Founded by Richard Woodhead and Paul Angois in 1885, Raleigh is one of the oldest bicycle companies in the world. It became The Raleigh Cycle Company in 1888 when it was invested into by Frank Bowden and made into a Limited Company producing about 3 bicycles a week and employing 6 men. Under Bowden’s guidance Raleigh expanded rapidly and by 1913 was claimed to be the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world.
Between the wars Raleigh produced bicycles, motorcycles and three-wheel cars. After WW2 Raleigh became best known for it’s lightweight sports roadster bicycles and started acquiring other brands like BSA, Phillips, Sun, Armstrong, Norman, Rudge, Hercules,and Triumph.
By 1960 Raleigh had 75% of the UK market and owned Brooks saddles and Sturmey Archer gear company. With the purchase of Carlton Cycles of Worksop Raleigh had bought one of the largest lightweight racing frame specialists in the UK .
Raleigh continued to manufacture Carltons in Worksop until 1974 when they closed the small factory and moved with some of the staff to Ilkeston where the Special Bicycle Developments Unit was set up under the guidance of former Carlton owner Gerald O'Donovan. SBDU operated for just over 10 years and around 1000 complete bespoke frames were built, each by just one of a handful of highly skilled builders for top professional teams and highly discerning individuals. About 10% were track frames.
SBDU frames excelled in the pro ranks, taking many wins including 26 Classics, 62 stage wins in the Tour de France and overall win for Joop Zoetemelk in 1980, 6 world champions, 13 national road champions and 12 national pro-track champions for teams such as TI-Raleigh, System U, Raleigh Banana, and Raleigh Panasonic.
By 1999 Raleigh was in difficulties and by 2003 Raleigh had sold Brooks and Sturmey Archer and all bicycle production had ceased in UK.
In 2012 the Raleigh brand was bought by Dutch company Accell.