For sale: My vintage 1940's fixie

Back in 2007, while trawling the CTC forum's classified section for second hand touring bikes, my Dad stumbled across something a bit special. In British racing green.

1940s path bike against a wall

It's a late 1940s/early 1950s "path bike", a term that basically means it's for riding "roads and paths". So a bit like the modern day "gravel bike". What's old is new again...

Made from lightweight Reynolds tubing and built up entirely from British components, it's a wonderful example of the kind of thing that craftsmen and women used to create in the UK.

It was fully restored about 10 years ago, by a chap who sold it to Pete, who sold it to me. Pete was selling it because (the usual story) he had far too many bikes, and he wasn't riding this one much. It was also a bit too big for him.

Pete had some rather lovely photos of it, taken just after the restoration was completed. Checkout that grease nipple!

Bottom bracket

You can see all the photos Pete gave me in this Flickr album.

Sadly, the time has come for me to sell it to somebody else who'll appreciate it. Just as it was for Pete, I also have too many bikes, and don't ride this one very much. It doesn't quite fit me either (I had to fit a longer seat post in order to ride it). And I need the room. There are too many bikes in my lounge, and I can't get to my book shelf...

Before we get into how much I'd like for it, let's take a look at the parts.

  • 23" Reynolds frame
  • Dunlop Special Lightweight rims (27")
  • Michelin 27 x 1¼" World Tour gum wall tyres (which roll really nicely)
  • Handlebars with a Strata Pellissier bend
  • GB Coureur Hiduminium brake calipers
  • GB Coureur brake levers
  • Chater Lea headset (apparently these are worth about £50 on their own)
  • 48 tooth Williams chainset
  • 18 tooth rear sprocket (fixed)
  • 19 tooth rear sprocket and freewheel (it's a flip-flop hub)
  • Bayliss Wiley bottom bracket
  • Bluemels Popular mudguards

Note that 10 years have elapsed since Pete's pictures (on Flickr) were taken, and while the bike is virtually unchanged I have swapped the saddle to a vintage Brooks C15. I've also replaced the rear brake calliper with another GB calliper of the same model (the thread on the original calliper's main bolt had stripped, which wasn't safe).

The paint job isn't as shiny as it once was either, even though the bike has been stored indoors. It has developed a lovely patina though.

Here are some recent photos:

Bike from left side

Handlebars and brake levers

Handlebars, brake levers and frame/saddle

Atax quill stem

These forks are lovely to ride – you can actually see them give a little when you put some weight on the handlebars. They're a beautiful shape too, not like the overbuilt tubing we have to put up with nowadays.

The nicest forks I've ever ridden

Close up of forks and front hub

Forks and handelbars from left side

Note the pencil-thin rear stays.

Pencil thin rear stays

Williams chainset

Rear brake calliper

So who made it?

Unfortunately, nobody has been able to identify the builder. Sean, who runs my local bike shop, is a bit of an expert on vintage bikes. He thinks it might be a Raleigh Lenton, and I think he could be right.

The only thing that gives me cause to question it is the Chater Lea headset. At the end of the 1940s Raleigh were fitting headsets like this one to the Lenton. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the frames measured 22" (and this bike has a 23" frame).

In the early 1950s Raleigh started making 23" frames instead, but the first catalogue for the 23" model shows it with a more modern headset design.

It's not impossible that some were made in 23" with the earlier Chater Lea headsets, but nor is there any conclusive evidence for it actually being a Raleigh.

So I just call it The Enigma.

How much?

My top priority is that it goes to somebody who'll appreciate it.

If you'd like it, you can have it for £250. Why not take it for a ride and see what you think? I'm in Manchester.

I should mention at this point that there's a little play in one of the cotter pins. I had Sean check it (he runs the local bike shop and is a vintage bike guru), and he said it'll be fine for a while. Also, they're cheap to replace.

Published on in Cycling