I've been reading about the venerable Raleigh Twenty on the cycling websites of Sheldon Brown and John Allen for the past several years. The Raleigh Twenty was a folding bike manufactured in England from 1968 and through the 70s.
I'd been considering some form of small utility bike, so based on the evident love of Raleigh Twenty enthusiasts for their bikes, I started placing bids on eBay for any Raleigh Twenty which seemed to be in decent shape. After being outbid on a number of Twenties in a row, I was finally successful, and the FedEx man delivered the package to my door last Thursday.
I immediately removed the pieces from the box, snapped a few photos, and using Raleigh's original assembly guide from John Allen's website for general guidance, assembled the bike. The bike is in beautiful shape, as far as I can tell the parts are all original, and a set of small dents in the front fender and cracked grips are the only flaws I've found in the bike. The original Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub gears shift smoothly.
The next morning I decided to use it for my commute. Since I had limited faith in my rapid assembly and adjustments, and even less faith in my knowledge of its handling characteristics, I decided to ride to the train station rather than my normal commute directly to downtown. The train station isn't much closer but the route follows quieter residential streets.
The bike handled very nicely and was a lot of fun to ride. It's heavy compared to my road bikes, but it's also essentially a utility bike, so the trips I'll likely take with it will tend to be less than 10 miles round trip. The one obvious downside of the bike on my first substantial ride was that the first gear was too high for the hills around here. My first impulse was to rebuild the rear wheel with a newer 5, 7, or 8 speed hub, but someone on Bike Forums suggested that I might just want to replace the rear sprocket (making all three internal speeds resolve to lower gear), and see how that affects the suitability for the hills in Atlanta.
One ironic byproduct of my luck in finding a Raleigh Twenty in such pristine shape is that I'm reluctant to make modifications, at least without putting a lot of thought into it. My approach to vintage bikes has been that I'm not a museum curator, and I purchase my bikes to ride, not to put on display. But this particular bike has such character that I'm giving serious consideration to making it exclusively a short distance utility bike, and keeping the parts original.