Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Raleigh Lentons: 1948-1961

'Follow my example and ride a Lenton'
The popular, well-tried Lenton Sports has proved its worth during the past years and today we know it to be the undoubted thoroughbred of its class. The name has come to be associated with all that is best in cycling, thanks to an outstanding specification combined with the high standard of Design, Quality and Finish so well known to Raleigh Dealers and their customers. This machine represents exceptional value for money.

--Reg Harris

In production for longer than any of the other Raleigh "club " bikes (1948-1961) and indelibly associated with the immortal Reg Harris, Britain's greatest cycle champion of the era and Raleigh spokesman, the Lenton Sports was indeed "the undoubted thoroughbred of its class" as the best selling entry level club/sports machine of the immediate post-war era. The Lenton was at home on country lanes as it was on city streets, as popular abroad, especially in the United States, as it was at home. A teenage John Lennon cycled the streets of his native Liverpool on his Lenton. For many, it was a first introduction to sports cycling. The Record Ace may have been more coveted and the Clubman and later Super Lenton better outfitted, but the Lenton Sports was the most successful popularly priced lightweight British bicycle of a Golden Era.


When Raleigh announced its post-war plans in March 1946, sports, club and racing machines assumed a newfound importance, imparting some excitement and liveliness amid the gloom and privations of Britain immediately after the Second World War. Retooling of industry for peacetime, especially the vital export trade, suffered setbacks amid shortages of materials, parts and skilled labour as well as disrupted overseas trade etc. Thus it was some time before Raleigh's plans materialised into production and there were the inevitable changes and revisions as to product details, models and types making it imprudent to print a catalogue until late summer 1947.

Consequently two predecessors of models which would figure greatly in Raleigh's post-war revival did not even appear in any formal brochure. And, confusingly, both switched model names in the process. The first, model 25, the Lenton Sports (II), of 1946-47, which took its name from the pre-war Lenton Sports (I) (no. 44), and became the Clubman (1948-51) is covered in a separate article. The second, model 28, was the Super Sports (II) (1948) which became the Lenton Sports (III) (1949-54).

The post-war Super Sports was as short-lived as the pre-war version which despite its pride of place in 1934 brochure with this centre-spread and charming artwork, was offered only that one year. Like its successor, it was an entry level club machine but available also in a ladies frame, something that wouldn't be offered with the post-war Lentons until 1951.

Introduced in January 1948, the no. 28 Super Sports was third in the pecking order behind no. 25 Lenton Sports (II) and no. 26 Raleigh Record Ace. Designed for the leisure sporting cyclist and junior "racer" market, the Super Sports built on the success of one of Raleigh's most successful and longest lasting model (in production from 1933-1987), the Sports (no. 21) but with a lighter frame and better components while retaining a mid level pricing point.

For a model that never appeared in a catalogue, the elusive Raleigh Super Sports is best depicted in its few surviving examples such as above. This is largely original except for the pump, mudguards, cable pulley and SA trigger (which should be mounted under and slightly inboard of the brake lever). credit: The Old Bicycle Showroom

Details of the same machine showing the Golden Arrow chainring, the pre-war style handlebars with expander bolt rather than headclip fixing stem, the simple lugs and heavier seatstays and the new silver headbadge used for machines made of Reynolds 531. Credit: the Old Bicycle Showroom

These were the first Raleighs in production to use Reynolds 531 tubing with the Super Sports and Lenton Sports employing it (straight gauge) in the main triangle which had 71° parallel angles (like the pre-war RRA). As such, they introduced the distinctive silver verson of the famous Raleigh Heron headbadge unique to models built with Reynolds 531. The tubing was the main distinction between the Super Sports and the Sports as well as added refinements such as celluloid mudguards and a detachable chainwheel, the same as used on the pre-war Golden Arrow and Lenton Sports. The Super Sports didn't have the fancy fishtailed and cutaway lugs, narrow profile seat stays or head-clip fixed stem of the Lenton Sports. The 26"x1¼" rims were chromed steel Endricks with quick release hubs with wingnuts. Like the Sports, it had a Brooks B-15 saddle and rat trap pedals. Unique to the Super Sports was its bright orange enamel finish with no lining and bold seat tube transfers. Frame sizes were 21" and 23".

A rare original condition 1948 Raleigh Super Sports. The three-pin detachable chainring was the same used on the pre-war Golden Arrow and also on the 1946-47 Lenton Sports (no. 25). This example has an FW Sturmey-Archer hub and GH6 Dynohub.

As with all the post-war range, with the exception of the Raleigh Record Ace, the Super Sports was also offered in Rudge and Humber badged versions as well: no. 128 Rudge Pathfinder in Turquoise Blue and no. 328 Humber Clipper in Bright Red. The initial price for all three versions was £14. 6 s.0 d. but by 1948, had risen to £15. 5 s. 3d. compared to £12.15 s.11 d. for the Sports model.

The Cycling (7 January 1948) review of the Super Sports showing the only "official" depiction of the machine. credit: V-CC on line archives.

There was no illustration or detailed specification in the 1947-48 Raleigh, Rudge and Humber brochures for these models merely these cryptic references on the Sports model pages. Curiously, no reference was made to the Reynolds tubing.

The one and only advertisement for the Super Sports in Cycling appeared in the 14 July 1948 issue right near the end of the production run for the machine. credit: V-CC on line archives


The 1949 Raleigh Lenton Sports

The Super Sports was out of production by late summer 1948 and the design reworked and improved for the 1949 season. Confusingly, the Raleigh model was renamed Lenton Sports (III) as the Raleigh Clubman had been originally called, but the Rudge and Humber versions kept their names and all retained their original model numbers: Raleigh Lenton Sports (no. 28), Rudge Pathfinder (no. 128) and Humber Clipper (no. 328).

The Lenton Sports introduced its own distinctive colour, Polychromatic Lenton Green, while the Rudge Pathfinder was finished Polychromatic Metallic Blue and the Humber Clipper in Polychromatic Lustre Orange with no lining.

Offered in 21" and 23" frame sizes, the frame remained the same as the Super Sports with Reynolds 531 main tubes, the same lugs and simple pressed steel drop-outs and fork ends. The main difference was a new chainset with detachable ring (the same design for all three brands) and fluted cranks. Inititial specifications for the first year listed alloy (usually J.P. Britton) mudguards. Fixed and free flip-flop rear hub was standard with Sturmey-Archer hub gears and dynohub optional. These were "lightweights" for their time although even then more comparatively weighing 34¾ lbs. with a three-speed hub vs. 37 lbs. for the Sports model with three-speed hub.

The Lenton Sports represented real value for money. Its specifications, while lacking the Clubman's alloy components, cutaway lugs and pencil type backstays, gave the rider a quality, Reynolds framed machine at a most affordable price; £15.5 s. 3 d. vs. £21. 12. 11 d. for the Clubman. This combination of price and quality was a hallmark of the Lenton Sports for most of its long production run.

Compared to the attractive full colour 1947-48 brochures, those for 1949 for Raleigh, Rudge and Humber were dreary and unexciting and the Lenton Sports was introduced in ho-hum fashion as above. Although it featured the same dramatic "flash" seatpost transfer as the former Lenton Sports of 47-48, the downtube "Raleigh" transfer was very circumspect being in small black script with no outlining. 

The new Pathfinder in the 1949 Rudge Brochure. A 21" frame version is depicted and, as with the Raleigh, there is no "Rudge" transfer on the downtube but rather one reading "Britain's Best Bicycle".

And the Humber Clipper in the 1949 brochure which other than its advertised bright Polychromatic Lustre Orange is positively incognito with no visible down tube transfer at all. By February 1950 adverts already listed the colour as being the Polychromatic Lilac it became known for and it's possible it was so attired from the onset.

The first advertisement for the new Raleigh Lenton Sports in Cycling, 22 December 1948, credit V-CC on-line archives

The first advertisement for the Humber Clipper in Cycling 8 December 1948. credit: V-CC on-line archives.

Introduced at the November 1948 British Cycle and Motorcycle Show, the Lenton Sports was widely praised as marking a new commitment by Raleigh towards club and sporting machines in its post-war range. With the new model joining the Clubman and the Record Ace, Raleigh now offered the leading sports models in three distinct price ranges.

Putting their enormous advertising capabilities to full use, Raleigh ensured the new Lenton Sports, Clipper and Pathfinder would dominate cycle advertising for a decade. Examples from the CTC Gazette from left to right: Clipper Feb. 1950, Lenton Sports July 1953 and Pathfinder March 1951.


HRH Princess Elizabeth being shown the new Raleigh Lenton Tourist at the Raleigh Exhibit at the Nottingham Quincentenary Trade Exhibition in June 1949.

The Raleigh Lenton Tourist model has been specially designed for those riders who require a light, lively mount for touring or general purposes. Alloy steel tubing and Aluminium alloys have been carefully embodied in the specificiation to provide strength and rigidity with a minimum of weight.
Raleigh catalogue, 1950

The next in the Lenton series got a Royal introduction of sorts. In June 1949 T.H.R. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Nottingham Quincentenary Trade Exhibition where they "spent a considerable time" inspecting the Raleigh stand featuring a new bicycle for the 1950 model year: the Raleigh Lenton Tourist, no. 29. Also branded as the Rudge Aero Tourist (no. 129) and Humber Beeston Tourist (no. 329), this was described as being a "machine that is as suitable for business purposes as it is for touring" and having the most up-to-date specifications including a Reynolds 531 frame (21" and 23" gents only), 71° head and seat angles, Dunlop light alloy 26" x 1¼" rims, light alloy GB caliper brakes and hooded levers, alloy chainguard, 4-inch rubber pedals with alloy fittings and alloy 15/18th" Comfort Flat handlebar on an alloy stem. A Brooks B-66 saddle, kitbag and celluloid mudguards completed the specification while the Sturmey-Archer FM or AM medium ratio gear with alloy was optional. All three models were finished in Polychromatic Olive with white lining.

A beautiful original condition Raleigh Lenton Tourist.
The Lenton Tourist was a curious model having superior components, especially the use of alloy ones, than the Lenton Sports and cost more, too: £20 3s.11d. and that was with a single freewheel or £2 9s.8d. extra for an AM hub. The alloy chainguard, for example, was the same developed for the touring version of the Record Ace, and it had alloy GB stem, 'bars and brakeset.

The Humber Beeston Tourist. Unlike the Lenton Sports, the Tourists for Raleigh, Rudge and Humber all shared the same Polychromatic Olive Green with white lining livery. This exceptional machine, the finest roadster type bicycle made by Raleigh until the Raleigh Super Tourer of 1973-74, was alas shortlived, too expensive for too limited a market and was only offered for the 1950-1951 model years.

Raleigh gave the improved 1950 model of the Lenton Sports pride of place in the November 1949 National Cycle Show number of Cycling. But the drawing shows the older 1949 model.

For 1950, the Lenton Sports  specification was considerably changed:
  • Sturmey-Archer FM (four-speed medium ratio) light alloy shell hub gears as stock, raising the price to £17. 9 s. 11 d. 
  • Mudguards were now ivory celluloid instead of alloy. 
  • Investment cast fork ends and drop-outs replaced the pressed steel originals. 
  • The fork blades were changed to "D" section instead of round.
  • The headlamp bracket was switched to headset fitting rather than the stem bolt.  
  • New "RI" marked grey handlebar sleeving instead of grey grips
  • The Humber Clipper was listed as being in Polychromatic Lilac
  • All models got bold new downtube brand transfers.

Much more attractively presented was the Lenton in the 1950 brochure. That year, it and its Rudge and Humber brethren got bolder downtube transfers. Note also the new headset fixed headlamp bracket and handlebar sleeve grips.

A ladies 21" frame version was offered starting in 1951 as described in the Rudge catalogue: Far be it from us to dictate to the Ladies! In this instance, however, your wishes have been our commands and we offer you the first Lady's Pathfinder, the counterpart and fit companion of the renowned Gent's model. We have complete confidence of your approval and future enjoyment of this machine. 

1951 specification changes
  • Cut-out lugs similar to the Clubmans.
  • White lining was added to the Raleigh Lenton Sports and Humber Clipper. 
  • Pathfinders were offered in Polychromatic Gold with red lining. But this proved unpopular and in December 1951 was replaced by Polychromatic Maroon with white lining. 
  • "Reg Harris Road Model" colour banded transfers were added to the seat tube of the Lenton Sports. 

The 1951 Rudge catalogue was one of the best in terms of artwork and presentation with a full centre spread on the revised Pathfinders for that year including the new ladies model and the new Polychromatic Gold livery which was offered only that year.

Resplendent in the new Polychromatic Gold colour introduced that year, the Pathfinder had pride of place on the cover of the 1951 Rudge brochure. 

Not to be outdone, the Humber 1951 brochure was no less attractive, showing off the lovely Polychromatic Lilac livery of these models.

Missing from the 1952 line-up was the Lenton Tourist. Its sophisticated specification and high price put it in an awkward corner in the market given its limited appeal to sports riders and it proved too expensive for tourist cyclists. In its place was a 2030 steel frame version, the Trent Tourist, a popularly priced model that became one Raleigh's biggest sellers.

For 1952, the Raleigh Lenton Sports was tied in with Reg Harris' role as Raleigh spokesman and offered as the "Reg Harris Road Model" featuring a distinctive decal on the seat tube. Credit: Paul Whatley

The second page of the two-page centre spread devoted to the Lenton Sports in the 1952 Raleigh catalogue and featuring the ladies model and specifications.  Credit: Paul Whatley


The opening scenes of "Nowhere Boy" (2009) shows John Lennon (as played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his friend Pete Schotten (played by Josh Bolt) cycling from Mendips to Quarry Bank High School through Calderstones Park on a beautiful and perfectly restored pair of 1952 Raleigh Lenton Sports, identical to Lennon's 11+ exam reward from his Uncle George.

"Reg Harris Rides A Lenton" but more famously so did a young John Lennon who was a keen cyclist as a boy and like so many lads of his era, as a reward for passing his 11+ exams in summer 1952, his Uncle George gave him a brand new Lenton Sports. This had a three-speed hub, dynohub and matching green saddle bag and apparently one of Lennon's great treasures and he joked about on the similarity of the Lenton's name with his own. In autumn 1952 Lennon entered the Quarry Bank High School and cycled there from his home, Mendips in Menlove Ave., via Calderstones Park, everyday on his Lenton. Today, the National Trust owns and preserves Mendips and includes a Lenton (albeit an incorrect later Mark II version with "all-rounder" 'bars) in its exhibit. Apparently when Lennon moved to New York, he bought a Raleigh as close to his old Lenton as possible so like so many of his generation, his first Lenton was a bit of a milestone.

Still from the movie "Nowhere Boy" (2009) showing the actors portraying Pete Schotten (left) and John Lennon (right) on a pair of beautifully restored Raleigh Lenton Sports.

One of the most attractive Raleigh brochures was that for 1954 which featured the Lenton Sports in a two-page centre-spread, highlighting the new Lustre Carmine and Flamboyant Electric Blue colour options that year as well as the new Reg Harris Road Model "torch" transfer.

1953 specification changes
  • new 15/16th" dia. alloy Maes pattern handlebars
  • optional colours were offered for all three brands: Lustre Carmine with gold lining or Flamboyant Electric Blue with cream lining.

1954 specification changes
  • "pencil" seat stays
  • the lamp bracket re-positioned to the right-hand fork blade
  • the attractive 2½" steel stem extension used on the Super Lenton used on Lentons
  • new pattern Raleigh quill pedals
  • colour range standardised. While the Lenton Sports could still be had in its distinctive green, special colours for the Pathfinder and Clipper were dropped and any of the models could be supplied instead in Polychromatic Mediterranean Blue and Lustre Royal Carmine. Mudguards and pumps for the blue machines were red and white for the others. 
  • New Reg Harris Road Model "flaming torch" introduced. 

"Reg Harris Rides A Lenton!" was one of Raleigh's most successful and well remembered advertising campaigns built around Britain's greatest track cyclist of the 1950s who rode a Raleigh and became its most famous spokesman. So associated with the Lenton did Harris become, that by 1952 they were adorned with a special "Reg Harris Road Model" transfer.

And proving that Reg really did Ride a Lenton Sports, are these shots from the Pictorial Press of Reg at his home in Rusholme, Chesire, in 1950 out for a run on his Lenton Sports and hanging it in his cycle room with one of his famous carmine red RRA track machines. Credit: Alamy, used without permission

During a 1954 visit to Nottingham, Raleigh's track cycling professionals: left Sid Patterson (Rudge) on a Rudge Pathfinder, centre Reg Harris (Raleigh) on a Lenton Sports and right Cyril Bardsley (Raleigh) on Humber Clipper. The track machine in the background appears to be Reg Harris' RRA on which he won Silver in the 1948 London Olympics. credit: Raleighgram, V-CC on line archives

HUMBER CLIPPER "Mark II" no. 323

Marking the biggest change to its specification since its introduction, the 1955 Lenton Sports got a new frame with tighter angles, new lugs and handlebars. This also shows the new right-hand fork-mounted headlamp bracket. Note the trademark Reg Harris Road Model "flaming torch" replica of the transfer found on Lentons from 1954 onwards. credit:

The completely reworked Lenton Sports in the 1955 brochure in both gents and ladies versions. The new All-rounder handlebar was now an option for gents or ladies models. This also highlights the new lugs introduced that year. Credit:

Big changes for the Lenton Sports came in 1955. So much so that the model number was changed to 23 (Raleigh) 123 (Rudge) and 323 (Humber) and this is often informally known as the "Mark II" Lenton although never by Raleigh as such. 

1955 specification changes
  • tighter geometry (head 73° and seat 71°)
  • The lugs were changed to a more cutaway design but without side windows. 
  • The handlebars changed again, a Maes bend in 7/8th steel. 
  • Bluemels lightweight mudguards
  • Price, including FW hub gear, was £19.0 s.10 d.

An exceptional original condition 1956 model year Rudge "Sid Patterson Road Model" Pathfinder in its classic Rudge burgundy livery and complete to the smallest detail including the revised 1956 pattern Dynohub tail lamp and sleeve grips. The FW hub was dated 11 55. This was sold on eBay (UK) in September 2016. credit: Jon Bentley

Taking its cue from the Reg Harris/Lenton Sports connection, Rudge chose his Australian rival on the track, Sid Patterson, as spokesman for the new improved Rudge Pathfinder as advertised in the CTC Gazette in January 1955 (left) and October 1956. 

In 1954 Raleigh acquired Triumph Cycles of Coventry. In keeping with its policy of branding or marketing essentially the same cycle under different marques, the Triumph name was offered on most of the existing Raleigh range. Among the models introduced in November 1956 was the Triumph Torrington (no. 428), a rebranded Lenton Sports. This differed from the Raleigh model by having a fixed chainwheel featuring the Triumph name, a stem-mounted lamp bracket, Lycett or Wright's saddle instead of Brooks and was offered at £16. 19 s. 3 d. with single gear instead of an FM hub.

1956 specification changes
  • improved hooded steel brake levers
  • new narrow section celluloid mudguards, white for Green and Carmine models and red for Blue ones as were the pumps. 
  • price rose to £20. 17 s. 0 d. with FM hub.

The Rudge Pathfinder in the 1957 catalogue showing its final form including the hooded brake levers and the "jazzed up" livery featuring cream peak head and "flashes" and "Rudge" on the seat tube and "Pathfinder" on the down tube. Raleigh and Humber models were also so attired their final model year. That year, too, "all-rounder" flat handlebars were an option for both gents and ladies models.

By 1957, the Lenton Sports was pretty much past its prime, a late '40s hub geared club machine overtaken by newer, flashier models and derailleur gears. That year, the transfers were changed with "Raleigh" vertically on the seat tube and "Lenton Sports" in a more prominent position on the down tube. A rare new finish was offered as well: black with white peak head. But by the summer its production ended.

The Lenton Tourist made an unexpected (and very brief) reappearance in 1957-58 using the Lenton Sports frame (and possibly reintroduced to use up leftover stock) with Trent Tourist components rather than the alloy GB ones of the original model.

III no. 106

The model got a new lease on life in 1957 with the completely restyled Lenton Marque III (Rudges were known as Phase IIIs and Humbers as Series III) although the basic frame remained the same and, of course, so did Reg Harris' endorsement. These were offered in both gents and ladies models.

By the late 1950s, sports cycling was changing and increasingly influenced by Continental custom including tighter frame angles, a move to specialisation rather than the jack of all trades club machines and employment of multi-speed derailleurs. The British cycle industry as a whole experienced a serious downturn as the export market diminished, private motorcar ownership burgeoned and there were simply too many makers and brands chasing too few customers. There was life left in the Lenton Sports, however, as the market for sports machines was more buoyant than roadsters. To suit changing times, the warhorse of Raleigh's lightweight range was given a major makeover for 1957. That year the Super Lenton was discontinued and the Record Ace re-introduced as the R.R.A. Moderne.

Advertisements for the new Marque III version of the Lenton Sports in the CTC Gazette April and August 1957 respectively. That on the left unusually referencing the history and introduction dates of the model as the Clubman and Lenton Sports.  

The new Lenton Marque III, "a fast, light, lively machine of modern and proved design", as advertised in the CTC Gazette in June and December 1957 respectively. The distinctive "Continental" bend handlebars fitted to all Raleighs with dropped 'bars that year were like the old Strata "South of France" or GB "Road Champion" bends.

Dubbed the Marque III, the new Lenton now featured 27"x1¼" wheels with large flange Continental style front hub and to accommodate provision of the new Cyclo-Benelux 7 four-speed derailleur (the option for a Sturmey-Archer hub gear or fixed/free rear hub remained), brazed-on fitments for bare wire controls on the top tube and chainstay were provided and the pump pegs relocated to under the top tube to make room for down tube gear lever. White tape and plugs on the distinctive "Continental" shaped handlebars and ornate, even gaudy transfers, imparted a European flavor. The cost for the rejuvenated model went to £23.17 s. 6 d.; not quite the value for money of yore given the late Super Lenton, a far superior machine, cost £22. 12 s. 8 d. the year previously.

The Lenton Marque III in the 1958 brochure in the Sunset Yellow and Black scheme it was, in fact, not actually produced in that year. It features the new Reg Harris bend 'bars.

More changes ensued in 1958. The Lenton Marque III was to have been offered in Sunset Yellow with black head, mudguards and pump, was instead offered in Lenton Green with yellow head, mudguards, pump and handlebar tape or Royal Carmine with grey head, mudguards and pump with white handlebar tape. A new pattern of handlebar, the Reg Harris Road bend, was featured as was a new style of headlamp bracket which was fasted to a boss on the right hand fork blade.

The Lenton Marque III ladies model as depicted in the 1958 brochure. This was Raleigh's last ladies frame Reynolds 531 lightweight and last offered in 1959, the new Grand Prix coming only in a gents frame. 

The Lenton Marque III/Rudge Pathfinder Phase II/Humber Clipper Series III were withdrawn in 1959 and this also marked the last year a Humber badged sports machine in Reynolds 531 would be manufactured.

The Raleigh Lenton Marque III as it appeared for the last time in the 1959 brochure along with its successor the Raleigh Grand Prix


The last of the Lentons was the Grand Prix no. 7 or Pathfinder Grand Prix no. 107 as above of 1957. The basic frame was the same as the "old" Lenton but the 8-speed derailleur only gearing and the Continental "style" set it apart as did the Brooks B15 Swallow saddle. The Rudge variant featured a Polychromatic Silver Gray livery and ornate transfers.

A final variant of the Lenton was introduced at the November 1956 Earl's Court Cycle Show for the 1957 season: the Grand Prix. This was the first Raleigh/Rudge (there being no Humber badged version) to have a derailleur gear as the only option with no provision for the traditional single-speed fixed/free hub or Sturmey-Archer hub gear. The Lenton Grand Prix no. 7 or Pathfinder no. 107 was fitted with an eight-speed Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 derailleur with a 14T, 16T, 18T and 20T block and a Williams double 46T/49T chainring with a Benelux hand-control front changer.  This was offered only in a gents frame.

Alloy GB Sports brakes, Racelite large-flange hubs and a Brooks B15 Swallow saddle made for a high standard specification and warranted a "thoroughbred" pricing of 25 guineas. It was certainly up-to-date as the derailleur and the saddle were brand new offerings that year as well.  New, too, were the colours: Silver Grey or Black with cream peak head and fitments or the familiar Lenton Green with Carmine peak head and fitments.

The new Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix as displayed for the first time at the November 1956 Cycle Show. This featured the new Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 four-speed derailleur which was also introduced at the Show, the new Brooks B-15 Swallow saddle and new "Continental" pattern steel handlebars. 

The Lenton Grand Prix as depicted in the 1958 catalogue with the squarer Reg Harris handlebars introduced that year. 

This beautiful "time capsule" condition 1958 Lenton Grand Prix was offered on eBay in the US in 2011. Note the rod-activated Benelux front derailleur, the squarer Reg Harris bend 'bars and the heron heads chainring. Although the catalogues show a conventional Williams chainring set, all examples of machines sold in the USA, at least, have the heron's head version instead. The Grand Prix, shown at the 1960 New York Toy and Bike Fair, was hugely popular in the United States and most surviving examples are on "the other side" of the Atlantic.

"Effortless Ease" as Raleigh finally embraces the derailleur with the Lenton Grand Prix, its first machine offered only with derailleur gearing. From CTC Gazette, August 1958

For 1960-61, the front derailleur was changed to cable control with dual shifters on the down tube. A new steel 2.5" steel stem and 15/16th Maes bend 'bars and a decorative chromed cap fitted over the fork crowns. The brakeset was changed to Weinmann 730 side-pull.

The Lenton Grand Prix was last offered to the British market in 1961 and out of production by early autumn. For 1962 Raleigh completely revamped its sporting and racing range with new models such as the Gran Sport, the first Raleigh to feature Campagnolo 10-speed derailleur gears, and the Blue Streak with a 10-speed Benelux derailleur but all were 2030 steel framed.  All future Reynolds 531 production was shifted to Carlton's Workshop factory upon Raleigh acquisition of the firm.

It should also be noted the name "Lenton Sports" was revived briefly c. 1962-3 for a 2030 tubed budget machine sold in the United States under the Robin Hood brand.

While there were certainly more sophisticated and better lightweights on the market, the Raleigh Lenton in its myriad forms probably did more to introduce people to sports and club cycling than any single model. Reg Harris really did "Ride a Lenton" but more importantly, so did many thousands of others and it remains one of Raleigh's most popular models and an icon of 1950s Britain.


Paul Whatley, Raleigh Marque Specialist, V-CC
Raleigh, Past and Prescence of an Iconic Bicycle Brand, Hadland, 2011
Websites:  ThreeSpeedHub, Veteran Cycle Club online library


  1. I started using my Lenton sports again for the past 18 months. It is the same most delightfully light weight, fast and easy bike I have ever owned. I first started riding the bike in about 1970 and my impress was the same - it feels like it is pulling me along not holding me back in any way.

    I have taken a few details and used them on my blog;

  2. Fantastic piece of work. I've recently acquired a 1948 Super sport that needs lots of work. This document is proving to be a very valuable source of information