Reports of the demise of this Web site are greatly exaggerated! We at thank Harris Cyclery for its support over the years. Harris Cyclery has closed, but we keep going. Keep visiting the site for new and updated articles, and news about possible new affilations.

Older Raleigh Bicycles
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by Sheldon "Nottingham" Brown
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Do not write or phone me to ask the age or value of an old Raleigh.
All of the information I have on that is on this Web page or

Raleigh 3-Speeds

For many years, in many parts of the world, the Raleigh "Sports" three-speed bicycle was considered the ultimate in human-powered transportation. These bicycles were not toys, and, despite the model name, they were not sporting equipment...they were serious vehicles. The men and women who built them, by and large, also rode them as their primary means of transportation.

Most modern bicycles are designed with the primary intent to catch your eye on the sales floor, and persuade you to buy. That is not what a Raleigh Sports was about...these were designed to provide solid, dependable transportation for the British public, at a time when only the upper classes had motorcars. These bikes were built to last 100 years, with reasonable care.

"The All Steel Bicycle"

Contemporary bicycles have many parts made of aluminum (or "aluminium," if you prefer) for lightness, strength and corrosion resistance. Contemporary bicycles with steel rims, or cranks, or handlebars, or brakes are cutting corners and saving a little bit of money, for a low-end bicycle. Modern steel rims, cranks, etc are of low quality, because they are aimed at the cheapest possible price point.

From the mid 19th century well into the 20th, the word "steel" was magic in Britain. Britain's rise to an industrial superpower on the crest of the Industrial Revolution was based, as much as anything else, on the steel industry and the new technologies it made possible: steel ships, steel bridges, steel buildings...and steel bicycles. Raleigh originally introduced the slogan "The All Steel Bicycle" to differentiate Raleighs from competitors who used cast iron for some critical parts, a heavier and cruder technology.

The mystique of steel caused the British cycle industry to be slow to adopt newfangled materials such as aluminum, and many British cyclists believed, even well into the 1960's, that steel rims, for instance, were superior to aluminum ones. These days, this seems laughable...but if you look at an older Dunlop steel rim, you'll find a very respectable, well-made product.

The fact that Raleigh 3-speeds are made of steel shouldn't fool you into thinking that these bikes were cheap or inferior in any way...they were not...they were the finest utility bicycles money could buy.

Raleigh 3-speed bicycles were introduced around the turn of the century, and kept improving in technology over the years, reaching a peak in quality probably in the mid-to-late 1950s. They continued to be built in Nottingham until the mid-1970's, when the glamour of the 10-speed fad pushed them out of favor with the rising baby-boom generation.

The Raleigh Factory

When a modern company sets out to build a bicycle, what it really builds is the frame (if that.) It buys sets of tubing from a tubing company, cuts and welds them together into a frame, paints it and installs parts from different specialized parts companies. Actually, many well-known brands don't even do that; they order bicycle frames to be built to their specifications, with their name painted on, and equipped with parts from a variety of vendors. These companies are actually trading companies, even though their image is that of a manufacturer.

Raleigh, in its glory years (up into the 1960's) was the absolute opposite. Its enormous Nottingham factory covered 40 acres and employed nearly 7000 workers. A Raleigh bicycle of this era would have a Raleigh frame, made of Raleigh tubing connected with Raleigh lugs, with a Raleigh bottom bracket, Raleigh cranks, Raleigh pedals, Raleigh headset, Raleigh handlebars, Raleigh stem, Raleigh seatpost, Raleigh hubs (Sturmey-Archer was a Raleigh subsidiary) and even Raleigh spokes. All of these parts would have been made in the same factory.

The saddles would be from Brooks, another Raleigh division, and the rims and tyres would be from Dunlop, a company closely related to Raleigh.

This level of integration has never been surpassed in the bicycle industry, though Schwinn came close in the same era.

Dating Your Raleigh 3-speed Bicycle

If your bicycle has a Sturmey-Archer hub (c1903-1990s), it should have on the hub a date of manufacture, which would normally also be the cycle's date of manufacture. In the 1930s, Raleigh only used a single digit, i.e. "6" for "1936." After that, Raleigh started using two-digit date stamps.

If you are not sure that the rear wheel on your bike is original, the charts below should help you determine the approximate date of manufacture.

It may also be possible to date your frame by its serial number. Note that the serial number information below is fragmentary and incomplete, and many bikes have proven to be much newer than the serial numbers would suggest.

Do not write or phone me to ask the age or value of an old Raleigh.
All of the information I have on that is on this Web page or

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Equipment Changes Through the Years

(Work in Progress)

The tables below are being compiled by examining bicycles that come in for service, and appear to be in original condition. It is possible that some of the equipment listed is anachronistic, but I believe this information is good.

In general, quality reached its peak in the 1950s, and started to go down around the early 1960's, as management kept searching for ways to make the bicycles cheaper.

This table is focussed on the mainline Raleigh/Rudge/Humber "Sports" model. The luxury "Superbe" models were very similar, except for the saddles, the use of a locking front fork, and the inclusion of a Dynohub lighting system. (The Dynohub was also available as an extra-cost option on the Sports.)

Lower end models, such as Dunelt, Phillips, Robin Hood, Triumph etc. usually shared similar technology, though these models tended to have mattress saddles, Endrick rims, no chainguard braze-ons, fender stays bolted (not welded) to the fenders, and anchor-bolt type brake cables.

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Year Brakes Chainguard
Pedals Pulley Saddle Spoking Tyres
1945? Rudge-Whitworth Raleigh
Chain case Raleigh
Clamp-on steel B73-large cutouts 32/40
This was definitely a war-time bike. The handlebar, cranks, brake levers, fork crown and cable hardware were painted black, not chrome plated (chromium was a strategic material, not available for civilian use.) Stem and brake calipers were chromed. This bicycle has Endrick rims. The lamp bracket attaches to the handlebar binder bolt, rather than to the headset. Threaded oiler on bottom bracket shell.
Lady's Sports
Smooth black housing
Chain case Squashed
& slotted
Clamp-on steel B66 32/40
Old logo
Down tube "The All Steel Bicycle" (small); Seat tube" "Raleigh"; Dull-center rims; BB oiler left side, spring/ball cap.
1949 Raleigh
Smooth black housing
Chain case Forged Raleigh
Clamp-on steel B66 w/long holes. 32/40 Dunlop Sports Tyres
Seat tube, vertical: RALEIGH The All-Steel Bicycle. Top tube: Made in England (italic script) Down Tube: no markings. Dull-center rims; BB oiler left side, spring/ball cap. Lamp bracket on stem binder bolt. Dynohub w/black nuts, black cable clips. Black hex-head fender bolts. Black painted aluminium pump. Closed-top steel seatpost.
1952 Raleigh
Chain case Forged Raleigh
Brazed-on Brooks B66 32/40 Dunlop Sports
Old logo
Although this bike is a sports model, it certainly seems deluxe with the B66 saddle, gear case, Dynohub with front and rear lights, AND a Raleigh Industries kickstand!
Lady's Sports
Smooth black housing
Chain case Forged Raleigh
Clamp-on steel 32/40
Dull-center rims; BB oiler left side, spring/ball cap; Grey rubber "bullet" grips.
1953 Raleigh
Smooth grey housing
Chain case Forged Raleigh
Brazed-on B66 32/40
Dull-center rims; BB oiler left side, spring/ball cap; Alloy AW hub; Red pinstripes on fenders
1954 Raleigh
Chain case braze-on Forged Raleigh
Brazed-on 32/40
Dull-center rims. Head lugs in simple curve.
1956 Raleigh
Chain case braze-on Forged Raleigh
Brazed-on 32/40
Dull-center rims; BB oiler right side, metal flip top.
1957 Raleigh
Ribbed white housing
Chain case braze-on Forged Brazed-on Brooks B66 32/40
Sturmey Archer SW hub with date "57 2" and metal oiler, bottom bracket [metal] oiler right side, Brooks B66 saddle, front Dynohub
1960 Raleigh
Chain case braze-on Forged Raleigh
Metal clamp-on Brooks B66 32/40
Plastic bullet grips. Front hub oiler spring/ball type.
1961 Raleigh
Chain case braze-on Forged Raleigh
Metal clamp-on Brooks B72 32/40
Re-buildable block pedals, don't say "Raleigh."
1962 Raleigh
White ribbed cables
Forged Plastic one-piece clamp 32/40
Old logo
Large "RALEIGH" on down tube; "SPORTS" on seat tube in red, outlined with white.
1963 Raleigh
White ribbed cables
None Stamped Raleigh
Plastic one-piece clamp 32/40
Red bike with white fenders & chainguard.
1965 Raleigh
None Stamped Raleigh
Plastic Brooks B72 32/40
Shiny rims; old style decals on down tube.
2 Stamped Oval,
no balls
Plastic Brooks B72 32/40 Dunlop Nylon
Sprite Gumwall
Airseal tubes
No pump pegs; Sturmey-Archer Raleigh pattern rims.
1968 Lady's sports,
Tabs for hockey stick Stamped Raleigh Nottingham
Plastic Brooks B72 32/40
"Sports" on down tube, new "Raleigh" on chainguard. Cotter nuts have red "R". No bottom bracket oiler.
1969 Raleigh
None Stamped Oval,
no balls
Plastic Brooks B72 32/40 Dunlop Nylon
Sprite Gumwall
Airseal tubes
Old-style type on down tube, new-style on chainguard. Front axle nuts and cotter nuts have red "R". No bottom bracket oiler.
Lady's Rudge
Ribbed black housing
2 Stamped Raleigh logo not serviceable
with reflectors
Plastic 32/40 Dunlop Nylon
Sprite 2 white lines
Small logo on down tube; gold tape on seat tube. Shiny rims; Rear fender has 4 stays; red "R" nuts on cotters.
1973 Raleigh Self Adjusting Stamped Raleigh logo not serviceable 36
Later, modern looking decals.
1976 Hex head center bolt Chainguard tabs
Rear brake stops
Stamped Raleigh logo not serviceable Clamped on lower seat tube Brooks mattress Raleigh gumwall
Weinmann Alloy 1 on down tube Stamped Raleigh logo not serviceable Clamped on lower seat tube Brooks B-72 (original?) 36 Raleigh "Red Dot" Gum Korea
Coffee color w/bronze head tube, bronze panel on seat tube. Chainguard encircles chainring, bolted to tapped hole under bottom bracket. Frame features "Pletscher"-type plate bridges, but otherwise is a dead ringer for Nottingham production, including 2030 label. 25.8 mm seatpost. Slotted cable stops for rear brake. No white panel on rear fender. Red "R" front axle nuts & seatpost bolt, but not on the cotters. CPSC front reflector mount instead of lamp bracket.

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Raleigh 3-speed Timeline

1945 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
Brakes Raleigh steel, with soldered cables Raleigh steel, with anchor bolts Self Adjusting Hex head center bolt.
Chainguard Full Chain case "Hockey stick" chainguard, but frames still have chain case braze-ons. "Hockey stick"
no braze-ons.
"Hockey stick" chainguard, with braze-ons tabs on down tube and seat tube.
Fork ends Squashed
& slotted
Forged, 3-dimensional design to fit round hole in fork blade. Stamped, to fit domed/slotted fork blade.
Pedals Raleigh-made rubber block pedals, completely rebuildable, with replaceable treads. Oval, no ball bearings Non-serviceable (Union?) with Raleigh logo, reflectors.
Pulley Metal clamp-on Metal brazed on (gent's models)
Metal clamp-on (lady's models)
Metal clamp-on Plastic clamp-on
Rear Hub Sturmey-Archer AW (optional TCW Tri-coaster brake) Sturmey-Archer SW Sturmey-Archer AW (optional TCW or S3C Tri-coaster brake)
Spoking 32 front, 40 rear 36 spokes front and rear
Year Axle Nuts
Lubricator Trigger
1945? 1-piece black
rectangular window
no plug black
1949 1-piece Metal Metal No window
3 or 4 speed
1952 1-piece Forged
Metal Metal Window
3 or 4 speed
1957 SW 1-piece Forged
Metal Metal
1960 1-piece Forged
Metal Plastic No window
No plastic
1961 1-piece Forged
Plastic No window
No plastic
1963 2-piece Metal Plastic
Pressed-in LH ball cup.
1965 1-piece Plastic Plastic No window
No plastic
1968 2-piece Plastic Plastic Transparent plastic
1969 2-piece Plastic Plastic No window
No plastic
1970 2-piece Stamped Metal Plastic
1973 Plastic Transparent plastic cover
1976 Black plastic cover,
body and trigger
1980 2-piece White plastic Black plastic plastic cover,
body and trigger

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Old-style brake

Older Raleigh-made brakes used special cables with moulded ends on both ends of the cables, as shown. These cables are no longer available.

They were supplied in different configurations for front, gent's rear and lady's rear applications. The cable came with the adjusting barrel. To replace the cable assembly, you would unbolt the adjusting barrel from the caliper.

These cables can often be revived by dripping oil into them and working them back and forth.

Later Raleigh-made brakes used standard cables with conventional anchor bolts.  

Chainguard Braze-ons

Older models had a braze-on with a tapped hole on the right chainstay, behind the chainwheel, to secure a full chain case. For the U.S. market, the chain case was not fitted after (1953?) to reduce weight, but the braze-on was continued until (?) even though the bikes came with a "hockey-stick" chainguard.

Some later models had simple braze-ons on the seat tube and down tube to secure a "hockey-stick" chainguard.  

Fork Ends

Older models had forged front fork ends, which are 3-dimensional, and are round where they fit into the end of the fork blade. These fork ends are countersunk on the outer surface, to accommodate the old-style axle nuts which had a shoulder that fit through the washer. The shoulder provided secondary wheel retention.

Later models had flat, stamped fork ends, fitted into domed and slotted fork blades.  


Older models had rubber block pedals made in the Raleigh factory in Nottingham. Raleigh was the last bicycle maker to make its own pedals. They were very high quality, and were completely rebuildable. Raleigh used to even offer replacement rubber blocks. They came in two lengths, the longer size coming on gents' bicycles, the shorter on ladys' models.

In the late 1960s, as a cost-cutting move, Raleigh fitted horrible cheap pedals that had no ball bearings. The version used on 3-speeds had an oval rubber platform. Later models had pedals made by other companies, notably Union. Although these often featured the Raleigh logo, they were not the same quality as the Nottingham models.  


Older gent's models had a brazed-on fitting for a pulley, for the shift cable, on the underside of the seat lug.

Later models had clamp-on pulleys, either metal or plastic, mounted on the seat tube.

Older clamp-on pulleys used a two-piece clamp made of rigid steel. The two halves of the clamp hooked together opposite the clamp bolt. Pulleys (and triggers and fulcrum clamps of this era used special shoulder nuts which had a sleeve that fitted into on end of the clamp, and had a "D" shaped head to prevent the nut from turning as the screw was tightened.

Later pulleys were plastic, and the clamp was a flexible steel band. These generally used a rectangular nut stamped out of sheet steel, a much less elegant (but certainly cheaper) nut.

Latest models did not use pulleys, but ran housing all the way to the right chain stay.  


Top line Raleighs generally came with Brooks leather saddles. The standard Sports models came with the B-72. Early Sports models, and the deluxe Superbe models, came with the B-66, which is similar, but has two large coil springs at the rear.

Later models came with mattress saddles.  


Older British bicycles in general used 32 spokes on the front wheel, 40 on the rear. The front would be laced cross 3, the rear, cross 4. This generally permitted the same length spokes to be used on both wheels.

Later bicycles adopted the international standard 36/36 spoking, which made the front wheels heavier than necessary, and the rear wheels less strong than previously.  

Tyres / Tires

Raleigh used Dunlop tyres exclusively until [sometime in the late '60s]. Older models came with all-black tyres with a block tread. Later upper-end models (including the Sports) came with the Dunlop Sprite gum-wall, or, later, with the Nylon White Sprite, a blackwall with double white stripes running along the sidewall. Until the mid-60s, tyres used cotton canvas fabric. These tires were easily damaged by rim cuts if ridden underinflated. If the rubber became damaged so that moisture could get at the cotton carcass, the cotton would rot and the tyre would fail.

In [sometime in the mid '60s] Dunlop switched to using Nylon cord instead of the cotton, and the tires became very much more reliable.

Raleigh was by far Dunlop's largest market for bicycle tyres and tubes. In [sometime in the mid '60s] Raleigh and Dunlop got in a disagreement about pricing for the new model year. Each company thought it was indispensable to the other. Dunlop called Raleigh's bluff, and said, in effect, "We don't really need the bicycle tyre business anymore, there's lots more money in car and motorcycle tyres. If you won't pay the prices we ask, we'll just get out of the cycle tyre business." ...and they did!

This caused a crisis in cycling circles, because Dunlop tyres were, at the time, the absolute pre-eminent brand, and none of their competitors was able to make a product that was nearly as good. Cyclists got very good at installing "boots" to prolong the life of their damaged Dunlops, since even a damaged Dunlop was better than anything else you could buy.

This situation continued for several years, until the Japanese learned to make tyres that were even better than the old Dunlops.  


Raleighs of the 50's and 60's came with Dunlop Airseal tubes, a premium grade inner tube with a fully-threaded valve stem and a knurled valve-retaining nut. The original valve caps were metal, and included a two prong valve wrench on the exposed end.

The valve caps often had a short length of rubber tubing covering the valve wrench. This was to protect the inner tube from being punctured by the cap while it was rolled up, before it was installed on a bicycle.  

Rear Axle Nuts

Sturmey-Archer right-side axle nuts have a long, cylindrical projection, with a curved lip for the indicator chain. The cylindrical part had two viewing holes to facilitate visual checking of the cable adjustment. Some time in the 1960's, they changed to a two-piece system, with a plain hex nut (the same as on the left side) and a separate cylindrical nut, knurled on the outer end. Sometime in the 1970's, they went back to the one-piece design.

Hubs with 2-piece indicator spindles, such as the AM, AC, ASC, FC, FM, FW and SW used a one-piece right nut, but without the viewing holes. These hubs used a special left nut that resembled the conventional right nut, but which lacked the rounded interior lip for the chain. These nuts were designed to protect the left end of the two-piece indicator spindle, and to allow visual adjustment by observing the position of the left end of the spindle against the end of the axle. A common cause of malfunction of these hubs is that people get the left and right nuts reversed, so the indicator chain hangs up on the sharp edge of the nut that belongs on the left.

Front Axle Nuts

Older Raleighs, those with forged front drop outs, used a special axle nut with a narrow rounded section toward the hub. This rounded section fit through the axle washer, and into a recess of the forged drop out, to provide positive front wheel retention.

Later Raleighs used conventional nuts, and provided a shoulder on the outer face of the cone for wheel retention. The stamped dropouts had a keyhole shaped axle opening, and the shoulder on the cone fit into the round part of the opening. Some years used plain hex nuts with separate flat washers, other years used track nuts, domed and decorated with a red "R" on the end.  

Rear Axle Washers

Older Sturmey-Archer hubs used beautifully made forged serrated washers between the axle nut and the fork end. These older washers are easily identified by the knurled edges. These were used in conjunction with separate, stamped anti-rotation washers, which should go on the inside of the fork end.

Intermediate models used cheaper, stamped serrated washers.

Later (and current) models use rather nice forged combination serrated/anti-rotation washers.  

Fulcrum Sleeve

Sturmey-Archer's term for the clamp-on cable housing stop usually mounted on the top tube was "fulcrum." The fulcrum clamp held a separate sleeve which served as the socket for the cable. This was a sort of ferrule, with a flange on one end to keep it from sliding through the fulcrum clamp. It was slotted to facilitate cable installation, and had a flat side which rested against the frame tube. Earlier fulcrum sleeves were metal, later versions are plastic. This was one of the first Sturmey-Archer parts where plastic replaced metal.

The metal ones last forever, but the plastic ones are easily crushed and ruined.


Until fairly recently, all Sturmey-Archer hubs were designed for oil lubrication. An oil cap, or, in Sturmey-Archer terminology, a "lubricator" was set into the hub shell. The actual cap assembly screwed into a threaded hole in the shell.

Earlier versions uses a hinged metal cap, but this was replaced in the late '50s or '60s by a plastic cap with a captive plug. This was one case where the plastic part was an improvement over the metal one, because they made a better seal, preventing the oil from dripping out.


Installing a plastic lubricator into a hub can be quite tricky if you don't have the special tool. The special tool is a dull pencil, poked into the open lubricator. This will let you turn the lubricator to get it started into the threads.

There have been several different shift controls over the years:


There are three common colors for older Raleighs:

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English 3-Speeds

Retro Raleighs

Raleigh Parts Threading/Interchangeability

Three-Speed Parts from Harris Cyclery

Sturmey-Archer Hubs

Sturmey-Archer Brochures 1935-38

You'll need a fast connection for this.

Sturmey-Archer 1902-1952

Evolution of the Raleigh Sports

The Raleigh Twenty

Some of My Raleighs:

New! Sturmey-Archer Heritage Site

Martin Hanczyc's roadster pages.

Tony Hadland's Sturmey-Archer Pages

Tony Hadland on the history of Raleigh

Thanks to Brandon Davis, Russ Fitzgerald and Martin Hanczyc for providing some of the data points for this page.

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It may also be possible to date your bicycle from its frame number which on early models is usually located underneath the seat lug, under the saddle. This only applies to a genuine Raleigh, not to other makes. The list below will help with dating your Raleigh bicycle from the frame numbers, but is not a definitive list, it simply notes occasional frame numbers that coincide with certain years of manufacture.

I do not vouch for the accuracy of this information.

Note that the serial number information below is fragmentary and incomplete, and many bikes have proven to be much newer than the serial numbers would suggest. It appears that Raleigh recycled many of the older serial numbers in later years, so there are lots of bikes from the 60s and 70s that have serial numbers that would suggest much greater age.

Do not write or phone me to ask the age or value of an old Raleigh.
All of the information I have on that is on this Web page or

Do Not write me with any questions about serial numbers, and do not include the serial number of your bike in any email you send me!

Raleigh Bicycles 1888-1925

From frame number located under saddle

Prior to 1925, genuine Raleighs (not necessarily brand names made by Raleigh) had a straightforward numerical frame number. Early years have been estimated by the Company.

1888 1500 1900 69868 1913 427829
1889 3200 1901 77342 1914 482851
1890 5200 1902 89622 1915 517198
1891 7600 1903 102954 1916 545198
1892 10500 1904 112673 1917 569737
1893 13900 1905 129228 1918 592473
1894 19100 1906 154917 1919 621678
1895 25300 1907 183073 1920 654502
1896 32100 1908 215650 1921 688291
1897 39913 1909 249081 1922 738447
1898 45981 1910 285669 1923 809184
1899 54032 1911 328748 1924 899465
1900 65152 1912 375693 1925 998077

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Raleigh Bicycles 1925-Second War

Between 1925 and the cessation of cycle production during the Second World War, letters prefixed or suffixed the running frame number although no indication is given of the starting point of the numbers. They seem to reflect only the number of machines produced whilst each letter was in use. All dating would therefore be approximate.
1925 A1 1930 G94785 1935 W71147
1925 B34181 1933 L84682 1936 W93161
1926/27 B56536 1934 T93945 1937 Y184552
1929 E15693 1934 U14540

Raleigh Bicycles Post Second War - 1966

After the war, Raleigh began adding letters after the running number series which restarted when a new letter was used.

1947 437689 P 1953 367369 T
1948 556894 P 1954 566722 T
1949 695051 P 1955 747951 T
1951 151179 T 1956 852312 T
1952 236530 T 1957 872584 T

A new numbering system was introduced in 1955, though this ran concurrently with the old one for two years. The new system involved a second running letter, added to the first, which began at the start of the alphabet.

1956 23839 A 1961 13126 AF
1957 27227 AB 1965/6 40814 FD
1958 17910 AD 1966 64521 FE
1960 27273 AE

The material above was gathered from the Nottinghamshire Archives by Jim Burton

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Articles by Sheldon Brown and Others

Reports of the demise of this Web site are greatly exaggerated! We at thank Harris Cyclery for its support over the years. Harris Cyclery has closed, but we keep going. Keep visiting the site for new and updated articles, and news about possible new affilations.

Copyright © 1997, 2008 Sheldon Brown

Harris Cyclery Home Page

If you would like to make a link or bookmark to this page, the URL is:
Last Updated: May 15, 2012 18:14 EDT by Harriet Fell