1900 Cross (X) Frame Raleigh Gent’s Light Roadster



This was first shown at the late National Show, but its merits were at once recognised by the critics, and there is every likelihood of quite a number of imitations being marketed next year – the usual fate of good things exhibited at the Shows…

The article, below, appearing in The Wheel in December 1898, dates the introduction of the Raleigh Cross frame from that year. The catalogue describes what was soon to be known as the Superbe X Frame as the ‘Patent Triangular Frame Raleigh.’

I enquired about the derivation of the term ‘X frame’ and marque enthusiast Andrew Millward explained to me:

In the 1901 Book of the Raleigh ie the complete catalogue, there is reference to “Superbe” models and X frame in it.

In the 1897 and 1898 catalogue the ladies’ X frame/superbe is described as the “Raleigh patent Lady’s safety frame” No 1 Nottingham made and No 2 Lenton made.

In 1900 they are collectively (the gents’ model was added in 1899) referred to as “Patent Triangular Frame Raleighs”, but the model name for gents No 20a and lady’s No 16 was “Modele Superbe”.

The term “X” frame was a term used to describe the various X- frame designs appearing around this time eg Referee, Centaur etc and was used in the cycling press and by technical writers such as Archibald Sharp.


1900 Cross (X) Frame Raleigh Gent’s Light Roadster

Model 20D

The badge on this Raleigh Cross-Frame is unique to 1900-1901 Raleighs. Other Raleighs of this era were fitted with a transfer rather than a metal badge.

Compare below the 1901 catalogue illustrations for the  ‘Cross (X) Frame Raleigh Light Roadster Model 20D’ and the Gentleman’s Modele Superbe No 20A. The difference appears to the chaincase. This example has no chaincase, and no damage on neighbouring tubes to suggest that it was fitted but subsequently removed. So I assume this is a Light Roadster not a Superbe.

It looks like Frank Bowden posing with a Raleigh crossframe in the photo above. My first assumption was that he would be pictured with a crossframe for publicity purposes because it was Raleigh’s top model of the day. But, when I saw the 1901 Raleigh catalogue, I discovered that the Gent’s X Frame was actually on page 30. Raleigh had not started promoting it yet as they did in subsequent catalogues. So Mr. Bowden’s photo would have been taken to introduce the model to the public. Professor Sharp’s comments from the CTC Gazette, quoted on its page, bear this out:

The appearance of the X frame is sometimes objected to, as any departure from a standard pattern usually is; but, having become accustomed to it, I regard its appearance as more beautiful than that of the usual diamond frame.



This Raleigh was returned to the factory some years after manufacture to be updated with more modern handlebars/brakes and a front mudguard extension (introduced by Raleigh in 1908). This creates a dilemma:

1. I’m loathe to turn it back to its 1900 specification, ie substituting an earlier set of handlebars with inverted levers and Bowden rear brake cable, simply because I feel this upgrade is part of its history. It’s a sensible modification. If I’d shelled out my hard-earned cash for this state-of-the-art machine in 1900 and the company contacted me seven years later to ask if i required an upgrade to the latest braking system, I would obviously have said ‘yes please.’ There can be a bit too much pedantry these days surrounding the concept of ‘originality’ in classic bicycles.

2. On the other hand, it’s a very rare bicycle and it would be wonderful to see exactly how this bike would have looked when new.

My usual answer to such questions is to wait and see. Each year that goes by I learn more about old bicycles …and locate more original ‘impossible-to-find’ spare parts.


This bicycle is extremely rare; I’ve never seen another with this headbadge. The saddle may be even rarer.



























Many thanks to Andrew Millward for a scan of the above catalogue

Museum for The Helical Premier

& Cross-Frame Bicycles