Raleigh Vintage Bikes: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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Looking for a Raleigh vintage bike?

One of the oldest bike manufacturers in the world, Raleigh Bicycle Company gained an excellent reputation through the production of high-quality bikes throughout the 20th century.

Unlike many bike brands, Raleigh is a company that has largely applied its resources and innovative design to creating bicycles for the everyday bike user and hobby cyclists.

Although most bike companies take a shot at this end of the market too, Raleigh did so by creating unique and practical bikes that became very popular, mostly in the UK.

However, they also produced high-quality professional-standard road bikes for a time and have consistently produced solid, good-quality road bikes at an attractive price point.

So if you’re looking for a Raleigh vintage bike or you’re wondering what is my vintage Raleigh bike worth, you’re likely to come across a huge range of different designs and models.

But is Raleigh a good brand? And what are some of the best vintage Raleigh bikes to spend your hard-earned cash on?

To get you up to speed, we’ll be covering:

  • History Of Raleigh Bicycle Company
  • 3 Of The Best Raleigh Vintage Bikes

Let’s get going!

Raleigh Vintage Bikes: Title Image
Credit: rowanofravaraCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Edited from the original.

History Of Raleigh Bicycle Company

Raleigh is one of the oldest bike manufacturers globally, founded all the way back in 1887 in Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Through top-quality manufacturing and innovation, Raleigh was the highest-regarded manufacturer in the United Kingdom for much of the 1900s.

Although Raleigh produced high-end professional-standard road bikes, they have also focussed a lot of resources on making affordable and innovative bikes for the everyday bike user.

One of Raleigh’s most successful innovations came early in its history when it patented the design of the Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub in 1903.

Although a three-speed hub sounds pretty backward now, back in 1903, during the early years of the “modern” bicycle, a three-speed hub was revolutionary.

Prior to this, most bicycles were fixed speed, or at best, had two gears, and to switch between them required dismounting, removing the back wheel, and flipping it!

The Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub was ahead of its time: allowing the rider to change from “low” to “medium” to “high” gear through a lever located on the handlebars.

The invention of the derailleur or “Cambio Corsa” by Campagnolo in 1930 made direct-drive geared hubs somewhat obsolete, with the ability to switch between gears on a cassette with external sprockets, extending the capacity and simplifying maintenance.

Raleigh began to gain serious traction after WWI. Selling over 100,000 bicycles a year, they were one of the biggest manufacturers worldwide.

Raleigh continued their innovation during the Second World War, designing a folding bicycle for British paratroopers, the Raleigh Commando.

Unlike modern folding bikes, the Commando used a normal “triangle” frame design but contained hinges in the top and down tubes that allowed it to fold back on itself.

Photo of a vintage Raleigh bike frame.
Credit: Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY 2.0. Edited from the original.

After the war, Raleigh began exporting bicycles to the United States. They had become well-known for their lightweight “sports roadster” bikes, which beat out any of the US bikes at the time in practicality and speed.

The bike was made from thin steel tubing, with skinny wheels and often a Sturmey-Archer 3 or 5-speed transmission, making it a great bike for the smooth roads of suburban America.

By the late ’40s, British imports made up over 95% of the American bicycle market. Raleigh’s exports increased dramatically until the “Bike Boom” began in the late ’60s when many American bike brands were founded.

Raleigh found more joy in the UK market after the bike boom and became the leading bike manufacturer in the country for the decades that followed.

During the late ’60s, however, one of Raleigh’s greatest successes hit the streets of the UK: the Raleigh Chopper. The Chopper was aimed at the kids’ bike market and was in the style of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

The bike featured high-rise handlebars, a padded seat with a backrest, and the 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub was controlled by a lever on the top tube, reminiscent of a Harley Davidson “suicide shifter“.

By the early ’70s, the bike was an indicator of “coolness” for many children in the UK at the time and was an incredibly common sight. Looking to follow up on the success of the Chopper, Raleigh designed a new bike with many similarities: the Grifter.

Released in 1976, many argue that the Grifter was the predecessor to the BMX in the UK. It was almost identical to the BMXs that would be ubiquitous on British streets less than a decade later, except it was equipped with three gears and came with mudguards.

Simultaneously with the commercial success that came with the Chopper and Grifter, Raleigh was enjoying its golden age in professional cycling, too.

In 1972, Raleigh sponsored a Dutch professional track and road cycling team called TI-Raleigh. Existing for a decade, the team won over 900 races in this short time.

The team is perhaps best known for its formidability in the Tour de France team time trials from 1978 to 1982. They were completely unstoppable, winning eight TTTs in this period. This was largely thanks to the talents of Dutch rider Jan Raas.

Jan Raas was the poster boy of the TI-Raleigh team in the late ’70s and won 115 total races for the team. He was a time trial and classics specialist, winning many of the biggest races in cycling, including the Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, and ten stages of Le Tour.

Undoubtedly the biggest success of the TI-Raleigh team came in the form of Joop Zoetemelk. After winning the red jersey in the Vuelta a España 1979, TI-Raleigh signed the famous Dutch cyclist in the hopes of taking their first Grand Tour.

This signing instantly proved fruitful, and Joop won the yellow jersey at the Tour de France 1980 on the legendary Raleigh Team Professional bike.

The team was disbanded in 1983 due to a falling out between founder Peter Post and Jan Raas. It essentially split, with 8 riders joining the Panasonic team and 7 joining the Kwantum team (now Jumbo-Visma).

The animosity between the teams was apparent for almost a decade afterward, when the dispute was allegedly solved in the middle of the night in the woods during the 1992 Tour de France.

The end of the TI-Raleigh team brought an end to their reputation as a professional-quality manufacturer, and they began to focus more on the everyday bike user once more. This has continued for the last 30 years, and Raleigh still produces good-quality bikes at relatively affordable price points.

3 Of The Best Raleigh Vintage Bikes

Raleigh produced the majority of its professional quality racing bikes from the 1960s-1980s. Here are a few of the highest-regarded bikes produced by Raleigh:

Raleigh Record, 1967

Although it was at the bottom of Raleigh’s racing bike hierarchy, the Record was one of the most popular Raleigh models due to its reliability and durability.

It was a very nippy bike coming in at a very reasonable price – the perfect cocktail for a lot of sales.

The bike was so successful that it remained in production for over a decade, with many different iterations of the model being released. The Record came equipped with a Simplex 10-speed groupset and high-quality Dunlop tires.

Unlike many manufacturers, Raleigh made their own tubing for many of its bikes, and the Record came with Raleigh 2030 butted steel tubing. This wasn’t their top-of-the-line tubing, and so it wasn’t quite as light as, say, Reynolds 501, but it was plenty durable for a bike of this price.

One of the best things about this is the price: it really does offer great bang for your buck. You can pick up a Raleigh Record in decent condition for under $150 if you have a look at used models on eBay.

Raleigh Team Professional, 1974

These bikes were ridden by the TI-Raleigh team for the majority of Raleigh’s sponsorship. The original Raleigh Team Pro, released in 1974, was a road bike version of their already established Track Pro.

The Team Pro is a stunning bike: classic red frame with yellow and black detailing, white grips, yellow side-wall tires, and black leather saddle, a beautiful vintage aesthetic.

Campagnolo was a sponsor of the TI-Raleigh Pro Team and so all of Raleigh’s pro-standard bikes from this era came fully equipped with the best Campag groupsets.

The Team Pro 1974 came with the lightweight titanium Campagnolo Nuovo Record 6-speed groupset and was crafted from Reynold’s flagship 531 manganese–molybdenum tubing, the gold standard of tubing from this era.

The Raleigh Team Pro remained in production until 1985 and was a legendary bike of the era. So much so that Raleigh re-released the bike in 2020 on the 40th anniversary of Joop Zoetemelk’s victory.

The re-released version came with the same iconic red colorway, was made with top-notch Reynolds 753 tubing, and was rocking a 10-speed Campag drivetrain and Cinelli bars for good measure.

The original Team Pro can sometimes be found on second-hand markets for around $500, but the re-released version retailed at nearly $3000 for the complete bike.

Raleigh Super Course MK II, 1976

One of the most successful, beautiful, and iconic Raleigh bikes of the era, the Super Course MK II was the development of the extremely popular Super Course.

Released in 1976, the Super Course MK II was near the business end of Raleigh’s hierarchy and was in production until the early ’80s.

The quality of the frame is the standout feature of the Super Course MK II. Built from the flagship Reynolds 531 steel tubing, and finished in a beautiful cherry red or emerald green colorway, it really is a stunning machine.

The Huret Challenger 10-speed groupset it came equipped with is nothing to write home about, but does the job and is a durable and affordable option to keep the cost down of the bike.

The price of the Super Course MK II does vary significantly, and if you’re lucky you might even be able to pick one up for around $100! However, a more realistic price for this model is about $150-300, depending on its condition.

Enjoyed this Raleigh vintage Bike guide? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

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