Founded by Frank Bowden, Raleigh built motorcycles in from 1899 to 1906, and then from 1919 to 1933 in Nottingham, England.
They supplied engines to Allegro, Dunelt, Coventry-Eagle, Mars, Nestoria, Cotton, Soyer, Wolf and Victoria, among others. Their post-war 698cc flat-twins of 1919 were true luxury bikes developed while Works manager William Comery held the reins, but these proved difficult to manufacture competitively and production ceased in 1923 or 1924, the model being replaced with 798cc 60 degree V-twin engined machines which in turn ceased being built, after a short production life, in 1927. Raleigh also produced models with sv engines of 174 to 498cc, and ohv engines of 348cc and 498cc.
During the 1920's and early 30's their chief designer was D.R. O'Donavan (later associated with Carlton motorcycles) who was responsible for the successful Sturmey-Archer racing engines used in Raleigh and other marques.
Their 1921 flat twin had both chain drive and swinging arm rear suspension, and chain drive was adopted on most machines after 1924.
The 1926-27 Model 14 ran on 24" wheels whilst the Mod 15 had 26". All other parts are interchangeable.
They also ventured into commercial vehicle production with a three wheel light delivery van in 1931. The LDV had a 598cc engine and was developed from the Ivy Karryall which had used many Raleigh components. The 1934 Raleigh Safety Seven three-wheeler has a 742cc V-Twin engine by Sturmey-Archer. This machine was built between 1933 and 1936. It had a three speed gearbox, four seats and sold for £110 5s. It was designed by T.L Williams, who later acquired the rights from Raleigh and started the Reliant Motor Company in Tamworth, Staffordshire. The crankcase and differential gear box were made from magnesium alloy.
- 1901 Using an imported Schwan engine, the first motorcycle was built. It was belt driven and mounted over the front wheel. A much better and stronger machine, with a 3hp engine set vertically ahead of the pedals, then made an appearance. G. P. Mills was soon to set a record on the Land's End to John O'Groats run and this gave a boost to the firm's reputation. Although it took fifty-one hours, the engine performed faultlessly.
- 1903 Introduced the Raleighette, a belt-driven three-wheel motorcycle with the driver in the back and a wicker seat for the passenger, placed between the two front wheels. Due to financial losses the production only lasted until 1908.
- 1905 There had been a downturn in the trade generally and Raleigh began to advertise their machines at a considerably discounted price.
- 1906 Trade had become very poor so the company turned its attention to the production of bicycles until after the Great War.
- 1920 They returned to the motorcycle market with a brand new flat-twin model. This had the engine fitted in line with the frame.
- 1922 Two conventional singles were added to the lists, with either two or three speeds and belt final-drive.
- 1924 The reliability of the marque was demonstrated by Hugh Gibson who rode a combination round the British coast, while Marjorie Cottle reversed the direction on a solo.
A report on the 1924 Motor Cycle Show in Motor Sport Magazine reads, in part,
"The latest addition to the Raleigh range of motor cycles is a new 21 h.p. overhead-valve model, which has been designed essentially for speed work. It has a long stroke engine, is equipped with roller bearings in both big ends and. shaft bearings, has an all-drive chain drive and, with its low riding position and ease of control, should be an ideal machine for those who require speed as well as reliability. A new method of lubrication has been patented by the Raleigh Co. It combines the advantages of both the hand pump and mechanical systems, and is extremely simple. One oil pipe only connects the tank to the crank case, and either system can be used independently of the other. There is a hand pump on the tank which is connected by a feed pipe to the inlet of the mechanical pump. A byepass allows the passage of the oil to the crank, when the hand pump is used."
1928 Excerpt from Sports Mounts for 1928 in Motor Sport Magazine
"Raleigh is another firm which has seriously entered the sports field, and the fast rider will be attracted by the super-sports models 26 S.S. and 23. The 348 c.c. model has improved frame, twin petrol tanks, new forks and adjustable bars. The 498 c.c. o.h.v. model 23, has a two port engine with enclosed push rods and valve gear."
- 1933 The production of motorcycles stopped once again and the company returned to manufacturing bicycles. This trend lasted for many years.
- 1958 Late that year came the appearance of a moped using a 49cc Sturmey-Archer engine made by BSA.
- 1960 A complete turn-about saw a replacement of their own moped by a model built under licence from Motobecane and a copy of the French Mobylette. Throughout the 1960s a variety of models came and went - all using the same basic engine and transmission. The only true variation was the Wisp, which had been turned into a moped from a small-wheeled bicycle.
- 1971 By now, most models had gone; production was faltering, and although there was a trickle of mopeds and scooters - some built in Italy - the market had seriously declined. As a result, the company returned to the production of bicycles.