Raleigh bicycles were for years the undisputed leader in the production of transportation bicycles. And today they are still a leader in the manufacturing of bicycles. I am not an expert on Raleighs. Sure, I know how to repair them to keep them in the best running condition. And I've especially admired the three speed Raleigh bicycles that have been made in England for many years. But others can tell you more about them than I can and toward the bottom of this page I will list some of those links to those who know more about Raleigh three speed bicycles than I do. But I don't  have to be an expert to have something to say about Raleigh bicycles.

Bicycle companies make changes to their models all the time and sometimes they even change where their bicycles are manufactured. Many bicycle models and bicycle factories have come and gone. Many name brands and manufacturers have come and gone. Raleigh is still very much alive, that's the good news.


We expect change.
Most automobiles are redesigned every model year. New houses look different every so often. Even the Volkswagen Beetle has changed. Likewise, at the production site of Raleigh bicycles there have been changes over the years. But the largest change ever at the factory at Nottingham, England has occurred while we, in the U. S. A., were celebrating Thanksgiving 2002. The factory closed. It's likely, since you did find this site, that you already know this. Others will be shocked. They will be looking back at that sentence, "The factory closed". That's right, you haven't somehow fallen into an alternate universe. The bicycle company, Raleigh, that was making bicycles in a factory in Nottingham, England, the year you were born,  unless you are over 115 years old, closed the factory in Nottingham England on November 28, 2002. Raleigh plans to join most of the worlds other, what we consider, bicycle producers. They will sell bicycles that carry their name. They will handle bicycles that carry their name. They will import bicycles that carry their name. They will probably be designing the bicycles that carry their name. But they won't be producing them in England. They will be produced in factories in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.  I don't know if they are going to buy and set up factories in those countries or just contract with existing factories that are already there.

But does it really matter that much? What will it say under the Raleigh heron on the name plate? "Made in ..." where, in script on the top tube? Or will it be a small sticker almost hidden somewhere on the frame? Oh we won't see the answer for a while. There are still many thousands of "Made in England" Raleighs in stock. And Raleigh is still very much in the bicycle business. Will they be as good? I'm quite certain that will be their aim and that they will accomplish making bicycles of the quality that we have been accustomed to from Raleigh. But is quality  the only way to judge a product? What about the more than 100 year chain of being made in the same place by many of the same families and neighbors. Will we notice that? Only time will tell. Will we think that we feel that? Some of us will. Is it worth a 25% premium on the price for Raleighs to be made in England? Raleigh management didn't think so. I'm afraid they are right. Today it seems like most people buy bicycles on price and color. "What have you got for under $500? That's all I can afford." And, "Do you have it in red?" Not, "Have you got a bicycle that is really made well?" When the bicycle salesman hears that he knows he's in trouble. He probably has something in stock that's quite good, but then the price. He knows why he has that one in stock. It's so some of his customers can look at it as they are talking themselves into a less expensive model or considering where else to look that might have something that looks like it for less. And because  he has it in stock some of his less discerning customers might laugh at him for even asking such a price. But he's hoping that someone will buy it. The shop probably won't make as much profit from the sale of a high quality bicycle, but the purchaser of a high quality bicycle is more likely to continue riding, and will probably be a regular customer for a long time.
 
One of the bicycles that I have the most respect for can't be sold in most "advanced" countries in any reasonable number. It's the English roadster. Either Raleigh invented it or produced the most successful ones. For years if you said "the Raleigh bicycle" that's what you were talking about. I've been unable to find a three speed roadster in recent Raleigh catalogs. Some say they were discontinued in 1985 others have said it was the mid 1990's that they were discontinued. That was good marketing. Don't produce what you cannot sell. Other models appearing to be a better deal sold better. So people in "advanced" countries began using derailleur bicycles for basic transportation as well as racing and off road riding.

Throughout most of the history of the chain drive "Safety" bicycle there has been a type of bicycle called a roadster. Many of the bicycles that came from England were roadsters, light roadsters, or sportsters. These are all closer to the roadster design than anything else. These bicycles were incorrectly known to some in the U. S. A. as the "English racer" bicycle probably because it was so much lighter and faster than the  balloon tire, or middleweight single or two speed bicycle that was common in the U. S. A.  at that time.

The roadster is the one that was designed as the no nonsense transportation bicycle. Everything was considered in its design. It usually has a fully covered chain allowing the chain to run in an oil bath. The chain on this design gets an oil lube every time it goes around and is protected from dirt and water. It has fenders (mud guards) that not only keep the rider protected from mud, water, and anything else that the tires could throw, but also protects the bicycle from the mud, water, and whatever else that the tires could throw. It carries a kickstand for parking. The gears are enclosed in a rear hub in an oil bath. The hub has a plug that opens so that you can lubricate the gears and is closed in use to keep the oil in and dirt out. It usually has a lighting system powered by a Sturmey Archer Dynohub that has so little drag that even if the bicycle doesn't come from the factory with lights, (some roadsters don't), they often still have the Dynohub. Most roadsters come with a rack or a bag for carrying whatever needs to be carried by the rider. And roadsters usually have a bell for an audible warning to other travelers that might stray into it's path as it is so quiet in motion.

These bicycles provide only a limited chance for bicycle shops to make money on repairs and upgrades as the bicycle is very immune to the elements and to wear because of its design and already comes with everything normally needed on a bicycle. The tires are long wearing and the perfect width for riding on the road, unless you are racing, so the bicycle shop won't be selling many tires as either upgrades or replacements.

But then came "progress" in many of the leading countries.  How do you get more money out of these commuters and casual riders?

For what I am writing next, I apologize to anyone who is offended. I don't mean to offend anyone. All designs of bicycles have their uses. They do what they are designed to do. What I am presenting here could be possible but I am not presenting it as fact, just conjecture. I don't say that it is a plot against Raleigh or any bicycle that Raleigh ever designed. If you are offended by what I say, please think about my ideas, carefully, logically, before you get angry. I'm not saying anyone did this, but just consider the next paragraph.

Could these be the thoughts of the bicycle designers over the last 40 years?

The chain lasts a long time because it is so well cared for by having an oil bath and a full cover. OK, let's do away with the full cover in favor of one that doesn't provide an oil bath and exposes the chain to dust and water and whatever else the bicycle rides through. And let's take off the fenders. That will expose the bicycle's important moving parts including that now bare chain to even more of what the tires might throw during the ride. But that chain only goes around bending in one direction and the bicycle can be ridden without much trouble even if the chain is almost completely covered in rust. The derailleur solves that. The chain is now part of the gear system in addition to being the drive. It goes around bending in two directions over smaller cogs not only on a freewheel but also the derailleur. That chain is now almost totally exposed because of its complex path. And now it is even more important than before that it is kept even cleaner and better lubricated than before. And the hub and crankset bearing oiling ports, do away with those. Instead of the rider having to put a few drops of oil into each of those oil ports every two weeks, the bicyclist can take it in for service every six months, or possibly more often, for a mechanic to open the bearing assemblies and inspect, clean, and lube them even though those oil ports worked just fine. Let's see, did we forget anything? Oh yes,  those extras, that weren't extras before. If anyone wants fenders, kickstand, lights, a bell, a rack, or bag, let them buy that separately. That way the customer will see a lower price tag, until they start putting back on what they need.

And now many people are riding heavy, cheap mountain bikes with wide, lugged tires in addition to the other changes above. They are to bicycles what SUV's are to automobiles. We know that SUV's almost always use more gas than passenger cars. Why don't their riders realize that the gas of a bicycle is the rider's energy. And mountain bikes, mainly because of their weight and their tires, use more of the rider's energy. This is all right for off road riding because a mountain bike goes places other bikes can't. But on the road there is a lower energy alternative, the roadster or sportster.  

Raleigh faired better than many other leaders in bicycle manufacturing. Raleigh has survived. It doesn't look like they are going to make any bicycles of the design that made them a leader, not this year nor any time soon. They began as Raleigh Cycles, became Raleigh Cycles, Ltd., TI Raleigh Industries



Question: What do you do with your bicycle after you have to ride it home in the rain?
Answer: It depends what type of bicycle it is. If it is a three speed roadster or a sportster you park it and change into dry clothes. If the bicycle is still wet when you have yourself dried off you might want to dry the bicycle off too. But if it is a derailleur geared bicycle first you dry it, lube it, and possibly take it to the repair shop soon because it isn't shifting properly, unless you are too sick because you took care of your bicycle before you changed into dry clothes.
Note: I'm not saying to abuse the three speed roadster or sportster as concerns keeping it dry and protected. I'm just saying that the design of roadsters and sportsters allows you to have all the parts  protected by oil, grease, or wax. Besides they are less susceptible to water because the chain doesn't have to bend as many ways, gear inner wires and brake inner wires which should be lightly coated with grease are not as prone to being made unusable by water as other designs are, and the gears are riding in an oil bath.

Tip:
To improve wet weather braking if you have caliper brakes and chromed steel rims - get brake shoes made for wet braking on chromed steel rims. Fibrax makes brake shoes for caliper brakes that are specially designed to improve brakeing in the rain on chromed steel rims.

More about Raleigh bicycles at other sites.

Retroraleighs.com - Raleigh/Carlton bicycles of the days of yore.

Sheldon Brown - Information by Sheldon Brown of Harris Cyclery. Information about classic bicycles and new bicycles, a guide to saddles and how to find a comfortable saddle, repair and maintenance of bicycles, and much more. Also links to Harris Cyclery. Sheldon Brown is now also maintaining Retroraleighs.com

Tony Hadland's Website - Hadland's Books - For Raleigh History click on Raleigh's Recent past.

The History of Raleigh Bicycles - By Tony Hadland - On the RaleighChopper.info website.

The RaleighChopper.info website - Site is about Raleigh choppers not roadsters but has some good information about Raleigh's history.



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