THE ROAD WHICH HAS NO ENDING…
It is the road that matters – the old Road – the only Road – the one true Road of Heart’s Desire. For I believe profoundly in the dictum of Robert Louis Stevenson, that it is the journey, and not what we find at the journey’s end, which brings us real happiness.
Do you say there are many roads? I reply that there is but one.
The road through the Trossachs, the road to Betts-y-Coed, the road to Newlands Corner, the road by Wharfs-side to Bolton Abbey, the road through the Isle of Oxney to Rye, the road to Dedham and Flatford Mill, the road over Dartmoor, the road to Killarney, the road to Miller’s Dale: these are not different roads, but merely stages of one Great Gay Road.
And this road is not confined to the British Isles; it stretches beyond the utmost limits of her far-flung Colonies and Dominions to embrace all the wide spaces of the world.
I grant there are different methods of traversing it …but for me one method is as much too slow as another is too fast. I cannot taste the true glamour of the road as a pedestrian, choked by the fumes of tar. Nor can I taste it as one of a packed line of impatient car drivers, hot and cross because an inoffensive old cow has seen fit to meander across the road and hold up traffic.
So just as there is only one real Road, so there is only one true way of tasting its joys to the full, and that – need I say it? Do you not know it? is through the bicycle.
– 1930 Raleigh Catalogue
In the early years of the twentieth century, several years after Raleigh’s patent X frame was introduced, it had become one of the most expensive bicycles available. Its top quality construction was renowned throughout the world and, as well as being the most distinctive machine in Raleigh’s catalogue, it was their top featured bicycle.
By the end of the 1920s, it still sold well. But, with the poor economic climate, Raleigh was starting to reconsider their catalogue: the X frame was more expensive to produce, and cheaper bicycles were better sellers. Lightweight machines were also in demand. Within a few years, the X frame was no longer offered for sale in the catalogue, and only supplied to existing trade customers such as the Irish Police Force.
Chrome plating techniques had been perfected by the late 1920s, the first American bike to be fitted with chrome parts being the 1928 Lindy. Chrome parts made their debut in Great Britain in 1929 for the 1930 season. As you can see in the sales brochure for this bicycle (further down the page), nickel parts were still fitted, but chrome was an optional extra:
‘No extra charge for Raleigh chrome plating if specified when ordering.’
Although the standard Raleigh ‘Model Superbe’ colour was green, the catalogue also offered black enamel, as well as ‘all-black’ ie with painted brightwork, for the same price. In fact, a customer could choose any colour as long as it was pre-ordered. The example featured here is resplendent in red with black mudguards and nickel brightwork.
1930 Raleigh Gent’s 26″ Frame Model Superbe X Frame
with Sturmey-Archer Model K Handlebar-Mounted Gear Trigger
Brooks Model B90 Size 3 Gent’s Saddle
with Raleigh toolbag
Frame No H60908
This X Frame is in very good condition, having been restored and re-nickeled around 20 years ago. It was regularly ridden by the previous owner, and is still set up as he used it for riding, ie accessorised with bell, Bluemels inflator pump, Raleigh toolbag (containing a John Bull puncture repair outfit tin) and a rear carrier with waterproofs attached.
1930 was the changeover year for chrome parts, with many 1930 bikes having a mixture of nickel and chrome parts. This machine has beautiful nickel handlebars, and its brightwork and bell are nickel too. The pedals are chrome.
The Brooks Model B90 Size 3 Gent’s saddle fitted to this machine is one of the largest the company manufactured.
RIDING LARGE FRAME BIKES: The oldest bicycles were all tall machines: they were made exclusively for rich men, who were taller than women and poor people. The minimum frame size was 24″.
I’m 5′ 8″ tall with an inside leg measurement of 31″ so my most suitable frame size would be 22″, but obviously if I stuck to that I would miss out on riding the most interesting early machines! So I regularly ride 24″ and 26″ machines.
My favourite small detail on this bicycle is the nickel-plated Sturmey-Archer handlebar-mounted gear trigger.
The frame-mounted quadrant gear trigger was the ‘modern’ option at the time. On an X frame, however, the quadrant trigger would have been mounted lower down (on the cross-bar) than on a diamond frame bicycle’s top tube, so would not have been as convenient to reach. So Raleigh wisely kept their original barrel trigger as an option for those who favoured the traditional means of gear selection.
There’s another reason why the handlebar trigger is a better option. Although this bike would suit a 6″ tall chap with 33″ or 34″ inside leg, the dip in the X frame allows shorter fellows such as myself to easily mount the bike …but a frame-mounted trigger with a vertical lever sticking up complicates that manoeuvre as I swing my leg over.
Note that the large Brooks saddle is mounted further back than usual, by reversing the ‘seven’ seat-post, and the saddle frame is in its lowest position, resting on the cross-tube. This is the perfect saddle position for me as, once I’ve mounted the bike over the lowest point of the cross bars, I can easily slide backwards onto the saddle.
NICKELED HANDLEBARS with
STURMEY-ARCHER 3-SPEED MODEL K HANDLEBAR CONTROL
PHOTO LOCATION: Railway bridge No 729, Arlington Rd, Berwick, E. Sussex