How to repair old english bicycles

Written by natasha parks
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How to repair old english bicycles
If you own a traditional Raleigh bicycle, adhere to its unique set of dimensions to avoid confusion and costly mistakes. (The front wheel of an old yellow bike leaning on a grey wall image by Maria Bell from

The average bicycle can require many repairs, but old English bicycles may require more specific repairs. Look out for common faults and know some standard repairs for traditional English bicycle designs and be aware of the difference between Raleigh designed bicycles and other manufacturers, because the way you repair your bike depends on the type of product you have. Using the right tools will improve the longevity of any components used in the repairs you make, according to Sheldon Brown. Post-war Raleighs are priced around £97, according to Old Classic Bicycles.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Threadless bottom bracket
  • Bottom bracket spanner

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  1. 1

    Measure your bicycle to determine if it was built by Raleigh, by examining where the rear dropouts are located and measuring the diameter of the seat posts. All Raleigh bikes have rear fender eyelets directly behind the axle rather than above it, and their seat post diameter is unique at 1 inch. This is important because the standard sizing and dimensions of a true Raleigh bicycle are different to any other manufacturers settings. Raleigh bicycles are configured to the British Standard of bike dimensions, as explained by Sheldon Brown.

  2. 2

    Unscrew and refix the screws on your bike using an adjustable wrench with English settings. English wrenches are made to comply with the "Whitworth" scale of sizing, according to Sheldon Brown.

  3. 3

    Examine the headsets and bottom brackets for sizing. Raleigh bicycles were built with a unique 26 threads-per-inch measurement and are therefore not interchangeable with other bike components. This will affect your repairs if you are concerned with replacing the forks, because you will need to replace the headset in addition to the forks.

  4. 4

    Upgrade from cottered cranks to cotterless cranks by reusing your old cups or buying a new bottom bracket. Many older bicycles use wedge-shaped fasteners called "cotters" to hold the cranks onto the bottom brake axle. Cotters have a nut to hold them in place after they have been driven or pressed in and can be difficult to remove, especially if they have been in place for a long time. A threadless bottom bracket is the best type of bracket and an internally expanding example can be purchased from a company like Velo Orange. Their brackets differ from previous designs because they only require a traditional bottom bracket spanner or pin wrench to fit. Raleigh cups are smaller than standard, so check the dimensions of all components carefully before purchasing.

  5. 5

    Install new front hubs. If you own a Raleigh bicycle, you will need to differentiate between left and right front wheels, and remember, Raleigh front hubs do not have cone locknuts. They have one adjustable cone with wrench flats and another non-adjustable cone. Make adjustments only with the adjustable cone, which should be left-oriented. You will need to open up the fork blades slightly to remove and replace the wheels.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep regular checks on all components of the bicycle to detect failure early and to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of resulting repairs.
  • Brakes, tires, gears, handlebars and other components can be ordered online via reputable specialist shops such as The Old Bicycle Showroom, which supply vintage bike parts.
  • Do not under- or over-tighten the screw threads on your bicycle, as the wrong amount of tightening can irreversibly damage expensive components.
  • Do not install cables that are too long for the bicycle. This creates unnecessary friction and leads to a spongy feeling when the bike is in use.

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