solutions):

1.) Short chainstays.

The chainstays are shorter than a comparable full-sized tourer, so you may have problems with heel-strike with some rear panniers. The easiest way around this problem is to take advantage of the small wheel and place the rear load on top of the rear rack rather than on two side panniers. Another good option to consider is using two smaller front panniers attached to a front rack with the front forks.

2.) The rear brakes.
The stock rear brakes are very long reach callipers for the 406mm rims. 451mm rims would work better, especially if you get some high-quality brake pads. A myriad of other options exist, such as Sheldon Brown style "drop-bolts." In fact, if you're going to go to a frank builder anyway, fit canti/Vee-brake studs.

3.) Lack of brazed-on mounting points.
There are dozens of ways to get around this, including P-clamps and other forms of bolt-on mountings which can all be used quite successfully. I fitted new plastic mudguards and had to use zip-ties to attach the stay to the fork stem for several months before I was able to obtain a new fork with cast dropouts and bolt points for the stays!

Some successful Touring Twenties:

Here are some examples of Twenties which have been rigged for touring. Of course, a touring bicycle's setup is a very personal thing. Handlebars, racks, panniers, bar-bags, etc are all set up according to personal preference. There is no one right way to do it, and I recall an old military saying: "If it's stupid but it works, then it isn't stupid!"

Sixty-Fiver's Phillips Twenty "Forrest" (link to gallery page)

An extreme example of modification. In fact, it has a complete new rear triangle giving the longer chainstays. Derailleur gears, using Suntour retro-friction bar-end shifters, Vee-brakes, bottle cages, etc. Possibly the most modified Raleigh Twenty that has ever existed. This is the conclusion of several years of modifications, making it one of the best Touring Twenties out there. 

Another more recent album can be found by clicking on this gallery link.

Freewheeler's modified Raleigh Twenty. 5-speed Sturmey-Archer hub, cotterless crankset with Shimano Biopace chainring. What is impressive, is that the original rear rack is being used. A nice little tourer this one! If you're not going to be a fully-loaded camper/tourer, then you can simple make use of the rear rack as shown above.

Believe it or not, I used to tour extensively on a virtually stock Raleigh Twenty. I used to hang a small back-pack over the front handlebars in addition to my Carradice Camper long-flap bag. I did a four-day trip around Canberra on those two small bags, which included carrying a 3-piece tweed suit! Not sure how I managed it, and I doubt that I could repeat such an act. My saddlebag must have been part Tardis! The capacity of the two bags was comparable to having a set of regular panniers. Sadly, my Brown non-folding Twenty was stolen from my college dorm wing in 2011, including my beloved Brooks B67 saddle! I bought another one, but it has been languishing in my garage for about 3 years now. My blue folder is slowly coming together as a new tourer/commuter.

3-speed touring wasn't always ideal. The limited range of gears means that you will walk up most big hills, but the limited carrying capacity means that you didn't carry tonnes of stuff either. I rode on the stock wheels, although I did swap the 15t rear cog for a 16t to lower the gearing slightly. I used the original 28-spoke steel rims. A set of high-quality brake pads gave me surprisingly good braking. I bought some Vee-rubber 20" x 1-3/8" tyres to replace the 30-year old Dunlop tyres and found that the little machine was really quite sprightly. I used to blow off posers on racing bicycles all the time on this little machine. 

Bodhbh's Raleigh Stowaway, opened up and loaded for touring.

The small wheels also give the advantage of lowering your panniers. The net result is a nice, low centre of gravity for the bicycle in addition to have a reasonably low bottom bracket height (especially if you opt for the smaller 406mm diameter rims.) This photo also clearly shows how the smaller wheels give you more loading space. There is heaps of room available on top of the rear and front racks to add bags or to tie down a load of some sort. This particular handlebar set-up is rather unusual for a tourer, but don't be afraid to experiment. You may be surprised to learn what works for you!

Some other great little-wheel tourers:

Whilst this website was originally founded on the interest in the Raleigh Twenty, there are lots of other good small-wheelers out there. Here are some other small-wheelers rigged up for touring duty.

Dawes Kingpin Tourer Conversions.

A fully-modernised Dawes Kingpin with lots of fabrication and brazing. 2x10 Shimano Ultegra/105/Tiagra STI drivetrain components. Alienation Ankle Biter rims on FRM carbon hubs. Bontrager post, stem and bars. Special attention should be brought to the extension seat-post with extra bracing struts down to the brake bridge. A novel idea that has been done to a few small-wheeler modernisations. According to the owner, this stiffens up the frame considerably to a performance on par with regular diamond-frame bicycles. The frame, fork and rack are the only parts remaining from the original bike.

The owner describes this as a "Day-Tourer" so not the sort of fully-loaded, kitchen-sink touring bicycles, but nonetheless a machine for going on long day rides through the countryside.


Of course, you don't have to super-modify your Raleigh Twenty to have a great time riding. Get out there and ride!

 Jim Berry on the Southern Links Rail trail. (Click here for gallery)

"Nothing like a fall ride from country market to market on a shopper. Mid-Michiagn rail-trails link small rural towns about every five miles. Usually there is a small market that sells everything from local freezer beef to candy cigarettes and the usual assortment of beer." - Jim Berry

As always, come back soon to see more updates!