Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Clubmans: 1946-1951

The new Raleigh Clubman has been designed and built by experts to meet the needs of the modern Club rider. It is eminently suitable for Time Trials and fast Touring.
Raleigh brochure, 1950

One of the great traditions of British cycling was "club riding": small, local groups of cyclists organized into clubs for regular sporting or recreational rides. These could comprise long or short tours, day trips, time trials or roadracing. The emphasis in many clubs was more camaraderie than competitive but it was not always a pub crawl. Many group rides were multi-day affairs and as varied as the British countryside.

The sheer variety of club rides and riders demanded a versatile and popularly priced mount, one that was lightweight, but with more relaxed frame angles than a pure racing type, as well as mudguards and lighting equipment for all-year, all-weather use. By the 1930s, most cycle manufacturers offered a specific range of "club" cycles ranging from simple derivations of the steel-framed, cable-braked "sports light roadsters" to the most sophisticated machines of their day with the new Reynolds 531 steel tubing, celluloid mudguards, Sturmey Archer hub gears, alloy fitments and 26"x1¼" lightweight steel wheels, quick release wing nut hubs and high pressure (70 psi) tires.

Out for a club ride, Raleigh's idyll of post-war British cycling from their 1950 catalogue. Ladies figure prominently although it wasn't until 1951 that Raleigh introduced a ladies frame for the Lenton Sports and the Clubman remained "gents only".

Club models figured prominently in the post-war revival of the British cycle industry, both for the home market and, more importantly, the export trade. "Export or Die" was the credo of British industry at the time and manufacturers were compelled to export a certain proportion of their yearly production whilst high domestic purchase taxes (as high as 33 per cent) discouraged domestic consumption and ensured British cycles a place in new markets including the United States then just discovering adult sport cycling.

The pre-war predecessor of the post-war Lenton Sports/Clubman was the no. 44 Lenton Sports which was first offered in 1940 as shown in that year's catalogue. It was initially sold in a ladies version but this did not appear in the 1942 brochure, Raleigh's last for the duration. The Lenton Sports was positioned just behind the RRA and the Charles Holland Continental and although made of regular steel tubing, offered a high specification and many of its elements were carried over to the post-war model.


Raleigh Lenton Sports, 1946

Altogether, the Raleigh Lenton Sports model is a bicycle that fills a definite need. For the tourist or club rider who likes his machine to have that extra 'little something', coupled with good appearance, good performance and safe road-handling qualities, this is the machine.
Cycling 25 September 1946

Raleigh leaflet dated September 1946 on the new Lenton Sports model.

The Clubman's roots go back to March 1946 with the introduction of Raleigh's initial post-war range including the Lenton Sports, no. 25, (also produced as the Rudge Aero and Humber Beeston Sports) which finally reached the market in September after the invariable production delays so soon after the war. It took its name and elements from the Lenton Sports, no. 44, of 1940-42 but was a higher class of machine altogether being the first Raleigh made of Reynolds 531 (main triangle). Cycling described it as "designed to appeal to the clubman tourist in particular, as well as to all who can appreciate a reliable, attractive-looking and responsive mount at a reasonable price" [£15. 3 s. 8 d.]

The 21" (the only size offered) frame had a 71° head and seat angles (the same as the pre-war RRA), nicely cut away and fishtailed lugs (a variation on the pre-war RRA's) and a newly designed round-bladed fork with solid ends. Also new was the 2" extension headclip fixed stem with chromed 15" wide 7/8th" dia. steel racing 'bars with 5¾" drop. The three-pin detachable herons head chainwheel with fluted cranks was the same as offered on the pre-war Lenton Sports, Golden Arrow and Silver Record. The wheelset comprised Raleigh racing hubs laced with stainless spokes to Dunlop 26x1¼" chromed Endrick rims with Dunlop tyres. The rear hub was doubled-sided with a 18t freewheel and 16t fixed sprocket with Sturmey-Archer three- or four-speed hubs and the new 6v GH6 dynohub available as extra cost options. The saddle was a Brooks B15 and Britannia Quick-Fit celluloid mudguards were fitted.

Introducing a striking new polychromatic light blue green colour with contrasting dark bottle green head tube and a very dramatic gold "flash" seat tube transfer, Cycling was taken by the "exceptionally smart appearance, the polychromatic green finish of the frame blending well with the white celluloid Britannia mudguards and chromium-plated handlebars, chainwheel and cranks."

A remarkably rare and beautifully preserved "time capsule" example of the short-lived Raleigh Lenton Sports (September 1946-April 1947) which was originally sold in New Haven, Connecticut. The first Raleigh with a Reynolds 531 main triangle, it formed the basis for the Clubman series although in a 22" rather than 21" frame.

Attired in a new polychromatic green with darker green head tube and gold lug lining, attractive and dramatic "flash" seat tube transfers imparted a welcome bit of sporty style in othewise drab post-war Britain. The lovely herons head three-pin chainset and fluted cranks, however, were holdovers from the pre-war Golden Arrow and Silver Record models.

The Rudge and Humber badged variants, the Aero Sports and Beeston Sports, were identical except for having different fork crowns, chainrings, lamp brackets and livery/transfers. There was even a Robin Hood (the budget brand Raleigh introduced in 1943 replacing Gazelle) version, the wonderfully named Sherwood Arrow in 2030 steel rather than Reynolds 531 and with cheaper saddle that retailed for £14. 5 s. 10 d.

This illustration of a 1946-1947 Rudge Aero Sports (a variation of the same used in the 1947-48 Raleigh catalogue of a Raleigh Lenton Sports but called a Lenton Clubman) was used as late as December 1951 

A rare example of a 1947 Rudge Aero Sports frame. Credit: from Rudgeulsterman collection, Flickr. 

The Lenton Sports and Clubmans had their own brand specific chromed fork lamp brackets (left) for Raleigh (top), Rudge (middle) and Humber (bottom), stem-mounted lamp brackets (bottom) for Humber (left), Raleigh (middle) and Rudge (right). The chainring for Raleigh (112) middle was that originally designed for the pre-war Golden Arrow with a plain version (right) for Rudge and Humber. With the introduction of the Clubman, the chainset was modelled after that of the pre-war RRA with a chainring with little heron heads for Raleigh (111) and a plain version for Rudge and Humber.

The Lenton Sports was a successful post-war start to would be a long line of Raleigh lightweight club machines over the next 15 years and continued the pre-war efforts to broaden Raleigh's product line beyond workaday roadsters. These types also played a growing role in what was an essential to the immediate post-war British economy and industry: the export trade. Even if made in small numbers, the Lenton Sports was imported into the United States. But it was a short-lived model and by summer 1947, production ended and it was restyled and improved into what is still regarded as one of the best club machines of its era, the Clubman.


Humber Beeston Clubman, 1948

For the 1948 model year, the Lenton Sports was retooled and restyled as the Clubman to distinguish the model from the light roadster "sports" machines and directly appeal to a growing market segment: the club cyclist and aspiring time trial and competitive junior riders as their first "proper" lightweight machine. It was a hard sell in a close-knit "clubby" environment where equipment choice was dominated by small, custom made frames, often regionally based, and "off the peg" models by big builders were often derided. And since the purchase tax on a complete machine was extraordinarily high (as much as 33 per cent immediately after the war), most preferred to buy a frame and outfit it with individually selected components. Nevertheless, the Clubman offered good value for money and was a popular entry level lightweight for many.

The new Clubman range was similar enough to the Lenton Sports that its model numbers remained the same: Raleigh Lenton Clubman no. 25, Rudge Aero Clubman no. 125 and Humber Beeston Clubman model 325. The only differences between the models were the forks, finishes (Polychromatic Green for Raleigh, Lustre Orange for Rudge and Polychromatic Blue for Humber each with contrasting head tube colour), gold head lug lining and distinctive transfers. In fact, except for different transfers, the colours etc. of the Clubmans were identical to the earlier model.

The "new" model employed essentially the same Reynolds 531 frame (main triangle) as the Lenton Sports but in a 22" size. The mudguards (J.P. Britton), seat post and 7/8th" dia. handlebars were now alloy and alloy Dunlop high pressure Endrick rims and tires were fitted. The chainset was also different, retaining the fluted cranks but with the same 3-pin detachable chainring as on the pre-war RRA.

The first advertisements for the new Clubman range began appearing in cycling magazines in August 1947; the above examples are from "Cycling".

The new Clubman range was introduced in late November 1947 at the annual Bicycle and Motorcycle Show at Earl's Court, London as described in the February 1948 issue of Export News with interesting deviations from the production specifications:

One of the models on view that attracted special special attention was the new Lenton Clubman, together with the its associated cycles in the Rudge and Humber ranges, the Aero Clubman and the Beeston Clubman. These three replaced former sports models and were described briefly in our December issue, but since then certain important improvements have been introduced into the specifications which should make them even more popular.

These include the fitting of light alloy (aluminium) wheels, handlebars, mudguards, and seat pillars which will not only considerably reduce the weight but will bring the models within the range of the discriminating club rider who is prepared to a pay a reasonable but not excessive price.

Specifications of the three Clubman cycles are generous. The 22 in. frames are made of Reynolds 531 tubing with head and seat angles of 71 deg. Mudguard and pump fittings are brazed on and the mudguards are of light alloy with mudflap and spearpoint extensions. The 26x 1¼" (597 mm) Dunlop light alloy road-racing rims are fitted with stainless steel spokes and Dunlop high pressure tyres.

The new Lenton Clubman as depicted in the 1947-48 Raleigh catalogue is not actually the Clubman at all but rather its shortlived (1946-47) predecessor, the Lenton Sports as it has the older pre-war Golden Arrow style chainring and the distinctive "flash" downtube transfer of the Sports model. Both it and the new Clubman had the same polychromatic green with darker green head tube.

The Aero Clubman as introduced in the 1947-48 Rudge catalogue. The striking Lustre Orange finish of these models was ill-served by the printing limitations of this publication.

And Humber's version, the Beeston Clubman, in the 1947-48 catalogue. It and the Rudge Aero Clubman differed from the Raleigh model in having a plain chainset and appropriate Humber or Rudge monogrammed lamp brackets, distinctive paint and transfers. The Humber version of the Clubman is by far the rarest although the Rudge variant, too, is not common.

In production models, Dunlop Special lightweight steel Endrick pattern rims were usually fitted instead of the advertised alloy ones. The latest alloy fitments, Reynolds 531, pencil type stays, detachable chainwheels, and colourful "polychromatic" finishes and elaborate transfers made these very appealing machines to the aspirational "racer", clubman or casual sports rider. The price was £19. 12 s. 10 d. (single gear) with additional cost options of Sturmey-Archer FW, FM or FC hub gears and GH6 Dynohub. In single-speed form, the Clubman tipped the scales at 28¼ lbs and 29¾ lbs with a Sturmey-Archer AM hub.

Raleigh invented "branding" in cycle manufacturing, offering the essentially same machines under its various house marques but with considerable efforts to distinguish them with distinctive fitments (the aforementioned lamp brackets and chainrings), liveries and transfers. For the new Clubman, three striking variations of seat tube transfers were made: Humber Beeston Clubman (left), Raleigh Lenton Clubman (centre) and Rudge Aero Clubman (right). 

Raleigh so recycled illustrations of the Lenton Sports to depict the Clubman that actual depictions of the 1948 Lenton Clubman, such as that used in the Curry's ad above, are comparitively rare. As it was, this dates from 1949 and advertises the newer Raleigh Clubman model! Credit: Mark Gell collection on Flickr

This exceptional, wholly original 1948 Raleigh Lenton Clubman was offered on eBay (UK) in March 2015. Except for its pump, it was complete right down to the original canvas kitbag.

Some details of this same machine showing the contrasting colour for the head tube and the gold lining outside of the lugs, original pattern Raleigh sleeve grips and the "RI" badged saddle bag.


Rudge Aero Clubman, 1949

For the 1949 model year, the Lenton Clubman was renamed Raleigh Clubman to avoid confusion with the revived Lenton Sports model. Substantial refinements and improvements included an attractive new 2½" handlebar stem (still head clip fixing), 15/16th" dia. Maes bend alloy 'bars, alloy domed seat pin and deletion of the stem lamp bracket. The new pattern Raleigh grey rubber sleeve grips were now fitted. Most machines that year had Dunlop LA (light alloy) 26x1¼" rims instead of the lightweight chromed steel of the '48s. Mudguards were now celluloid (usually Britannia Quick-Fit) with spear-point end on the front although late 1948 models were still listed as having alloy 'guards. The catalogue weights for a single speed machine was 26½ lbs (without bag) or 28¾  lbs. with an AM hub. All this shaved half a pound off the total weight. New that year were alloy shells for the Sturmey-Archer FC close-ratio four-speed and ASC fixed-gear three-speed hubs. The price rose to £22. 3 s. 8 d. (single gear).

By late summer 1948, the new improved Clubman was being advertised (Cycling, 11 August 1948) but still being called the Raleigh Lenton Clubman instead of Raleigh Clubman as adopted later that year.  The mudguards are still being spec'd as being light alloy. credit: V-CC on-line archives

The improved Rudge Aero Clubman as advertised in Cycling, 14 August 1948. credit: V-CC on-line archives.

The enhanced Humber Beeston Clubman as first advertised in Cycling, 4 August 1948. credit: V-CC on-line archives. 

The new Clubman range for 1949 as heralded in a two-page spread in Cycling 17 November 1948 for the first post-war national Cycle Show at Earl's Court. 

From Cycling 17 November 1948.

The renamed Raleigh Clubman in the 1949 catalogue showing a darker head tube whereas production models were single colour in the new polychromatic olive green and the gold head lug lining was deleted.

The revised Rudge Clubman as offered in the 1949 catalogue. The weight of the improved model dropped to 27½ lbs or, with Sturmey-Archer hub gear, 29.5 lbs.

Like the Raleigh and Rudge variants, the Humber Clubman offered the option of Dunlop stainless steel HP rims with Dunlop road racing tyres in addition to the stock Dunlop alloy rims with Dunlop sprite tyres. 

The one millionth Raleigh Industries export cycle since the war, a special gold-coloured Raleigh Clubman, destined for New York for presentation to a leading Eagle Scout, was ceremoniously packed at the Raleigh depot at Brentford by G.R. Strauss, Minister of Supply, on 21 April 1949 and dispatched to Liverpool for shipment to America. The Clubman was well-received in the United States when these sort of machines were hitherto unknown and road cycle sport was still very much in its infancy. credit: Cycling, V-CC online library

British Labour politician George Strauss (1901 - 1993), the Minister of Supply, chats with two workers from the Raleigh packing department in Nottingham, before the dispatch of the millionth Raleigh bicycle to be shipped overseas since VJ Day, 21st April 1949. They are holding a ceremony at Raleigh House in Brentford, London, to celebrate the landmark sale. The bicycle is being sent to the United States. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Rudge Aero Clubman, 1950

For 1950, Raleigh "went whole hog" on the Clubman and completely revised it to a very high specification indeed. The new frame was wholly made of plain gauge Reynolds 531 including stays and fork, with tighter angles (71° seat and 73° head), thin taper seat and chain stays and "D" pattern fork blades and brazed on Sturmey-Archer cable pulley boss. The rear triangle and front fork ends were now chromed and new colours introduced: Flamboyant Electric Blue (Raleigh) and Polychromatic Amber (Humber) while Flamboyant Orange remained for Rudge, all now with attractive white lining. Hiduminium GB Sports brakes with hooded alloy levers and larger diameter alloy15/16th" handlebars were now fitted to the 1949 pattern stem. The wheelset was completely revised incorporating Dunlop stainless steel (chromed steel for US export models) 27x1¼ HP rims, Dunlop Road Racing tyres and Bayliss-Wiley large flange Continental hubs. The weight dropped from 27½ lbs to 25½ lbs owing largely to the all Reynolds 531 frame and forks.

The new Raleigh Clubman featured the revised silver headbadge for Raleigh lightweights with "Nottingham England" against a black background rather than silver. Another minor alteration was the fitting of the lamp bracket to the right- rather than the left-hand side fork blade. It had been custom to direct light to the side of the road to illuminate debris, gutters and the side of the road but with ever increasing motorcar traffic, it was seen as safer to illuminate the cyclist's approach to oncoming cars and place the lamp on the rightside.

Frame build details from a 1951 Raleigh Clubman. showing the head and seat tube lugs as well as the distinctive Reynolds 531 plain gauge tubing transfer as well as the classic "R" pattern wingnuts.

This was now an exceptional machine for its price (£26.16s. 6 d) and the new Clubman was one of the finest mass production machine of its class in England, second only to the fabled, custom-made RRA in the Raleigh range. Indeed, the new Clubman was, for many, preferable to the RRA on account of its price and, more importantly, availability, when a six-month to one year waitlist for the RRA was common.

As advertised in "Cycling" in February 1950, the Rudge Aero Club and its Raleigh and Humber versions, were entirely redone for that year with new frame angles, 27" HP rims and tyres and other improvements.

The revised Clubman also benefited from the new range of alloy shell hub gears introduced in late 1949 by Sturmey-Archer. Supplied "stock" with flip-flop fixed and free single gear, any of the Sturmey-Archer hub gears could be fitted at extra cost including those made specifically for club riding (AM three-speed medium ratio or FM, four-speed medium ratio) or time trialing (AC three-speed close ratio or FC, four-speed close-ratio). Export machines to the United States came with hub gears as standard, the choice being limited to the AW (three-speed wide ratio), AM or FM, usually with steel shells. Interestingly, the characteristic wing nuts were also not standard "spec" in the USA either.

The new Raleigh Clubman as shown in the 1950 catalogue was second only to the fabled Record Ace in the range. Its new stock colour was Flamboyant Electric Blue.

The new Rudge Aero Clubman in the 1951 brochure, the finest Rudge lightweight since the pre-war, pre-merger Aero Olympic. "With this Model we are in direct competition with the 'artists' of the cycle world. Such competition is healthy and of great value to the purchaser. We are proud to enter the 'fray' once again with the Aero Clubman, confident that for craftsmanship, quality, finish and cleanness of line it will carry the Rudge Crest to the fore of the 1951 lightweights."

The revised Humber Beeston Clubman, like the Raleigh, had a new colour: Flamboyant Amber, which with the chromed fork ends and rear triangle made it "a particularly handsome machine" indeed.

The Raleigh Clubman in its last appearance in a Raleigh catalogue, that for 1951.

Now at its apogee, the Clubman remained in production for only two more years and in December 1951 it was announced that it would be discontinued in favour of the new Raleigh Super Lenton, Rudge Aero Special and Humber Streak which will be featured in a future article.

1948 Raleigh Lenton Clubman, formerly owned by the author. Purchased on eBay (UK) it was repainted in the original colours in England. Otherwise complete, it was missing the original J.B. Britton alloy mudguards but a pair of the identical 'guards was found. 

1951 Raleigh Clubman, also formerly owned by the author. This was purchased as a complete and wholly original machine on eBay and was one of the US export models with AW rear hub and chromed Dunlop HP rims. Even the tyres were the original Dunlop Road Racing.

The Clubman range represented one of the most attractive and pleasing of Raleigh club cycles which are prized by collectors today. Those fortunate to own and ride these machines today can still relish the delights of the characteristic slow "click" of an AM hub, the creamy brittleness of Britannia celluloid mudguards and the warm glow of a fork-mounted dyno-hub lamp on a late summer's eve.


Paul Whatley, Raleigh Marque Specialist, V-CC
Raleigh, Past and Prescence of an Iconic Bicycle Brand, Hadland, 2011
Websites: Time Trial Legends, I Worked At Raleigh, ThreeSpeedHub, Veteran Cycle Club online library, Classic Lightweights UK


  1. I have just restored a '48 Lenton Clubman, it was all steel but I have put on some later alloy wheels and GB brakes. The handlebar is of a "round shouldered" pattern different from any of the illustrations above. I also have unused Dunlop 26in sports tyres, which set it all off nicely.

  2. Who made the alloy seatposts used on the the clubman? Raleigh? Reynolds? Birmalux?
    Were these seatposts domed? i am using a modern kalloy 25.4 straight post on my 50-51 clubman due to being unable to find what would be original....thanks for any info...