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This is the easiest way to date a 3-speed bicycle, if it has its original rear wheel.Prior to 1925, genuine Raleighs (not necessarily brand names made by Raleigh) had a straightforward numerical frame number. (Info from the Nottinghamshire Archives) Note that the serial number information below is fragmentary and incomplete, and many bikes have proven to be much newer than the serial numbers would suggest.Between 1925 and the cessation of cycle production during the Second World War, letters prefixed or suffixed the running frame number although no indication is given of the starting point of the numbers.
The new system involved a second running letter, added to the first, which began at the start of the alphabet. The character began at the start of the alphabet, and indicated year of manufacture.
Detail about the numerals that follow the alphabet are sketchy, and are presumably sequential serial numbers of some kind.
Note: While this numbering scheme is generally true, there may have been some crossover use of letters at the beginning/end of each year (e.g.
The company was sold to a group of money manipulators who shut it down in hope of making a quick profit by selling off the assets.
The Taiwanese company Sunrace bought the equipment, stock and rights to the name and is back in business.
Most older Sturmey-Archer hubs have two or three-letter model codes, which are usually stamped onto the hub shell.
Conveniently, they also usually have the month and the last two digits of the year of manufacture stamped onto the shell.
Note that the serial number information below is fragmentary and incomplete, and many bikes have proven to be much newer than the serial numbers would suggest.
It appears that Raleigh recycled many of the older serial numbers in later years, so there are lots of bikes from the 60s and 70s that have serial numbers that would suggest much greater age.
Almost all English 3-speeds have Sturmey-Archer rear hubs.
Sturmey-Archer was a division of Raleigh, made many different models since 1902, and were still in business until October, 2000.