Raleigh has been trading since 1885 - but its bikes have come a long way since the 'safety bicycle', and indeed the Chopper of the 1970s
The Raleigh Bicycle Company began life in 1885, when Richard Woodhead and Paul Angois set up a small bicycle workshop in Raleigh Street, Nottingham.
A series of sales eventually saw production move from Nottingham to Taiwan and Vietnam in the early 2000s, though the UK headquarters continues to make its home in the founding city.
Raleigh bikes: history and production
Founders Richard Woodhead and Paul Angois commenced Raleigh in 1885, and in 1888 their Raleigh safety bicycles (an alternative to the Penny Farthing) attracted the interest of Frank Bowden – a long distance tricyclist looking to replace his own machine. Bowden got more than he’d bargained for, eventually taking ownership of the company and giving it the name it carries now.
Raleigh experimented with a number of product groups; for example motorcycles in 1899 and the three wheeled Raleighette in 1903. By 1913, the business was the biggest bicycle manufacturing company in the world.
In 1960, Raleigh was purchased by the Tube Investments Group – who already owned a number of bike brands. The names merged, to become TI-Raleigh – a superpower which laid claim to 75 per cent of the UK market – boasting brands such as Brooks and Reynolds.
Growth continued, eventually expanding to incorporate branches in the USA, UK, Canada and Ireland. Then in 1987, Derby Cycle bought Raleigh and its American arm.
The US frames were already manufactured in Taiwan, but the UK frame making equipment was sold in 1999 – production moving to Vietnam.
Come 2012, Derby was acquired by Pon, a Dutch company which also owns Gazelle and Cervélo, then later that year a second change of hands saw it come under Accell, the current owner whose other brands include Lapierre and Ghost bicycles.
In January 2017, it was announced that Raleigh will be distributing Lapierre bikes in the UK, from September 2017.
With a history of supporting professional cycling – including sponsoring A.A. ‘Zimmy’ Zimmerman on his way to becoming World Champion in 1987 and taking Joop Zoetemelk to a Tour de France win in 1980 – Raleigh re-entered the realm of pro cycling by launching Team Raleigh in 2010, now named Team Raleigh–GAC and operating as a British UCI Continental Team.
The riders compete aboard Raleigh’s Militis road bike – a special eTap edition of which was assembled at the Raleigh UK headquarters, back in Nottingham, in 2016. The frames were still made in the Far East.
Useful links for road bike shoppers…
Here’s an outline of some of the main road models…
The gravel/adventure road bike from Raleigh, the Mustang comes with wide 36c tyres, disc brakes and a gravel-specific carbon fork with a tapered steerer – the aim of the game being to offer precise handling and plenty of tyre clearance.
All three builds in the range feature a double butted aluminium frame with a geometry that’s relaxed enough to provide stability off-road.
The Raleigh Mustang Sport kicks off the collection at £800, featuring 8-speed Shimano Claris shifting and ProMax disc brakes.
The two more expensive models feature single chainring sets ups, which cope better with muddy off-road conditions and offer simplicity on tricky terrain.
The Mustang Elite is £1,100 with Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes, a single SRAM Apex 1 chainring with 11-speed rear cassette. Top of the range is the Mustang Comp, at £1,500 with the same gearing and matching SRAM Apex hydraulic disc brakes as well as thru-axles front and rear to support the firmer braking.
The bike which rose to fame when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called it his ‘dream bike’ (and got lambasted for being a socialist and wanting such a luxury item).
Still sporting its appropriate red paint job, the Criterium is an aluminium racing frame designed to offer an entry into the world of road cycling. Or to complete commuting or winter bike duties for the kind of rider who has several bikes in the stable.
Calling itself “fast enough to race, comfortable enough to ride all day” the endurance race geometry is relaxed enough for long sportives or commuting, where you often want to be able to stay ‘heads up’ without craning your neck.
At £500, you get a double butted alloy frame with internal cabling and tapered head tube, Shimano Claris gearing (compact 50/34 chainset and 11-32 cassette – that’s lots of gears!), and Kenda Kontender tyres in 26c – these should provide ample security and grip thanks to the wider than average width.
The Raleigh Militis is the top end machine that’s raced by Team Raleigh-GAC. However, the range has sported aluminium models for as little as £1,000 whilst the carbon e-Tap model came in at £6,000 for 2017.
Designed to be ridden in competitive environments, it provided the rider with a chassis that allows them to get long and low.
There’s currently no sign of any 2018 models, however. Raleigh tells us there’s no plans to launch one – and we’re still waiting to find out what the team will be riding in the new season. There are still some 2017 models floating about and available to buy.
Raleigh’s Strada range has seen an overhaul for 2018 – the aim of which was to offer more rugged adventure potential with its hybrid bikes.
The biggest change to the line-up is the introduction of the 650b wheel size. Popular on mountain bikes, and more recently adventure road and gravel bikes, the wheel size can be coupled with wider tyres to smooth out bumps and lumps in the road.
There are two key Strada families – the basic Strada hybird bike, and the Strada Trail Sport bikes – these come with 160mm travel suspension forks for more off-road action.
Strada hybrid bikes all come with rim brakes, and range from the Strada 1 (£330) to the Strada 5 (£575). All but the Strada 1 come with internal cable routing and disc brakes. The top end option, Strada 5, has a Shimano Deore single ring drivetrain which offers simplicity in shifting.
The Raleigh Strada Trail Sport bikes with 160mm travel front forks come in at £435 and £500 – the more expensive option boasting a Shimano integrated EZ shifter and brake set, designed to be intuitive and easy to use.
Raleigh also offers a Strada electric bike, which at £2,350 comes with a Shimano Steps E6000 system, boasting 50NM centre mount motor and 400wh battery.
The bike shares the 650b wheels of the non-assisted versions, plus a lighter weight carbon fork and 42mm wide tubeless ready tyres which will cope with assorted surfaces.
The gearing system is single chainring with nine gears on the 12-36 cassette, and the discs are hydraulic.
Raleigh kids’ bikes
Some of Raleigh’s most renowned creations have been kids’ bikes, and their children’s starter machines are still some of the most widely stocked.
Raleigh offers a very wide selection, consisting of sixteen different families. Below is a quick run down to help you select one.
We’d always suggest putting your focus on the weight of the bike.
Children’s bike designers in the past have been guilty of attempting to replicate adult bikes – adding suspension and lots of gears – elements that aren’t always necessary on kids’ bikes and can make learning to ride harder.
Pedalling a bike which weighs a significant percentage of your own mass is hard.
The kids’ performance range from Raleigh looks to reverse this, with fewer gears, simple designs, and the lowest weight it offers.
- Kids Performance: £240-£300, 14-20inch, 6kg-7.5kg, triple butted frames and single chainring set ups designed to offer a lightweight ride ideal for inspiring children to grow into a love of cycling
- Dash: £110, balance bike, 18 months and over, 5kg; no pedals to teach them the basic skills of cycling
- Songbird: £110-£130, 12-16 inch wheels, 10kg; designed for pavement use, very pink styling with tassels
- Striker: £110-£180, 12-18 inch wheels, 9.5-10kg, steel frame, football pattern and chainguards on smaller bikes
- Atom: £135-£155, 12-16 inch wheels, 8-10kg; light aluminium frame and space theme
- Molli: £150-£170, 12-16 inch wheels, 10-11kg; aluminium frame, pink with basket and ‘Molli’ doll
- Fury: £140, 16 inch wheels, 12kg; introduction to the BMX world with steel frame
- Krush: £155-£210, 16-24 inch wheels, 10-14kg; steel frame with v-brakes, smaller bikes singlespeed, larger bikes come with single chainring and selection of rear gears
- Beatz: £190, 18 inch wheels, 10kg; knobbly tyres, steel frame with single chainring and six rear gears
- Tumult: £185-£195, 18-20 inch, two frame sizes at 20″, 12kg-13kg; steel frame and 18″ suspension
- Bedlam: £185-£210, 20-24 inch, 12-14kgm; steel frame with knobbly tyres and rigid fork – 20″ option with single chainring and wide cassette, 24″ bike has triple chainring and wide cassette
- Starz: £175-£185, 16-18 inch, 8-10kg; singlespeed set up with rigid fork on an aluminium frame
- Zero: £185-£230, 16-20 inch, 8.5-10kg, aluminium frame, single chainrings throughout and rear gears on larger bikes
- Chic: £220, 20 inch, 10.5kg, step through frame and flower design, aluminium frame, single chainring and six rear gears
- Chopper: £300, 20 inch, 14.5kg – the iconic classic is back. Not the lightest weight, but designed to turn heads.
- Abstrakt: £185-£214, 18-24 inch, weight unlisted, styles like mini mountain bikes with suspension and a range of gearing options through the sizes