Since its introduction in the last few years of the 19th century, the X Frame became the best-known Raleigh. Until World War One, it was the company’s top-of-the-range model, and one of the world’s most expensive bicycles. After the War, bicycle prices were reduced to meet new demand from commuters, but the X Frame was retained throughout the 1920s.
However, the beginning of the 1930s presented the cycle manufacturers with a different economic climate, and the expensive X Frame was no longer the Raleigh’s prime seller. All companies needed to rationalise their production costs, so Raleigh introduced a new range of lightweight bicycles instead of the heavy duty roadsters they previously sold.
The X Frame’s sturdiness was ideal for unmade Irish roads, so Raleigh offloaded a large batch to Ireland for local assembly, and many were sold to the Irish Constabulary. As a result, in the British Raleigh catalogues it was renamed it the ‘Police Model’ and also the ‘Irish X Frame’ and advertised without chain case or gears at a reduced price. In similar fashion, in 1934, many of the remaining X Frames were sold to Holland for assembly and sale there. Within a few years it was completely dropped from Raleigh catalogues, though it was still available for special order, and was still in demand from customers in the Colonies.
I’m not sure if the example presented here was one of a batch purchased by Whatton & Mustill Ltd, of 15 Ling Rd, Loughborough, who then assembled and sold it under their own label. Or if they restored it subsequently and added their name.
1932 Raleigh X Frame ‘Model Superbe’
Whatton & Mustill Ltd, 15 ling Rd, Loughborough
Sturmey-Archer 3 speed gear (1948 AW)
Brooks ‘Model B90/3’ Saddle with Raleigh logo
Frame No J30321
This rare survivor spent all its life in the Loughborough area until I purchased it recently. The previous owner restored it in the 1990s, repainting the frame – but preserving the original transfers (decals)- and having the bright parts re-nickelled.
My inspection reveals two minor issues: the Raleigh headset and headlock is missing, and the front hub has a screw in the centre instead of an oiler. Its paintwork is not to concours standard, but is nevertheless very presentable. The paintwork and the nickel are still in very good condition. The saddle is a heavy duty Brooks B90/3 with the Raleigh logo on top. This X Frame is in excellent mechanical condition and ready to ride.
1933 RALEIGH CATALOGUE
The RALEIGH ALL-STEEL ‘IRISH’ X FRAME POLICE MODEL
The Irish X Frame model, as its name implies, has been specially designed for use on the reputably bad roads often to be found in Ireland, or where the ground to be continually traversed is of a broken and exceedingly rough nature, thereby necessitating a frame of somewhat more substantial and stronger character than is usual.
The Irish Police Model was sold as a basic model without chaincase or gears.
It also appeared in Raleigh catalogues as the ‘Irish X-Frame’ – The special X formation used gives it the additional strength exactly where it is needed, and the machine readily stands up to the hardest of hard going. The adverts below show Raleigh’s Dublin address as well as Nottingham.
According to the book The Story of the Raleigh Cycle, the Irish government launched its ‘Industrial Programme’ in the thirties to encourage firms to employ local labour. So Raleigh formed the Irish Raleigh Cycle Co Ltd in October, 1936, ‘though its factory was only really an assembly plant and did not actually manufacture bicycles. The factory became operational early in 1937 and an average of 1000 machines per week were put together there until the outbreak of the Second World War.’ This machine has a ‘J’ prefix to its frame number, suggesting manufacture around 1932. However, it’s possible that it was not built up right away, but remained unsold to be sent to Ireland with the other unassembled X frames.
‘ONE GREAT GAY ROAD’
The 1930 Raleigh catalogue appears to be the last time that Raleigh calls its crossframe the Superbe, giving it prime position in the catalogue. By 1932 it was no longer the top-of-the-range model, but renamed the Irish Crossframe. So it would appear to have changed in 1931 or 1932. By 1935 it was not mentioned at all in the catalogue.
I’m not sure current cycle catalogues would describe the British cyclist’s route as ‘one Great Gay Road.’ But, as you may read for yourself, the catalogue does invoke the pleasures of cycling in a charming manner.