Classic Lightweights UK
Devoted to classic UK and Italian Lightweights

Airlite hubs by the British Hub Company

A V Tutschek sent in this technical information on the Airlite hub:

The pre-war Airlite Continentals were made for both solo and tandems. The diameter of a solo front flange is 82mm with a normal axle. A tandem front is 91mm in diameter and has a 3/8" axle, the same as a normal rear.   The distance between locknuts are 98mm and 106mm respectively.

The QR and solid axle rears are totally interchangeable but the fronts differ by having a thicker barrel to take a thicker axle, presumably as the 5/16” axle would be very weak when drilled out.   Ray Booty always used an Airlite small flange Q/R, in the front wheel only, on his road/path machine.  On the rear of course he would have had had fixed or occasionally a Sturmey gear (Raleigh contract you see).  If you are using thicker Q/R front axle you may find it a little too large for some of the older fork ends, this problem can easily be solved by filing flats on the hollow axle, if you are nervous about that then the fork ends have to be filed out.

Colin Lines points out
that although the front Airlite QR hubs had a fatter barrel and axle he remembered that, in the early fifties, he had fitted some Gnutti QR axles and skewers straight into a pair of Airlites with 5/16” front axle.

Amir Avitzur sent these images of the various barrels and flanges used to create the range:

Airlite made Front and Rear barrels as shown in this barrel photo. They used rear barrels for both front and rear
hollow axle hubs to allow for QR shaft, hence more front flange variations would be expected.



The combination of flanges and barrels show the wide range of Airlites available, not just fixed and geared as it is easy to imagine

Here are some of the more unusual Airlite hubs:


Airlite rivetted hub
One of the rare pre-war riveted Airlites, a front.  As you can see, the large drilled flange instead of being pressed onto the barrel is riveted to a small flange (which is pressed onto the barrel).

They were also produced as a tandem specific hub. 

Airlite LF QR

A Pair of the rare quick-release Airlite hubs advertised on ebay.

These were produced in both large and small-flange versions. The barrell of the front hub is a larger diameter to accommodate the thicker axle which is drilled for the QR.

Airlite QR SF

A small-flange version of the Airlite quick-release hub showing the correct Airlite Q R lever with 'BH' in a roundel on the end.

Airlite blue

Some of the Airlite large-flange hubs were anodised - this one is a slightly faded blue

Airlite Red

or there was a choice of red  

Riders from the 50s have a sentimental attachment to the red version as they were used by the World Sprint Champion Reg Harris in his Raleigh track machines.  This image is of course of such a hub in a pair of  Bates Diadrant forks