Last week I wrote a blog about using late 80’s early 90’s Mtb’s as commuting bikes.
Let’s go back a bit further in time and look at using classic 50’s – 60’s Town or roadster bikes today .
All of my experience of this kind of bike is based around using what I believe is a mid-50’s Raleigh Lenton that has been used for doing my daily commutes on since April 2016 and in all fairness it’s only been since September that it has been running 100% . The main issues have been the original 1954 four speed sturmey Archer rear hub but I was aware of an unknown gear issue when I bought the bike .
The reason I chose to buy this actual bike over any of the other similar aged bikes I looked at was the fact it was fitted with 26 x 1 ¼” Alloy rims that would or should actually allow some braking effort to be applied when needed , as the thought of using one with steel rimmed wheels in the damp and cold conditions does not inspire me greatly .
The vast majority of bikes from the same era would have been fitted with steel rims and rod linked brakes all of which don’t add up to a great daily commuter , but that is only my opinion and again not based on any experience of using one . So my advice would be to try and find one with alloy rims and conventional caliper brakes that are cable operated .
Once I had the original 4 speed hub replaced by a mid-60’s 3 speed AW model hub the bike has run faultlessly and has also been used for a couple of 20+ mile leisure rides just for a bit of fun and has covered well over 150 miles since so there is no reason once a bike of this era is fettled into a reliable state it can’t be used as a daily commuter .
The frames and the vast majority of the components fitted are of a more robust nature than most modern components in my mind , so yes the bike weighs a lot more but once up to riding speed they float along lovely and are even more relaxing to ride if fitted with 28” wheels over the more standard 26” wheel .
The vast majority came with full length mudguards and chain covers . Some even had a dynamo lighting system built in as standard, with a few modern gizmos added these can be quite useful lights . Even if the original guards have disappeared there are loads of guards available that can be fitted with out too much issue , the ones on mine are Sks chromo plastic ones designed for 700c wheels which provide loads of clearance between tyre and guards and are squeak and rattle free in operation .
The gear ratios provided leave a lot to be desired on most Sturmey Archer units but with a bit of swapping over of the rear gear and or the crankset you can normally get it somewhere near ideal to the terrain that you ride on locally . And then there is also the ability to just run it in single or fixed gear mode as well .
With a machine that is at least 50+ years old it has more than likely lost all or most of its originality so is a lot less desirable to bike theives so one less thing to worry about as well .
The other great thing is the initial purchase cost is likely to be lower than a modern bike from your local retail outlet. So far I have spent just over £120 on buying and getting the bike into a reliable daily commuting machine that stands out from the rest of the bikes parked in my workplace bike rack .
Sourcing from e bay , gumtree and local auction houses examples of these town bikes can be had from as little as £20 , plus whatever needs doing to them to get mobile again , I am not aware of any parts supply issues although there isn’t always a lot of choice on tyres but currently Schwalbe offer a couple of choices of a fairly puncture proof tyre .