I totally agree. It was the the Raleigh and other "English racer" 3-speeds brought back to America with returning military men fromWW II that reestablished lightweight cycles in America. Schwinn had never stopped making quality lightweights, but in the 40's through the early 60's, they were emphasizing ballon tired cruisers, not lightweights. Everyone in America knew Schwinn, but few of us ever heard of a Paramount. I went from ballon-tired coaster brake bikes to a Raleigh 3-speed "English racer". It seemed enormously sophisticated by contrast. My first real lightweight was a Peugeot UO-8, but I bought a Raleigh Grand Prix for my wife a few years later. It was only after buying the Peugeot that I began to notice the Paramount and other derailleur models in the Schwinn catalogs.
We thought Raleighs were cool and sophisticated, and they were made in Nottingham, which in America was the second most famous English city after London in an era when most American children grew up having "Robin Hood" read to them by their parents. There was also a "Tales of Robin Hood" weekly series on American television in the 50's. Hundreds of thousands of Raleighs were bought by Americans who never heard of a Masi or Cinelli. Many of these are still in the garages of the now 50ish owners who still have never heard of a Masi.
Raleigh was a major influence on the popular culture not only of UK, but of America as well.. No Italian bike had this kind of impact in US and UK, and probably only Bianchi had this sort of importance even in Italy. Schwinn had this sort of influence in America, but not abroad. An interesting bit of trivia is that when I was studying Hausa, a language spoken in northern Nigeria, I found that the Hausa word for "bicycle" is ""raji". Now where do you think they got that? Raleigh's influence can be seen throughout the erstwhile British Empire.
I lusted after a mink blue and silver Raleigh Professional Mk IV with Brampton fastback stays for 30 years. After finally acquiring one from list member John Pergolizzi shortly before Christmas, I wouldn't trade it for any Masi or Cinelli on the planet.
Jerry "We don't need no stinking Masis" Moos Houston, TX
> "Well a day that started pretty badly has just got even worse. Merde!
> How was a Yorkshireman to know that over there in the States there's an
> outpost of the Raleigh Appreciation Society,"
> Ah.... but please do consider the fact that Raleigh, singlehandedly, gave we
> Americans our first real bicycles and saved cycling in this country from
> pipe-iron, balloon-tyred, bendy crank, "coaster bikes"!! We are forever
> emancipated from them. And forever indebted to Raleigh for it.
> American GIs, especially airmen, came from England after the war and simply
> demanded the kind of "lightweight" bikes they used on airbases. Is a Raleigh
> Sports a "lightweight".. you bet, if you were used to a 1940 Columbia or
> Schwinn. Hence Americans still call them "English Racers". What do we know?
> And many of us were raised on "English Racers".. Raleighs, Phillips, even
> Hercules tackily branded "AMF". They just resonate with some of us more than
> any fancy "handmade" Hetchens or Claud Butler. And no one... no one ever
> even heard of Italian or French bikes. No one. If anything, Raleigh did more
> to popularise Campagnolo components than any single company when they
> extensively used them starting in the early '60s.
> Raleigh is often criticised for "dumbing down" some of the brands they
> absorbed. Fair enough. Heck look what happened to Sunbeam in the end..
> kiddie bikes! But they kept the British cycle industry thriving long after
> others had given up. And yes, some of us, still think Raleigh made a jolly
> nice lightweight bike. I'll still match an early '50s Clubman or Lenton with
> anything in a "popular price" range made then. And surely the RRA was a
> worthy mount? If it was good enough for Reg Harris...
> And yes.... the Professional, International, Competition and Gran Prix et.
> al. remain icons of the '70s Bike Boom. Sorry, I may be a phillistine, but I
> never even heard of a Masi in 1973 when as a 15 year old I lusted after an
> International in "champagne". My dad collected Alfa Romeos... I sure wasn't
> going to ride some Italian bike!
> So yes the Heron will still have her champions at least on this side of the
> Atlantic. Even if it's now "gracing", of all things, Chinese-made,
> Raleigh-badged...... replicas of 1940s American coaster bikes. It's enough
> to make you weep...
> Peter Kohler
> Washington DC USA