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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday 20th January, 2003


Cyclist on bike
RALEIGH BIKES | The world famous Raleigh bike will now be made abroad

What was your first bike? Bet that it was a Raleigh.

We celebrate the end of an era as bike production ceases in Nottingham. Get on your bike with Inside Out.

Raleigh was once the biggest cycle factory in the world, employing 10,000 workers and making two million bikes every year.

A few weeks ago an era ended when Britain's most famous bike manufacturer ceased production at its factory on Triumph Road in Radford, Nottingham.

With increasing global competition and cheap imports, Raleigh has been facing tough times. It's a sad story....

Made in Nottingham

Raleigh workers
Raleigh is a Nottingham institution, an icon of the industrial age

The name Raleigh has been synonymous with bikes since the company was founded in a small workshop on Raleigh Street by three men in 1886. They produced just three bikes a week.

Seeing the firm's potential, a local lawyer, Frank Bowden, bought the business and founded the Raleigh Cycle Company in 1888. Bike production rose to 60 a week, and 200 new staff were taken on.

By the 1920s Raleigh was a world leader, producing 100,000 bikes and 15,000 motorcycles every year.

After the war, production continued to grow, and by 1951 Raleigh was producing over a million cycles annually.

But the bubble was about to burst with the boom in car ownership. Cycle sales halved and Raleigh saw its market share shrinking at an alarming rate.

Raleigh responded by launching a motor scooter and introducing a new generation of bikes, but competition was growing.

On your bike

Old Raleigh factory
Raleigh bikes were renowned for being reliable, trustworthy, strong, well-made and family friendly

In the early 1970s, Raleigh enjoyed a brief resurgence, thanks to the launch of the Chopper bike for teenagers.

The bike cost almost double the price of an average child's bike at 31 guineas (£32.55 in current money). Perhaps you were one of the 1.5 million cyclists who bought a Chopper in the 1970s?

The BMX and mountain bike crazes also helped to keep Raleigh afloat, but the marketplace was volatile.

The company was taken over by Derby International in 1987, but competition from abroad put Raleigh back on a knife edge in the 1990s.

Raleigh's share of the market plummeted to just 15% in 1998, the lowest since 1970. The following year was worse and the writing was on the wall for the company. Raleigh was forced to make some tough decisions, and streamline its factories.

The Future

Raleigh - A history
Old Raleigh poster
The Raleigh factory starts making bicycles.
The Raleigh Cycle Company was founded.
Raleigh acquires Humber cycles.
Raleigh starts producing a three-wheeler car.
Raleigh launches its Gazelle budget bikes.
The Raleigh building is used as a munitions factory.
Raleigh launches the Chopper.
Raleigh launches the Select electric bike.
Raleigh ceases production of bike frames in the UK.
Raleigh closes its Nottingham factory with the loss of 300 jobs.
Raleigh bike manufacture switches to Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The latest Raleigh catalogue offers a fantastic range of bike designs from mountain biking, downhill and racing bikes to models designed for BMX, cross country, commuting, and touring.

So what does the future hold for the company and its workers?

Manufacture of Raleigh bikes has now been transferred to the Far East where production costs are up to 22% cheaper.

But although the bikes will be made abroad, the name Raleigh will live on.

The company will continue to design and distribute their world famous bicycles from the East Midlands.

But it's a sad fact of life that Nottingham has lost one of its best loved traditional industries.

Author Alan Sillitoe, whose book "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" was filmed in the factory, recently described Raleigh as the 'soul of Nottingham'.

For Nottingham and the Raleigh workers, the end of bike production is a real body blow.

For most of us our memories of Raleigh will last forever. Who could forget that shiny new bike with its trademark heron's head badge?

It's a poignant reminder of the world beating British bike which once proudly proclaimed 'Made in Nottingham'.

See also ...

History of Raleigh

On the rest of the web
Raleigh Bikes
British Cycling Federation
Raleigh Chopper
Raleigh Chopper Owners Club
Raleigh Photographs

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Paul Hamilton
I enjoyed the historical note on Raleigh. I am blessed to know that "they are still in the hunt!? I pray that the co. can pray for new and more competive ideas! I have a Burgandy, 10 spd. US. Raleigh & it suites me fine! I hope to always keep it.

I can't remember what my first bike was (red and black) but the bike I have had for the past 2 years is a Raleigh. £160 and well worth it!(even though I hardly ride it.)

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