1917 Raleigh Superbe X Frame (Tall 28″ Frame)

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Europe exploded into war in August 1914 and the immediate effect of this was to give Raleigh sales a great boost. By September the government had ordered several thousand bicycles from Nottingham and a great many motorists had decided to return to the bicycle, the most economical means of transportation during the crisis. Inevitably the war brought some new problems, such as manpower. The Cycle Trader printed this report in October:

“250 men from the Raleigh Cycle Works have either been called up or volunteered for active service, a result of which shows the patriotic spirit prevailing. The Messrs Bowden, the proprietors of the Raleigh Cycle Co, have always encouraged patriotism amongst their employees. The Company is making the same allowance as the War Office to all the dependents of all employees who have been called up.”

But in spite of losing men, the company responded to the war situation by immediately bringing out some special new models. these included a constable’s bicycle which was fitted with specially strong tyres, was enamelled black all over and made rustproof and sold at £7 10/-. There were also the ‘Scout’ and ‘Military’ models priced at £8 10/- and £6 19/- 6d respectively, both finished in khaki enamel. All these were in great demand and their durability was greatly praised. A member of the 10th Royal Hussars wrote to the company soon after the outbreak of war saying:

“I am at the front and use a Raleigh every day for dispatch riding, sometimes over very long distances. The roads are very much cut up with heavy transport but the Raleigh ‘sticks it’ like a true Briton… I have been over the worst country out here, very often over fields, but my bicycle has never yet dodged its duty.”

Inevitably, bicycle production had to be substantially reduced to cope with munitions work although the total number of employees by the end of 1915 had risen to over 2000. Most of the new workers were women, something of an innovation in the cycle industry. In order to make the bicycle side as efficient as possible it was decided to concentrate on the most popular models and drop the rest from the list.

The war produced scares and rumours of all sorts and one such rumour which was quite widespread in the winter of 1916 was that Raleighs might have to give up bicycle manufacture altogether in 1917. Harold Bowden lost no time in sending out a circular to all agents saying that unless something unforeseen and totally unexpected was to happen, deliveries for 1917 would be just as reliable as they had been in 1916. In fact the bicycle side never even came close to being shut down during the war and to make up for the absence of the annual Cycle Show, which inevitably had to be abandoned for the duration, Raleighs began to put on special displays at their London showrooms to serve the same purpose.*

1916/1917 Raleigh Superbe X Frame 

Sturmey-Archer Model K Three-Speed

28″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Frame No 531968

Brooks saddle (Raleigh logo on top)

Raleigh named pedals

(Now sold)

It’s interesting to read about Raleigh history during WW1. The Superbe Crossframe was Raleigh’s top model. Though the company made a special Military model, which was supplied to the War Office, civilian models such as this were commonly used by officers, who either used their personal bicycles, or bought them on hire purchase schemes as a special concession on enlistment. A Raleigh X frame was one of the most popular bicycles of its era and, being a heavy duty machine with the extra strength afforded by its cross-bracing, it was sturdy enough for the extra demands of war use.

This particular machine has been in storage for many decades until I bought it two weeks ago. Since then it has been through the workshop, with new tyres and tubes fitted, as well as Raleigh (named) pedals and saddle (with the Raleigh logo on the top).

These are my observations. It has a Sturmey-Archer Model K 3-speed, introduced in 1921. The factory where Sturmey-Archer gears were made was turned over to war production towards the end of World War 1 and there was a shortage of gears. So I assume this wartime model was single speed when new and received its 3-speed after the war. It also has a Williams chainwheel rather than the correct one with the Raleigh heron logo – I’ll replace it soon when the right one arrives. The grips were missing when I bought it, so I’ve fitted a suitable pair. The front wheel hub is wrong but functional. The inflator pump is a modern one (in working order) in retro style. The Challis bell works well.

It’s a rare tall model, suitable for someone with an inner leg measurement around 33 to 35 inches. It has been serviced and is ready to ride. So if you’re a leggy fellow with a hankering for a 104-year-old bicycle with a standout design, please get in touch right away… 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raleigh is one of the few cycle makers where you can find its estimated age of manufacture from a published list (below).

You can use the link below to see a few other cycle manufacturerss’ lists of frame numbers.

THE AGE OF THIS RALEIGH HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED FROM ITS FRAME NUMBER

ON THE ONLINE BICYCLE MUSEUM FRAME NUMBER DATING GUIDE

http://onlinebicyclemuseum.co.uk/frame-number-bicycle-dating-guide/

 

 

 

* Introductory text from – The Story of the Raleigh Cycle by Gregory Houston Bowden