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I found this 1909 Raleigh in France, where it had been discovered after spending most of its lifetime in storage. It is still fitted with French Dunlop Cord size 700 tyres, which are in excellent condition and hold air. I assume them to be at least 100 years old. The original box lining on the frame covers most of the machine, with the exception of the top tube and down tube, suggesting that it was used for some years prior to its storage.
The documents that accompany the 1909 Raleigh include an invoice from a Raleigh agent in Paris, L. Barbier, dating to May/June 1914. A receipt dated 4 June, 1914, mentions ‘1 bicyclette Demi Route Raleigh’ with a 56cm (22″) frame, and the number marked next to it is 404629. Some simple detective work shows a bicycle with that frame number would have been built in 1913, and the 1915 French Raleigh catalogue that also accompanies this bicycle shows that a ‘Demi Route’ describes Raleigh’s path racer with sloping top tube.
The fact that it is the same frame size as this 1909 Raleigh numbered 242372 – and that the documents were kept with this machine – suggests both had the same owner, M Leon Levillain, of St Germain La Campagne. (The bicycle was located in the same area).
I suppose that its good condition would tally with it being used from new, for four or five years, until being replaced in 1914 with a new Raleigh path racer. Or, perhaps, for it to have been M Levillain’s town bicycle while the path racer was used at weekends.
It’s rare for bicycles to have old documents with them, particularly from a period over 100 years ago, and I’ve enjoyed trying to piece together their meaning.
Cosmetically, the 1909 Raleigh is in reasonable unrestored condition. The brightwork is rusty, but the paint is quite good. The remains of the transfers (decals) on the steering head and rear mudguard can be seen. The pedals are mismatched but of the correct era. The 1909 Modele Raleigh ‘Route’ is an interesting historic machine in good mechanical condition and is ready to ride.
1909 Modele Raleigh ‘Route’
Frame No 242372
1909 RALEIGH HISTORY FILE