In 1887, businessman Frank Bowden – later to be knighted for his services to the bicycle industry – bought a craft bicycle building business on Raleigh Street, Nottingham. The craft building company was re-named after the street, but soon outgrew it, moving to larger and larger premises in Radford as Raleigh benefitted from the bicycle boom of the 1890s. At its peak in the 1950s, Raleigh dominated both sides of Triumph Road in Radford, close to the centre of Nottingham.
Bowden’s family crest incorporated a heron and this bird became the symbol of the bike builder that exported its bicycle all over the world.
Raleigh is the only cycle brand among 500 firms listed among the 2010 Superbrands index, an annual look at which labels are most recognised and respected by consumers in the UK.
Raleigh’s children’s’ bikes have been especially well known over the last 40 years and the company is celebrating this with an owners’ photo section on its website. Anybody can upload an image of themselves in ‘their Raleigh’, whether it’s a classic touring bike from the 1940s or iconic models such as the Burner, Grifter or Chopper from the 70s and 80s.
Those to have loaded photos so far include industry veteran Jason Boness, the Diamondback product manager. In the main photo at the top of this piece he’s on his Raleigh Super Burner in the 1980s, and here he is on the same bike today:
Other folks on the gallery include Sir Chris Hoy (and his dad, David). Sir Chris started his racing career as an eight year old on a Raleigh BMX.
Prizes are offer for randomly-selected uploads and Raleigh dealers have been provided with point of sale materials to encourage customers to upload their own shots.
Raleigh’s celebratory 125 years-in-business badge has started appearing on SP Race bikes, Classic De Luxe, Clubman, Superbe, Sojourn and Caprice models.
Raleigh MD Mark Gouldthorp said: "This new commemorative logo is part of a big drive for us to remind our customers of Raleigh’s heritage and iconic style, as well as our pedigree in designing quality bikes for bike riders the world over for the last 125 years."
Raleigh owns or distributes 30 brands in the UK.
Raleigh’s Ben Hillsdon told BikeBiz: "We’ve been speaking to dealers that we’ve not had contact with for some time thanks to brand additions over the past year or so. Events like our dealer show confirm that the trade takes a keen interest in Raleigh’s business, be it as a Cyclelife retailer, or a stockist of just a selection of our brands."
A commemorative 150-page history book has been published and will be made available to Raleigh customers and will also be part of the prize package for ‘My Raleigh’ photo uploaders.
Raleigh’s history is to be celebrated in Nottingham this year. The "new" Raleigh No. three factory on Triumph Road, which was opened by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in 1957, is now the site of the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee campus. A number of events will be staged on the campus.
Nottingham-based theatre duo Andy Hanby and Julian Barrett have joined forces with the University of Nottingham to create a community project to mark the 125th anniversary of Raleigh.
On Sunday, March 11th, at Broadway Cinema, Hanby and Barrett will present Remembering Raleigh, a compilation of archive footage curated by the Media Archive for Central England.
In the summer the pair will stage a community play that will tour to a number of venues across the city, and the final performance of the play will take place at a cycling open day on the Jubilee Campus on June 16th.
If you have memories of Raleigh’s Radford complex and would would like to take part in the project, contact Hanby and Barrett on 0115 911 6971 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org