Documentary telling the extraordinary tale of Raleigh bikes - a beautifully illustrated story full of remarkable characters, epic adventures and memorable bikes.
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For the past 150 years, Britain has been a nation of bike lovers.
And for much of that time, one make has been associated with quality,
innovation and Britishness -
Born in the back streets of Nottingham,
Raleigh grew to become the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world.
For over a century,
the company was known for its simple and practical bikes,
built to last a lifetime.
A few of the oldest still survive today.
I feel really proud to own this bicycle.
To me, this is a work of art.
For generations, its designs were thought second to none,
enjoyed by adults and children alike.
To be out in the fresh air where the smells you got were flowers,
trees and everything, I thought that was wonderful.
Through rare and previously unseen archive film,
we'll reveal the craft skills behind Raleigh bikes.
The frame is the basis
to which all the other parts will be attached.
So, let's see how it's made.
We'll hear from its team racers and from the dealers who sold the bikes.
Then you say, well, you don't even need to start saving up.
You can just pay a few shillings a week and it'll be yours.
Come into the shop and see what we've got.
And we'll find out what went wrong
and the impact it had on Raleigh's workers.
I was almost in tears because you'd built your life round that work
and to lose your friends like that, to vanish off into the distance,
it was really sad.
This is the epic tale of the ups and downs of Raleigh bikes.
This is Nottingham city centre, filmed in 1902.
By this time, the Raleigh Cycle Company
had already been making bikes like these in the city for over a decade.
Employing around 850 workers,
its factory was turning out nearly 10,000 bikes a year,
which sold across the globe, each with a lifetime guarantee.
The extraordinary story of how Raleigh came to be
begins with the adventures of a young British lawyer
called Frank Bowden.
One man who knows his story better than anyone is his great-grandson,
Gregory Houston Bowden.
Great-Grandfather was ahead of his time in many ways, really.
In his whole approach to life. He was a very clever man.
In 1870, 22-year-old Frank got a job in Hong Kong
and here he made his fortune through shrewd investments.
But within a decade, poor health had forced him home.
Back in England, he took up cycling on the advice of a doctor
after being given just six months to live.
A year later, he was not only alive,
but fitter and healthier than ever before.
Great-Grandfather certainly had no doubt at all
that cycling had completely saved his life
and taken him from being at death's door with six months to live,
to being a normally fit, healthy person.
And of course, he felt a tremendous sense of gratitude to cycling.
Looking to combine his new-found love of cycling
with his business skills,
it was here in Nottingham that Frank Bowden came across a small workshop
making a handful of bikes a week from a courtyard in Raleigh Street.
He was so impressed, he bought the business,
and in 1888,
the Raleigh Cycle Company was born.
Taking the heron from the Bowden family crest as its emblem,
under Frank's guidance, quality and innovation would be its hallmark.
In fact, the company's earliest bikes were so well made,
some still exist today.
This is collector Colin Kirsch,
and he's riding a very special Raleigh Road Racer.
Hand-built in 1890, it's the oldest known Raleigh bicycle in Britain.
It sort of transports you into another era, a lost era.
Particularly a time beyond cars and motorbikes.
If you're riding in the countryside, the surroundings haven't changed.
How much closer can you get to feeling it's the 1890s?
I quite like companies that were innovative and set the fashion.
So the early Raleigh, 1889-1890,
they were the first on the scene
with a detachable chain wheel, for example.
Being able to replace the chain wheel
with another of a different size
was one of the few ways to change gear.
And even though it could take five minutes to do,
it was a major selling point.
I feel really proud to own this bicycle.
It's a wonderful piece of engineering.
It's fabulous to ride,
and to me, I would describe this as a work of art.
The early bikes were good, but Frank Bowden had bigger plans.
By the 1900s,
he'd not only moved production to a new five-acre factory
in Nottingham, he'd also gone global,
creating an export business that would last for decades.
With the new factory came new technology.
Frame joints could be brazed in liquid brass
instead of open furnaces, saving time and money...
whilst new presses could transform sheet steel into parts
like the bottom bracket,
meaning Raleigh could do away with cast-iron components.
The all-steel bicycle was born.
They were stronger than the competition
and with the acquisition of gear manufacturer Sturmey Archer,
easier to ride too.
The detachable chain wheel replaced
by a ground-breaking three-speed hub,
enabling Raleigh riders to change gear at the flick of a lever.
This unique archive footage
is taken from the first filmed Raleigh advert,
made in the late 1920s.
But Frank Bowden never saw it, because he died in 1921.
By that time, he'd transformed a backstreet workshop
into what was claimed to be
the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world,
inspiring thousands of people
to enjoy the health benefits
of the pastime that had once saved his life.
I'm rather proud of him for doing that.
I think he was far-sighted, ahead of his time,
a passionate enthusiast and somebody who had the determination and energy
to carry his, after all, very grand schemes through to fruition.
Frank's son Harold continued to expand the company
and by the 1930s, Raleigh was a household name.
This was the golden age of the bicycle,
when thousands rode Raleighs for their daily commute.
The company introduced its first assembly lines to satisfy demand.
Yet its focus remained on quality and craftsmanship
over mass production.
And while traditional bikes like these
remained the company's core business,
another market was taking off.
Then, as now,
one of life's great rites of passage was getting your first bike
and being taught how to ride it.
ten-year-old Margaret Dutton from Huddersfield
was given her first bike by her father.
I just liked the whole look of it.
The tyres looked good, it was shining, it was lovely, nice saddle.
I thought, ooh, I could ride that.
Dad said, "That's the best you can get, a Raleigh bike."
I said, "Will you ride with me, because I might be a bit nervous?"
He said, "Of course I will."
I felt on top of the world.
He taught me to ride my bike and, really, I never looked back.
At Whitsun in 1930, Margaret and her dad set off on an epic adventure.
To cycle the 100 miles from Huddersfield to Rhyl in a day,
through some of Britain's most beautiful rolling countryside.
It was like magic, you know?
To be out in the fresh air where the smells you got
were flowers and trees and everything.
I thought that was wonderful.
There was hardly any traffic at all
and we went right through the countryside.
It was pretty difficult going up hills,
but I did have gears on my bike,
I had three gears and always,
when you got to the top there was a lovely downhill.
Dad would come and ride beside me.
Then we used to chat a bit and he would say, "How are you liking it,
"Margaret? What do you think?"
"Whoa," I said, "Dad, it's great, is this, it's lovely."
It was early evening by the time Margaret and her dad got to Rhyl.
The following day, they set off for home again.
For a ten-year-old,
it was a remarkable achievement
and one of the proudest moments of Margaret's life.
I boasted to all my friends, "Anyway, I cycled to Rhyl."
And they used to say, "You couldn't cycle all that way in one day."
I said, "Go and ask my dad - he was with me."
The company continued to expand throughout the interwar years
and in 1932, it bought one of its main rivals, Humber.
But by then, it had another serious competitor.
Based in Birmingham, Hercules was founded in 1910
and by the mid-1930s,
claimed, like Raleigh, to be the largest cycle manufacturer
in the world.
Mass production, rather than quality and innovation, was its aim.
And Hercules claimed it could make a bike in less than ten minutes.
That's why it didn't have the cachet of the Raleigh,
and of course less than half the price,
as schoolboy Ron McGill discovered.
My father had said to me, "I think I'll buy you a bike for Christmas."
I said OK. We went to the shop and there were the gleaming Raleighs -
costly. He said,
"No, you settle for a Hercules."
So I had to buy the Hercules bike,
which was good, it was a good, sound bike.
But the Raleigh was a little bit upmarket
and we...he never really had the money to buy me
a really expensive bike.
Ron never did get his Raleigh, and by the end of the decade,
the big bicycle companies had more to think about than just sales.
In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany.
In Nottingham, Raleigh's bicycle production was slashed
to just 5% of normal output, and instead,
as this rarely seen film footage reveals,
the company switched to the manufacturer of munitions.
What bikes they did make were mostly for use by the Armed Forces,
like this experimental folding model, designed for the commandos.
Among those who joined the workforce
was 14-year-old Harry Hardy.
As a boy, I was doing all the jobs the men were doing.
Yes, you got a bit tired at the end
of the day, because sometimes we worked six till six, you know?
But, the war was on
and we were always happy because we were doing things for the war.
We were making Army bikes and we felt a bit proud of doing them,
By the time the fighting was over,
the factory had produced over 380 million parts for the Armed Forces.
Company chairman Sir Harold Bowden, had this message.
I would like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute
to all our staff and employees
for their great and sustained effort.
For this factory has been working
on a three-shift basis, night and day,
for six, long, weary years.
We shall, in the future, once again resume our position
as leaders of the cycle industry throughout the world.
Raleigh had done its bit for Britain,
but now it was time to get back to building bikes.
After buying competitor Rudge Whitworth,
Raleigh launched its first post-war trade fair.
These pictures showed the latest models
being revealed to its enthusiastic dealers.
And to prove to the world that it was back in business,
the company released this film to show off
its hi-tech production techniques.
Here is a factory in the heart of industrial Britain,
a planned response to the world's demand for bicycles.
We'll go into the chief designer's office
and hear him tell two visitors just how a bicycle is made.
I could go miles and miles on one of these, Father.
So you should - there's 100 years of bicycle manufacture
behind that model.
It's our latest type - strong, reliable yet light in weight.
From the designer's office,
the film takes us through every stage of the process
of building a bicycle.
It begins with the frame.
The frame is the basis to which all the other parts will be attached.
So let's see how it's made.
The frame is made light and strong by using steel tubes.
The tubing is made by this machine.
Strips of steel are fed into one end and turned into a tubular shape
by heavy rollers.
The joint is sealed by this powerful flame.
As the finished tube comes out of the machine,
it is cut to the required lengths.
How are the tubes held together to form the frame?
Well, they are securely jointed together by these bracket pieces.
Although obviously staged for the purposes of this film,
visits to the factory like this really did happen,
particularly for Raleigh's dealers.
It was hoped that if they understood the craft skills involved
in the production process, it would inspire them to sell more bikes.
Arnold Sumner was 15
when he was taken on a tour of the factory in 1950.
His family had sold Raleigh bikes in St-Annes-on-Sea since the 1920s.
The Raleigh factory was an amazing place.
'Here, red-hot bars of steel are being forged.'
The first thing that hit me was
an orchestra of industrial sounds of different frequencies.
And there were so many of these wonderful, skilled,
skilled people in the factory.
'The front fork and back stay
'are polished by holding them against emery wheels.'
I came across a man who was assembling the hub.
This man, he will put his hand in a box full of ball bearings
and by magic, he'd throw the ball bearings at his finger
and the ball bearings would just go right round.
'This worker can fill over 1,000 hubs in an eight-hour day.'
To me, I thought this fella's a miracle man.
I came across another place
and these guys were dipping the frames into this tank
of black liquid.
'This gives the bicycle its lustre and shine
'and enables it to keep its new appearance for a long time.'
And when I went into this wheel assembly plant,
you'd have a long row of women and they were there all day
lacing them up, building wheels.
'These girls are so expert that they can fit a tyre and a tube
'in 50 seconds.'
I've never stopped thinking, such a deep impression it made
going round the Raleigh works.
I'm 81 now, but the memories of that visit
to the Raleigh bicycle works are still fresh in my mind.
So that's how a bicycle is made.
Yes, careful designing,
reliable materials and expert craftsmanship
in every stage of manufacture
turn out a British bicycle second to none.
The factory was a place of wonder to 15-year-old Arnold,
and many on the payroll thought of it as a great place to work
although it did have its downsides.
A growing assembly line meant some jobs were becoming boring
and repetitive while others were dangerous and noisy.
And as they were paid according to how many parts they made,
the company's craftsmen had to work hard for their money.
The toughest thing for me was doing the jobs and passing them
to the next operator because he couldn't keep going
unless you were doing your job.
They'd give you a good doing if you ain't keeping up
and keeping them going because they say, if you don't dab in,
we'll get no money in the tin at the weekend, so you dabbed in.
Despite the hardships,
Harold Bowden took a paternalistic approach to leadership
so employees were thought of as part of the Raleigh family.
And outside of work, they were well looked after.
Home movies show workers and their families
enjoying a sports day on the company's playing fields.
And there were regular dances held at the firm's own ballroom.
Raleigh had its own medical centre and convalescent home
but top of the list for many
was the annual paid outing
and the favourite destination was Blackpool.
You never got days out like that with anybody else, did you?
And it was all paid for.
I took my wife with me and we'd have a walk up and down the prom,
go on the pier.
Up the Tower.
We used to paddle and go out as far as we could,
as far as...it didn't get up your trousers or something like that.
And then at night, the lights would come on and we'd get on a bus
and go round the lights.
It was a cracking do.
It made you feel that you were wanted
and they were looking after you in all respects.
Raleigh realised the importance of leisure time,
not just for its workers but also as a way of promoting its latest bikes.
In the 1950s,
the company's marketing material focused on the great outdoors,
portraying a new bicycle golden age
in which cycling was a lifestyle choice.
Raleigh bikes were used not just to get you to work,
but as a means of escape, too,
usually with the companion of your dreams.
Much of this artwork featured the traditional roadster,
perfect for cycle touring,
but the company had to find ways
to sell its drop-handlebar sports bikes too.
Back in the 1890s,
it had done this through the sponsorship
of successful sprint racers like world champion AA Zimmerman.
But it had been decades since it had signed a superstar racer.
That was until Reg Harris came along.
We pick out the event of the day
at the meeting of the Buckshee Wheelers.
The 1,000 metres international cycle sprint.
Taking part, British amateur sprint champion, Reg Harris,
Holland's champ and the two Manchester Wheelers,
Dove and Barrister.
At the half distance, Harris was well in the lead.
Amateur champion Reg turned pro when he signed to Raleigh in 1949,
the same year that he won the first
of four world professional sprint titles,
launching the memorable slogan,
Reg Rides a Raleigh.
With his charm and good looks, he was soon as well known
as sporting heroes like Stanley Matthews and Stirling Moss,
and just as well liked.
To a popular cyclist from Manchester
goes the sporting public's highest honour.
Harris, who won his world title...
Reg's success sold bikes and his name was associated with
one of the company's best-loved models, the Lenton Sports.
Aimed at the sports rider as well as the leisure cyclist,
the bike was as good on country lanes as it was on time trials.
And with the Reg Harris seal of approval,
selling it was like a ride in the park for dealers like Arnold Sumner.
You'd say to the customer, now,
if you want something really different,
something that you're going to be able to get to work faster on
and at the weekend you can go off into the country,
you'd better have a Raleigh Lenton.
Made famous by Reg Harris.
You all know about Reg Harris, the fastest cyclist in the world.
These are the sort of bikes that he would want YOU to buy.
This is your inspiration.
To get on your bike, get fit
and to do the sort of times that Reg Harris did.
Being a canny salesman,
Arnold was not above using social occasions
as a way to sell the bikes.
As a member of the Cycle Touring Club,
he often went on group trips into the countryside
and riding his own Raleigh Lenton, he had a captive audience.
Of course, you were riding on your Raleigh Lenton bicycle
and you seemed to be going along better than all the others,
then when you are chatting to them, you could say, "Here you are,
"have a ride on this, see what you think."
And then, after about half an hour riding, you say,
"Well, what do you think?"
And the person had to say,
"Well, it's certainly better than my old bike.
"Yes, when I save up enough money I must really get one of these."
And then you say, "Well, you don't even need to start saving up,
"you can just pay a few shillings a week and it'll be yours.
"Come into the shop.
"Come into the shop and see what we've got."
And yes, going out riding in a group of people,
making direct comparisons with some of the rubbish bicycles
that they had certainly helped cycle sales.
Reg Harris boosted sales to men,
so the company attempted to do the same for women
by signing a female racing star.
But their target was one acquisition they failed to make.
Her name was Eileen Sheridan.
Some men believe a woman's place is in the home, but Eileen's husband
likes to get her out of the house, even if only into the garage.
For in this home-made gymnasium, he supervises the exacting training
that has brought her 11 championship medals
and 23 national place-to-place records.
Eileen was Britain's top time-trial rider
and as a record-breaking amateur,
she'd had the major manufacturers chasing her signature.
Well, first of all, Raleigh were after me,
but they offered me so very little.
I think they thought, "It's a girl, she won't win."
Then Hercules sent me a telegram
and they made me a marvellous offer,
so that was a very great relief.
Raleigh missed out when Eileen signed for competitor Hercules
Her challenge was to break as many distance and place-to-place records
as she could and as a result, raise the brand's profile.
Nicknamed "The Pocket Hercules"
because she was only 4 foot 11 inches tall,
Eileen was known for her infectious smile, even when racing.
I was just happy...
..and I suppose that was good for advertisements.
They all felt that if they rode a Hercules, they were all smiling.
Maybe they were.
Within a few years,
Eileen had broken all the women's records by a large margin,
but perhaps her greatest achievement
was captured in this newsreel from 1954 when she set a new record
for the journey from Land's End to John O'Groats,
completing the gruelling 872 miles
in 2 days, 11 hours and 7 minutes.
For Hercules, Eileen's success meant sales.
Well, one of the professionals in the Hercules team said,
"You know, Eileen, they sold thousands and thousands of bikes
"when you were getting those records. Thousands," they said.
So the fact that I was a pocket Hercules or whatever...
..it sort of went down very well.
By this time, Hercules and a few other bike companies
were owned by tubing manufacturer Tube Investments.
Together, they were now even bigger than Raleigh
and in an industry driven by mergers and acquisitions,
it was turning into a battle
in which only the strongest would survive.
Nevertheless, Raleigh was still a global brand,
producing a million bikes a year,
most of which were exported to happy customers around the world.
However, its bikes didn't just go overseas to be sold,
many went abroad with their intrepid owners,
part of a growing fashion for cycle touring on the Continent,
a pastime made easier with new lightweight bikes
and derailleur gears.
The company didn't introduce the derailleur until 1955
and few models had them.
This one was fitted alongside the existing three-speed hub
by engineer David Sore, before he set off Austria.
The experience would change his life.
It was so enjoyable travelling in Austria.
Travelling in this beautiful mountainous terrain.
Finding yourself going up long gradients...
..and I never had to walk up a hill.
Eventually you would reach a summit.
It was inspiring.
But you didn't want to race down
because you had to tell yourself
that you were travelling on those roads
for perhaps the only time you would ever travel on them.
You needed to go down slowly enough
so you took in all the wonderful views.
After several tours in Europe,
David decided he loved cycling so much
he would leave his job and take his bike around the world.
The journey took him three and a half years.
The period of travelling, when I look back on it,
it was a life-changing, life-enhancing experience.
The Raleigh bike had become such an integral part of my life.
And an experience like that,
it stays with you...
..and you continually relive it, as I do now.
Throughout the 1950s,
confidence at Raleigh remained high and the company continue to buy out
its main competitors, including Triumph and in 1957, BSA.
But there was trouble ahead.
That year, war hero Viscount Montgomery
came to Nottingham to open a huge new factory
but a dramatic slump in the market meant it would stay empty for years.
The cause was a fall in exports
and a rise in the popularity of the car.
As living standards increased,
so too did car ownership and the bike fell out of favour.
Cycling to work was seen as a preserve of the poor
and more commuters decided to drive.
Busy roads made cycling increasingly dangerous too.
More cars meant more accidents,
so many cyclists decided to give up their bike.
The impact on the industry was enormous.
By the end of the decade, bicycle production in the UK
had fallen by 40%.
Something had to change.
In 1960, Raleigh was swallowed up
in a merger with its main competitor, Tube Investments.
The bicycle business that had begun life in a back street in Nottingham
was now part of a group that controlled 75% of the UK market.
I think we were all rather sad that it had been taken over.
On the other hand, it was much better that that happened
than that Raleigh and TI slowly killed each other off,
which was the alternative.
Raleigh kept its name and absorbed Tube Investments' brands,
including old rival Hercules.
But what the management hoped would be a new golden age
was just the start of a long period of uncertainty and unrest.
Morale on the shop floor declined as redundancies loomed
and when chairman Sir Harold Bowden died in 1960,
the company lost the sense of paternalism
that had made it special.
Discontent was on the rise
and it was reflected in a ground-breaking feature film
released that year.
Set in the Raleigh factory,
Saturday Night And Sunday Morning told the tale of Arthur Seaton,
a rebellious anti-hero
fed up with his life on the bicycle production line.
It was based on a book written by ex-Raleigh worker Alan Sillitoe.
'950 bloody five.
'Another few more and that's the lot for a Friday.
'?14, three and tuppence for a thousand of these a day.
'No wonder I've always got a bad back.'
With its gritty realism, controversial storyline
and career-defining performance by Albert Finney,
the film became a smash hit.
'I'd like to see anybody try to grind me down.
'That'd be the day.
'What I'm out for is a good time.
'All the rest is propaganda.'
In the real world, the threat of job losses and pay cuts
was making real-life Arthur Seatons out of the once-loyal workforce,
sparking a series of industrial disputes.
Raleigh was having an identity crisis.
Bike sales continue to fall too
as the young generation rebelled against the old way of life
embodied by Raleigh's traditional roadsters.
What the company needed was a new design
that captured the spirit of the times.
And he's getting away on a revolutionary bicycle.
The cyclist is Alex Moulton,
well-known designer of suspension units for cars.
Five years of development
have produced the first bike with suspension.
Designer Alex Moulton's revolutionary small-wheeled bike
came along at just the right time.
He offered to make it with Raleigh but the company turned him down,
only to copy it with its own version.
The RSW 16 had fat tyres instead of suspension
and was a slow ride,
but it marked the beginning of a new era for Raleigh
in which its designs became both fashionable and fun.
MUSIC: Devil Gate Drive by Suzi Quatro
Best of all was the Chopper.
Released in 1970, it's arguably Raleigh's most iconic bike.
Motoring journalist Mark Hughes got one for his tenth birthday.
There was just no way, once you'd seen that as a ten-year-old kid,
there was no way you couldn't have that.
It was just irresistible.
It was just lust.
That's the only way you could describe it.
It was the nearest...
# ..down to Devil Gate Drive. #
As a boy, Mark had ambitions of becoming a racing driver.
But in the meantime, the Chopper was the next-best thing.
With its small front wheel and big back wheel,
that's what Formula 1 cars of the time looked like.
This is like something from a different planet.
Best of all, it had a gear stick, a proper gear stick like a car.
The pedals going round and round,
in my head they were the revs of the engine
and I'd be making the noise inside my head
and then you change the gear when you got maximum revs
and the next gear and you had to do them very fast.
The big thing for me was to always go as fast as possible at all times,
brake as late as possible,
go through the corner with as much lean as possible
without the pedal quite hitting the ground.
That's what it was all about.
There were downsides to the Chopper, though.
With most of its weight at the back, it was easy to tip up
and the gear stick could cause painful accidents.
But having mastered it,
Mark will always have a place in his heart for his old bike.
If I'm walking the dog and see a nice little mud path
with the right sequence of corners in it, I think,
oh, I'd love the Chopper down here.
The Chopper would be fantastic round this corner, still now.
The Chopper was an instant hit
but there's controversy behind the bike's success
because two men claimed to have designed it.
Hello. Ah, good morning.
I understand you want a word with me. Yes, I do, George.
Alan Oakley was Raleigh's design director.
He'd been with the company since the 1940s
and had been responsible for the RSW 16.
He was absolutely dedicated to Raleigh.
One of his friends said, Alan was Raleigh and Raleigh was Alan.
And the passion of designing
and designing bikes and also the engineering part of it,
he just loved it.
The story goes that the company wanted a new bike to rival
the Schwinn Sting-Ray, a low-rider design
that had taken America by storm.
This early attempt was made by Raleigh in America.
Launched in Britain as the Mustang in 1966, it was a flop,
so it was up to Alan Oakley to come up with something better.
One of the super things that happened to me was in 1967
and my then board said, "Get on an aeroplane and go to America.
"Go anywhere else you like, but come back with a better product
"than currently they've got or we are producing for them."
According to Raleigh folklore, inspired by his trip,
Alan scribbled the first designs for the Chopper on the plane home.
Back in Nottingham,
he and his team put his plans into action and the Chopper was born.
Alan died in 2012, but it's a story his wife, Karen, can confirm.
Alan brought the design back and they created it at the Raleigh,
the team completely.
And looking through his briefcase, I found this,
which I'm sure is the original design,
which would then become the iconic Chopper bike, I think.
The company liked the idea of Alan's original sketches so much,
it used the concept in its advertising campaign.
But there's a problem because designer Tom Karen
also claims to have designed the Chopper.
I just had no idea that somebody at Raleigh
had ambitions to design the Chopper.
It never occurred to me.
Tom ran design agency Ogle
and says Raleigh gave him the brief
to design the Schwinn rival
and he's got convincing evidence too.
What we have here is a copy of the first sketch I made
after a meeting with Raleigh...
..and out of my usual way of operating,
I had sketchbooks and I would put ideas down there
and it features, of course,
the big wheel at the back and the front wheel...
being small which is key because
they made it like a dragster or a Formula 1 car
where all the power comes from the back.
Then it had a nice, straight frame,
unlike the Schwinn that they were trying to compete with,
which had a very curvaceous frame.
I knew it was a very good design...
..so I don't know what more I can do to prove it.
The Design Council has given credit for the Chopper to Tom,
but whatever really happened,
the bike has become an icon of the '70s
and one which will always be synonymous with the name Raleigh.
The Chopper's success was good for morale as well as sales
and by the end of the '70s, industrial relations had improved.
But work on the assembly line
could still be boring and repetitive.
Clive Hodgson, seen here in this archive film,
would be the first to admit it.
He lived for the weekend.
I think a lot of people would do that
if they are working in that type of work, you know.
Or a monotonous job.
You'd find some outlet in your mind
to break away from that, otherwise
you'd end up going round the bend, I think, round the twist.
We're going to carry on now with a super number from 1958.
This is Big Joe Turner and Boogie Boogie Country Girl.
Take it away.
Clive's outlet was rock'n'roll, and as a part-time DJ,
he spent most weekends playing '50s records at clubs around the country.
He even managed to bring a bit of the weekend
back to the daily grind of the assembly line.
Of course I knew a lot of the words to the songs.
We used to have a laugh and sing some of them.
We got different people who used to sing different parts and we used to
have a laugh. One of the favourites what we used to get on with
was one called Ain't Got No Home by Clarence "Frogman" Henry.
It went something like this.
# I ain't got no home Da-da-da-da da-da-da
# And no place to roam
# I ain't got no home and no place to roam. #
RECORD PLAYS: # I'm a lonely boy
# I ain't got a home
FROG VOICE: # I ain't got a mudder
# I ain't got a fadder
# I ain't got a sister
# Nor even a brudder
# I'm a lonely frog
# I ain't got a home. #
I enjoyed it because it just took away that monotony
and people began to know me after a time
and they used to say, hey up, he's going off again.
Elvis is going off or whatever, you know.
Away from all the singing,
the company had been looking to increase its market share
in the one place where it had never really gained a foothold,
And the quickest route to sales was through a successful racing team.
The best way to promote bikes
is trying to get to the biggest level you can get to
and the Tour de France is possibly the biggest thing,
if not equal to the Olympic Games.
The people who go
are in their hundreds of thousands,
millions over a three-week period,
so if you could have success in the Tour de France,
especially with television, it's free advertising.
So in 1974,
the company opened a new factory in Ilkeston
called the Specialist Bike Development Unit.
Here, in contrast to Nottingham's assembly lines,
bespoke, hand-crafted racing bikes were made
for a brand-new TI Raleigh racing team.
Each rider had an individual bike that was made for him.
They say there's two ways you ride a bike.
You either sit in it or you sit on it.
If you sit in the bike, you are part of the bike.
If you sit on the bike,
because it's a little bit too long or you're a little bit too high,
you waste energy.
With super-lightweight 753 tubing,
silver brazing and the latest Campagnolo derailleur gears,
the bikes made at the SBDU were world-class,
and in a short time, the team began to compete in
and then win some of Europe's top races.
The real breakthrough came in 1977
when Raleigh won the team prize in the Tour de France
and as a result, hundreds of cycle dealers
across Europe began stocking Raleigh bikes.
And there was better news to come just three years later.
Cycling, and the Tour de France has been won
by Joop Zoetemelk of the Netherlands
riding a British Raleigh.
It's the first time the Nottingham-based Raleigh company
has won the coveted individual first place.
Now Zoetemelk's win will help them further their share
of the valuable Continental market
where sales now total a quarter of a million a year,
from almost nothing a few years ago.
Thanks to the craftsmen of the SBDU,
Raleigh had become a serious player in the European market
and its racing team was the best on the planet.
Meanwhile, another sport had taken off
that was set to transform the world of cycling
and appeal to fashion-conscious youngsters.
It was called bicycle motocross - BMX for short.
Originating in America, the BMX craze was sweeping across Britain.
These small, agile bikes brought a new level of fun to cycling,
their lightweight design enabling riders
to perform jumps and tricks with ease.
The three-speed Grifter, launched in 1976, was similar,
but BMX bikes were single speed
and the company was reluctant to get involved.
Raleigh was in a difficult position
because BMX was a single-speed bicycle.
Raleigh had a sister company called Sturmey Archer
who made three-speed gears
and all our kids' bikes had three-speed gears
and therefore for me to say we need BMX,
everyone was going, "But that doesn't have any use."
You can do a three-speed BMX.
Yvonne Rix was an influential figure at Raleigh,
who transformed the ladies' market
with a range of bikes designed just for women,
advertised like fashion accessories in the latest colours.
In the early '80s,
she convinced the company that it should start making BMX bikes
and in 1982, the Burner was launched.
To begin with, no-one knew if it would sell.
When I actually went down to the factory and saw all these bicycles
coming down in bright red and yellow and green
and I thought, oh, my goodness me.
But Yvonne's instincts were proved right
and the Burner flew off the production lines.
To give its publicity an extra push,
the company began to sign up the best riders in the country
for a new team,
and one teenager from Walthamstow was top of its list of targets.
His name was Andy Ruffell.
Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it in BMX.
There really are no words to describe a sport like ours.
MUSIC: Wild Boys by Duran Duran
Riding for competitor Mongoose,
Andy had a huge fan base and had already achieved the rare feat
of becoming national champion in both BMX racing and freestyle.
But a move to Raleigh was too good to refuse.
It felt like I'd arrived.
You know, having been through, you know,
my whole childhood on Raleigh Grifters and, you know,
getting a Raleigh Chopper, that kind of stuff,
it felt like a full circle thing.
It just doesn't get any better than that.
Andy and the team were hired to raise the profile
of the company's BMX bikes.
Not just by winning races on them
but also through publicity appearances
which could draw in over 2,000 fans.
It was always strange because we were teenagers
and yet we were treated kind of like pop stars, I guess.
I think one of the most amazing things for me was
the lengths that these kids would go to to get an autograph
and also where they would want autographs.
# Wild boys... #
We had girls that would want autographs in strange places
and then there was kids where I would sign their foreheads.
You know, "Andy Ruffell, Raleigh number one"
on the top of their forehead. Really strange.
Andy finished the season as British champion before leaving the sport
to pursue a life in the media,
but Raleigh will always remain close to his heart.
I think I'm really fortunate that the last year of my career
was with one of the biggest brands in the world
and I'm very proud of that.
You know, we were successful - Raleigh sold a lot of bikes
and I had the best time ever.
Andy left the sport he loved just as the BMX boom began to fade.
Meanwhile, the company switched its attentions
to another American invasion - mountain bikes -
launching the Maverick in 1985.
Although, with stiff competition from American brands,
sales were initially disappointing.
We always had a credibility problem because the imported bikes were all
lightweight and things like that and Raleigh still had this image of
being sturdy and reliable and, you know, dare I say heavy.
Still, over the next few years,
the company formed a new mountain bike racing team,
launched an upmarket model with Shimano gears called the M-Trax
and introduced shock absorbers on the Activator.
Raleigh would go on to sell over three million mountain bikes.
However, the mountain bike boom
led to the decline of the traditional racer
and Raleigh disbanded its racing team,
closing down the factory in Ilkeston,
but not before it had produced a pair of bikes
that would make history.
In 1986, broadcaster Nicholas Crane and his cousin Richard
set off on an extraordinary cycling adventure,
riding bikes they'd had made at the SBDU.
He hasn't looked at his photos for 30 years.
This is us on the beach in the Bay of Bengal at Patenga Point
on the 1st of May 1986
with our brand-new, straight from the factory,
Raleigh bikes twinkling in the Bangladeshi sun
and I can tell from the way we're standing
that we're both absolutely desperate to get on those amazing bikes
and start pedalling towards the Himalayas.
Nick and Richard were attempting to cycle over 3,300 miles
from Bangladesh, across the Himalayas,
to a place in north-western China
which they'd calculated to be the point on the planet
furthest from the open sea -
what they called the centre of the earth.
Getting there over mountains and across deserts
would push man and machine to their limits.
No-one had ever done it before.
It's always going to be more exciting
if you think you're doing something
that either not many people do
and best of all, if nobody's ever done.
That's an amazing feeling.
The best way to achieve their goal
was to travel fast and light,
so they carried no tent or food and little water.
Instead, they relied on their ability to get from place to place
as quickly as possible and the kindness of strangers along the way.
The risk has enormous rewards and the more exposed you become,
the more the joys of humanity get reaffirmed.
It took them 58 days, but after surviving blizzards,
sandstorms and just a couple of punctures,
Nick and Richard finally made it to the centre of the Earth.
And it was thanks in part to their hand-built bikes.
When I look at this last picture of us holding the bikes up,
it is interesting that the language of this image
is of two bikes being celebrated.
The bikes were this mechanical constant.
The only variables were our bodies and minds.
Today, 30 years after making history,
Nick still has a souvenir of his journey.
Come and look in here.
This is the Raleigh, this is the bike that I rode with Dick
to the place in the world most distant from the open sea,
the centre of the Earth,
and it's pretty much exactly as it was the day we finished the ride.
It's still part of my life and it's an immaculate bike.
The tyres are still pumped up and it still works perfectly
and it's been knocked about a bit because it was a rough old ride
but I'm never going to let it go.
In 1987, the year after Nick and Richard's epic journey,
a series of buyouts began that signalled the end of the glory days
for Raleigh in the UK.
After the mountain bike boom, sales had continued to drop
and by 1998, they were the lowest they'd been since 1970.
Raleigh was falling out of fashion.
The company was finding it impossible to square its ambition
to make high quality as well as mass-produced bikes
and the growth in rival manufacturers
made the situation worse.
In 1999, it made a shock announcement.
100 years of British biking tradition came to an end today
when the cycle maker Raleigh
auctioned off its manufacturing equipment.
From now on, the bike frames will be made abroad
and the factory in Nottingham will concentrate on
assembly and painting.
But that was only the beginning.
Three years later,
Raleigh announced it was closing its Nottingham factories for good.
From then on, its bikes would be made in the Far East.
Clive Hodgson was one of the remaining 281 assembly workers
who lost their jobs.
He'd worked at Raleigh for over 40 years.
To finish just like that
and everybody vanishing into the distance,
really sad, really sad.
You know, when it finally came to an end,
I was almost in tears because you'd built your life round that work...
..and to lose your friends like that,
to vanish off into the distance,
it was really sad.
# Monday, I'm going to rock with Jane... #
They were the best years of my life.
The people I've met and the work I did, I really enjoyed it.
It was a really sad moment, yeah.
# Saturday and Sunday Any chick will do. #
Today, Raleigh is owned by Dutch company Accell
and its bikes continue to be made overseas.
The Raleigh brand is not as popular as it once was
but as the fashion for cycling continues to increase,
there is optimism for the future.
It's even launched a new road racing team,
hoping to live up to past glories.
For us at Team Raleigh, the future is looking really bright.
The bikes that we're using, the Militis,
is a top-of-the-range bike from Raleigh.
It's carbonfibre, light,
comes in at just on seven kilos, under seven kilos.
But it'll set you back about ?6,000.
It's a nice bike using the old colours
which everybody where we've been,
they love the Raleigh bike.
They still relate it back, especially the old fogeys,
as we call them,
it just brings back memories of the '70s and the '80s for them.
It remains to be seen how successful Raleigh will be
as bespoke bikes produced by rival companies
are now associated with the quality and craftsmanship
Raleigh was once a byword for.
Whatever the future holds for Raleigh,
for some people, the name will always conjure up
images from the past.
From happy memories of time spent learning to ride your first bike,
to days out touring the British countryside.
From the simplicity of riding in the street with friends
to epic journeys far and wide.
Raleigh, for better or worse,
will always be associated with the golden age of the British bicycle.
For the last 150 years, Britain has been a nation of bike lovers. And for much of that time, one make has been associated with quality, innovation and Britishness - Raleigh bikes.
Born in the back streets of Nottingham in 1888, Raleigh grew to become the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world. For over a century, the company was known for its simple and practical bikes, built to last a lifetime. For generations, its designs were thought second to none, enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Now, with wonderful personal testimony and rare and previously unseen archive film, this documentary tells the extraordinary tale of the ups and downs of Raleigh bikes - a beautifully illustrated story full of remarkable characters, epic adventures and memorable bikes.
Meet the people who rode and raced them, the workers who built them and the dealers who sold them. Find out how cycling saved the life of Raleigh's founder, discover the technological advances behind the company's success and join Raleigh bike riders who recall epic adventures far and wide.
Along the way, the programme takes viewers on a journey back to cycling's golden age - rediscover the thrill of learning to ride your first bike and find out what went on inside the Raleigh factory, where the company's craftsmen produced some of Britain's most iconic bikes.
Finally, the documentary reveals what went wrong at Raleigh - the battles it had with its rivals, the controversy behind the design of the Chopper, and the effect the closure of its factories had on its loyal workers. This is the extraordinary untold story of the rise and fall of Raleigh bikes.