Thoughts on identifying old Triumph bicycle

P a u l

Member
Location
Emsworth
Hi everyone,

I have recently acquired an old Triumph bicycle which I am now using to trundle around on and to ride when my children want to go out on their bikes.

Having a strong interest in classic cars (as well as a close relative having an old MG), that it is apparently a Triumph roadster appealed to my sense of humour. I know nothing about old bicycles aside from being familiar with a few of the brand names when I got this and so it has been a bit of a steep learning curve. I would be very grateful for your thoughts in confirming the age, as I am a bit OCD at times & would like to know for certain so I can ensure that any tweaks or improvements that may be required are all correct for the age. It is best described as being in oily rag / rolling restoration condition, and I am planning to tidy it up a bit, potentially even fully restore it.

It is a Raleigh built model, 23" frame, 26" wheels, full chain guard / chain case and rod brakes in green. However, it has been mucked about with in the past - what I can identify is:
  • Repainted (badly) at least once - possibly twice as there is black paint under the green in some places, and a different shade of green is the base colour in others, but based on the areas around the badge and transfer on rear mudguard (the only remaining transfer), it appears that it was originally green (maybe whoever did it started a repaint in black, then thought better & went back to green?).
  • There is a Raleigh heron front light bracket fitted instead of the correct Triumph 'T' one - this presumably requires headstock disassembly to remove / refit?
  • At least one wheel is not original as the rear has what appears to be a stainless rim under the paint (could possibly be chrome but there's no sign of any pitting) whereas the front is a painted steel rim. Both wheels were black when acquired by the previous owner, who got as far as repainting the rear rim in silver to tidy it up before I expressed an interest in it.
  • The three speed trigger is a style that dates from about 1971 through to the mid '70s according to this.
What is I gather the usual trick by dating off the rear hub has been inconclusive. The area with the date code is rusty (just my luck, as the rest of the chrome on the hub is ok...) so it is very difficult to decipher, but looking at it today, it could read either 58 or 68. However, when I first tried to read it earlier in the year, I thought it was 65, so in reality it could be pretty much anything. However there is also my suspicion that the wheel may not be not original. Since I gather that Triumph was a second tier brand for Raleigh, could it have originally had a stainless wheel rim? There seems to be loads of info on Raleighs, but very little for their Triumph badged products.

However, assuming that the Raleigh frames themselves didn't change spec when rebadged, this frame has features which date it to much earlier, the earliest one being the brazed-on fitting for the gear cable pulley, which dates it to being pre 1960 (according to Sheldon Brown), when that mount was replaced by a clamp fitting.

Based on this 1956 Raleigh Dealer reference catalogue it matches with the models shown on page 190 (Roadster Tourist) if originally black, or if it has always been green (which I think is correct) then page 194 (Leamington if the Dynohub is original) or page 198 (Huntingdon Tourist, if the hub is not original). However it seems that Triumph used the model name 'Warwick' for an identical looking machine in 1957 and 1958.

So I think it is definately later than 1954 (due to the badge saying Nottingham & thus Raleigh built so post the takeover), and pre 1960 due to the brazed gear pulley fitting. This is as far as I have been able to confirm for certain from hours searching online, on top of the time spent going through all the data on Sheldon Brown's and Kurt Kaminer's websites.

However, there are a couple of things that I am confused by. Firstly, the frame number doesn't match with anything I can find in the relevant pages on the Sheldon Brown or Kurt Kaminer websites (or anywhere else either). My understanding from what I have been reading is that all Raleigh built (as opposed to just Raleigh badged) bikes used the same frames across equivalent models (various parts books seem to show this too - 1950 and 1955) and so presumably used the same serial numbering system, as it would make little sense if the bare frames were fabricated & brazed on completely different production lines. All the serial number info though is for Raleigh, and I have searched for Triumph info for this era but without any success. However seeing Kurt Kaminer calls the Convention 3 format which he says is largely unidentified makes me wonder if at that point, Raleigh were trying to introduce a different system / coding to make a Raleigh or Rudge or Humber or Triumph etc bare frame be distinguishable purely from its serial number? The only number I can find on my frame is at the top of the seat lug, and it is five numerals (not all are legible) followed by 'TH' underneath. This format matches with the info I have found on this 1955 (dated according to the front & rear hubs) Triumph Jack of Clubs which has an identical serial coding format as mine, but about 20,000 later. Thus I am thinking that the perhaps the two numerals denote the brand of the bicycle (in this case TriumpH), which correlates with his statement that 'R' was always the first numeral on Raleighs using that format. If that is indeed the case, and based on the date of that Jack of Clubs, would it be fair to conclude that my bicycle is also 1955? Or is this all just a bit far fetched?

Lastly, there is something strange about the chaincase, which does not match any of the documentation from that era that I have found (various Raleigh parts books etc online). The main body of the chaincase looks like it could be original (or at least on the frame during the repaint). However when sourcing a replacement rear access panel as that was missing, it appears that mine is slightly different compared to the vast majority of Raleigh built bike I can find info on. Visually all are the same, but the way it attaches means that the first panel (& most commonly available) I bought didn't have the right style mounts due to the way it bolts on. On mine, the lower machine screw is forward of the panel join, going through the main case first, and the thread is on part of the cover - as per the pic lower down on this page of a repro item. The vast majority have the lower machine screw behind the panel join (the fixing next to the 'N' of neatly in this image ), with the female thread being part of a lug on the main casing. There appears to be no correlation between the version and the dating either - where I have been able to confirm that style mounting (four Raleighs dating 1950 through to 1956, a 1957 Triumph, a 1953 Churchill and a few unknown age used casings being sold for spares) there have been so many more of the same and other years with the other style mounting. Is this something that the experts are aware of, and may help identify the age of a bicycle, or is it simply that Raleigh had two different subcontractors who supplied a slightly different item to the same basic design?

Anyhow, trying to work out the year of my machine has been bugging me (not at all obvious is it?!?), and so apologies for my ramblings... Hopefully it makes sense (just writing this helped me organise my thoughts), and perhaps some it may be of use to others trying to ascertain the year of their bicycles where the usual sources don't have the answers, so your thoughts on the above would be very appreciated and thank you for reading this far!
 

steveindenmark

Legendary Member
Some photos of your bike may help.
 

Paulus

Started young, and still going.
Location
Barnet,
Hi everyone,

I have recently acquired an old Triumph bicycle which I am now using to trundle around on and to ride when my children want to go out on their bikes.

Having a strong interest in classic cars (as well as a close relative having an old MG), that it is apparently a Triumph roadster appealed to my sense of humour. I know nothing about old bicycles aside from being familiar with a few of the brand names when I got this and so it has been a bit of a steep learning curve. I would be very grateful for your thoughts in confirming the age, as I am a bit OCD at times & would like to know for certain so I can ensure that any tweaks or improvements that may be required are all correct for the age. It is best described as being in oily rag / rolling restoration condition, and I am planning to tidy it up a bit, potentially even fully restore it.

It is a Raleigh built model, 23" frame, 26" wheels, full chain guard / chain case and rod brakes in green. However, it has been mucked about with in the past - what I can identify is:
  • Repainted (badly) at least once - possibly twice as there is black paint under the green in some places, and a different shade of green is the base colour in others, but based on the areas around the badge and transfer on rear mudguard (the only remaining transfer), it appears that it was originally green (maybe whoever did it started a repaint in black, then thought better & went back to green?).
  • There is a Raleigh heron front light bracket fitted instead of the correct Triumph 'T' one - this presumably requires headstock disassembly to remove / refit?
  • At least one wheel is not original as the rear has what appears to be a stainless rim under the paint (could possibly be chrome but there's no sign of any pitting) whereas the front is a painted steel rim. Both wheels were black when acquired by the previous owner, who got as far as repainting the rear rim in silver to tidy it up before I expressed an interest in it.
  • The three speed trigger is a style that dates from about 1971 through to the mid '70s according to this.
What is I gather the usual trick by dating off the rear hub has been inconclusive. The area with the date code is rusty (just my luck, as the rest of the chrome on the hub is ok...) so it is very difficult to decipher, but looking at it today, it could read either 58 or 68. However, when I first tried to read it earlier in the year, I thought it was 65, so in reality it could be pretty much anything. However there is also my suspicion that the wheel may not be not original. Since I gather that Triumph was a second tier brand for Raleigh, could it have originally had a stainless wheel rim? There seems to be loads of info on Raleighs, but very little for their Triumph badged products.

However, assuming that the Raleigh frames themselves didn't change spec when rebadged, this frame has features which date it to much earlier, the earliest one being the brazed-on fitting for the gear cable pulley, which dates it to being pre 1960 (according to Sheldon Brown), when that mount was replaced by a clamp fitting.

Based on this 1956 Raleigh Dealer reference catalogue it matches with the models shown on page 190 (Roadster Tourist) if originally black, or if it has always been green (which I think is correct) then page 194 (Leamington if the Dynohub is original) or page 198 (Huntingdon Tourist, if the hub is not original). However it seems that Triumph used the model name 'Warwick' for an identical looking machine in 1957 and 1958.

So I think it is definately later than 1954 (due to the badge saying Nottingham & thus Raleigh built so post the takeover), and pre 1960 due to the brazed gear pulley fitting. This is as far as I have been able to confirm for certain from hours searching online, on top of the time spent going through all the data on Sheldon Brown's and Kurt Kaminer's websites.

However, there are a couple of things that I am confused by. Firstly, the frame number doesn't match with anything I can find in the relevant pages on the Sheldon Brown or Kurt Kaminer websites (or anywhere else either). My understanding from what I have been reading is that all Raleigh built (as opposed to just Raleigh badged) bikes used the same frames across equivalent models (various parts books seem to show this too - 1950 and 1955) and so presumably used the same serial numbering system, as it would make little sense if the bare frames were fabricated & brazed on completely different production lines. All the serial number info though is for Raleigh, and I have searched for Triumph info for this era but without any success. However seeing Kurt Kaminer calls the Convention 3 format which he says is largely unidentified makes me wonder if at that point, Raleigh were trying to introduce a different system / coding to make a Raleigh or Rudge or Humber or Triumph etc bare frame be distinguishable purely from its serial number? The only number I can find on my frame is at the top of the seat lug, and it is five numerals (not all are legible) followed by 'TH' underneath. This format matches with the info I have found on this 1955 (dated according to the front & rear hubs) Triumph Jack of Clubs which has an identical serial coding format as mine, but about 20,000 later. Thus I am thinking that the perhaps the two numerals denote the brand of the bicycle (in this case TriumpH), which correlates with his statement that 'R' was always the first numeral on Raleighs using that format. If that is indeed the case, and based on the date of that Jack of Clubs, would it be fair to conclude that my bicycle is also 1955? Or is this all just a bit far fetched?

Lastly, there is something strange about the chaincase, which does not match any of the documentation from that era that I have found (various Raleigh parts books etc online). The main body of the chaincase looks like it could be original (or at least on the frame during the repaint). However when sourcing a replacement rear access panel as that was missing, it appears that mine is slightly different compared to the vast majority of Raleigh built bike I can find info on. Visually all are the same, but the way it attaches means that the first panel (& most commonly available) I bought didn't have the right style mounts due to the way it bolts on. On mine, the lower machine screw is forward of the panel join, going through the main case first, and the thread is on part of the cover - as per the pic lower down on this page of a repro item. The vast majority have the lower machine screw behind the panel join (the fixing next to the 'N' of neatly in this image ), with the female thread being part of a lug on the main casing. There appears to be no correlation between the version and the dating either - where I have been able to confirm that style mounting (four Raleighs dating 1950 through to 1956, a 1957 Triumph, a 1953 Churchill and a few unknown age used casings being sold for spares) there have been so many more of the same and other years with the other style mounting. Is this something that the experts are aware of, and may help identify the age of a bicycle, or is it simply that Raleigh had two different subcontractors who supplied a slightly different item to the same basic design?

Anyhow, trying to work out the year of my machine has been bugging me (not at all obvious is it?!?), and so apologies for my ramblings... Hopefully it makes sense (just writing this helped me organise my thoughts), and perhaps some it may be of use to others trying to ascertain the year of their bicycles where the usual sources don't have the answers, so your thoughts on the above would be very appreciated and thank you for reading this far!
As above, we like photos.
 

classic33

Forum God
Why is the pdf download link directed towards,
Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Molecular Biology
Genetics Web Server
 
OP
OP
P

P a u l

Member
Location
Emsworth
The website that file is on was linked to via Sheldon Brown's site - I'm afraid that know nothing about it beyond that. Whilst I gather that Raleigh did build this style of bicycle for decades with just mild tweaks, I find the '70s trigger with its plastic parts looks very out of place. As a reference guide, it's given me an excellent idea as to what I should source when I get around to replacing it with something appropriate. But then I must confess that I'm the sort of person who gets annoyed if a film or a TV show has vehicles or other items in it that are too new for the date it is supposed to be set... :rolleyes:

Anyhow, here's some pics of the bicycle in question & please don't laugh:
swiIXXUXG9K2ww?width=1024&height=768&cropmode=none.jpg


Headstock badge:
H06wfX0DxfR4oQ?width=768&height=1024&cropmode=none.jpg


Rear mudguard transfer:
9Tr7BmGHj6GmiA?width=768&height=1024&cropmode=none.jpg


Brazed on bracket for the gear pulley:
ohW_m4qbph75HQ?width=1024&height=768&cropmode=none.jpg


Integral pump pegs:
yGR8TF15mQtfAg?width=768&height=1024&cropmode=none.jpg


Lower fixing for chancase rear cover mentioned above (the cover I sourced is now fitted, but still needs some mild fettling to get it to line up as well as it should):
BqNKV4PYbD6lKA?width=1024&height=768&cropmode=none.jpg


I haven't taken pics of the frame or rear hub numbers as I was struggling to get my phone to focus properly. The latter wouldn't show up anyway.

Whilst it is a scruffy old thing, to me that's part of the appeal - despite appearances, it is in full working order and rides smoothly. The brakes may not be as good as my relatively modern other bike, but it still pulls up promptly once I'd adjusted them properly and I much prefer riding this one. :smile:
 
The website that file is on was linked to via Sheldon Brown's site - I'm afraid that know nothing about it beyond that. Whilst I gather that Raleigh did build this style of bicycle for decades with just mild tweaks, I find the '70s trigger with its plastic parts looks very out of place. As a reference guide, it's given me an excellent idea as to what I should source when I get around to replacing it with something appropriate. But then I must confess that I'm the sort of person who gets annoyed if a film or a TV show has vehicles or other items in it that are too new for the date it is supposed to be set... :rolleyes:

Anyhow, here's some pics of the bicycle in question & please don't laugh:
View attachment 518084

Headstock badge:
View attachment 518085

Rear mudguard transfer:
View attachment 518086

Brazed on bracket for the gear pulley:
View attachment 518087

Integral pump pegs:
View attachment 518088

Lower fixing for chancase rear cover mentioned above (the cover I sourced is now fitted, but still needs some mild fettling to get it to line up as well as it should):
View attachment 518089

I haven't taken pics of the frame or rear hub numbers as I was struggling to get my phone to focus properly. The latter wouldn't show up anyway.

Whilst it is a scruffy old thing, to me that's part of the appeal - despite appearances, it is in full working order and rides smoothly. The brakes may not be as good as my relatively modern other bike, but it still pulls up promptly once I'd adjusted them properly and I much prefer riding this one. :smile:
Nice :becool:
 

Paulus

Started young, and still going.
Location
Barnet,
The website that file is on was linked to via Sheldon Brown's site - I'm afraid that know nothing about it beyond that. Whilst I gather that Raleigh did build this style of bicycle for decades with just mild tweaks, I find the '70s trigger with its plastic parts looks very out of place. As a reference guide, it's given me an excellent idea as to what I should source when I get around to replacing it with something appropriate. But then I must confess that I'm the sort of person who gets annoyed if a film or a TV show has vehicles or other items in it that are too new for the date it is supposed to be set... :rolleyes:

Anyhow, here's some pics of the bicycle in question & please don't laugh:
View attachment 518084

Headstock badge:
View attachment 518085

Rear mudguard transfer:
View attachment 518086

Brazed on bracket for the gear pulley:
View attachment 518087

Integral pump pegs:
View attachment 518088

Lower fixing for chancase rear cover mentioned above (the cover I sourced is now fitted, but still needs some mild fettling to get it to line up as well as it should):
View attachment 518089

I haven't taken pics of the frame or rear hub numbers as I was struggling to get my phone to focus properly. The latter wouldn't show up anyway.

Whilst it is a scruffy old thing, to me that's part of the appeal - despite appearances, it is in full working order and rides smoothly. The brakes may not be as good as my relatively modern other bike, but it still pulls up promptly once I'd adjusted them properly and I much prefer riding this one. :smile:
Nice bike. The front wheel is obviously not original, but the rest looks pretty tidy..
 

SkipdiverJohn

Deplorable Brexiteer
Location
London
Notice any similarities to this? :laugh:
518175


Same basic frame as my Raleigh Dawn Tourist. Raleigh were serious offenders when it came to badge engineering different brands, but there were usually small differences to give the illusion of being genuinely different bikes. Only Raleighs had the tubular crown fork, Triumph and Rudge had conventional ones. If a fork lock was fitted, on a Raleigh the lock barrel is in the fork, on a Rudge it is in the frame.
Your Triumph is virtually the same bike as I have, both based on the Raleigh Sports roadster frame. Mine was made in early 1974, believe it or not. The format of the frame number on yours says it is older, but these bikes were in production for decades with hardly any visible changes, and so long as you don't fit a 1980's style gear shifter with the brightly coloured plastic top nothing is going to stand out as looking "wrong". These bikes were very conservative, even in their day, so they need to be kept looking understated and not too "shouty"
Mine rides lovely, and handles better than any bike weighing 40 lbs ought to handle. It's not at all cumbersome, despite the fact it looks like it's built like a tank. The only thing I'm wary of is doing very tight U-turns, as you need to stick your knee out sideways so you don't foul the end of the handlebar on your leg!
 
Notice any similarities to this? :laugh:
View attachment 518175

Same basic frame as my Raleigh Dawn Tourist. Raleigh were serious offenders when it came to badge engineering different brands, but there were usually small differences to give the illusion of being genuinely different bikes. Only Raleighs had the tubular crown fork, Triumph and Rudge had conventional ones. If a fork lock was fitted, on a Raleigh the lock barrel is in the fork, on a Rudge it is in the frame.
Your Triumph is virtually the same bike as I have, both based on the Raleigh Sports roadster frame. Mine was made in early 1974, believe it or not. The format of the frame number on yours says it is older, but these bikes were in production for decades with hardly any visible changes, and so long as you don't fit a 1980's style gear shifter with the brightly coloured plastic top nothing is going to stand out as looking "wrong". These bikes were very conservative, even in their day, so they need to be kept looking understated and not too "shouty"
Mine rides lovely, and handles better than any bike weighing 40 lbs ought to handle. It's not at all cumbersome, despite the fact it looks like it's built like a tank. The only thing I'm wary of is doing very tight U-turns, as you need to stick your knee out sideways so you don't foul the end of the handlebar on your leg!
Lovely.
























As long as you live somewhere flat :whistle:
 
OP
OP
P

P a u l

Member
Location
Emsworth
Is there a frame number on it anywhere?

Yes, but it doesn't match any of the accepted serial decode info I can find - more info in my first post, including what I have been able to deduce / guesstimate from it. I'm a newbie to this sort of thing with bicycles, so thoughts on those deductions / assumptions would be appreciated, especially if anyone knows more about the serials for that era of non Raleigh branded but Raleigh built bicycles.

Nice bike. The front wheel is obviously not original, but the rest looks pretty tidy..

Ah, I was more suspicious of the rear one. What gives the front one away as being the replacement, and what should it be / look like?

Notice any similarities to this? :laugh:

Same basic frame as my Raleigh Dawn Tourist. Raleigh were serious offenders when it came to badge engineering different brands, but there were usually small differences to give the illusion of being genuinely different bikes. Only Raleighs had the tubular crown fork, Triumph and Rudge had conventional ones. If a fork lock was fitted, on a Raleigh the lock barrel is in the fork, on a Rudge it is in the frame.
Your Triumph is virtually the same bike as I have, both based on the Raleigh Sports roadster frame. Mine was made in early 1974, believe it or not. The format of the frame number on yours says it is older, but these bikes were in production for decades with hardly any visible changes, and so long as you don't fit a 1980's style gear shifter with the brightly coloured plastic top nothing is going to stand out as looking "wrong". These bikes were very conservative, even in their day, so they need to be kept looking understated and not too "shouty"
Mine rides lovely, and handles better than any bike weighing 40 lbs ought to handle. It's not at all cumbersome, despite the fact it looks like it's built like a tank. The only thing I'm wary of is doing very tight U-turns, as you need to stick your knee out sideways so you don't foul the end of the handlebar on your leg!

Yup, I do indeed! I'd gathered that Raleigh were clearly been watching what BMC were up to with cars at the same time (and seem to have been just as bad as BMC / BL when it came to lack of product development on some models...). I must admit to being pleasantly surprised that the Raleigh built Humbers kept their unique front forks though.

As mine seems to be a '50s built one, my goal is to keep it looking very much of that era - my taste in cars is predominantly 1960s & earlier, including 1930s - the '60s ones I do like are mostly carried over '50s designs, and until a few years ago the youngest car I'd owned was 1967, which may explain things a bit in terms of wanting to take a period correct approach. As you correctly say, later ones did have things like shifters which were of the period they were made, but those have never really looked right to me - a comparison might be the rubber bumpers on the late '70s MG Bs and Midgets (which were both essentialy 1961 designs), or the current Pashley roadsters with their to my eyes very anachronistic faux retro and modern fittings on an otherwise very classic looking design. Perhaps if mine was an actual '70s built one, it wouldn't bother me so much though!

I very much agree about liking how it rides though - I think the weight is actually part of this, and I also much prefer the upright riding postion. As for hills, it is mostly flat around there, sandwiched between the Downs & Chi Harbour, but there's lots of overpasses to cross the A27 dual carriageway with some of the footpath ones being quite steep, & it's been fine going up those. I haven't tried it on any of the steeper long hills on the roads yet but will do at some point - at the very least it will be good excercise :laugh:
 
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