HISTORY: The Heron Evolves: Raleigh from 1975 to 2002

Yvonne Rix and Toyah Wilcox. Leslie Roberts and Noel Edmunds. Max and M Trax. Diamondback and Derby. The Bulwell Three and a bunch of newts. Raleigh was an interesting, but turbulent, place to work in the years 1975 to 2002. Here, in a constantly updated version of a paper written for the 11th International Cycle History Conference held at Osaka in August 2000, TONY HADLAND catalogues the ups and downs for Britain's best known bicycle manufacturer (latterly an assembler, now to be an importer only)
Author:
Publish date:
full3621_Raleighposter1977.jpg

Raleigh UK, once the world’s biggest manufacturer of cycles, recently stopped volume production of cycle frames. It is soon to quit what remains of the Nottingham site it occupied throughout the 20th century.

This paper examines how, in the period 1975-1999, Raleigh adapted to changing circumstances. These circumstances include customer taste and fashion, developments in marketing techniques, technological change in manufacturing and finished products, and competition from other manufacturers.

To provide context, a brief historical background is provided. There then follows a detailed review of products presented in broadly chronological order. This includes sales trends, product management, the treatment of high-end products and the transfer of ownership from Tube Investments to Derby International. Thereafter there are sections on marketing and production facilities.

The conclusion attempts to assess how well Raleigh performed during the last quarter of the 20th century, and to set this performance in context. There's then a few postcripts, bringing the Raleigh story bang up to date.

2. Historical background

2.1 1886-1949

Raleigh Street, Nottingham, was the site of a small workshop which in 1886 started producing diamond-frame safety bicycles at the rate of three a week. Frank Bowden, a successful lawyer and convert to cycling, bought the firm in 1887 and in December 1888 founded The Raleigh Cycle Company as a limited liability private company. It grew rapidly and within a few years was a large public company capitalised at £100,000 (equivalent to about £5m today).

In 1902, Sturmey-Archer gears were added to the product range. Six years later, Bowden bought back Raleigh, which was to remain in family hands for the next quarter century. By the early 1920s, Raleigh was a world leader, capable of producing annually 100,000 cycles, 250,000 hub gears 15,000 motorcycles and 50,000 motorcycle gearboxes.

Raleigh survived the Great Depression well. It acquired Humber cycles in 1932 and the following year started producing a three-wheeler car. In 1934 Raleigh reverted to public company status, as Raleigh Cycle Holdings Ltd, with a share issue of more than £2m (= about £65m today). By 1938, its production of bicycles had grown to nearly 500,000 units per annum and the company had stopped making motorcycles and cars.

During the Second World War (1939-45), Raleigh concentrated on munitions work. The name of its budget range, launched in 1938 as Gazelle, was changed to Robin Hood, and Raleigh acquired Rudge-Whitworth.

After the war, despite shortages of fuel and steel, Raleigh’s cycle production rose rapidly. By 1949, it had reached about 750,000, the majority of which was exported.


The main Raleigh plant at Nottingham in its heyday.


2.2 1950-68

In 1951, Raleigh produced more than a million cycles. But between 1950 and 1962, as increasingly prosperous consumers abandoned the cycle in favour of the car, cycle sales in the UK halved. This led Raleigh in 1958 to resume moped production and later to launch a motor scooter. More significantly, during this period Raleigh acquired two major rival groups: Triumph and Three Spires in 1954, and BSA (including New Hudson and Sunbeam) in 1957. Raleigh itself was then taken over by Tube Investments (TI), whose British Cycle Corporation owned Phillips, Hercules, Norman and Sun. The effect of these mergers was that Raleigh’s sales figures showed a slight upward trend during most of the 1950s.

The TI take-over followed a collaborative venture with Raleigh in South Africa. In 1960, TI bought all Raleigh shares, then handed over the British Cycle Corporation to Raleigh management. Suddenly, TI-Raleigh had 75% of the UK market. Unfortunately, it was a market that was rapidly shrinking.

In spring 1960 Raleigh, having stopped making quality lightweight cycles at Nottingham, bought Carlton Cycles, a respected hand-built racing cycle specialist company based nearby at Worksop.

Raleigh urgently needed to increase volume sales to the man and woman in the street. In October 1960, a licensing agreement was drawn up allowing Raleigh to make the new, small-wheeled, unisex, dual-suspension Moulton bicycle. Production was scheduled to commence in November 1961 but in September, Raleigh imposed a moratorium: Leslie Roberts, Raleigh’s incoming managing director, did not believe the Moulton could yield a reasonable profit.

Alex Moulton therefore built his own factory and started delivering Moultons to the trade in March 1963. The new machine was an immediate success, and most production had to be farmed out to Fisher & Ludlow, a subsidiary of the British Motor Corporation.

In March 1964, Raleigh showed Moulton the prototype RSW16: an unsprung small-wheeled shopping bike that was well equipped, more robust and cheaper than the Moulton. It was unclear whether the RSW breached Moulton’s patents and in June 1964 Raleigh sought a production licence for the Moulton bicycle. Alex Moulton was prepared to licence an unsprung F-frame small-wheeler, provided the genuine Moulton could be sold through Raleigh dealers. Negotiations continued into the autumn of 1964 and included the possibility of Raleigh buying the Moulton cycle operation outright, or Raleigh buying Moulton bicycles badged as Raleighs, or Raleigh taking over Moulton’s marketing. None of these options came to fruition.

By mid 1965, Moulton was producing more than 1,000 units a week. The new cycle, and the interest it created in cycling as a stylish, modern and practical mode of transport, had arrested the steep post-war decline in UK cycle sales. However, Raleigh was seeing little benefit, except from the Sturmey-Archer hubs it sold to Moulton. Indeed, since the TI take-over, Raleigh’s sales had dropped by a staggering 49%. In addition, other cycle makers such as Dawes and Royal Enfield were introducing small-wheelers to cash in on the Moulton boom. Therefore, in July 1965, Raleigh launched the RSW16 with an unprecedented £100,000 of publicity (= more than £1m today).

The RSW16 proved commercially successful, going into MkII and MkIII versions and selling more than 100,000 units in its nine-year production run. Scaled-down juvenile versions, such as the RSW14, also sold well. However, the Wisp, a moped based on the RSW16 and launched in spring 1967, proved a commercial failure.

Launch of the RSW sparked a trade war between Raleigh and Moulton. By 1967, both were suffering. Despite a 40% increase in sales since launch of the RSW16, Raleigh’s profits for the previous year were down 8% and Moulton was losing money unsustainably. In late July 1967, Moulton Bicycles Limited was bought by Raleigh, who retained Alex Moulton as a consultant.

In 1968, but with relatively little publicity, Raleigh introduced the Twenty. This long-lived H-frame small-wheeler was destined to become for a while the company’s biggest selling model and remained in production for some 16 years. At one time or another, it was sold under almost every brand name owned by Raleigh.

2.3 1969-75

Following the launch of the Moulton, the UK cycle market grew reasonably consistently until 1975, when for the first time sales exceeded the 1950 level. During this time Raleigh’s sales growth closely mirrored that of the UK cycle industry, enabling the company to hold market share at around 60%.

In the late 1960s, Schwinn and other US cycle makers had discovered a grassroots Californian trend towards high-rise cycles for adolescents and were now capitalising on it. Responding to this, in 1969 Raleigh launched the Chopper in the USA. It was too expensive and too late for the American market but the following year it was released in the UK, where it was hugely successful. In its ten-year production, about 1.5m were sold in the UK alone. Importantly, it pushed the price point for toy bicycles to unimagined heights. It was launched at 31 guineas (£32.55, = about £292 today), when hitherto the most expensive Raleigh child’s bike, the Chico, cost just £19.99.

In 1970 Raleigh ceased moped production and again concentrated on cycle sales. Two years later an 18" wheel scaled-down version of the Twenty was introduced, and in 1973 another model aimed at youngsters was launched, the Commando. The following year, Raleigh invoked the break clause in their agreement with Alex Moulton and stopped making his cycles. The company also retired the RSW and concentrated all small-wheel production on the Twenty series, reputedly their biggest seller at the time.

In the USA between 1970 and 1972, demand for lightweight ten-speed cycles increased forty-fold. Raleigh Record and Grand Prix models, based on Carlton designs, sold there in massive numbers. At one point they were being made in Nottingham, at Worksop (by Carlton), in the Netherlands by Gazelle, by Raleigh Ireland and possibly even in Malaysia.

By the eve of the period on which this paper focuses, Raleigh was therefore doing reasonably well. It had survived the virtual death of utility cycling in the UK and its poor management of the Moulton affair. It was now benefiting from the renewed interest in cycling that the maverick small-wheeler had generated and which was being sustained in the UK by a gradual increase in popularity of other types of cycle, such as ten-speed drop-handlebar machines. The Moulton’s commercially viable legacy was safely in-house, in the form of the profitable and popular Twenty and its derivatives. With the Chopper, Raleigh had created a new market in the UK and other developed countries for expensive toy cycles, which it continued to exploit. Moreover, in contrast to toys such as the Chopper, it offered fine Carlton lightweights to the discerning enthusiast. Thus, in 1975 Raleigh enjoyed record sales 599,000 units in the UK, although market share was beginning to decline slightly.

Overseas, Raleigh was also doing quite well. In the Netherlands, not only was it was selling 50,000 cycles a year under its own name: Gazelle, the leading Dutch manufacturer, now owned by Raleigh, was selling a further 250,000. Raleigh’s Canadian factory had recently doubled in size to produce 150,000 units a year. In the USA, there was a new factory in Oklahoma, supported by a network of large, modern warehouses in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, California and Oklahoma.

Importantly, Raleigh still benefited from Britain’s imperial heritage, with huge sales of black, 28" wheel roadsters in former colonial territories, particularly in Africa. The company had recently opened a new factory in Nigeria, where Raleigh was selling some 200,000 cycles a year. Producing large numbers of old-fashioned roadsters was what Raleigh did most profitably.

3. Raleigh Products – 1975-1999

3.1 Sales trends: 1975-87

Annual sales of cycles in the UK during the last quarter of the 20th century rose dramatically, from around 1.1m to 2.7m. Sales were flat initially, rose steeply in the late 1970s and early 1980s, dipped somewhat in the mid 1980s, then grew until the end of the century.

Raleigh’s sales during the same period were flat rather than steeply increasing. In broad terms , the company started and ended the period selling about ½m cycles a year, and during the middle of the period were selling about ¾m. Raleigh’s good and bad years tended to reflect those of the industry as a whole, but during the whole period the company was steadily losing market share – down from 54% to around 20%.

Much of this loss of market share is ascribable to imports. In 1970, the UK imported a mere 27,000 cycles – about 4% of the UK market. Meanwhile the country exported more than a million bikes, 38 times as many as it imported, and the majority of them Raleighs. By 1975, while exports remained at about the same level, there were nine times as many imports. Six years later exports were overtaken by imports, mainly from Europe and including makers such as Peugeot and Puch. From 1980 to 1986, imports accounted for about 40% of the UK market.

Then came the mountain bike boom and another step change. Adding to the European imports, bicycles from the USA and Taiwan started to come in. In 1987, for the first time, UK consumers bought more imported bikes than British, and imports soon took about 60% of annual UK sales.

3.2 Product management

In respect of Raleigh’s marketing during the period under review, the dominant personality was Yvonne Rix, formerly Yvonne Fisk. Joining Raleigh in 1962 as secretary to chief designer Alan Oakley, she saw at first hand development of the RSW16 and Chopper. When Oakley moved from design to marketing, Rix went with him, seeking a change of career and a new life following divorce. Further advancement was difficult in the design department because of the high levels of technical expertise required. Marketing, she reasoned, depended more on common sense, the ability to perform analyses, flair and being aware of what people wanted. Rix had always liked bicycles and had strong views on marketing, particularly to women. She could not understand, for example, why ladies’ bicycles had to be the same colour as gents’ models and have the same saddle.

Via evening classes, Yvonne Rix obtained a diploma in marketing and was promoted to assistant product manager. She continued studying by day release, was awarded a diploma in management studies and became product manager in 1975. This involved developing products, analysing the market, working out pricing, costing and profitability, and programming the factory. In this role, she reported to the marketing director, a member of the Raleigh board.

Below are the significant models for which Yvonne Rix was responsible, starting with some inherited from the recent past.

3.3 Significant models in the TI period

3.3.1 Small wheelers

The Raleigh Twenty, launched in 1968, and its derivatives were still selling well in 1975. A folding version, the Stowaway, had been introduced in 1971, although the vast majority of Twenties were rigid framed. From the mid-1970s, production of Twenties gradually declined but continued well into the 1980s.

During the time that the Twenty Stowaway was in production, the model was under pressure from an increasing flood of cheap foreign imports. U-frame small-wheeled folding bikes, particularly from Eastern Europe, were available from cycle shops, through mail order and even from petrol stations. In 1984, Raleigh replaced the Stowaway with a U-frame folder of its own, again giving it an ex-Moulton name, Safari. In 1987, it was renamed, this time reusing the name of the RSW16 folder, the Compact.

3.3.2 Purpose-designed juvenile cycles

The Chopper had been the first Raleigh cycle designed specifically for children: hitherto, all juvenile machines had been scaled-down versions of adult machines. Launched in 1970, the Chopper remained a significant seller, although sales were now falling. In the words of former Raleigh marketing man Melvyn Cresswell, ‘years of selling sports light roadsters, with just the odd change of décor, seemed to leave people unprepared for the phenomenon of fashion and product life cycle.’ The first replacement product, the Commando, had been introduced in June 1973 but had not had major impact.

3.3.3 First response to BMX

The next follow-up to the Chopper was the Grifter, launched three years later, in June 1976. It resembled a BMX bike but with mudguards and a three-speed hub.

The Grifter was originally developed not primarily as a Chopper replacement but to compete with BMX. However, the limited roadster-oriented technology at Nottingham meant that every joint of the Grifter’s frame would have to be brazed. Therefore, it could never compete with the welded frames being introduced in the US. However, as Chopper sales continued to slide, the Grifter was presented as the natural successor. It sold well.

3.3.4 A precursor of the mountain bike

The models discussed thus far already existed when Yvonne Rix became product manager. Following her appointment, she noticed older teenagers in England riding conventional cycles fitted with dirt track racing handlebars and sorbo protective padding. This observation led her to instigate the Bomber. To get the desired image and line while minimising the need for retooling, the front end came from a bicycle already in the range, a Nigerian roadster providing the sloping cantilevered back end. Equipped with chunky tyres and specially-made handlebars, the Bomber somewhat resembled an early mountain bike but was well ahead of the MTB craze and was developed independently of it. Launched in 1981, it was promoted in an advertising campaign featuring pop star Toyah Wilcox.

3.3.5 BMX

Raleigh was very late into BMX. The board was reluctant to introduce single-speed stripped down junior machines, as there was less profit in each compared with the Grifter, especially for Sturmey-Archer. They hoped BMX would be a passing fad. It was not and the company initially missed a big opportunity. There were consequently some high level sackings. The high street auto accessories and cycle chain store Halfords was meanwhile heavily and successfully promoting BMX. This followed a major initiative by their cycle marketing manager David Duffield (who had launched the Moulton and had later worked for Raleigh). Halfords, Raleigh’s biggest customer, had been involved in building the first BMX track in the UK and helping local authorities around the country set up their own tracks. As he could not source BMX bikes from Raleigh, he instead started importing from the USA.

Therefore, soon after the Bomber launch, Yvonne Rix was sent on a research trip to the USA. She came back with the Burner range, which was launched in 1982 and rapidly sold over a million units. This had a major impact on Raleigh’s overall UK sales: in 1983, they were up 57% on 1981. The Bomber and Burner also temporarily helped arrest Raleigh’s declining market share. In 1980, this had slipped to 31% but by 1982, Raleigh had half the UK market. Indeed, for the period covered by this paper, 1983 was Raleigh’s best year for sales in the UK, with almost a million units sold.

3.3.6 Mountain bikes

When Yvonne Rix visited the USA and the Far East in 1981, she formed the view that mountain bikes would eventually come down from the hills and onto the streets. The reaction from the Raleigh board was, who needs mountain bikes in England where there are few mountains? Yvonne Rix’s response was that neither do you need a 4x4 to drive in London, but you see plenty of Range Rovers in Chelsea. Not a woman to be easily dissuaded, she kept up the pressure for several years. Yet there was still very little interest in mountain biking in the UK: a review of the UK cycling scene in the International Cycling Guide 1983 made no mention of it.

Eventually, Yvonne Rix persuaded the Raleigh board that a move into mountain bike production made sense. In spring 1985, Raleigh launched Maverick, its first range of MTBs. Offered in 5, 15 and 18-speed versions, it was built using traditional Raleigh roadster-style brazing. However, initial sales were disappointing. The MTB market in the UK remained relatively small, with few domestic players and no meaningful presence yet from American or Taiwanese companies.

3.3.7 Bicycles for women

Product manager Yvonne Rix believed that Raleigh needed ‘totally creative, stylish images and fantastic looking bicycles that people want to buy’. Evidence of this approach is particularly strong in her marketing towards women. The Wisp (not to be confused with the earlier RSW-based moped) was a Rix concept bike, with a mixte frame finished in pale blue with dark blue flashes and matching handlebar tape and saddle, both finished in blue suede. Launched in 1983, it sold 50,000 in the first year.

Rix shared the view that advertising aimed at women was very important. With the Raleigh Collection, comprising the Wisp, Cameo and Misty models, a PR company was used to present bicycles in the manner of a fashion clothing collection.

3.3.8 Bicycles for small children

In 1986, Raleigh launched an innovative range of children’s cycles with applied black plastic mouldings and electronic sound generators. These bikes were developed using ideas that had been piloted in the none too successful Vektar, in collaboration with a small specialist electronics company in Spondon, Derbyshire.

Street Wolf, a 16" wheel machine aimed at 6-7 year-olds was the most popular model, the others being Wild Cat, a 20" wheel bike for 7-9 year-olds, and Wolf Cub, a junior version with stabilisers. The latter set a new record for the most expensive bike ever sold with stabilisers, retailing at about £70 (= about £120 today).

3.4 TI decides to sell

Despite all these marketing initiatives, particularly the initial success of the Burner BMX range, things were not going too well for Raleigh’s hub gear division. In 1982, Sturmey-Archer made 400 workers redundant. Burners were not Grifters, and did not have hub gears: and although S-A introduced a specially strengthened BMX axle, nobody wanted to put three-speeds into a BMX. S-A ceased single-speed coaster brake production in 1982 and two years later Dynohubs were dropped, 46 years after their introduction. Furthermore, Britain’s long love affair with hub gears was waning. Derailleurs were getting better, cheaper and more fashionable. Even Raleigh’s women’s range made extensive use of derailleurs. But Sturmey-Archer was not encouraged to develop them and, although S-A had prototyped a seven-speed hub in 1973, TI was not prepared to invest in it. (Not until the mid 1990s, after Sachs and Shimano had introduced 7-speed hubs, did S-A market one.)

By 1985, Raleigh itself was suffering badly, as BMX rapidly died. Being essentially a bicycle designed for a seven-year-old but ridden by 7-17 year-olds, there was no moving up to bigger machines as riders grew. Everybody who wanted a Raleigh BMX bike bought it in the first two years. Thereafter Raleigh’s UK sales plummeted. By 1986, sales were 38% down on the 1983 peak. Moreover, initial sales of the Maverick range were disappointing.

This dip in sales was matched by the industry as a whole, but Tube Investments now lost patience with Raleigh. TI decided to sell the company and, on 1st April 1987, it was bought by Derby International.

TI’s 27-year ownership of Raleigh, under successive MD’s Leslie Roberts, Tom Barnsley, Ian Phillips, Rowley Jarvis and Bob Ing, had seen market share drop from 75% to 36%. Under TI, Raleigh was smothered: a relatively small division, unable to make important decisions without reference to higher authority. There was a feeling within Raleigh that its bosses were not really in charge. TI seemed more interested in filling in five-year plans, rather than making decisions. It was a huge conglomerate including not only industrial tubing but consumer products such as Creda cookers, Russell Hobbs kettles and Tower saucepans. TI did not see bicycles as being interesting or particularly profitable. They retained ownership of Reynolds tubing for a further decade, however.

3.5 Derby International

Derby was a private company, the name of which derived not from the rival cathedral city 20 miles west of Nottingham but from the American term for a bowler hat, as in the sense ‘top drawer’. Its founder was Edward Gottesman, an Anglo-American tax lawyer, domiciled in London for many years. It is somewhat ironic that, a century after a lawyer founded Raleigh, another lawyer should head the company purchasing it.

Gottesman, like Frank Bowden, was both entrepreneurial and interested in bicycles. He had heard that TI was keen to dispose of Raleigh and appreciated the value of the Raleigh brand, especially in America. Therefore, he got together with some associates, put in his own money and some from his colleagues, obtained the support of financial institutions and formed Derby. Being a tax lawyer, he registered the company in Luxembourg.

The banks required a chief executive officer with a proven record of accomplishment. Hence, Alan Finden-Crofts, formerly with Dunlop, was recruited. It is reported that, at his first meeting with Raleigh dealers, he said that he had sunk everything he personally owned into Raleigh. He wanted to make it clear that Raleigh was now a small company whose CEO had financial commitment.

When Derby took over, a whole layer of Raleigh management was removed at a stroke. For the doers who remained, it was a liberating experience. Finden-Crofts told them that all he wanted to do was apply a slight touch on the rudder. He was a strategist and did not wish to be involved in the day-to-day activities. He said he believed in choosing the right people, then letting them get on with it. Many staff found this empowerment liberating.

What followed was an exciting but difficult time. For example, Raleigh’s procurement manager suddenly found he could not buy materials on credit, as Raleigh was a new company. Moreover, having been a user of TI’s corporate information technology, Raleigh suddenly lacked a computer system. A lot of foundation work was therefore necessary, but most staff responded positively.

Derby initially acquired not only the Nottingham operation including Sturmey-Archer but also Raleigh’s operations in the Netherlands (including Gazelle), South Africa, Canada, Australia and the Irish Republic. Subsequently they bought other companies, including the German Kalkhoff company, now the main Raleigh outlet in Germany. (For the situation regarding use in the USA of the Raleigh name by Huffy, see Steve Neago's note. )

When Derby took over, Raleigh’s marketing director and deputy left. Yvonne Rix was made product planning and marketing manager and in 1988 was appointed marketing director, with a seat on the Raleigh board.

For the role of managing director, Derby first brought back Sandy Roberts, son of Leslie Roberts, from Raleigh International. Roberts retired in 1990 and his successors were first Howard Knight, then for a brief period, Mark Todd. In January 2000, Phillip Darnton assumed the role. He was formerly MD of Unilever’s factories in South America and marketing director on the board of Reckitt & Coleman.

3.6 Significant models in the Derby period (1987-99)

3.6.1 The mountain bike boom

Alan Finden-Crofts believed that timing was everything and no sooner had Derby acquired Raleigh than mountain biking in the UK finally took off. Raleigh’s UK sales increased for the next four years running and by 1990 were 31% on 1986. Eventually, more than 3m Raleigh MTBs were sold. The move to profitability surprised many and confounded the widely held view that Derby was only interested in asset stripping.

Initially dubbed ‘Dad’s BMX’, mountain bikes had a much wider age profile than their smaller cousins: not 7 to 17 but more like 9 to 90. Eventually MTBs became the replacement conventional bicycle, the equivalent in the UK of the now virtually extinct sports light roadster. Nonetheless, the mountain bikes offered by Raleigh still had a product life cycle. After four very good years, most people who wanted a first generation Raleigh mountain bike, had bought one. Consequently, in 1991, Raleigh’s total UK sales dropped by 16%, a level at which they were to remain for five years.

3.6.2 Folding cycles

The idea of a folding bicycle appealed to Yvonne Rix but the volume market was shrinking and tended to be dominated by cheap 20" wheel imported machines. These sold at about £70 and had little profit margin. As noted above, Raleigh produced a similar machine, but this was dropped about 1989. In that year Raleigh started selling the 26" wheel US-designed Montague Bi-frame, which was built in Taiwan. It was sold as a Rudge, because the philosophy was, ‘If it’s not made in Nottingham, it’s not a Raleigh’.

Yvonne Rix liked the Bi-frame which, as big-wheeled folders go is a good machine. However, at about £350 when launched (= about £500 today) it was relatively expensive. Furthermore, dealers found it difficult to promote the important fact that it folded. Rather too late, Montague evolved a display stand to emphasise this feature. Despite strong efforts to promote the Bi-frame, sales were poor and it was dropped early in the 1990s.

Thereafter Raleigh steered clear of folding cycles until the late 1990s. Then it marketed a derailleur-geared Rudge-branded 20" wheel Dahon for about £300, including carry bag. Little was done to promote this machine and at the time of writing it can be bought as a clearance item at a considerable discount.

3.6.3 Hybrids

Yvonne Rix had anticipated that a replacement for the basic mountain bike would be needed. She reasoned that customers would want to progress from the relatively heavy but comfortable MTB to something slimmer and lighter. But they would not go back to racing bikes, with their relatively uncomfortable riding position, an uncomfortable narrow saddle and narrow fragile wheels that got caught in potholes. The MTB gave everything a racing bike did not: an upright riding position, comfortable saddle, and wide tyres with a high degree of puncture resistance. However, after riding it on the road for a while, the downsides that became apparent were weight and rolling resistance. Therefore, Rix proposed a machine that kept the good braking, wide-ratio gears and other MTB advantages but with thinner frame tubes and tyres that were a compromise between the knobbly wide-section mountain bike tyre and the lightly treaded narrow-section racing bike tyre. In effect, she devised an improved sports light roadster with a more modern image.

Raleigh thus effectively invented the hybrid and therefore had difficulty obtaining suitable tyres. Whereas today every Taiwanese tyre manufacturer makes hybrid tyres, the only supplier in 1990 was Vredestein in the Netherlands.

Launched in 1991, just as MTB sales dropped away, the Pioneer range was promoted heavily and initially sold well. At the time of writing, Pioneers are still made but the biggest marketing problem was the lack of an easily remembered and well-understood generic name for this type of machine. The UK industry used the term ‘hybrid’ which was unattractive to customers, giving a hint of ‘neither fish nor fowl’. Competitors, reasonably enough, did not wish to use the Raleigh name, Pioneer. The Germans called them trekking bikes, which suggests to UK customers something rather arduous.

It is interesting to note that nine years after the Pioneer range was launched, Trek were advertising hybrids as ‘a totally new style of bike for a totally new style of biking’.


3.6.4 Extending life of the mountain bike

Although the Pioneer range was intended as an MTB replacement, it was recognised that it was not a perfect substitute, its market being somewhat different. There was therefore a need to extend the product life of the MTB, especially for younger customers. In the USA, interest had been growing in suspension for mountain bikes. Alex Moulton’s dual suspension 20" wheel ATB, launched in the USA in 1988, was probably the first fully suspended production mountain bike. Although far from the mainstream of mountain bike design, it stimulated interest in the subject and Rockshox telescopic front forks reached the UK in 1990.

Adding suspension to a Raleigh MTB seemed a good way of boosting interest and sales, hence the very successful Activator was created. This was a budget MTB with a simple Raleigh-designed telescopic front fork. Launched in 1992, it was advertised effectively on TV. The following year saw the introduction of Activator II, a dual suspension version, with a Raleigh-designed rear suspension system somewhat reminiscent of that used on the Raleigh-manufactured Moulton MkIII. Activator II launched at £260 (= about £315 today) and by May 1994 could be bought at discount for £200.

Whereas the Activators were essentially budget MTBs with inexpensive suspension designed in-house, Raleigh recognised that the other end of the mountain bike market needing nurturing. Yvonne Rix understood how Ford effectively used sub-brands such as Cosworth to create interest and capture customers with aspirations higher than Dad’s much-loved but mundane Mondeo. Hence the Raleigh sub-brand M-Trax was developed, offering high quality MTBs. Both in marketing and product development, M-Trax benefited from the successes of the Raleigh Mountain Bike team, which Rix instigated in 1989.

At the MTB entry level further development was needed to sustain interest and market share. Yvonne Rix had recognised the sales potential of MTBs with oversize aluminium tubing, which some competitors were introducing. However, Raleigh had no in-house aluminium frame-building facilities and did not want to buy in frames. At the Harrogate cycle show in 1993, Rix concluded that the appeal of oversize tubes to younger customers was primarily visual. They liked the look but were not particularly interested in the material used. Raleigh was able to handle wider but thinner-walled steel tubes and hence the Max range was born. Launched in 1995, the bikes were advertised on TV as ‘oversized but not overweight’. The range was hugely successful for some four years.

3.6.5 Electrically assisted bicycles

In 1998, Yvonne Rix retired as marketing director. The last innovation she introduced was the Select electric bike, which was launched in 1997. The Select had a proportional power control system that automatically monitored and matched the rider’s energy input, switching-in electric assistance only when required. It sold for about £1,000. Rix believes firmly that electrically assisted cycles have a big future, subject to battery improvements commensurate with those seen in the development of mobile telephones.

Raleigh was the first major UK manufacturer to offer an electric bike. Unfortunately, it was too early and too expensive to have much impact on sales, and was dropped by Rix’s successor.

3.6.6 Sturmey-Archer

For a long time, Raleigh supported Sturmey-Archer by fitting an AW 3-speed hub in the entry-level model of each range. There was, however, an image problem with the product and a 5-speed derailleur was a cheaper, more fashionable alternative. Moreover, Raleigh sometimes paid more for S-A products than did competitors, which lead to internal friction. Today S-A and Raleigh are relatively independent. There is no special favouring by Raleigh of S-A products. A Raleigh is as likely to have a Shimano 7-speed hub from the other side of the world, as it is a Sturmey-Archer from the other side of the road.

Under Derby, Sturmey-Archer was able to re-engineer many of its hubs. In most cases, this was successful, apart from the short lived and unsatisfactory 5 StAr dual-cable 5-speed hub. A single-cable 5-speed hub, the Sprinter 5, replaced this. During the 1990s, more than 20 years after patenting a 7-speed hub, S-A was finally allowed to bring one to market, the Sprinter 7. Sadly, this was only after its main rivals, Sachs (now Spectro by SRAM) and Shimano had already introduced 7-speed hubs.

Sturmey-Archer’s main market is the Netherlands. The major British specifiers are makers of portable cycles, such as Brompton, and niche players such as Pashley, for their roadsters, folders and delivery cycles, including those used by the Royal Mail.

3.6.7 1998 and after

Yvonne Rix retired in 1998. Her successor appointed a new advertising agency and instigated a change of corporate image. Sales had been falling at about 8% per annum for the previous two years but in 1998 they plunged 29% to 405,000, the lowest since 1970. Market share was down from 21 to 15%, probably the lowest in a hundred years.

At the time of writing, figures for 1999 were not available but early indications suggested a recovery to approximately 1997 levels.

3.7 High end products: 1975-99

3.7.1 Carlton

Production of high end cycles at Nottingham ended in the late 1950s with the Reg Harris era. Awareness of, and interest in, the demands of the serious competitive cyclist died with it. The acquisition in 1960 of Kevin and Gerald O’Donovan’s Carlton Cycles generally filled this gap. However, as Carlton was for the most part run autonomously, the association of the Raleigh brand with performance products ceased in the UK.

The export situation was very different. Raleigh products designed and built by Carlton were an important part of the range. They sold well in their own right and were not used just to lend credibility to the rest of the range.

3.7.2 Lightweights move to Nottingham

The success of Carlton was seen as diluting the Raleigh brand and therefore the Carlton brand was killed off. Production was transferred to a new lightweight department at Nottingham. Initially the products were lacklustre: high specification tubing but with mass production geometry and mid-range equipment. There was relatively little contact with potential customers: this, coupled with Raleigh’s inherent lack of responsiveness, led to some delay before the product met the intended customers’ needs.

Although Raleigh had a successful racing team on the Continent, marketing made little use of this to promote Nottingham-built bikes. Meanwhile, serious cyclists turned their backs on the Nottingham lightweights and beat a path to buy frame-sets from the Raleigh team workshop, Gerald O’Donovan’s Specialist Bicycles Development Unit at Ilkeston.

Nonetheless, the Nottingham-made product did improve and the International Cycling Guide 1983 selected the off the peg Raleigh Team Replica as one of its bikes of the year. Campagnolo-equipped, it sold for £450 (= about £880 today).

3.7.3 Special Products Division

The demise of the European team in the early 1980s led to the closure of Ilkeston but resulted in Gerald O’Donovan and Melvyn Cresswell teaming up on product development at what became known as Special Products Division. Shortly before this, and supported by his ‘indulgent boss’ Yvonne Rix, Cresswell had designed and launched the Randonneur tourer. It was based on personal experience and inspired by his first ‘serious’ bicycle, which Gerald O’Donovan had built for him many years previously. Although Raleigh’s most expensive complete bicycle, it was an instant success. The Randonneur proved that Raleigh could still sell high-end product if it was thoughtfully designed and manufactured.

The small team gathered together at Special Products built on this success. They produced many viable new bikes, which initially sold in good volumes. Derby encouraged this development work and Ed Gottesman, leader of the Derby buy-out, was particularly supportive. An avid collector of high-end Raleighs, he was always looking to add to his collection. Moreover, he always paid for his Special Products bikes.

Managing director Sandy Roberts was also a keen supporter of the unit. However, after he retired in 1990, support waned. Despite pioneering work on thermal bonding technology (DynaTech) and frame manufacture using titanium and metal matrix composites, the Raleigh board was unsure how to make use of Special Products Department. Should it be required to make a profit? Should it be a development overhead? Was it a marketing tool and hence part of marketing costs?

Yet, even breaking even was difficult. This was the era when internal transfer charging became fashionable in the corporate world. Despite being autonomous, Special Products had to contribute disproportionately to corporate IT costs, human resources department costs and even the running of directors’ cars. Meanwhile the sales department had little interest in Special Products and was so tied to the Raleigh 5-star dealer network that access was denied to quality independent dealers capable of selling the product. The decline of Special Products was therefore inevitable, although the unit still exists.

3.7.4 Special Products as niche support for volume production

The Raleigh view is that the company always has been and remains primarily about mass-production. The brand philosophy also dictates that Raleigh must make the best end of the bicycles sold in volume. Therefore, if Raleigh sells mountain bikes, it must make the top niche Raleigh MTBs. Consequently, Special Products development unit now makes MTBs for the Raleigh team, whose mission is ‘to demonstrate that Raleigh make the best mountain bikes in the world’. This is not particularly profitable in its own right, but is worthwhile because of the brand enhancement when selling ordinary bicycles. Moreover, there is a trickle down of technological development and refinement from the team machines to ordinary production.

The philosophy today regarding Special Products is that any niche markets catered for must relate to the mass-produced products.


4. Marketing

4.1 Marketing structure within Raleigh

For many years, the design department was all-powerful and a very large in-house resource. By about 1980, however, marketing had become pre-eminent, a direction that had been foreshadowed when design director Alan Oakley moved to marketing a decade earlier. This reflected the view in Raleigh that designs involving significant technological change, and hence investment, such as Alex Moulton’s spaceframes, Mike Burrows’ monocoques, and even diamond frames built of aluminium could not be made profitably. Therefore, it was considered better to concentrate on concepts involving technologies already mastered, or easily bought in. Technology push was not on the agenda, but on the other hand, Raleigh would try not to be merely reactive to market pull.

Although the pattern changed a little from time to time, the typical marketing department was as follows. The marketing director was a member of the main Raleigh board. Reporting to the marketing director were the product managers, concept design team and marketing services team. The concept design developed the product image, whereas marketing services dealt with advertising, point of sale support, promotional events and public relations. The total number of staff involved fluctuated between about a dozen and twenty.

4.2 Brand strengths and weaknesses

Market research indicated that the Raleigh brand is widely seen in the UK as trustworthy, family-oriented, comfortable, friendly, strong, sturdy and reliable. This is fine for selling family and children’s cycles. With these brand values in their heads, parents are likely to buy Raleigh.

When it comes to selling racing bikes, however, such brand values are not a good match. Here Peugeot did much better, being seen as flash, French and lightweight. In contrast, the Raleigh brand strengths were the antithesis of what was needed. Thus, when the Carlton brand was phased out and lightweight production moved to Nottingham, Raleigh sponsored a racing team, supported by TV advertising. With its emphasis on speed and lightness, this modified the popular view of Raleigh, whilst leaving intact the existing strengths. Sadly, interest in racing bikes then fell away, as MTBs took over.

BMX fitted better with traditional Raleigh brand strengths. Perceptions of sturdiness, reliability, dependability and strength also served the marketing of low and mid-range MTBs well. However, they were not a good fit for upmarket MTBs. These needed to be American and sexy, the perception being that all the best mountain bikes came from the USA (even if in reality they were nearly all made in Taiwan). Therefore, the slogan ‘Designed in Raleigh America, built in Nottingham, England’ was adopted for the Max range.

So it can be seen that Raleigh capitalised on its brand strengths and sought to modify them where the fit was less than optimal. Reliability was further emphasised by the introduction of a 15-year guarantee on frame and forks.

4.3 Sub-brands

In the 1970s and early 1980s, formerly independent sub-brands acquired by Raleigh, such as Phillips, Hercules and BSA, were used for mail order sales and certain other outlets. The idea was that for a ‘real’ Raleigh, you had to go to a Raleigh dealer. However, Yvonne Rix formed the view that the Kellogs and Nescafe approach – ‘we don’t make for anyone else’ – was better. Rix and her colleagues feared that if dealers were telling customers ‘this BSA is made by Raleigh’, then some unscrupulous dealers might infer that Raleigh also made competitors’ products. This fear was reinforced by the fact that Raleigh sometimes received returned machines sold by their competitor Universal, whose location – Rayleigh – was prominently displayed on packaging.

Another problem with the old Raleigh sub-brands was that, when selling to their biggest customer (and biggest competitor) Halfords, Raleigh could not get the same profit margin as they would for the same bike sold as a Raleigh. Halfords would typically pitch their imported own-brand machine at the lowest price, then a Phillips with similar specification at mid price, and the identical machine badged as a Raleigh at premium price.

The policy of using a non-Raleigh brand for Raleigh products not made at Nottingham was a different matter. It continued until 2000, when frame production at Nottingham ceased.

All sub-brands developed in-house and built at Nottingham, were prefixed Raleigh, for example, Raleigh Max.

In 1999, Derby acquired Diamondback, the US-based company built on BMX and which had diversified into MTBs and fitness equipment. Diamondback already had a presence in the UK, with brand strengths suggestive of youth, aggression and zaniness. These were seen as complimentary to Raleigh’s more traditional family-oriented image. Hence, in the UK from early 2000, Raleigh trades as Raleigh-Diamondback.

4.4 Merchandising

After her retirement as marketing director in 1998, Yvonne Rix continued working for Raleigh part-time until mid 2000 as manager responsible for licensing. Raleigh started licensing its name in 1996, after being approached by a specialist company who negotiated licensing rights. Having used this company’s services for some time, licensing was brought in-house.

The principal product ranges using the Raleigh name under licence are a selection of toy scooters, go-karts and plastic trundle toys, and an upmarket range of fitness equipment, including exercise cycles, a rower, motorised treadmill and stepper/climber. There is also a successful range of watches and a selection of clothing.

Yvonne Rix sees two ways of using licensing. The first is to sign up companies that predominantly feed off the Raleigh brand values and identity, such as the children’s toys. Alternatively, go for firms such as watchmakers or clothing companies, who will feed something of their own brand qualities and image into the Raleigh brand. Ideally, there should be a symbiotic relationship, where the licensee takes from the Raleigh brand but also gives it something back.

4.5 Advertising

4.5.1 TV and print

In the 1970s, Raleigh used TV advertising featuring the disc jockey and TV personality Noel Edmunds. For a long time thereafter Raleigh’s advertising tended to be print-oriented. Point of sale posters, such as the Toyah poster for the Bomber (1981), were used, and there was considerable deployment of posters in public places, such as outside school playgrounds, swimming pools and shopping precincts. Magazine advertising was used as appropriate to the target market: the Raleigh Collection (1983) was featured in women’s publications, and the Extremes range in children’s magazines. Sunday supplements were also sometimes used.

Yvonne Rix was particularly aware of the possibilities of taking an existing tired product, giving it a cost-neutral makeover, then advertising it in a focused way. For example, she changed the colour of the Caprice shopping bike to white, advertised it appropriately and tripled sales in a year.

Following the Activator launch (1992), Rix initiated a campaign to raise awareness of the Raleigh brand, rather than focusing on a particular model or range. Via TV advertising, it featured an animated version of the Raleigh heron’s head motif, which became known as Little Bird. Aimed at children, Little Bird put across messages such as, ‘Don’t buy a bike without me on it,’ and ‘Do you know, our dealers give a better service?’ Criticised initially as being childish, it crossed over to adults watching TV with their children, and proved a very effective campaign.

TV advertising is very expensive in the UK and typically costs about £1m per campaign. Raleigh therefore carefully targeted their adverts, using cheaper times of year, such as the summer holidays. The advertising tariffs are cheap because many people are on holiday. However, a high proportion of those who are nonetheless watching TV, are doing so with children – a well-targeted captive audience. Hence, the Activator and Max ranges were launched in June and advertised on TV in August. This got the ‘word on the street’ early, built dealer confidence and made factory scheduling easier for the sales that resulted in the build-up to Christmas. Raleigh used TV advertising for about five years from the Activator launch until 1997, but has used the medium very little since then.

4.5.2 Product placement

Raleigh rarely used product placement. Because of his extraordinarily good network of contacts, Alex Moulton was seen as being particularly good at this art: everybody from the chancellor of the exchequer to Batman was seen with a Moulton. Raleigh used to try, for example by providing a titanium Raleigh for Richard Branson, but concluded that product placement did not produce quick enough or measurable results.

4.5.3 Sports sponsorship

There was a long tradition of sports sponsorship in Raleigh, traceable to the days of its founder, Frank Bowden. Raleigh backed a European-based road-racing team through the late 1970s and early 1980s. It enjoyed great success, including team wins in the Tour de France in 1977 and 1983. Raleigh also built the bike ridden to victory in the Tour by Joop Zoetemelk who rode for TI-Raleigh Creda in 1980 – the only British-built Tour winner in the race’s history.

However, there was a feeling in Raleigh’s marketing department that, because of the lack of TV coverage, road racing had failed to capture the public imagination. It was seen as very technical and political, with a perception that the teams decided how fast they were going to ride each day and even who was going to win. The public was becoming apathetic as general interest in racing bikes declined. Moreover, Raleigh considered that the racing organisation in the UK was indifferent and even antipathetic towards commercialism. These perceptions all contributed to Raleigh dropping its road team. Another major factor was that road bike sales had become very small relative to sales of mountain bikes.

A few years later, with the need to maintain interest in and support sales of mountain bikes, Raleigh again saw justification for a sponsored team. Mountain biking was seen as more of a spectator sport than road racing, and therefore a better promotional opportunity. Consequently, the Raleigh MTB team was launched in 1989 and continues today. It has been involved in junior, women’s, cross-country and downhill racing. Raleigh considers it important that its team truck and mechanics are seen at major events. There is a further benefit, in that technical developments for the team occasionally lead to refinements for the mass-produced Raleigh MTBs.

Raleigh also has a BMX team and, at the time of writing, employs a stunt rider.

4.5.4 Internet

In 1997, at Yvonne Rix’s instigation, Raleigh launched its website. She believed then, and still does, that in time Raleigh will be selling top end cycles and specialist frames internationally via the Internet.

4.6 Dealers

Raleigh’s relationship with its 5 Star dealers is intended to be mutually supportive. The company tries to give its dealers some local protection and something akin to a monopoly in their immediate catchment area. In return, Raleigh tends to be paid by dealers before other suppliers and claims the best payment record in the industry. Some 5 Star dealers, however, think Raleigh is too powerful. There is therefore sometimes a love-hate relationship, akin to that between the UK’s major supermarket chains and British farmers.

Independent dealers can sometimes be very hostile towards Raleigh, particularly if Raleigh will not supply them. Raleigh conversely fears that independent dealers sometimes sell inferior imported machines with a higher profit margin against the nearest equivalent Raleigh model. Raleigh argues that most dealers who criticise it have either been refused supply or are selling cheaper machines at higher margins. Such dealers, Raleigh suggest, will tend to devise imaginary but face-saving reasons why they do not deal with the company.

The strand of antipathy towards Raleigh among independent bicycle dealers seems to be nothing new. A long-established and respected independent dealer in the West Midlands told the author that he had had no contact with Raleigh for 20 years. He added, ‘I had a conversation with my father back in the 60s discussing the bludgeoning by Raleigh of the IBDs. His only comment was that he had the same talk in the 30s with his father.’ Most of the machines sold by this dealership now are US brands, manufactured in Taiwan. As noted previously, long-established specialist dealers such as this were needed to sell Raleigh Special Products but the strong ties between Raleigh and its 5-star dealer network made this very difficult.

5. Production facilities

5.1 Rationalisation of production facilities

In 1975, Raleigh occupied some 75 acres (30 hectares) at Nottingham. By the end of 1999, this was down to 22 (9 hectares) which was then sold to the University of Nottingham to be used as a centre of excellence for retraining head teachers.

Contraction had begun under TI. For example, in 1984 Sturmey-Archer, which had once occupied 20 acres (8 hectares) in its own right, moved to smaller premises at Triumph Road. Raleigh had by then abandoned all direct involvement in magnetics, plastics and alloy forging. Manufacture of alloy rims, announced in 1982, was also swiftly abandoned, much of the expertise ultimately going to Sun Metal in the USA. Over the following years Raleigh ceased to make virtually all other components, other than Sturmey-Archer’s range of hub gears, hub brakes, spokes and Brooks saddles.

By the mid-1990s, Raleigh was a much smaller operation. Nottingham had become an old-fashioned collection of factories, optimised around efficient production of large volumes of all-steel roadsters, and manufacturing nearly all the necessary components in house. Now Raleigh was a much smaller, very compact and efficient operation, using computer numeric controlled laser-cutting and automatic welding to produce cycle frames, then finishing them and fitting them with bought-in components. Effectively, it was a now single factory operation, with the offices over the production facilities. The workforce had shrunk from a peak of 7,000 in the 1950s to about 700.

5.2 Volume production of frames ceases at Nottingham

In May 1999, Raleigh announced that its intention to cease volume production of frames in the UK. Managing director Mark Todd said:

‘It really is a very small department in the company and has been the only one making parts here for around 25 years. We have noticed a market preference for aluminium frames and as there isn’t the facility to make those at the factory we will have to gradually wind down the section. I suppose some people will view it as the end of an era, but this has been known about for some time and is a very small part of the work we do here.’

On 10th December 1999, at the very end of the period under review, Raleigh announced that it had auctioned off its frame-making equipment. This included three multi-robot welding machines, installed in 1996, and laser tube cutting equipment less than nine years old. The auctioneers, DDM Asset Management, stated that the sale had attracted ‘phenomenal’ interest, some buyers coming from the Far East and North America. Author Alan Sillitoe, an ex-Raleigh worker whose best-seller ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ was set in the Nottingham factory, said ‘Raleigh is a kind of soul of Nottingham. I’m very sad about it.’ About 50 job losses were expected.

A statement issued by Raleigh said:

‘Contrary to press reports, Raleigh is not ceasing production of bicycles in Nottingham. We are completing a process which was announced in May which involves cessation of frame manufacture. We will continue to control the design, specification and quality of the frames we use and of our final product. We will continue to produce half a million bicycles in Nottingham, using our world class painting and assembly facilities.’

In early January 2000, new MD Phillip Darnton took over and it was announced that Raleigh was selling the remains of its historic site to Nottingham University. The company did not intend to move out of the Nottingham area and was looking for a ‘brown site’ near the city to rehouse Raleigh.

5.3 Derby and its rationale

To understand the recent changes at Nottingham, it is necessary to widen our focus from Raleigh UK to the whole Derby operation. Originally formed in 1986 to acquire various Raleigh companies from TI, it subsequently acquired Raleigh America, Kalkhoff, Nishiki, Univega, Haro, Cycle Pro and late in 1999, Diamondback. The latter company, founded on BMX but which had expanded into MTBs and fitness equipment, was seen as a complimentary brand to Raleigh in the UK. Hence, from early 2000, Raleigh trades from Nottingham as Raleigh-Diamondback.

By 1992, Derby was the largest cycle group in the world, with a sales turnover of $500m. In 1998, this was $465m. The company is now known as The Derby Cycle Corporation and is based at Kent in the state of Washington, USA. It remains a private company, 65% owned by Thayer Capital Partners and 13% owned by Perseus Capital. It manufactures in five countries and plans to expand through acquisitions in the US and Europe, and by diversifying into accessories and clothing. It holds the leading market share in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Canada, and is a major player in the USA.

The view within Derby, and by extension Raleigh-Diamondback, is that there is no longer any point in being a country-oriented company. You must be a global company or die: a global company that makes what the market needs, that obtains materials and components from the most viable world-wide sources, and markets on a world-wide basis. But more than this, Derby aspires to being ‘glocal’ – a global company for economies of scale but with local manufacturing tailored to regional markets. Raleigh has assembly plants in the UK, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere, and other Derby companies also have plant. If via an international procurement team, all Derby plant buy frames from the same range, together with components that will fit these frames, the cost savings and economies of scale are enormous.

The brand can then be promoted world-wide in the manner of McDonald’s and Guinness, with the advertising and products tailored for local taste. For example, McDonalds accepts credit cards and serves beer in France but does neither in the UK; and Guinness varies its alcoholic content considerably to suit local tastes. After all, German-style trekking bikes are not wanted in any significant volume in the USA, and the highest tech American MTBs are not much in demand in Germany. But between these extremes there is much common ground.

Raleigh sees it as very important that it does not merely assemble bikes but paints the frames too. This facilitates branding and model tweaking at the local level. As Derby has a greater presence across the globe than its competitors, it is better positioned to monitor customer trends and tastes. Viewed holistically, it is cheaper to paint and assemble locally. Buying in complete bikes involves a six week manufacturing cycle and six weeks in transit from the far east. It is easy to miss a season or end up with a warehouse full of unsaleable bikes with last year’s colour. Local painting and assembly makes the whole operation more responsive. Hence, it is easy to accommodate, for example, the uniquely Dutch development of the MTB, incorporating dress-guards, carriers and mudguards – practical features traditionally found on the roadsters of the Netherlands.

6. Conclusion

Technophiles such as the author would love Raleigh to make many technically interesting, innovative and refined bicycles – the more super-lightweights, spaceframes and monocoques the better. However, Raleigh exists not to delight technophiles but to make money. Its philosophy during the period under review has become very clear and focused: go for the mass market, using niche high-end products only to support volume production. Just as Ford does not compete with Morgan, Raleigh has chosen to leave niches to the likes of Brompton, Moulton, Pashley, Mercian and Advanced Vehicle Design.

This being so, it can be argued that Raleigh made a quite good job of the last 25 years. It maintained its level of production reasonably consistently. It remained the biggest UK manufacture. It retained the largest share of the UK market. Moreover, Raleigh remained the first cycle brand that sprang to the mind of most British people. Many UK manufacturers would be envious of such a record. Contrast Raleigh’s performance with what happened in the British automotive, domestic appliance, TV and audio industries.

Furthermore, Raleigh was the first major UK cycle maker to market mountain bikes

Featured Jobs

Iride

Customer Services Support

i-ride.co.uk I Burgess Hill, Sussex I Competitive Salary Plus Commission I Date Published Tuesday 20th November 2018

BE2016_googlelogo

Senior Sales Executive

BikeExchange I UK Nationwide I Salary TBC Depending on level of experience I Date published Tuesday 11th December 2018