The Raleigh "Twenty" is a small-wheeled bicycle which was introduced to the market in 1968 as a competitor to the original Moulton bicycle. Raleigh already had a more direct competitor in the RSW-16 (Raleigh Small Wheel 16") bicycle. Initially it was not aggressively marketed, but it was a much better bicycle than the RSW-16. The "Twenty's" larger 20" wheels made it smoother and had less rolling resistance.
In 1970 the RSW-16 was selling rather poorly, so Raleigh decided to market the "Twenty" more heavily. In 1971 a folding version was released under an old Moulton name the "Stowaway" (anecdotal evidence suggests that they were available in Canada since 1969). In 1974 the RSW-16 was discontinued and the "Twenty" became Raleigh's main small-wheeled bicycle in production. In 1975, 140,000 were manufactured in the UK alone, which nearly equalled the entire sales of the Moulton from 1963-1974. It was Raleigh's biggest seller in 1977, though sales tapiered off after this, its final year of production was not until 1984, giving the Raleigh Twenty a 16-year production lifespan.
The Raleigh "Twenty" was originally fitted with 20" x 1-3/8" wheels and tyres (ISO 35-451), but most export versions were sold with 20" x 1.75" wheels and tyres (ISO 47-406) - the same as BMX bicycles.
Many were sold as either single speed with coaster brake| or fitted with a Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub. The New-Zealand manufactured version was offered with a duomatic 2-speed hub, which shifted gears by kicking back the pedals and also had a build-in coaster brake.
A number of major variations exist, including different styles of handlebars, different hubs and different carry rack arrangements. Most of these were just the same basic "Twenty" marketed (for example) as the "Shopper" with a front basket to increase carrying capacity.
Raleigh owned a number of former competitors and the "Twenty" was sold under many of these named, including Triumph, Sun, Hercules and BSA. The "Twenty" was also manufactured in New Zealand due to local trade laws requiring 40% local content. The New Zealand manufactured version is most readily identified by the lack of the extra bracing struts at the bottom bracket found on he UK and Canadian-build versions. Interestingly, an early-1980's advertisement offers a 2-speed automatic (kick-back) hub, not found on other versions of the Raleigh "Twenty".
The Raleigh Twenty has been praised for having more stable handling than other small-wheeled and folding bicycles, and it is often compared to the Raleigh Sports Roadsters. It is claimed that the frame is strong and so stable that it is possible to ride it without the fixing bolt in place (though the practice is not by any means recommended or encouraged). The late Sheldon Brown owned a number of them and performed many modifications to improve the base model. The design of the folding mechanism is not as quick and convenient as modern folding bicycles, which makes this bicycle less practical for multi-mode commuting. The style of folding is best suited for indoor storage, such as for people who live in apartment, or for taking the bicycle somewhere in the back of a car. One "Twenty" was heavily modified and is capable of being disassembled and shipped in a standard air-line suitcase.
- 1968 - First Introduced
- 1969 - Folding Version introduced in Canada (conjectured)
- 1971 - Folding Version introduced in UK and export markets
- 1974 - RSW-16 discontinued - focus shifted to "Twenty"
- 1975 - 140,000 "Twentys" manufactured in UK
- 1977 - The "Twenty" is Raleigh's most popular bicycle
- 1984 - Discontinued
- Sheldon Brown's Raleigh Twenty Page by Sheldon Brown
- The Raleigh Twenty Page: Raleigh's biggest seller of the mid 1970s by Tony Hadlund
- Twenty-five years on a Twenty by John S. Allen