THE REAL SECRET OF SUCCESS
Supremacy in all things is something far greater than the result of a supreme effort of a moment …So in the making of the Raleigh, The All-Steel Bicycle. To the casual observer it is pleasing in appearance, but to the cycle expert, the man who has studied the fine points of cycle construction, the words ‘The All-Steel Bicycle’ have a very significant meaning.
They describe a method of manufacture employed by Raleigh alone, which is years in advance of any other. Discs of steel destined for the lugs of the frame are by a series of press operations and annealings formed into the required shapes, and all the fine properties of the steel are retained. The method employed to secure the tubes and lugs together is by liquid brazing, which in itself is a remarkably successful process, since the liquid brass gets right into the smallest crevices between the two metals, binding them together as no other method could.
Two very important features of a bicycle are the enamel and plating, because no matter how good the metal may be, or how perfect the design, a machine will soon become unfit for use if these processes are carelessly done. The enamel and plating of a Raleigh are as durable as it is possible to make them. The result is that after 10, 12 or 15 years one hears of Raleigh bicycles looking like new, in fact it is no extravagant statement to say that the Raleigh has set a standard in bicycles by which others are judged.
– 1927 Raleigh Catalogue
This is the second 1923 Raleigh All-Steel Modele Superbe X Frame I’ve managed to find whose paintwork, original gilt lining and transfers (decals) are so remarkably well-preserved. The above introduction to the 1927 Raleigh catalogue was obviously designed to help the company sell their bicycles:
…The result is that after 10, 12 or 15 years one hears of Raleigh bicycles looking like new.
But their description of the finish on their bicycles was obviously true. Would the company have been surprised, in 1927, to imagine that the same could be said of the quality of the enamel on one of their 1923 models …after 90 years?
1923 Raleigh All-Steel ‘Modele Superbe’ X Frame
Frame No 875901
Sturmey-Archer 3-Speed (‘Model K’) Gears
What is it about gilt lining and lettering preserved for ninety years that so pleases the soul?
Its fragility? Like an ornate butterfly that lives only for a day, is it the temporariness of nature?
Despite all the odds, exposed to potential damage and the ravages of time, these delicate thin layers of gold, applied by a craftsman in a profession that no longer exists, have survived. Maybe it gives us hope too?
The top-of-the-range Raleigh ‘Modele Superbe’ X Frame was one of the most expensive bicycles on the market. I previously assumed that the ornate gilt decoration throughout the machine was purely decoration, and a gimmick to ensure it was easily recognisable as a Raleigh. However, I now realise that there was another reason behind its application. Forgery cost the industry a fortune in lost sales and bad public relations. The 1920 Raleigh catalogue carried the following warning to prospective customers, under the heading ‘For Your Protection’ –
We wish intending purchasers to know that during recent years several makers of cheap bicycles have closely copied the characteristic features of the Raleigh, such as the fork crown and other details. We cannot prevent this, but we remind our customers that the bicycle is not a genuine Raleigh unless it bears the accompanying trade mark. See that the name ‘Raleigh’ actually appears on the transfer as the trade mark in some instances has been closely imitated.
Some builders of expensive bicycles – Rudge-Whitworth, Triumph, Sunbeam – made all their components in-house, the parts not interchangeable with those of other makers. Other companies used unique designs: consider Ariel, Centaur, Humber, Swift with their ‘biflex’ forks and stays. But Raleigh was the market leader, so parts from their cheaper bicycles could have been used to build forgeries of their most expensive models. The gilt lining over every part of a Raleigh Modele Superbe frame was Raleigh’s way of making forgery more difficult.
CLOSE-UP DETAILS OF THE RALEIGH TRANSFERS (DECALS)
(Above) The agent who sold the machine was Thomas H. Nice & Co, with depots in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Stowmarket.
T.H Nice was a cycle manufacturer originally located in East St, Coggeshall and 34 Butter Market, Bury St Edmunds in 1898. They made the ‘Grafton.’
The large Brooks B90 Size 3 saddle is worn away in one place (above), as a result of the original owner leaning it against the same wall for most of its life.
STURMEY ARCHER 3-SPEED ‘MODEL K’ GEARS
This is a large machine (26″ frame), so it is also fitted with a step on the nearside of the rear axle.