Halfords have their own range of bikes covering to segments of the market. Halfords own label bikes stand to challenge the Raleigh line which traditionally have been sold in Halford shops.
Carrera is Halfords premium brand of bicycle and is most likely built in Taiwan (the heart of quality bike manufacturing). Carrera promises a robust and stylish product that is up to date with all of the changing technology and possess good attention to detail.
The names given to this range of bikes is derived from some mythology (Banshee – Zelos – Titan – Kraken -Griphon) and then some grittier urban titles (Cross Fire – Subway – Sparc – Blast). Halfords offer a childs equivalent of the adult bikes but do not deviate from the names.
On all of its variants, Carrera offers a clear and focused range of product. The graphic application on all of its bikes (colours and decals placement etc) is kept clean and consistent on all of its range. As example; Carrera always appears on the bottom two chain stays and on the down tubes, the name of the model always appearing on the top tubes.
Some of the road bicycles appear to match the Raleigh Spec (Virago vs Raleigh’s Airlite Carbonrace) however the price difference is that of two to three hundred pounds in Halford’s favour. According to some sources, Carrera is built by Merida. Carrera translated in Spanish is the word for ‘Racing’.
The Apollo brand is Halfords ‘bread and butter’ range (more likely built in the far east). Apollo offers a broad range of family and leisure bikes; everything from 5 years and up. Imagery used through out their brochure consists leisure seekers to amateur fitness; most likely road and light trails.
In this respect Apollo stands to be Raleigh’s greatest challenge in the domestic bike market. The Apollo brand also offers a couple of folding bikes aimed towards the commuter: one single gear with steel frame the other aluminium with a 6 speed Shimano gearing. Apollo’s children’s range of bikes are competitively with as much as £50 in the difference.
Unlike the Carrera brochure or the Raleigh catalogue, Apollo’s range is split into two brochures: one for adult the other for kids (helping to focus the brand much more). The styling of the typography used in the Apollo logo is kept geometric and simple (much like Raleigh’s chosen type style). The colours used are primary red and blue with a slightly deeper blue being used to differentiate the adults from the children’s range. The type face being used in both the Carrera and Apollo brochures is Helvetica with Helvetica light used in the Carrera brochure vs Roman or Helvetica 55 in the Apollo brochure. The paper stock used in the Apollo brochure is slightly lighter and feels slightly cheaper than the Carerra catalogue.
Speaking with a salesman at a local Halfords store, I was told that that particular branch had not stocked a Raleigh bicycle in some time and weren’t even aware that Raleigh had brought out an 08 line. Feelings amongst staff were generally negative towards the Raleigh brand and perceived Raleigh as being in decline.
I was informed that Raleigh do still offer one service on site at Nottingham which is wheel building. Halfords have in the past requested Raleigh to build a custom wheel but these wheels are not specific to Raleigh; are not a Raleigh product as such.
One of the family
Having had the chance to speak with a representative of Eurocycles in Ireland (owners of Raleigh Ireland), I was able to gain a slightly broader understanding of how Raleigh operate as a company abroad yet I’m still a little bit confused. Seemingly Raleigh Ireland is independent of Raleigh UK yet Raleigh Ireland still import all of their products from Raleigh UK. When asked what would stop ToysRUs from dealing Raleigh bikes I was told that it was ‘bit of a grey area’. Halford’s (who have traditionally always sold Raleigh in the UK) have recently set up in Ireland and are also selling Raleigh bikes along side their own-name brands. This leaves me rather confused indeed. Raleigh doesn’t operate like a franchise in the way that a certain chain of restaurants might and John McNaughton in international sales has explained to me that Raleigh are an international not a global company. So how does this work? Who is custodian of the brand? and how does Raleigh ensure clear brand values are being communicated in all four regions of the world? Recently I have started to see how the origins of Raleigh (right back as far as Frank Bowden) have always contained a strong sense of family loyalty. Today Raleigh’s brand personality and heritage (as illustrated in the ad in post _19) could be described as a family friend.
It is known that both Frank and Harold Bowden ran their company with a paternal hand (2002, Rosen). Certainly Harold Bowden made it his business to get to know everyone on the floor on a personal level, thus keeping in touch with the man on the ground. Gregory Bowden illustrates the point that this style of management was deeply embedded in the culture from very early on
“Everyone knows that Raleigh is the largest cycle company in the world and although that is an admirable achievement on the part of the company , being a great size can bring with it certain disadvantages. Of these, probably the most serious problem is the danger of impersonality – that a giant company can begin to seem to be an enormous, faceless mass, a grey inhuman organism. This situation can and does exist in companies a mere fraction of the size of Raleigh, yet at Nottingham this is not the case at all and all the dealers and workmen I have met, give a strong impression that they are part of what can best be called ‘The Raleigh Family’. They feel that they belong to that family and they feel proud of it. This has been a tradition in the firm for many years now.”
Bowden goes on to explain that early on Raleigh had appointed a welfare officer who’s job it was to ensure the welfare of the workers dealing with problems that occurred both in and outside of the factory walls. Raleigh also employed a surgery with a staff of ‘ten nurses and ambulance drivers’. In 1936 Harold Bowden acquired a convalescent home for Raleigh at Sutton-on-Sea. According to Gregory Bowden, as far back as the 1890′s a group of men formed the Raleigh Athletic Club with an interest in sport and in the 1920′s some of the Raleigh workers set up an indoor gaming room with a fully stocked bar and facilities for ‘billiards and other indoor games’. Soon the two groups would merge to form, in 1926, the ‘Raleigh Athletic Club’ and in the 1960 Raleigh acquired a thirty-four acre athletics ground that included
“three football pitches, one of which is totally enclosed so that a gate can be taken, three cricket squares, a hockey pitch, a bowling green, four hard tennis courts and a fishing pond.”
Chris Richards (who’s image I have borrowed for this post) recalls his experiences growing up as the son of a Raleigh worker on the site RaleighChopper.info.
“Raleigh suffered a number of strikes in the mid 70’s, and a number of takeover bids in the 1980s which meant that the workforce had dwindled from thousands in the 1960s to just a few hundred by the time it closed its doors on 28 November 2002.
The place was not just a factory but a little family contained within itself, with 2 Social Clubs, offering dozens of sports to participate in your leisure time. It was the very pulse and lifeblood of Radford itself, and the lunchtime scene in the Social Club was one of hundreds of blue-overalled workers hastily drinking beer in a fog of laughter and cigarette smoke. My father had by then retired, but still knew everyone who passed his table on the way to the bar for their dinnertime drink. Some workers even came round to visit him each week, and he was still part of the pools syndicate ten years after he had retired!”
Chris Richard’s account serves as an excellent example of Raleigh family life but is no exception to the rule. These themes of unity, loyalty and commitment permeate the Raleigh story and exemplify part of the vision engineered and executed by both Frank and Harold Bowden. Both men showed themselves capable of playing the long game, fostering and nurturing a work culture that saw loyalty and commitment rewarded on both sides.
But this ethos also saw itself into other areas of Raleigh. Something explained to me further by John McNaughton when I spoke to him last was that certain design features associated with Raleigh (such as the Heron crank, the red and gold rimmed tyres) operated in much the same way. By building the Heron motif into the crank Raleigh could assure the costumer that what they were getting was the genuine article. Costumers now looking to replace parts of their Raleigh bicycles could be confident that what they were getting from their local dealer was not only Raleigh but one of many integrated parts that belonged to a concise whole. ‘Raleigh, The all steel bicycle’ Unity and Strength.
One final detail that’s worth mentioning here (and I’ve written on it elsewhere on this blog) is that Frank Bowden lent the Raleigh brand something else that forms a powerful association. The Heron, a bird that is known to be both patient and vigilant, originates from the Bowden coat of arms.
Filed under: History, N.P.D. | Tags: 1980, fixed, messenger, Raleigh, super course
This clip on YouTube has got it all. It’s the restoration, or rather bastardisation, of an old Raleigh Super Course. It was posted on Valentines day and it conveys something really poetic. The film tracks the spiritual metamorphosis of the existing brand and takes it some where completely different. If I were Raleigh I would seriously consider investing in more films like this; very effective. First thing you see in this clip is the Raleigh name stamped on the frame. The each new part selected for the rebuild is lovingly displayed. And the last image we get is of the owner with their arms outstretched pulling a big fixie back wheel skid.
There is a growing trend for fixed wheels out there that’s been slowly burning its way up from the bike messenger community. What I’m starting to wonder is with the increasing popularity of Alley Cat races and fixed wheel mania in general, Raleigh would do well to get in on the moment.
Little bird campaign
This is a campaign apparently from the 1980s, which I was able to find on YouTube. It features comedian Lenny Henry as ‘Little Bird’, the Raleigh Heron brought to life in animated style. I’m interested in the way that Raleigh appear to be positioning themselves here. Raleigh obviously did at one stage have an excellent, if not unrivaled, name in high performance bikes (namely from their division built up around Carlton and Special Products division). However, in the minds of cycle enthusiasts today, that association is no longer there. Raleigh’s brand was built on winners by associating the brand with sports men like A.A.Zimmerman right up to Reg Harris and ‘Reg rides a Raleigh’. I’m particularly interested by the copy writing on this advert
‘Always a winner, whatever your age’ followed by the Heron logo and ‘The strength of the name’
Raleigh was ‘The all steel bicycle’ so this last line makes a lot of sense and ties in with what the Raleigh brand; a safe friendly and reliable personality. I also feel that the origins of the Raleigh brand is most definitely tied in with winners; as founder Frank Bowedon appears to have gone to considerable effort in attracting renowned riders of the time. More recently Raleigh have been sponsoring British champion Nicole Cooke but I’m not sure that’s the case today. A little bird told me she was signed with Team Halford’s Bikehut.
Filed under: History | Tags: Gregory H. Bowden, raleigh cranks, tubular fork-crown
Crowns and Cranks
One of the most noted features of the original Raleigh bikes is talked about in Gregory Bowden’s book ‘Raleigh Cycles’. The ‘tubular fork-crown’ owed itself to new technology developed in America which Raleigh had adopted
‘It was introduced in 1892 and consisted of a length of round tube to which the steering post and fork blades were brazed. One of the advantages of the new crown revealed a short time later when the introduction of pneumatic tires necessitated wider crowns and other manufacturers were faced with the expense of scrapping their stocks of castings in favour of a wider new size.’
Another added benefit of the tubular crown fork was that it acted as a distinctive signifier. The tubular crown fork may have meant that a Raleigh bike could easily be singled out in a group of similar looking black bikes.
The other important and long standing feature Raleigh bikes employed was its famed Heron crank. In designing the Heron crank, Raleigh added yet another distinguishing feature to their bike design that is even present in the ‘Chopper’. I would like to trace exactly when Raleigh decided to stop using the Heron crank and what reasons lie behind it. Today, with a lot of bike parts becoming increasingly homogenised, you no longer see the beautifully designed chain wheels that helped distinguish bike brands like Raleigh from other competitors.
Filed under: History | Tags: Bicycle History, John Woodeforde, Raleigh advertising
Magic Carpet Ride
It is estimated, in John Woodforde’s book ‘The Story of The Bicycle’ (1970), that Raleigh controlled three quarters of the bicycle industry in Britain at that time. By that stage Raleigh not only produced bikes with the famous Heron head badge but had also swallowed up many other British cycle companies including Humber, Triumph, Hercules and Moulton. It’s worth noting here that Bowden had been so successful in building Raleigh’s brand in the late 19th century that within 10 years of purchasing it, Raleigh was the largest cycle company in Britain. According to Woodforde’s writing, Raleigh at the time of 1896, was producing 30,000 bicycles annual; a marked improvement on the four a week that its original owners capable of outputting. But far from giving into temptation to cut corners in aid of the bottom line Raleigh’s policy, according to Woodeford, was ‘quality before quantity’.
‘In its advertising Raleigh concentrated on the health aspects of bicycling.’ writes Woodeford before proceeding to talk about how the firm skillfully handles the impinging motor car market.
‘Raleigh went all out to make customers of factory workers, clerks and shop assistants. It was worth saving up, said Raleigh, to buy the means of enjoying “a refreshing weekly ride in the open air”.’
Woodeford then goes onto to provide us with even further insight into how Raleigh presented itself to the public.
‘A glossy Raleigh pamphlet on 1923 begins with the words: “Is your life spent among whirring machinery, in adding up columns of figures, in attending to the wants of often fractious customers?”‘ He goes onto quote the copy further
‘Don’t you sometimes long to get away from it all? Away from the streets of serried houses…only a few miles away is a different land, where the white road runs between the bluebell-covered banks crowned by hedges from which the pink and white wild rose peeps a shy welcome.
Sheltering amongst the trees you see the spire of the village church-beyond it that quaint old thatched cottage where the good wife serves fresh eggs and ham fried ‘to a turn’ on a table of rural spotlessness, for everything is so clean in the country…Rosy health and a clear brain is what Raleigh gives you…’
At a glance, this style of copy writing seems alarmingly innocent compared to the sophisticated styles of marketing and advertising we have today. But the psychology is quite self possessed, first depicting the prison before showing the promise of escape. The style of writing which is deliberately romantic, takes the reader on a journey, not just outside the city walls, but into a carefully constructed past; a past that offers us a less complex and all but forgotten way of life; a false yet familiar environment; eden. And in the last line of text the message is most telling, for what Raleigh really offer their consumer is simply spiritual absolution and enlightenment of the mind – ‘Rosy health and a clear brain’. What’s interesting is its literal style of the ad. Where as in hindsight we would consider this style of advertising to be rather stiff, this predates the television boom.
The advert pictured above, although drawn up some years after the above copy, doesn’t stray too far from this same theme.
Filed under: History | Tags: A.A. Zimmerman, Gregory Bowden, Raleigh, Sir Frank Bowden
Origins of Raleigh
The story behind the Raleigh company begins with Sir Frank Bowden who, after a successful career as a lawyer in Hong Kong, returned to England in poor health and an ‘inactive liver’. He was given only months to live but, determined he would find a way to stave off death, consulted a doctor in Harrogate who prescribed him what was finally to cure him
‘Taking me to the window of his study, he drew my attention to a man who was slowly and steadily driving a tricycle around the Square and told me that the rider three weeks previously could not move his legs.’ (Bowden, Gregory – Raleigh Cycle)
Impressed by this, Bowden himself moved to France and took up cycling, purchasing a trike which he had shipped. Within four months, Bowden found his health to be restored to such a level that he then embarked on a cycling tour of Arcachon; quite a recovery indeed. On returning back to England, Bowden decided to graduate to what was known as the ‘Safety Bicycle’ (standard bike as we know it) and happened upon three bike makers based in a small workshop on Raleigh Street, Nottingham. Bowden was so impressed with the bike that he bought that he then decided to buy the company and involve himself with the industry that saved his life.
Raleigh Cycles was established in 1888. Bowden quickly sought out a new premises in which the company would be allowed to expand. In his book on the history of Raleigh cycles, Gregory Bowden (Sir Franks grandson) gives a detailed account of how the company was first set up
‘In order to be sure of appealing to every sector of the high-quality bicycle market, he decided at an early stage to bring out a wide range of models – a policy which has been pursued by the firm ever since.’
Indeed by 1890, Raleigh exhibited twenty three different models at Stanley Cycle Show in London, a good illustration as the speed and appetite Raleigh had for developing competition. Like now, weight was considered to be an issue and the Nottingham Guardian wrote in a review of Raleigh’s latest offerings
‘No fewer than 12 of these machines are from new designs. They include a tandem safety [...] This weighs 73-lbs but there is also a lighter machine weighing 640lbs on which Messrs. W.C. Goulding and F.T. Bidlake have already ridden 65 miles in 4 hours 5 mins on the Great Northern Road.’
Bowden was quick to associate Raleigh with winning athletes, not only aware that it was a good source of PR but also served to strengthen Raleigh’s winning brand. In 1892 Raleigh had already managed to endorse a selection of the worlds top cycle athletes including A.A. Zimmerman who was considered to be world champion at the time.
Filed under: History, N.P.D. | Tags: bamboo bike, calfee, sustainable bikes
Calfee Design is the brain child of Craig Calfee. Calfee, according to the company site, has been on a quest to build tougher, more durable frames ever since a ‘spectacular head-on collision in Boston’ back in 1987. Since then, Calfee, as a company, have gone on to pioneer hi-tech frames (generally made out of Carbon Fiber) but in 2005 Calfee produced their first ever Bamboo frame. Originally started as a publicity gag in 1997, Calfee built 12 of the frames for family and friends. But reports came back so positive that Calfeee then decided to go into full production. More recently, Craig Calfee has seen another advantage of the Bamboo frame
‘Back in 1984, when Craig was wandering around Africa, he noticed three things: 1. There was a lot of bamboo, 2. People used bikes and didn’t have enough of them, and 3. they needed jobs. Perhaps people could build their own bamboo cargo bikes. So he put a small notice on the website to see if someone wanted to fund a trip to Africa to see what it would take to get the idea rolling. The Earth Institute at Columbia University decided it was worth trying, so off we went! Craig determined that it was possible and proceeded to set it up. Media attention on the idea was phenomenal!’
What’s more, Calfee have teamed up with ‘Organic Athlete’. Organic Athlete is an ideological movement that wants to promote the training of Athletes on non animal products (in this instance Vegan). The organisation is made up of ‘chapters’ around the world ‘with a mission to promote healthy living, ecological responsibility, and compassion for all life.’ and according to Quickrelease.tv
‘An elite cycling team was formed last year and now has five team members on bamboo bikes.’
The bikes retail for about 2,000 dollars; so perhaps that’s not in everyone’s pocket when they walk into their local bike shop. Still, it proves that natural resources can still be used to produce imaginative products that, according to one of the founders of Organic Athlete Bradly Saul
‘I’ve been riding a bamboo bike for over a year now. I can honestly say it’s the best riding bike I’ve ever had.’
More can be found on the Bamboo Bike Project on their site. It contains photos and a comprehensive Blog on the progress of the project.
Filed under: History, N.P.D. | Tags: BMX, lead user, open innovation, Schwinn bikes
It gets even better. Further research last night has revealed to me that not only were Schwinn responsibe for Chopper bicycles, and had a hand in the creation of ‘Mountain Biking’, but they were also there for the birth of BMX. ‘Joe Kid on Sting-Ray’ is a film that charts the birth of BMX right up to the present day and guess where it started? With the Schwinn Stingray. Those kids chopping up bikes on the West Coast of America it seems were destined to take it a step further. Not only did they want to look like the older boys, they wanted to race like them too. The film looks as though it’s in much the same vein as ‘Dogtown and Z Boys’ with fast punk rock music and grown men talking about how macho they were as teenagers (midlife crisis ahoy!). But again, this innovation is hotly contested, not by Raleigh this time but by one of the most traditional biking nations in the world; Holland. On this site FatBMX, there is another version of history being told
“As a matter of fact, although not known as BMX (Bicycle Moto-X), in Holland BX (Bicycle Cross) got off the ground in the mid 1950′s and also because of youngsters imitating the, at the time, motorsport moto-cross stars from Holland and Belgium.”
It’s worth taking note that the above image was not taken in sunny California but Holland (courtesy of FatBMX) and according to the publisher, dates back to 1958. (That’s put a stick in the spokes!) Further reading on FatBMX will reveal that Bicycle Cross (as it was known in Holland) had something else going for it
“Just last year May 7 th in Holland a special Reunion took place of the moto-cross riding sons of the ‘Van HEUGTEN’ family. This famous moto-cross family had 15 children of which 5 daughters and 10 sons. All ten sons were at any time active in the moto-cross sport”
“Anyway, besides the famous van Heugten family, there was also the famous Karsmakers family . This family had 8 children, 2 daughters (of whom I married the oldest one, Mieke!) and 6 sons. Only 5 from these sons were active in the moto-cross sport and also they started out in the woods near their home in Waalre – Holland, imitating MX stars, riding adjusted normal road bicycles.”
A slightly bias account perhaps but why hasn’t there been a movie been made of this? It’s got everything going for it, dueling families!? In any case, the design innovations that lead to the actual BMX bike were to come from California and in any case, all of this arguing appears rather trivial in light of the fact that BMX, for the first time ever, has finally been recognised as an Olympic sport and will feature this year in Beijing’s Olympic games.
Filed under: History, N.P.D. | Tags: Eric Von Hippel, Klunkers, open innovation, Raleigh chopper, Schwinn
Sting in the tale
Even at this early stage of research, I am finding an awful lot of evidence that ties bike design in with open innovation. On the institute of manufacturing website, there is a good account of how the Raleigh Chopper developed. Taking its inspiration from ‘chopped’ motorcycles known as Choppers, children in California went on to make modifications of their own to push bikes, producing a new and distinct category of bicycle. The IFM also makes reference to Eric Von Hippel (author of the book ‘Democratizing Innovation’) who seemingly refers to this process as ‘the “lead-user” phenomenon.’
However, the site credits Schwinn with being the first to respond to this open innovation not Raleigh. In 1962 a young Schwinn engineer named Al Fritz picked up on this growing trend for ‘chopped’ bikes and made the trip out to California to see it for himself. (This is where it gets interesting) This is taken from Schwinn’s site
“[...]he set out to create a bike that not only looked like the newest West Coast creations, but also lent itself to customization, enabling kids to trick out their wheels just as older kids were customizing their hot rods and choppers. After scanning the dictionary for just the right name, he christened his new bike the Sting-Ray, after the winged creature of the sea.”
The Sting-Ray series ended up with the Orange Krate, a bike Raleigh would soon copy with its Raleigh Rodeo in 67′; an obvious evolutionary step towards the Chopper. These iconic bikes are a direct result of open innovation that not only was Fritz clever enough to pick up on but also smart enough to encourage, ensuring his designs could be further modified. More research on the Web provided me with this article on the development of the Chopper; no great inventions it seems are left uncontested.
“I’m here to spill the ugly tin of beans…… Raleigh had for some time been, basically, copying every move that Schwinn made.[...] Raleigh always had a range of bikes exclusively for the US market that never appeared on our shores. These bikes usually had the Schwinn style cantilever frame design, with two thin crossbars curving gracefully up from the rear wheel to the headstock. Also, unlike our familiar front forks with chrome ‘dimples’, seen on UK Raleighs, the US bikes often had a front fork almost identical to Schwinn’s. It comes as no surprise, then, to discover that Raleigh, seeing the popularity of the Schwinn Stingray, and in unison with every other company selling bikes in America, soon brought out a Stingray lookalike.”
I came across Schwinn earlier on this week in a similar context when reading the book ‘Fat Tire’. Schwinn also featured at the centre of the ‘Mountain Bike’ phenomenon when kids from Marin county rode customized bikes they made up of old Schwinn frames and ‘Balloon’ tyres they referred to as ‘Clunkers’ . This really comprehensive commentary on Clunkers by downhill pioneer and bike builder Alan Bonds documents the history of this invention.
“[...] all based on mild steel frames from the coaster brake one speed genre. Many were pre-war and some from the forties and fifties. Some of the riders considered the pre-war frames superior in quality and construction. The hybrid version of these bikes had upgraded stems, bars, seatposts, cranks, rims, seats, pedals and had drum brakes, gears, deraillers, shifters and brake levers added.”
Mountain Bikes may have been the last great innovation in Bike design. Before, kids contented themselves with modifying Bikes, these days it’s all about hacking your Wii.