Recently, I finally got around to catching up with a few things on my TiVo box as they were starting to pile up. One thing caught my eye that I had been meaning to watch for some time, Pedalling Dreams: The Raleigh Story.
The documentary itself was an incredibly interesting insight into the rise and fall of one of the largest manufacturers, in any field, that this country has ever seen. Many of the technologies that are still used on bikes today were pioneered by designers and engineers at the Raleigh cycle plant in Nottingham and it was interesting to see how they evolved to keep cycling relevant, from battling the rise of the car to the introduction of trends like BMX and mountain bikes. They were also amongst the first to use sports stars of the day to promote their bikes.
You can still watch the documentary here, it is well worth it:
Now I was a tad too young to own the iconic Raleigh Chopper (though I did ride a fair few that belonged to brothers and sisters of my friends) but Raleigh bikes were a massive part of my childhood and it got me reminiscing about the Raleighs I owned as a kid
What 80’s kid didn’t want to be Andy Ruffel?! The BMX champion rode his last season in the Raleigh colours. That bike with the white mag wheels, don’t try and convince me on the yellow ones, was the coolest thing around. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t do any tricks on it, you just looked slick!
With the BMX craze dying out bikes started to revert back to traditional types. We wanted to cycle to school, we wanted to pass the cycling proficiency test and we were told we needed sensible bikes! I got this Raleigh Racer and it was anything but sensible, I could absolutely fly down the hills where I lived (no helmets in those days) and, following a school trip to France where we witnessed Le Tour in full flight, I would spend hours hurtling round the roads where I lived, pretending to be Sean Yates, Greg LeMond or Laurent Fignon. It was a fabulously made bike and probably my favourite.
The mountain bike craze broke big time when I was in senior school, it had come over from the US with all the razzmatazz you would expect of an American bred sport. Adverts were bright and loud, as were the bikes and the clothes that went with it and we embraced all of it. I was bought a Raleigh MTB Team bike for my birthday and proceeded to take my cycling offroad which was great fun. It was around this time that we became aware of other brands such as Ridgeback, Diamondback and Muddy Fox but most of us rode Raleigh’s (although some poor souls got the garish Raleigh Lizard, below)
Raleigh is no longer a British company though it is still headquartered in Nottingham, but it is good to know it is in safe hands and hands that know a thing or two about bikes and the history of the brand. Accell, the current owners, also own the Lapierre and Ghost brands which make lovely bicycles so the future looks good. It is also good to see a Raleigh Bike Team back up and competing and I will be supporting them in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series when it rolls into Croydon in May, check the link below to see if the Tour Series has an event near you
There are so many bike brands to chose from these days that it is difficult to remember a time where that one brand mattered so much but Raleigh did, well to me anyway.