THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE BICYCLE: The Ladies’ Raleigh X Frame is a confection, a bicycle designed to stand out from the crowd and pay the advertising department’s wages.
A gentleman’s crossframe was supposedly better at withstanding stress under speed. The elegant Centaur crossframe, for example, had a lightweight frame with narrow tubing and was the best for fast riding. Raleigh’s X Frame, meanwhile, was more robust, so was ideal for rough roads and was particularly favoured in the Colonies.
If a woman wanted to ride fast, athletic prowess was best rewarded with a man’s machine. A lady’s loopframe has no top tube so can be mounted discreetly while wearing a dress, and its upright position ensures that it is ridden politely. A lady’s X frame is the ultimate version of the loopframe and, before World War One, the Raleigh X Frame was the world’s most expensive bicycle.
But the additional strengthening afforded by the extra tubes serves no real purpose in a lady’s bicycle, as strength under duress is hardly required at average speeds, and certainly does not justify the extra expenditure for any practical reason.
Miss Phyllis Dare, darling of the theatre, promoted the model in all the cycling magazines and newspapers. With Miss Mabel Love likewise promoting Elswick’s ‘cross truss’, there’s no doubt that such endorsement turned cross-frames, for a while, into the latest fashion in ladies’ cycling.
1924 Raleigh Modele Superbe Ladies X Frame
Sturmey-Archer ‘Model K’ 3-Speed Gear
Brooks ‘Model B2’ Lady’s Saddle
Aluminium ‘Roman’ Rims
Frame No 917003
By 1924, the Raleigh Ladies’ X Frame was no longer actively promoted by Raleigh and did not feature in their 1925 catalogue, though it was still available for customers to order. With aluminium ‘Roman Rims’, this example was a top of the range model. It’s in good all round condition. Its original unrestored green paintwork is faded, but the box lining has survived and the original transfers (decals), though faded, are still visible. It had new tyres and tubes fitted a few years ago and it’s ready to ride.
MISS PHYLLIS DARE & HER RALEIGH CYCLE
1925 RALEIGH CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
‘ROMAN’ ALUMINIUM RIMS
Dr Reinhard Isidore Romanoff was a pioneer in the application of aluminium, and experimented with the production of aluminium-tubed BIcycles. His company was the ‘Roman Cycle Co’ of 31 Lombard Street, London. He perfected a jointless rim made from a new alloy – aluminium, tungsten and nickel – which he patented in 1897 and displayed at the National Cycle Show. He named his unique alloy ‘Romanium’, and his new lightweight wheels were called ‘Roman’ rims. A manufacture date appears inside all rims, eg 0813 for August 1913.
Bicycle ‘novelties’ such as aluminium wheels were welcomed by the cycle industry, cycling press and public alike. In 1904, the Marston Cycle Co decided to adopt Dr. Romanoff’s famous ‘Roman’ rims and offer them as an optional extra when a customer bought a Sunbeam. By 1909 Roman rims were fitted to all Sunbeams, until steel rims were introduced in 1916.