’36 Raleigh DIY upgrade: SA dyno hub and drum brake

My 1936 Raleigh Sports is a great bike, but combination of the original steel rims and ancient side-pull brakes do not give me stopping power for confident commuting on a good day.  When the rims get wet, get ready to Flintstones your way to the stop sign.  I considered swapping out the rear wheel for a 3-speed hub with a coaster brake.  I am a big fan of coaster brakes on my commuter bikes.  I like to be able to stop the bike with one hand off the bars.  This is very handy when I am drinking coffee, shooting pictures, or signalling a turn.

At least Fred and Barney didn't waste any shoe leather when they hit the brakes.

But I also wanted to add a dynohub powered light to the bike, which meant swapping out the front wheel as well.  Enter the Sturmey Archer X-FDD 6 volt, 3 watt dynamo hub with cable actuated 70mm drum brake. This hub gives me better brakes and the dynamo power I wanted all with one wheel swap. I ordered everything from Vince at Ben’s Cycle.  I purchased the 36-hole hub, a Sun L20 single wall Aluminum rim, 14g Stainless straight gauge Wheelsmith spokes and brass nipples.  Normally I would build the wheel myself, but Ben’s has a deal going right now that if you buy hub, rim and wheel, they build it for free.  Free labor?  Yes, please.

It took me about two hours to install the wheel and hook up the front light.  That seems like a long time to put on a built wheel, but there were a number of funky modifications I had to make to get everything to mash-up and work.  I still plan on swapping out the Planet Bike Blaze light for a more vintage looking light with modern LED innards, but that is another project and I am not quite done with it yet, stay tuned.  I describe the project in the photos below.

This is the original front wheel. It was laced radial spoke pattern, which is odd. I love the wingnuts, but they won't fit on the new axle.

The original wheel spacing on my bike measures 84mm. The new hub requires 100mm spacing. It was not pretty, so I did not take a photo of my "fork spreading" technique.


The wheel installed in the front fork with the drum brake arm secured to the fork leg and the cable installed.

I used a hack saw to slot this old brake ferrule. The new hub comes with a pre-assembled brake cable and housing but I needed this special ferrule to make it work with the original Raleigh brake levers.



The hack saw slot was too thin for the brake cable, so I opened it up a bit with a small Nicholson hand file.

I widened the slot with a file. I thought it might crack if I tried prying it. If you do this, be careful not to crush the ferrule in the vice.


The cable slips into the newly split ferrule, which then slips into the brake lever handle.

The brake cable housing now fits snugly in the ferrule, which fits in the vintage lever.


I had this Planet Bike 1 watt Blaze dynamo powered headlamp laying around so I used it as a temporary light. All it took to hook it up was to slip the wires into the connector that comes with the SA Dyno hub and clamp the light to the handlebars

All lit up and I can stop the bike too! The Planet Bike light works fine, but just doesn't fit on a 1936 Raleigh. I should have the modernized vintage light along with a couple other upgrades done soon. Watch for that post some time next week.

What a joy to have the cool old Raleigh with modern stopping power and a good light.  The Sun L20 rim looks very period.  The SA hub is clearly a modern hub compared to the old SA dyno hubs, but it is still a Sturmey Archer.  I felt better about putting that hub on this prewar English Gentleman than I would a product of the Axis Powers like Schmidt’s Original Nabendynamo or a Shimano Alfine

I think it still looks period. Remember, I am going to exchange the Planet Bike Blaze light for a vintage headlamp shell with modern LED guts.

What do you think?  Is it sacrilege to put these modern conveniences on such a great 1936 vintage bike?  Should I have saved it in exact original condition and only ridden the bike on sunny days?  Is it OK to make these temporary mods as long as I save all the original parts? 


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Equipment, Equipment Review, Lights and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to ’36 Raleigh DIY upgrade: SA dyno hub and drum brake

  1. Dave J says:

    Dave, I’m an advocate of “lights, day and night.” Nice modification to your old friend.


  2. Markk says:

    You are a bike rider, not a museum right? Make it look good to you.

  3. Russell says:

    *Russell Stamp of Approval*

  4. Tim K says:

    Nice upgrade. I really like that you kept the original brake levers. I am looking to start a project on a ’72 Raleigh and will use this for inspiration. Also I just put a Sturmey 5 speed hub with a bar-end shifter on my city bike and am in love with it. Next year is a front dyno hub with brake. All good things, and most important it that they are ridden!

  5. Chainleg says:

    Nice machine Dave. If you’re riding it update. Save the oem parts if you want to hang it in the family room and look at it, or you get a offer you cant refuse.

  6. michael hopp says:

    Awesome hack Dave!

  7. Barry Stuart says:

    Sharp ride, Dave! I saw it last night at the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo.

  8. adventure! says:

    I think you did a good job, Dave.

    I also went through the whole “should I keep it period correct or modern-functional” debate when I restored my Raleigh Wayfarer. There is definitely a strong argument for keeping stuff “stock” from that era, but the simple fact is that some (not all) modern bike components work better than classic stuff. And steel rims are a nightmare for rim brakes in wet weather.

    Since “wet weather” is a big deal here in Portland, and I wanted a functional bike, I made the necessary changes. I got a new front wheel with alloy Sun Rims and a dynohub, and just updated the Raleigh calipers for something more modern. I could have gone with a new S-A integrated hub/dyno, but a friend already had a good condition dynohub sans brake available, so I built a wheel around that. Sure, it’s not period correct (though my bike is a 70’s model). But I don’t want to ride a museum piece, and these bikes were intended to be ridden!

  9. Chris Q. says:

    Looks great! I think it’s a great blend of modern upgrades but in keeping with the style of the bike – and now you can ride it more!

  10. Will says:

    pretty sure I saw this hot rod and an Oma outside of Meritage this weekend… 😉

  11. James says:

    Did you have to file the axle slots wider to accept the axle?

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