Xmas morning 1977 was some thing of a bittersweet event for the 12-yr-aged me. In the kitchen area was a cardboard box covering up my Christmas present: a manufacturer new 10-speed Raleigh Europa racing bike, which was the sweet part of training course.
Regrettably there was also a bitter taste in my young throat, simply because I would have to give up my beloved purple Chopper in exchange for this brilliant pink contraption that arrived wrapped with the gold and black bands of the TI-Raleigh racing crew. Paul McCartney and Wings were blasting out of the radio with their questionable Xmas number a single Mull of Kintyre, which did not support to sweeten that blow! Just like any other young boy of the 70s who occurred to have 1, I beloved my Chopper more than just about just about anything else in the planet.
That dying trap on two wheels experienced been with me in the course of the pale ten years of flared trousers, Oxford bags and Rollermania, and experienced been pushed and ridden for several a mile about terrain that I’d assume 2 times about tackling even currently. Raleigh was a house title back again then, the quintessential British bike brand, and the only true bicycle maker of notice to the layperson. It was frequently claimed they were being the most important bike maker in the earth back again then even though the roadster-making Hero of India could have contested that.
Not Steve’s real Chopper, but a single quite very similar!
I was about 3 or four years outdated when I initial learned to trip solo on two wheels, and even to this working day can continue to try to remember that split second feeling of concern and elation as I realised that my father wasn’t actually keeping the saddle any more. That was on a friend’s balloon tyre bike, and quickly right after, when birthday time arrived around, I was proudly escorted to the local bicycle store where by I turned a grinning proprietor of a metallic sky-blue Raleigh Gresham Flyer. This is the bike that led me to the mighty Chopper, a number of decades and a handful of inches taller later on.
The decision to just take absent my purple aspiration device was down to my dad, who experienced made a decision that I was also old for it, and that I ought to have ‘a much more developed-up bike’. By way of my more mature brother we could get a family members discount on Raleigh bikes, so I had the brochure set in entrance of me.
I was pointed firmly in the direction of a sky blue Raleigh Arena, and almost gave in to that parental force nonetheless, there was also this boldly-coloured Europa in the brochure, a low cost and cheerful replica of the Ti-Raleigh group bicycle.
There had been also a pair of pictures of the famous (but not to me) TI-Raleigh racing staff in there, all decked out in woolly shorts and matching kit with the peaks on their caps turned upwards. I’d hardly ever seen just about anything rather like it… and why would I have? Biking and bicycle racing had been thoroughly unknown to me, and most other Brits for that make any difference. And nevertheless, there was just a thing about it, or at minimum those people photo. Concealed somewhere in amongst the glitz of that shiny coloured bike and international obscurity, and secret of the racing crew, was intrigue. Reluctantly my guardian caved in, and which is what I was presented for Christmas… little did I know at the time, that this bicycle would adjust my daily life permanently.
There was zero sporting fascination or intent in my typical functioning class relatives, right until that working day. These pictures of men in red, gold and black had my interest, and close to about the exact same time a Raleigh Television set advertisement showcasing Noel Edmonds also arrived on Tv. It was a cringeworthy advertisement, but at the stop of the advert a Raleigh staff rider, Cees Priem, rode earlier him and mentioned: “I trip Raleigh for a residing.”
Driving a bike as an real position was a full new thought to me, I’d under no circumstances read this sort of a thing. In a schoolboy aspiration type of way, the seeds have been sewn. I determined there and then that I preferred to be that dude, the one in the Television adverts and in the brochures, and the a single staying paid to journey a dazzling pink Raleigh bike. Of program, these issues did not come about to children like me, but at least I had a dream, albeit an really unacceptable and misunderstood just one to the relaxation of society in the Uk at that time.
From there on in my everyday living took a incredibly different route to any individual else around me, and was way off-piste in comparison to any of my good friends. Biking became an obsession, and every single spare minute I could steal was used on that bicycle, blindly chasing a aspiration that not possible aspiration that it seemed I experienced minor hope of obtaining.
The TI-Raleigh staff was all-dominant again then, profitable most of the classics and the Tour de France in 1980 although the only authentic connection to Britain was the bike brand. There were being just a handful of rebellious Brits who’d cracked the French dominated professional biking technique at that time: Graham Jones, Robert Miller, Paul Sherwin and Sean Yates among that decide on handful of, together with the by now very well-established Barry Hoban.
Number of bought the option to chase that continental racing desire. Only the most gifted and identified, who had been unbiased riders of a different breed to those of currently, experienced a possibility. Nevertheless I chased it in my very own way, although circumstance, possibility and capacity did not arrive jointly to convey matters to fruition.
Steve on the slopes. Copyright Steve Thomas
Quick forward a number of semi-enforced a long time out of major riding, I uncovered myself as soon as once more chasing bicycle goals, despite the fact that I had no strategy what they were by then. Prolonged long gone was the mighty TI-Raleigh crew, and mountain biking had just started to grow to be popular in the United kingdom. Somehow or a further it appeared that my “Eddy The Eagle style” and approach, and my options to go forth and do intense points on a bicycle also appealed to Raleigh, and I located myself driving for a 10 years below their banner.
Raleigh as a corporation experienced gone via a ton of improvements in the course of the preceding many years, a pattern which was set to proceed and slowly sap the lifeblood out of their former market dominance. The as soon as regular planet of bike building had carried out a drastic change eastwards toward outsourcing, a path enforced on a great deal of the British manufacturing industry, A wave of new and trendy American manufacturers ended up also taking a maintain on the reins of neat when it arrived to mountain biking, which did not bode nicely for an ‘old school’ brand this kind of as Raleigh.
During that period of time I expended a excellent offer of time at what was then the ‘Raleigh Kingdom’, which coated a considerable patchwork of true estate in Nottingham. Inside of just about every making you could feeling that reverence and historical past, a grand legacy that was perhaps also a component of their decline. The new makes were considerably less regular in their strategy, while Raleigh was incredibly considerably established in its approaches great outdated good bikes for all the household, their crusty bread and salty butter enterprise from the get-go.
In the course of the 90s I was privileged enough to aspect in a Raleigh Tv set advert, in brochures and on posters, whilst pedalling my way up and above tons of intense terrain, typically on Raleigh bikes and with their help and blessing. I really substantially experienced my own book with blank pages and a pen in it. On reflection I guess I was in fact residing out that schoolboy desire, but in a very various way than I experienced imagined all all those yrs ahead of. Individuals glory times may be lengthy gone for all but oh how I would have cherished to have observed Staff GB aboard Raleigh bikes, and Sir Brad win that 2012 Tour de France driving a crimson, gold and black Raleigh staff equipment!
All these several years later and I continue to get goosebumps when viewing videos of people hazy times when Zoetemelk, Knetemann, Raas, Kuiper and co ruled the professional street racing roost, aboard gleaming Raleigh bikes that were crafted in Nottingham. Only now, on reflection, do I ponder how points would have played out for me experienced I succumbed to that blue Arena bike. I’m fairly confident that experienced I finished so I wouldn’t have taken up biking, which would have greatly changed the path of my lifestyle. This truly does go a long way towards proving the worth of icons and a brand, not to mention the energy of a bike for Christmas.
Thank you Raleigh, for serving to a single schoolboy chase his goals. And thank you Apple for not inventing the Apple iphone earlier…