My Raleigh Twenty, a nifty folding bike

I  used to be a 'one-bike man' but recently i have cheaply acquired a Twenty folder. One of the reasons for buying the Twenty were the other enthusiastic write-ups, positive experiences and modifications by other
Twenty fans (see very last picture).

The Twenty after many of the crucial modifications

The Twenty as i bought it

Weight: 16 Kilos

If you follow the links at the bottom of this page, some amazing bikes and knowledge is out there. I have also included a number of bikes from the Fixed Gear Gallery (a great resource for bike inspiration) all the way at the bottom. I hope this write-up may inspire and inform other people.

Another tidbit that made me want to get a folder was some information on the Bike Fridays' site. According to them and research the generally held idea that small wheels mean slow speed, inefficiency and such is a mistake. Their site says:

  Small wheels:
  -climb better due to a smaller diameter that needs to be rotated.
  -accelerate faster for the same reason.
  -are more responsive - they turn and steer more easily - the feel is rather like    
   having 'power steering' in your car.
  -have a lower surface area, have lower wind resistance in headwinds.

   When riding in a group, small wheels enable you to get closer together and draft      
   (much) better.

   The design of many folders allows a smaller and and lighter overall package than
   a regular bike, and smallness and lightness are factors in going fast.

   In fact tests have shown that up to 16 mp/h, the small wheel is more efficient
   than a big wheel. Between 16 and 33 mp/h there is little difference. Over 33 mp/h
   the gyroscopic effect of the big wheel makes it more effective. Most folks do not
   go over 33 mp/h. Source: 1984 Olympic Men's Road Race Gold Medal winner,
   Alexi Grewal during a conversation with Jeff Linder. Alexi owns a Pocket Rocket
   (a higher end folder).
   Note: 33 mp/h is more than 53 Kilometers per Hour! Even 7 time Tour De France winner Lance
    Armstrong (arguably the world's fastest and best cyclist at the time of his last Tour Victory) averaged just shy of
    42 Kilometers per Hour in his last tour despite (because?) of large wheels  and skinny tire
    The world cycling hour record is about 56 Kilometers per Hour and there are
    probably about a dozen guys in the world that can even get close to this. I for one know that i will never even
    be anywhere near to  going 33 mp/h under my own power (just like 99,9% of humanity).

   Remember that large wheels originated from a time where there were no such
   thing as gears - witness the direct drive Penny Farthing bike. Now, the size of the
   wheel can be optimized - and that optimal size is a lot smaller than 26" or more.

Some of the things i liked about the Twenty specifically were it's extreme durability, low center of gravity, speed (great for a folder), versatility and that fact that due to it's wheelbase it rides very much like a 'normal' bike. Other reasons for wanting an additional bike next to my 'Tank Girl' bike:

- A folder is lighter, smaller and compact, this means it is very versatile for commuter type situations. In the Netherlands and many other places folders travel for free on public transport! This means lots of added mobility and possibilities.

- A back up bike is very nice to have when your other wheels break down temporarily or when you have friends over that need a ride.

- I wanted an even less desirable as well as "funny" looking bike that i would have little worries over in terms of theft. As it is the Twenty is taken easily indoors or onto other vehicles. This means you rarely need to leave it outside. But even so it'd like to be able to do just that occasionally. Perhaps even leave it overnight at relatively theft prone places such as stations. When folded the Twenty looks strange and even broken and useless, hence hard to sell and undesirable to steal (particularly as you can lock both wheels and the frame to a post with one lock).

So i looked around the Internet and quickly found a cheap Twenty in near mint condition, for a very reasonable sum. I think this was lucky indeed since i don't think many were sold in the Netherlands at all (other folders were). Mine must be approximately between 20 and 35 years old but it looks barely used. The only thing that was no longer original were the pedals and an added new AXA SL-7 lock. For E 65 i also got this hardly used lock (with two keys) worth E 15! Stateside Twenties in the condition mine is go for anywhere between US 100 and US 250. I couldn't resist this purchase!

1st alteration

(Fenders and Lock lying on the floor)

II don't know the weight after the 1st alteration as i didn't have it this way for very long  but it is probably close to the final incarnation.

The cost for my Twenty in Euro's

     1. Bike Purchase E 65 - E 15 (lock)             
     2. New (light) Parts:         
         -Alu Seat Post
         -'Cat Eye' mini Bell 
         -'Hebe' removable fenders     9
-        -Bolts and nuts for stem and saddle post 
         -Brooks B 17 saddle (second hand, great condition) 
            -Hema small 'turtle' LED lamps

N.B. i removed the quick release keys for the steerer and saddle post as they make it very easy to steal those parts. The hex key bolts and nuts i replaced them with require a tool to undo and can still be easily undone in those very rare instances that i fold the steerer and post as well.

2nd Alteration

New wheels, back one with a Shimano Three speed Nexus Inter 3 hub, Tioga Comp Pool Tires and new inner tubes
Sub Total                                                                                         


Tioga Comp Pool are supposed to have changed little over the last thirty years of production. Apparantly they are still some of the fastest tires out there, Harris Cyclery calls them "Legendary high performance slick tires." . And it seems to be true, the bike is crazy fast since i installed these. I whizz by "ordinary" bikers and can tell they are wondering what the hell kind off bike i am riding. Quite funny although i am not racing anyone but myself. Anyway 20 * 1.75 gives for a comfortable as well as speedy ride. The only thing is that the front tire could be a little skinnier so it would be easier to fit into the old school dutch bike racks. But these racks are rarer all the time. I have also heard (recumbent riders expressed this concern) the Tioga's tend to get punctures fairly quickly when it rains. If this turns out to be the case i may get puncture resistant liners for them. So far not a single puncture.

Wheels & Hub:

The Alu rims are fairly generic but decent to good quality. The Shimano hub gears (has a 16 tooth dished sprocket) are interesting. I am very used and partial to Sturmey Archer (SA) AW hubs. They just last and last. They are heavy and large though and that's where the Shimano scores points. If think if i would have had the choice (same deal, different hub) i would have gotten an SA. This is to do with the fact that the very few parts that ever wear on SA hubs are easily obtainable, cheap and easy to replace/service. Also i read that SA is the most efficient hub in it's 'middle gear' which is essentially direct drive. As i wrote in my other piece i find these hubs on the street quite regularly. From what i gather the Shimano hub is harder to service and can only be fixed by replacing entire (expensive!) units rather than little parts. But as it is i hope to be riding the Shimano trouble free for some years and when it gives out i may just lace in one of my SA hubs.

Another difference is that the Shimano's freewheel is loud and has a 'sharp' sound compared to the SA. I wasn't sure about this at first but now i really like it! It kinda sounds like a rattle snake or something and it makes people get out of my way fast. Cool! The gear ratio on the Shimano really suits me so far. The coaster brake is just great, simple and reliable. I could add a caliper brake in front but for now it seems fine without.

In the pictures the shifter is in a very odd place, that's because i hadn't decided on the handlebars and hence shifter cable length/positioning yet. Might put it on the bars.

I rode my Twenty for about 4 days after my second alteration. I noticed the ride was far from smooth. This was due to the fact that the very unusual headset was shot and the chain ring as well as the chain were more worn then i thought. This made for a strange combination with my almost new and very smooth back cog and hub. I then decided to go all out. Al lot of the upgrades other people had done made sense. Especially since i had decided the Twenty was going to be my daily ride from now on.

I went back to Philipsen and he gave me the following deal:

3rd Alteration

Weight after third alteration: about 13 Kilos. You have to add another 0.5 Kilo's for the Axa Lock though.

Front Fork  22,50
Tange Levin Headset
FAG Bottom Bracket & Axle
SRAM 2000 Stainless Steel Chain f20,00
Sakae BMX SR 170 mm Crank set and Chain wheel (44-1/8)
Alu Handlebars    9,95
Labour  30
Rubber Grips  'No Charge'
Stainless Steel & Alu Handlebar Stem  'No Charge'
Sub Total                                                                                        H 160      (he let the 0,95 cents be)

So you may feel that is a lot of money for a folder. And you would be right. However i don't want to own a new or fancy looking (aluminum frame) folder for that money. It defeats the whole purpose if i get a folder and then it gets stolen (and it will if i use it in the manner i want). Also i am a firm believer of durability and 'in the field' testing. Any bike or product that can quite easily wear sustained and intense use for 25 years (see links) is the product or bike for me! Folders that can (sort off) rival the modified Twenty for durability and performance start at E 770 new and E 500 used at the very least. The bikes i refer two are the Swift and the Brompton.

I think the only thing i could have possibly saved 5 to 10 Euro's on was the Chain. But hey, big deal.

Plus it is a really fun project and hobby for me personally. Hobbies usually cost money, this one does,.. but it also yields a great bike.

I think i will call her Tweeny or perhaps Twiggy... hmm this is getting a tad sad ha ha

Front Fork:

Because it seems te be hard to find replacement forks for Twenty's and some people asked me about mine i wrote some on it which i posted on BikeForums.Net. I am including most of the text here below. If anyone reading this really can't find the fork or Bottom Bracket i employed in their country, drop me a line and i'll try to help you out.

'The Replacement fork is not really a 'brand' or model as such, they are made and sold (in bulk via wholesalers only) to Dutch bike stores by a company called Akiru.

The denomination which my bike store gives 'em when he wants one is:

"Universal replacement fork, 20 * 1.75 with the longest threaded stem" (yes, it is threaded, you don't have to have your store do it  ).

The price my bike shop charges for the fork is E 22,50. He is not totally sure but he thinks a version is available that is suitable for cantilevers too. He thinks if it is available the price difference is rather minimal.
He does recommend using the fork with a good/decent headset for a smooth/stable ride. The fork is not machined/welded to such precision as forks that cost double or triple of course.

He can also order a totally different 20 inch fork that has good suspension and disk brake mountings but that one costs at least 3 times as much, possibly 5 times. 



Tange Levin CDS I.S.O. According to Rivendell (manufacturers of some of the finest frames/bikes i think) "This is the workhorse of the headset world. Spec'd on thousands of bikes over the years, basically the same design as the Campy Nuovo Record but it is steel so it might even last longer. It's a no frills, no logo, bundle o' value of a headset...good enough for any bike. Made for 1" threaded steerers."

It uses smaller 5/32" ball bearings and more of them than a standard headset. I have the same headset on my other bike and it is smooth and durable, i recommend it highly.

Bottom Bracket:

Ok, now for the long story on the Bottom Bracket. I wrote down everything i could.

It is interesting because it seems to represent a different/other solution than most people (even experts) recommend for Twenties. And it is affordable. Philipsen explained that FAG (yes that's what the brand is called) make some excellent cartridge bottom brackets, that are even used on some Koga Miyata bikes. The shells are made of hard plastic and some of the versions don't even have threading. Those versions are made to be hammered into Thompson bracket mounts/cylinders and since the moving parts are in the cartridge the outer part of the shell doesn't need to be mounted rock solid in the frame. As long as it is stuck in fairly good.

Philipsen recommended installing a BSA Fag Bracket with standard 24 TPI threading and a 137 mm axle. He knew from experience that the bracket would go in just fine and that the plastic threading of the shells might be mangled a bit (it is only 2 turns of threading per inch difference after all) but my bikes metal threading would be just fine (meaning that in the future i could always install other brackets, even with 'proper' threading if desired). Not the most elegant solution. But importantly the end result was a cheap (way cheaper than most alternatives) durable bracket replacement that feels very stable and smooth.

The box in which the FAG is sold says:

Cotterles 132 / 28 v

Then there is the "cups" they are really more like plastic holders (see picture below) that screw into the bike frame. One side is fixed. The other side is used to adjust/mount the bearing unit. That side will have "FAG Germany" molded in the plastic.

My bike store can definately sell me the following sizes (axle length in mm) 110, 113, 118,5, 122,5, 132 and possibly more.

He mounted a long 132 MM one on my bike because i have some thick BMX style cranks and my Nexus hub has back cog which is dished outwards. He achieved a nice and straight chainline. If you order a BB through me or anyone else you should measure how long of an axle you need. The old axle/cranks/chainline and a Caliper should help with this.

My mechanic also related that the Difference in TPI is a non issue in his experience. He has mounted them many times and they have given him no problems. He said you can actually turn the "cup" in by hand with only some force, so almost no chance of messing up your bikes metal thread. He sells them for E 18,50 although they price could vary a little bit depending on size.

He also told there is another brand called Kinex which makes a very simliar/clone product but that is really not as good so not really worth buying if you can also buy the FAG. Not even sure if they are cheaper. If you come across a Kinex you can recognize it because it the Barrel/integrated bearing unit of the BB reads:

Slovakia Kinex ... etc.

Adjustable side/cup side also has information printed in the plastic, for example:

Made in Slovakia, Kinex 1,37 * 24 tpi RH

As i couldn't find the FAG homepage it could be handy to check the Kinex homepage it has lots of info which will give you an idea of the construction and appearance of the FAG.

I don't think the Kinex is horrible or anything, so if you can't find the FAG...

I( TAKE THAT SHELDON!!!  ;-) only kidding, Sheldon is and always will be Bike God, Goeroe and Optimus Prime, i can't thank/praise that guy enough!)

The FAG particular bracket i used looks quite a lot like this Kinex one, except the axle width is longer and the axle itself is gold colored. Also the barrel is thinner and has more metalic appearance. But it gives a general idea.

This bracket also enabled me to install cotterless Alu cranks. 

I double checked this BB method. I went to one of the most reputable bike stores in Rotterdam (Biker's Best) that sells and services some of the most high end machines. They confirmed that they often used the FAG 24 TPI BB in 26 TPI bikes and had no problems whatsoever.


S-Ram Stainless steel.

Philipsen removed the weird head tube nylon bushing, smoothed out the tube, installed the headset, the BB and all the other parts, looked over the hub (i asked him to just in case) for E 30. He said he was busy for quite a bit finding the right axle width and such. Seems a very fair price for labour.

Cranks and Chainring:

Sakae SR BMX style and gold anodized ha ha. Philipsen had these left over and was willing to part with them for a reasonable 35 Euros i saw them on E-Bay somewhere for 70 Dollars. They are light, sturdy and rather bling.


Alu and they go way up.


Stainless steel and Alu. Solid and light.

The Rest of the (minor) Alterations

Henceforth i won't number the alterations anymore. I will be making continues improvements, additions and alterations to the Twenty but none as major as the first few.

The Beauty becomes a Beast

As it turns out my my bike was more than a bit shiny at the end. Although it is a pity i have toned that down lots. Unfortunately bike theft is a fact of life in the Netherlands and i would hate to lose this bike.

So far i have removed all brands and logos. The idea is to have as little as possible in the way anything that give away the bikes' quality and value. In the Netherlands' brands (Raleigh ranking at the top) are always touted by thiefs trying to make a sale. Removing the branding was easy, just a washing up sponge, some water and scratching with my nail a bit. Then i rubbed most of the frame with the sponge and turpentine. This works great! It makes the top clearcoat look whitish, dull, dusty and unnatractive. If at a later date i find myself in a more laid back locality i can easily make the bike shinier again. All i got to do is use a mild chemical abrasive polish to buff out the clearcoat. I could even lay on another clear coat on it and buy some new 'Raleigh' decals to make it brand spanking new.

Added or Altered the following:

-Cat Eye Enduro bike computer. I am very impressed with this bit of kit, pretty much perfect for my preferences: extra strong/durable, big display and numbers, 2 wheel sizes, plenty of functions yet affordable. The only thing i would like is a back light. I also taped gaffer tape around the computer and even made a gaffer 'flap' for it. It still can be taken off my bike just as quickly, but if i should ever forget it does stand out way less now and hope this will prevent it from being stolen.

-Some rather special pedals that involve both rubber and some subliminated metal rods for extra grip. I don't know the brand but carries them as well as most of the parts i have added lately and refer to below. The pedals are not too wide nor narrow, beefy and not particularly heavy. Most importantly they have industrial bearing which last very long and then can be replaced and they take clips.

-Powerstraps for better efficiency and improved climbing. I think they are a great middle ground between clip and clipless that offer many advantages and few disadvantages.

-A large Cat Eye "Comet" flick bell, i wanted a bit more loudness even when the bell was muffled by raindrops, this one really delivers.

-Elongated the front and especially back fender. Bought another set of cheap fenders and attached some portions. In heavier rain and winds this is a lot more effective and keeps my shoes and back a heck of a lot drier. The elongation was a simple task just some bolts, nuts and gaffer tape. Unfortunate that most of todays cheaper fenders feature horrible design.

-I really wanted to have my Axa lock on the front wheel. This was because the lock is more in your face which i hope may dissuade thieves but also it makes it way easier to lock my bike. With my chain i can now lock my back wheel and frame to a post easily while my front wheel is still protected by the Axa. When everything was reversed i usually found my chain was too short. In order to mount the Axa on the front i made my own mounting "bracket" out of some threaded rod. Works great and makes locking the bike easier. It only involved taping some gaffer on a threaded rod and then shaping it around an old seat post employing bith Vice and Vice Grip pliers. I still need to make some brackets of stainless steel rod as these are already rusty.

-I altered the positioning of the brake lever of my coaster brake. It was preventing me from moving the back wheel in the drops which was not good for adjustment of chain tension. Plus it will probably make it (even) easier to mount certain kickstands and my Burley Trailer.

-Zefal Gizmo bracket for mounting bottle cage holders almost anywhere. I have two of these now and they seem great. I will mount the other when i do my tour.

-Elite Bottle Cage. I love the way it looks super beefy (welds, once piece tubing) but having read some reviews it would appear it looks sturdy but in actual fact it will eventually crack at the weld. In hindsight i would rather have bought a 'near-indestructible' cage by American Classic or otherwise the stainless steel variant (like in the picture) of the Elite. I am mounting the Elite only when i tour since it is too flashy in Aluminium/Silver anodizing for city use.

I am using a simple but good black Tacxk bottle cage for in the city.

Before Tubus and all the other great (but crazy expensive) touring racks there was the Blackburn Mountainrack I. This is a classic rack that is super durable and i could get i way more affordable than any other good rack. Despite i being made for mountainbikes the Mountainrack I (unlike the bigger II) fits my Twenty nicely. Should come in very handy on the tour.

-Added a new Brooks Champion Flyer for the extra comfort of the springs. I hope it is the last saddle i ever buy, i am going to take lots of care of it. It was comfortable from day one but i am still breaking it in/shaping it so it can only get even better (same level of comfort as my B 17 i would suspect). I enjoy the bouncy springs. Whenever i hit a significant bump they really smooth out the ride.

I noticed another unexpected bonus of the Flyer when compared to the B 17. The leather sits way higher (an inch or more?) on the undercarriage due to the design and the springs of the Flyer. This means you can lower your seatpost quite a bit and still get the same height as with the B 17. Good news for me as i was always a little worried about the seatpost sticking out so much and what that might mean for the Seatpost and frame on the long term.

-Soon i will upgrade to new wheelset including a 7 Speed S-Ram freewheel hub as well as add a different brake system. More info on that later. I will also try to add more pictures.

A note about 'weight weanies' & saddles

In general i have little love for weight weanies. These are the recreational cyclist people who think they "need" the latest, lightest (and most expensive) equipment in order to enjoy themselves. They might say, "Hey you are using a leather Brooks saddle! Those are crazy heavy compared to the new 'Z- 3000, titanium racing rough butt' model!!" The way i see it, it is usefull to have a light bike (and mind weight) when it is usefull. My folder is meant to be carried often, that is why i have incorporated few and mostly light parts. However, the saddle is not one of the light parts (though it isn't very heavy either). 

Two Brooks B17 Saddles side by side. My second hand version and my friends version that he had bought brand new and 2 minutes before we made the picture. Check the sit bone indents! Brooks saddles mold themselves to your unique anatomy. That and the design are what makes them unbelievably comfortable compared to pretty much all other saddles.

Another very important aspect of enjoying my bike is comfort. And due to Sheldon 'Bike Guru' Brown's glowing praise, my own experience as well as MTBREVIEW.COM i have come to the conclusion that for me there is no substitute for Brooks saddles. The comfort is unsurpassed. And yes they are a little heavier than most "modern" saddles. But to the weight weanies i would say what other advocates say, try a Brooks, see the difference and enjoy a painless and great ride. If a few extra gramms of added weight still get to you, lose a bit of weight yourself (many of of us wouldn't suffer from doing so anyway).  And oh yeah, Brooks saddles last up to thirty years, very few others do. If you want some more information and opinions on Brooks check this link, and read the long thread.

In General Bike Forums and their folder section especially is a great resource. There are some great guys there with some amazing folders including various Twenties. They are all very helpfull and friendly.

More Random Gushing and Thoughts

Having (at the time of writing this) owned and ridden the Twenty for close to half a year i can say i am very happy with it:

It rides great, as good fast and comfortable if not more so than any other bike i ever had.

I recently biked about 50 Km (I have very rarely done this on any bike so far) on my folder at a fairly brisk pace and i felt fine afterwards, no pains or soreness. 

Having 20 inch wheels is really like Power Steering in a car. You can make much tighter corners and circles and the wheels are way more responsive. I really can't say i have noticed any significant decrease in comfort, even when i hit curbs. I suppose the fat tires really help with this.

I have also learned that it is nearly impossible to warp a 20 inch wheel. According to a knowledgeable guy on bike forums "a 32-spoke, cross laced, 20 inch wheel is about equivalent in strength to a 44-spoke 700c. (eg: bomb-proof)". My experience so far seems to confirm this. I jump off curbs and sometimes even in to them (not too much) no problems at all. I think this is another great benefit of a folder with smaller wheels.

Having given it some thought (and seen some older folks buy new bikes) i also like the idea that in theory i could continue riding my Twenty even if i am a lot stiffer or older. The main tube is extremely low which means mounting couldn't be easier.

So are there any downsides? The only thing i could think of so far is that if you use a lock with real beefy chain links you may have real trouble getting it through the wheels. This is because the spokes are closer together on smaller wheels. My lock works but it takes a small bit of effort to pull it through. I wouldn't use a lock with bigger links though.

For the Rest...

The work that i did do myself to improve the Twenty was rather minimal and easy. It is a simple workhorse bike with few pieces hence it is simple to take apart. There were bigger but mostly a lot of little jobs such as filling out the drop outs so they would fit the modern/standard thicker axles. This is not hard but you have got to know what you are doing or you could mess up your frame.

Philipsen bike Store was (as always) a great help in technical questions, help, good quality parts and some fair deals. Many thanks to them. I am glad i bought them some drinks one time!

Philipsen, Oostzeedijk Boven 162-166, 3063BK Rotterdam, Tel: 010-4143222, this on-line store had also proven to be a great store with a super nice owner. I am elated to learn that good, caring LBS' still exist in my vincinity.

So as it has turned out the twenty is a great (daily) shopper, leave-overnight, back up and commuter bike. Of course no single bike can do everything. I can't take anyone on the back (not too wise even on a sturdy bike) and wouldn't want to bike much more than 70 Kilometers per day (unless i did some training and fine tuning) on it. But that's exactly where my other bikes come in!

I will probably keep tweaking the Twenty since i have fun doing so. A few little things i am considering is changing the chainguard, moving the shifter and adding some foam grips.

Once you surf to the gallery in the link above try numbers 1,888-89 and 1,851 as well as they are particularly inspiring but there are quite a few more Twenties in the Gallery if you take your time to find them.

I enjoy any feedback or insights people may have to offer:

-E= Mp3