Classic Lightweights UK
Readers' Bikes  

Rudge Aero Special c. 1953

Submitted by David Rapley


Raleigh RP 310.  Seat tube 22.25”.  Top tube 22.75”.  Chain stay  17.25”. Wheel base 40.25”
Fiamme sprint rims on Airlite 32/40 large-flange hubs
Chainset  Williams 5-pin racing 6.5 cranks with inch-pitch ring and block chain
Pedals Raleigh quill
Gears Single-speed fixed
Brakes N/A
Stem/Bars Cinelli
Saddle  Brooks B17 Sprint
Extra details  See below

This machine was built for the reigning World Pursuit Champion Sid Patterson to contest the 1953 title. Raleigh had signed Patterson as it was more than a good bet that he would repeat the 1952 success - he did.  They presumably decided to mount Patterson on a Rudge to promote this line as Reg Harris would be on his familiar Raleigh and expected to seal the Sprint event.

Being a specialist pursuit bike the frame was made as light as possible with the ‘Harris’ chain stay reinforcing omitted and set with a longer wheel base.  After the title win it was returned to Raleigh for display purposes and may have been repainted by them at some point unknown. It was obtained by Harris Raleigh expert Denis Wright via a Raleigh employee after their collection was dispersed. It remained with Denis until 2012 when he decided to thin his stock. Feeling that the bike possibly had more significance to Australian enthusiasts he kindly offered it to me – yes please was the instant reply.  From period photographs it seems Patterson used one of the tool room Raleigh head stems (which seem to be rarer than the special frames themselves), apart from missing that item the parts are correct. It seems the world title may have been the only event the frame was used for.

Interestingly Raleigh retained ownership of their special race bikes – even Reg Harris returned all his gear when he retired but several did get away at the time – Oscar Plattner’s World Championship one went ‘out the back door’ with Harris assistance and at least one other a Rudge!

Sid Patterson was always the danger man in any track event so a second Rudge was supplied to him to maximise publicity this one to standard ‘Harris Sprint’ specifications.  Sid returned to Australia at the end of the 1953 European track season and bought that bike with him. He contested the Australian summer track carnivals dressed in Rudge monogrammed clothing much to his Australian Sponsor Malvern Star’s chagrin.  Perhaps Raleigh intended to market the Rudge brand here as they had produced a Sid Patterson model but they never did.   When Patterson returned to England for the 1954 season he left the bike here where it was given a Malvern Star cosmetic makeover complete with five stars brazed on the head tube.  There was no disguising the Rudge fork crown however  so it is easily recognised in photo’s of Sid’s brother  Dave (also Malvern Star sponsored) riding it. The whereabouts of this frame is currently unknown.  As far as Denis and I know Raleigh made only these two Rudge variations of the Harris Raleigh racers.

rudge-rapley-rb-2 rudge-rapley-rb-3

Above: Classic Raleigh track machine bottom bracket but without strengthening to chainstays, with cutout in shell to allow access to 5-pin chainring bolts with their small BCD

Left: Rudge badge on headtube plus distinctive Rudge fork crown