Jan 7, 2008

2008 - 120 Years of Raleigh Bicycles - Part 2

History - Heritage - Tradition - Innovation - Today

{words carey}

As I sit here trying to craft the perfect paragraph that will introduce you to the man that started Raleigh Bicycles, I can’t help but feel the fresh energy that’s running through my body. I just got back from an hour-long lunch ride; it wasn’t too intense, but the pace was brisk enough for my legs and lungs to give me a bit of feedback. So, I’m feeling the wonderful benefits of expanded lungs, fresh oxygen-filled blood, and that natural mental high that riding a bike gives you, not to mention the fact that I had tons of fun. It’s that wonderful feeling of health that riding a bike creates, and it isn’t much of a coincidence that the man who started Raleigh Bicycles did so because the bicycle nursed him out of bad health when doctors had warned him that he only had a short time to live.

In 1870 a bright young lawyer by the name of Frank Bowden accepted a sought-after position dealing in real estate, stocks, and shares in Hong Kong. His time in Hong Kong proved to be successful and after 15 years Bowden was sitting on a well rounded fortune. But, in order to earn that fortune Bowden sacrificed his health and eventually returned to England to take advantage of better medical care and to slow down. Unfortunately, the doctors told him that he had let his health go too far and his life would be ending soon.

Since nothing seemed to have a lasting effect in the way of medicine, Bowden consulted a “highly-regarded” doctor that, surprisingly, prescribed riding a bicycle. With nothing to loose Bowden started riding a low-geared tricycle and after four months his health had taken such a drastic turn for the better that he switched to a two-wheeler and went on a 10 day cycling tour. He was addicted! Bowden become a devoted cyclist which in turn got him thinking about ‘the future of cycling for health, pleasure, and business.’

In 1888 Bowden bought a small workshop that was producing 3 bikes a week on Raleigh Street in Nottingham, England; this is where The Raleigh Bicycle Company had its start. After Bowden had taken over, production rose to 60 bicycles a week and 200 new staff was taken on. Raleigh Bicycles was on its way to becoming a world leader in the production of bicycles.

Fast forward 120 years to my lunch ride this afternoon and we find that the 2008 Raleigh Prestige I rode, though far from an original Raleigh, still articulates Bowden’s enthusiasm and beliefs. Not only did riding a bicycle give Bowden pleasure, but it gave him life, it restored his health, and it eventually led to him build one of the greatest bicycle companies in history – Raleigh Bicycles.

To be continued...our next historical post will highlight some of the great bicycles and cyclist that Raleigh produced.


*The entire story of Raleigh as told by Gregory Houston Bowden, Frank Bowden's great-grandson can be found in his book, The Story of the Raleigh Cycle . This is also a great resource for the business history of Raleigh in the Last Quarter Century.

PART 1 can be found...here.


Anonymous said...

Great Blog! Can't beat that lovin' feeling from throwing the legs over a bicycle.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What a great blog! I love my raleigh bikes. I wouldn't give them up for the world. there is nothing like the feel of that solid steel frame under you, connecting you to the road.

SuperBE andrew said...

hi i found a 60's raheigh suberbe wheel's need repairing all i need to find is the light a rack and the pumb . if anyone can help me find these i can complet . somone wanted to give me a beat up bike trailer for it .. ha yea right! .. the wheel has this generator thing for a light that is awesome .. i Think ... well if you can help me find them contact me @ wacky_imagination@hotmail.com Thanks...

attayaya said...

what a nice article.
thanks for the information

Anonymous said...

Interesting start to a Company.A friend recently purchased a used Raleigh bicycle at a garage sale.It is apparently from the 1970's and is dark green in colour with 26 inch wheels and a carrier on the back.It has a 3 speed shifter on the handlebars.The most interesting thing about this bike is the front hub generator that is built in the wheel.It works the front and rear lights as well as the handlebar grip lights,which are unfortunatley missing.Please advise if you have more info on this unique bicycle.(gal_50@hotmail.com)