Raleigh bikes: the complete buying guide

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

 

RuThe Raleigh Bicycle Company began life in 1885, when Richard Woodhead and Paul Angois set up a small bicycle workshop in Raleigh Street, Nottingham.

The brand is as icon of British engineering, widely known for the glory days of the 1900s which saw it produce bikes like the children’s Chopper and Grifter, plus the Burner BMX bike.

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.

Whilst the brand used to produce a range of road bikes, it has now shifted its focus to hybrids, electric bikes and kids bikes.


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Raleigh bikes

The range at Raleigh is vast. Here’s a look at some of the key models…

Raleigh Array Electric bike

raleigh bikes

The Raleigh Array is a commuter focused electric bike with a 400Wh battery, wide and sweeping handlebars with seven speed derailleur gears and resilient tyres.

Front and rear lights are built in, as are the mudguards. The brakes are discs to ensure good stopping in the wet, and frame is aluminium.

You can buy it with a straight crossbar, or a low crossbar for a reduced standover height.

The weight is approximately 23kg, this isn’t a lightweight bike, but at £1275 it is an entry level electric bike.

Raleigh Centros Tour

raleigh bikes

An electric bike range designed for relaxed and comfortable touring, the Centros range comes with a Suntour front suspension fork offering 56mm of travel.

Shimano hydraulic disc brakes ensure quick stopping even in the wet and on the higher end ‘Grand Tour’ option, Nexus hub gears keep shifting neat, tidy and reliable.

Go a step down and you still get 10 speed Deore shifting via a traditional derailleur.

Raleigh Felix plus Raleigh Felix Electric

raleigh felix

The Felix range is a five model line-up of electric bikes available exclusively at high street retailer Halfords.

All models feature aluminium frames with short travel suspension forks at the front to provide comfort.

Running on Schwalbe Road cruiser tyres, they’ll be a little quicker off the mark than the Tour style with a more road going geometry, though you can opt for a straight crossbar or low step over option.

The battery is a Bosch 300Wh on the standard model, whilst the ‘+’ version boasts a 400Wh battery.

Raleigh Fern and Raleigh Sherwood

raleigh bikes

A classic style glider of a bike, fitted out with a kickstand, pannier racks and basket.

With three speed gears and a weight of 17kg, this will roll well on flat roads but isn’t an option we’d recommend if you plan to commute via any significant hills.

The Raleigh Fern comes in at £485, with an aluminium frame. Of a similar nature is the Raleigh Willow, at £435 with an aluminum frame, a single chainring and seven gears on the rear cassette.

If you want to spend a little less, the Raleigh Sherwood comes in at £370 with a steel frame.

Raleigh Motus Electric

raleigh bikes

A ten bike collection, the Raleigh Motus bikes come available in a range of formats – from sporty crossbars to low step throughs even the ‘Kompact’ folder.

Created to be the ultimate commuter, each comes with built in pannier racks, mudguards, disc brakes and tyres that will roll well on the road whilst remaining resilient.

They all have a small degree of front end suspension for a little comfort boost, plus front and rear lights to remove potential complication in winter.

Raleigh Mustang

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 two more expensive models feature single chainring sets ups, which cope better with muddy off-road conditions and offer simplicity on tricky terrain.

>>> Raleigh Mustang Comp review

Raleigh Pioneer

raleigh bikes

The Raleigh Pioneer range is extensive, with 15 different models ranging from £350 to £450.

Designed to be a resilient commuter which rolls quickly on the road, it features an aluminium frame with a triple chainring and seven rear gears to ensure there’s enough range for any journey.

All models come with v-brakes, which aren’t as good in the wet as disc options, but will be sufficient for most riders. There’s a selection of styles, with straight crossbars and low step variations.

Mudguards and pannier racks come as standard, whilst the ‘Trail’ versions also offer a little squish via front end suspension and wider tyres that can tackle more varied terrain.

Raleigh Propaganda

raleigh bikes

This steel framed city slicker can be ridden fixed or as a singlespeed.

Retailing at £500, it comes with aluminium seatpost and bars, and a steel fork. The bike comes with a 42 tooth chainring and 16 tooth rear cog, this should be fine for most riders but you can swap them out once you learn what  suits you best.

Raleigh Stowaway plus Raleigh Stowaway Electric

raleigh bikes

The folding bike option from Raleigh uses an aluminium frame and comes with 20″ wheels and v-brakes plus seven rear gears on the cassette.

Mudguards and a pannier rack come as standard, and there is an electric version with a 260Wh battery.

The added battery takes the weight from 14.5kg without to 20kg with – which means if you want the added power, moving around train stations may become a little more difficult, but you can fold the handlebar out and roll the bike along too.

There’s a price hike for the electric assistance too, from £400 to £1350.

The Raleigh Evo is a second electric folding option, retailing at the same price with similar spec, and available exclusively at Haldfords.

Raleigh Strada, Strada Trail and Strada Electric

raleigh bikes

Raleigh’s Strada range is designed to offer rugged adventure potential. There are 11 bikes in this collection, with different specifications.

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.

A notable feature across all models is the use of a 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 or trail.

>>> Raleigh Strada 6 review 

Strada hybrid bikes all come with rim brakes, and range from the Strada 1 (£350) 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.

There’s also an electric model at £2250 (currently reduced to £1599), which 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 kids' bike sizing suggestion

Raleigh kids’ bike sizing suggestion

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • See the Raleigh kids’ bikes at Halfords here

Former road models

Whilst no longer a part of the line-up, Raleigh road bikes are still available second hand – so here’s a look at the key models.

Raleigh Criterium

Raleigh Criterium Sport

Raleigh Criterium Sport

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.

>>> Raleigh Criterium Sport review

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.

Raleigh Militis

Ian Wilkinson’s Raleigh Militis 2014 team bike

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 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.

>>> See all Raleigh bike reviews

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.

The riders competed 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.

However, in more recent years, Raleigh has moved its focus back to hybrid, electric and kids bikes, ending its sponsorship in road racing.

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