Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Raleigh's Bike Boom Flagship: Raleigh Professionals Marks II-V, 1971-1981



Any racing enthusiast who wants the very best will find this custom-built bicycle completely satisfying. The frame geometry assures a lively and responsive performance. The special configuration of the rear triangle gives added rigidity, a necessity for top competition. Reynolds 531 double butted tubes throughout and completely Campagnolo equipped, including brakes.
1975 Raleigh catalogue



One of the most iconic of racing bicycles during the 1970s Bike Boom in America, the Raleigh Professional also represented the heyday of the marque in the country. Its trademark "blue mink" and silver paint, gold lug lining, lashings of lustrous chrome, characteristic "fastback" rear stays and all that much coveted Campagnolo componentry made it one of the most aesthetically pleasing and desired lightweights of the era and often a "pipe dream" machine for a generation of young cyclists on account of its very high cost. For those fortunate enough to own one, then or now, it remains one of the most distinctive and pleasing of racing machines in appearance and ride.


This article examines the various marks and sub-variations of the Raleigh Professional Marks II-V which was Raleigh's top of the line racing machine for the US market from 1971 onwards and post 1974 exceeded only by the Raleigh SBDU Ilkeston-built Team Professionals. In production from 1971 to 1981 with no fewer than four "marks" or versions, the Professionals Marks II-IV were built by Carlton in Worksop rather than by Raleigh in Nottingham and were essentially rebadged variants of the Carlton Giro d'Italia frame. The final version and also Worksop-built, the Mark V, was based on the Tour de France winning Raleigh Team machines built by the SBDU.

With a huge firm like Raleigh with a global market for which specialised products were developed, it's essential to define terms so this article concerns itself solely with Carlton-built Raleigh Professionals for the US Market only c. 1971-1981 not Carlton badged Professionals for the British market.

Even more than most Raleigh models of this era, dating and identifying Professionals can be a bit of a minefield especially if one falls into the "brochure trap" of trying to reconcile production machines with the blandishments of a paper brochure. With Raleigh, it's more meaningful to ascertain the serial number especially the letter prefix which determines the production year of the frame that may often bracket the brochure "year". Further, as Raleigh/Carlton got a bit inundated during the early 1970s "Bike Boom" in the U.S., there were production delays. Hence, we find the Mark II Pro Limited Edition advertised in the 1970 brochure was, by production date serial numbers, actually built in 1971. Worse, there were Mark II, III and Mark IVs all built the same year and Mark IIIs portrayed as Mark IVs in the 1972 catalogue, etc. etc.


THE CARLTON CONNECTION 

The cover of the 1960 brochure, the year Carlton was acquired by Raleigh. credit: V-CC on line library

Founded in 1898 by Fred Hanstock in the village of Carlton, Nottinghamshire, Carlton Cycles moved to Worksop in 1934 and began to concentrate solely on lightweight club and racing cycles. Under the slogan "Hand Made Cycles at Mass Production Prices", Carlton established itself as a leader in the field with a wide range of specially designed frames for timetrialling, road racing, track, club and even cycle polo which were renown for their craftsmanship, finish and distinctive lugwork as well as their advanced design and engineering. Moreover, it mostly sold complete machines with carefully selected components and fittings with a broad price range. In 1939, Carlton was bought by the O'Donovan family with D.R. (Dan) O'Donovan the Managing Director. In 1958 his son, Gerald O' Donovan, joined the firm and became Manager and Chief Designer two years later.

By the mid 1950s, British bicycle sales were in a prolonged slump concurrent with a marked increase in private car ownership aided by hire purchase schemes. Although use of bicycles as basic transport diminished, the market for racing, sports and leisure machines remained hopeful with increased leisure time and intense interest in cycle racing especially the growth of mass start racing in Britain with the Tour of Britain, Tour of the South-West, London-Holyhead etc.

It was a market, especially at the high end, that Raleigh, the world's largest cycle manufacturer, was unable to tap at the time. Its last professional grade, custom order lightweight bicycle, the fabled Raleigh Record Ace, was out of production by 1954 and by the end of the decade its longstanding Lenton series of entry level sports machines with hub gears was nearing the end of its productive and profitable life. Indeed, Raleigh was so wedded to the hub gear through its ownership of Sturmey-Archer that it was ill-served when the derailleur came to dominate sports and racing cycling. Moreover as the epitome of bicycle mass production, Raleigh had little penetration of the discerning club market which always favoured small independent bespoke frame builders.

As early as 1957, Raleigh explored setting up a specialist lightweight building unit in the old Sturmey-Archer gear works which was vacant after its new factory extension had opened. This new unit was to be a subsidiary under Reg Harris, Raleigh's longstanding spokesman and track star, and branded under his name. But plans were dropped amid the upheaval of the ongoing negotiations over the takeover of Raleigh by Tube Investments and the absorption of its expansive British Cycle Corporation brands and production at Nottingham.

To provide a quick "key in the door" to the top-end racing and sports cycle market,  Reg Harris instead suggested acquiring Carlton as a going concern. It not only had the reputation among clubmen that Raleigh lacked, but its product and production offered an unusual but very effective means of selling "custom made" bicycles within a set range of options and features that gave most of the benefits of a truly bespoke frame, but at a lower price point. It also enabled semi mass production.




So it was that in March 1960 that Raleigh acquired all of the share capital of Carlton Cycles Ltd. Such was its reputation and capability, that Carlton's name, design and manufacturing capacity (at Worksop, 24 miles from Raleigh's Nottingham's works) was not only retained but expanded to be the centre of all high-end racing bike and Reynolds 531 production for the whole of the Raleigh "empire" which now included all of British Cycle Corporation's brand and markets. Carlton would now, in addition to its own range, manufacture lightweights for Raleigh, Triumph, Sun, Dunelt and others based on the Raleigh "branding" principle. Finally, heading Carlton's design department was Gerald O' Donovan who proved one of the leading designers of racing bicycles both for professional use and also commercially.

Moreover, starting in 1963 Carlton fielded its own racing team, Carlton-BMB (British Manufactured Bearings), comprised of George Shaw, Michael Coupe, Mike Harpham and Sean Ryan. Based on the vagaries of  competing corporate marketing goals, the team would be variously called Carlton-BMB or Raleigh-BMB (1966, 1968) and in 1967 George Shaw became manager and the squad, composed of such star riders as Bob Addy, Bernard Burns and Arthur Metcalf, tallied 40 first-place wins in road, track and cyclo-cross competition.

Although many moaned about Carlton being yet one of many proud independents "swallowed up" by Raleigh, its name, brand recognition, sales and overall market impact in lightweight cycling increased exponentially not just at home but throughout a now truly global market under the aegis of TI Raleigh. Significantly, this now included the potentially enormous American market.


The first U.S. Market catalogue for Carlton in 1961. Owned by Raleigh since the previous year, the marque is still marketed under its original name. The only models offered were the Franco-Suisse and the Catalina.  credit: Bulgier cycle catalogue archives.

If bicycle sales lagged in Britain, those in America, focused almost entirely on the leisure and sports market, increased in 1959-60 under Raleigh Industries of America (RIA). In 1963, TI Raleigh exported an astonishing 802,000 cycles to the U.S.A. although only 60,000 of them were actually badged as Raleigh or associated marques, the others were sold under different house brands for the American market for Huffy, AMF and department stores as had long been the custom of the former British Cycle Corp., but at very low profit margins. This would change in the mid 'sixties to a new marketing plan under the new President of RIA Ken Collins. This phased out the mass off brand imports and instead stressed selling only Raleigh brands (including Rudge and Humber) through an extended network of carefully selected dealers serviced by regional distribution centres. In 1966, 132,000 "real" Raleighs were sold increasing to 153,000 the following year all at substantially greater profit margins and expanding Raleigh's brand recognition as well.


In 1964 Raleigh Industries of America offered a single Reynolds 531 bicycle, made by Carlton, in its range that year.  Although not identified here, this was the Carlton Catalina. credit: RetroRaleighs

Under the dynamic leadership of new RIA Chairman Norman Langenfeld who was appointed in spring 1968, Raleigh sales in the U.S. further increased as the country was on the cusp of its "Bike Boom", one that would be dominated for Raleigh by the sale of its traditional three-speed Sports, Chopper and for the first time, an extended range of top-end "10-speed-racers" made by Carlton. By 1969, Raleigh was selling over 200,000 machines a year in America through a network of 14,000 dealers.

Together, Raleigh and Carlton developed one of the most successful quality lightweight cycle ranges for the American market that was an icon of "The Bike Boom" of the early to mid 1970s. The new range was gradually introduced in 1968 with the Raleigh Super Course and Grand Prix and in the following year the Professional, International and Competition were added at the top of the range offering the aspiring American racing and serious sports/touring cyclist the widest range of quality Reynolds 531 built lightweights in the country. Although built by Carlton, these were all badged as Raleighs and represented the finest line-up of lightweights offered by the Company anywhere to date. Indeed, it was a range unknown in Britain where the top-end machines were sold and marketed as Carltons.


Raleigh's new range of top quality Carlton-made lightweights was introduced in the 1969 model year catalogue although the models themselves available from the previous autumn. The Professional Mark I (left) was derived from the Raleigh Ruberg frameset of 1967-70 whilst the Competition (right) was rebranded as the International in 1970 with Campagnolo components. Note the stressing of the Carlton connection and the Carlton-BMB team. credit: RetroRaleighs website


RALEIGH PROFESSIONAL MARK I (1968-1970)

For complete details on the Mark I Professional, derived from the Raleigh Ruberg, see:

https://on-the-drops.blogspot.com/2017/11/continental-racing-raleigh-raleigh.html



An intriguing "one-off" is this 1968 Carlton/Raleigh frame serial C4619 948 (the last three digits indicating a custom build) that seems to be a prototype for the Raleigh Professional that uses the Carlton Giro d'Italia/Team Carlton frameset painted in a scheme similar to the Raleigh Mark I Professional (a variation on the Ruberg team livery). This was sold in the Netherlands to an Australian collector in 2010.

RALEIGH PROFESSIONALS MARK II-IV

True to its name, all of the Raleigh Professionals had bona fides in professional cycle racing, the Mark I using the frame designed for the German Ruberg racing team and building on its success, Raleigh looked to a new Professional for the U.S. Market based on a "race proved" (to use Carlton's own slogan) model that had, in fact, been first introduced to the pro racing by the newly formed Raleigh-BMB Team in 1966. This was an improved version of the Carlton Giro d'Italia which came out the previous year.


The Giro d'Italia was completely different from previous Carltons and the Raleigh Ruberg, being a very contemporary British time trial/criterium frame featuring a tight rear triangle with Brampton "Victor" fast back stays (a stronger variant on the original fast-back stays on the early Giro d'Italias), short rapid taper chainstays, high bottom bracket (10⅝"), 73° angles, short top tube and short fork rake. Brampton Latin Line lugs, sloping Cinelli-style fork crowns (actually Davis crowns) and ¾ chromed fork end socks and Allen key seat bolts made for a very attractive, up-to-date frame. Unlike the very strongly constructed (and heavier for it) Raleigh Ruberg/Pro Mark I, the more nimble and lighter Giro was built for fast running on good road surfaces, ideal for British competitive cycling conditions rather than the pave of the Continent and with sensitive handling and good cornering thanks to the high bottom bracket.

The redesigned "Victor" fastback stay cluster of the Raleigh Pro Mark II (as well as the Contre la Montre time trial frame). credit: V-CC on-line library.

One of the advantages of a cycle manufacturer sponsoring its own team was the obvious marketing promotion attached to its products and none better than providing the customer with a chance to own and ride a bicycle with bona fides as an actual team machine. Hence the increasing number of "team replicas" in the 1960s. In 1967, Carlton introduced a new range of lightweight frames/cycles, the top model being the first "team replica", the "Team Carlton/BMB Bicycle" which used the "Giro d'Italia" frame with a stronger fastback attachment than the initial models. Typical for Carltons of the era, though, the complete machine's components were a mixed bag of Simplex derailleurs, Zeus crankset, Weinmann 999 brakes and rims, GB stem/Brampton bars etc.


The 1967/68 Team Carlton/BMB frameset (left), based on the 1965 Carlton Giro d'Italia (right) were the roots of the Raleigh Professionals Mark II-IV 1971-1976.

It was this basic frameset that would be chosen as the basis for what most still associate as being the Raleigh Professional for the first three-quarters of the 1970s. As such it was unique among the other top-end Bike Boom Era machines for the US Market which were more conventional stage racing models like the Peugeot PX-10, Cinelli SC and Schwinn Paramount. And, unlike the somewhat bare bones Mark I, the new generation of Raleigh Pros would be very much top-of-the-line machines with full Campagnolo components including the recently introduced brakeset with lashings of beautiful chrome and subtle, elegant paint finishes which made this one of the most attractive and coveted of lightweights of its era.


RALEIGH PROFESSIONAL MARK II (1971)

F serial no. prefix for 1971 manufacture and said to be limited to 500 framesets but evidence of this running into at least 529 as individually numbered decaled. A classic example of conflict between catalogue and production year, this appears in the "1970" catalogue which specifically mentions "only 500 will be made in 1970" but, in fact, all of the Mark IIs have F serials nos. indicating they were actually made in 1971. F2657, no. 338, sold on eBay in February 2013 by the original owner was bought on 9 March 1971 and had a pat. 70 Campagnolo derailleur indicating these were produced at the very beginning of the year.  There is no sequencing of the serial nos. and the limited number and further there are examples of early serial nos. not appearing to have had the limited edition decal, either. F535 has no limited edition no. whilst F2220 is no. 269. 

The Mark II was based on the Carlton Giro d'Italia frameset with fastback seat stays, rapid taper chainstays with no dimples, high bottom bracket, 73 deg. angles and Davis sloping fork crown. Campagnolo drop-outs with mudguard eyelets. Nervex bb. 122 mm rear spacing. 5-speed freewheel. Chromed 10.5" front fork socks and fork crowns only. Haden Latin Line lugs. No braze ons except rear derailleur cable stop. Mink/silver livery. All Campagnolo components including brakeset (a fair number being the rare "no name" initial version of the calipers). 3ttt Grand Prix stem/GB bars. Some early examples have Cinelli stems and 'bars as originals. Brooks small rivet Professional saddle. Weinmann 293 sprint rims. 172.5 mm cranks. Silver Silca frame pump with Carlton "racing man" decal.

The Professional Mark I was in production through late summer 1970 and indeed there are more examples of these E prefixed frames than any others indicating both the growing demand for the model and the delays in getting the Mark II special edition into production which didn't occur until early 1971. As it was, the Limited Edition was extended beyond 500 and was a complete sell-out, the delays only adding to the anticipation and the desirability of the model. One of the great selling points was that it came fitted with the new (actually introduced in 1969 but largely for professional use at first) Campagnolo brakeset which was in very short supply initially and much sought after. Indeed, Raleigh appears to have bought a quantity of the first versions with no "Campagnolo" stamped on the calipers for these machines, a good proportion of them having these rare versions.

The new Mark II was considerably more expensive than the Mark I, costing $330 ($2000 in 2017 inflation adjusted price) vs $220 ($1350 adjusted for inflation) due largely to the inclusion of the costly new Campagnolo brakeset. Henceforth the Raleigh Professional became the paragon of "10 speed bikes" in America and appealed as much or indeed more to the "gimme the best" customer as much as the discerning racing cyclist for whom it was really designed. For the newcomer to such things, it was perhaps too specialised in its handling characteristics and design for general riding, more so than the Peugeot PX-10 or Schwinn Paramount, and thus it sometimes assumed a "garage queen" reputation and reflected in the large numbers of Professionals that can still be had secondhand on eBay or garage sales in near mint, virtually unused condition. Buying a sophisticated racing bicycle proved easier than riding or maintaining one it seems for many.

The famous "mink/silver" colour scheme for the Mark II-IIIs originated in Carlton's Contre La Montre frameset of 1969 which was designed for time trialling, although the "Double Lilac" sounds even more intriguing and, in fact, used for the Raleigh Competition Mark II of 1972. 

The Mark II Professional mock-up as it appeared in the 1970 catalogue. Note the pump (appears to be a Britannia Sprint Veloce) fitted below the top tube, on production models it was on the seat tube and was a silver Silca. The stem/bars are GB/Brampton rather than the 3ttt mated with GB 'bars of production machines. This appears, too, to have the Raleigh anniversary headbadge whereas all production examples had the heron crest headbadge. No Mark IIs appear to have actually built in 1970 but rather in early 1971 and having F prefixed serial numbers.

The Limited Edition Mark II as described in the 1970 brochure. In the event, more than 500 of these frames were actually built as there are recorded numbers at least up to 525.

Specifications for the Mark II Professional in the 1970 catalogue. credit: Bulgier.com

Details of the special Limited Edition and Mark Two seat tube decals and "Carlton" decal on the down tube unique to the Mark IIs. From F2217, no. 253, sold on eBay 2009.


A near mint Mark II Pro as offered on eBay in July 2012: serial no. F2657, limited edition no. 338 and complete with its original bill of sale from Velo Sport, Oakland, CA. dated 13 March 1971. Total cost including tax: $321.78

A beautifully preserved Mark II.


RALEIGH PROFESSIONAL MARK III (1971)

serial no. prefix F for 1971 manufacture. Same frame as the Mark II, but with 9" chromed rear triangle ends. 122 mm rear spacing. 3ttt Record stem/GB 'bars. Brooks small rivet Professional saddle. Weinmann 293 sprint rims. 172.5 mm cranks. Silver Silca frame pump with Carlton "racing man" decal. Frame size range extended to include 20½" and 22½".


Raleigh Professional Mark III specs from the 1971 catalogue

Tapping into the great demand for the Mark II which far exceeded the initial Limited Edition run, Raleigh effortlessly followed through with a general production model, the Mark III, which differed mainly in having chromed rear triangle ends and a greater choice of frame sizes. 

As a group, these F series frames are widely considered the best examples of the "fastback" Raleigh Pros in terms of general finish and workmanship; exemplars of "old school" pre mass production Carlton craftmanship and with the full chrome, eye-catching and luxurious yet unstated in that British manner by virtue of the very '70s mink/silver livery. 


Still having to share a catalogue page with the International, the Mark III Professional (left) in the 1971 brochure. credit: The Headbadge website


Typical of Raleigh catalogue conflicts during the Bike Boom, the 1972 brochure shows a Mark III Professional advertised as a Mark IV although there is no evidence of any Mark IVs being built in anything but the new blue mink/silver scheme which had already been introduced on the last run of F series Pros in 1971. credit: The Headbadge website

Another minty Raleigh Pro (did anyone actually ride these things?!), a Mark III, serial no. F6455, 1971. The last batch of Pros built at Worksop that year were in the new blue mink/silver scheme and known as Mark IVs. 

A perfect Mark III. credit: member Wrenchbender, Yahoo Raleigh/Carlton Professional group


RALEIGH PROFESSIONAL MARK IV (1971-1976)

serial nos. F (71), G (72), A (73) and the new W prefix system late 73 onwards) for 1971-1977 manufacture. Decoding the W nos.: W (Worksop) Second Letter denotes Month (A=Jan, B=Feb, D=Mar, E=Apr, G=May, H=Jun, K=Jul, L=Aug, M=Sep, N=Oct, P=Nov, S=Dec), Third Letter denotes year with 3 for 73, 4 for 74 etc through 9 and then repeats, remaining digits indicating sequential quantity that month 000000-999999. So WB4002438 would be a Worksop frame built in February 1974 and the 2438 frame that month.

F serial nos. (1971) identical to the Mark III except for the new blue mink and silver livery and is shown in the 1972 catalogue in the old brown mink/silver scheme but still called a Mark IV. Silver Silca frame pump with Carton "racing man" logo decal on most observed examples not the REG white/chrome pump shown in the catalogues.

Most "G" serial no. (up to 4000 or so) (1972) examples have Haden Birds Mouth lugs, rapid taper chainstays and mudguard eyelets.  Some like G1357 have covnentional Latin Line lugs.  170 mm cranks. Campagnolo pedals stamped "1037 on pedal body. Brooks small rivet Professional saddle. AVA eyeletted sprint rims. REG white/"chrome" plastic frame pump with Carlton "racing man" decal.

"G" higher serial nos (4000s up) and most "A" serial nos. (1973) models have plain Latin Line lugs, dimpled chainstays and show considerably greater front fork rake. 126 mm rear spacing and six-speed freewheels (many original examples being Regina).  170 mm cranks. Campagnolo Superleggero pedals marked "1037 on pedal body. New slanted white block letter "RALEIGH" logo on down tube, "Professional" script on top tube now in white instead of gold, "Carlton" on seat tube and Reynolds 531 triangle decals on fork blades.  Bar tape is GEM powder blue plastic with white plugs.  Brooks large rivet Professional saddles. 

Very high "A"s (9000s) and W prefixed serial no. examples (phased in late 1973 onwards) have "CC" cut-out on the bb undershell and rapid taper chainstays with no dimples.  No mudguard eyelets. In addition to the usual blue mink and silver livery, silver/black offered in 1974 model year. REG white/"chrome" plastic frame pump with Carlton block logo decal. Silver models fitted with silver Silca pumps.


Specification list for the Mark IV Professional: 1972 (left) and 1973 (right)

From the Carlton UK brochure (1972) which offered the Mark IV as a frameset in Carlton or Raleigh team liveries. This details the specific frame measurements as well as frame angles for the Mark IV. credit: V-CC on-line library

The Mark IV was initially no different from the Mark III with the exception of what came to be associated with the model: the elegant "Blue Mink" and silver finish which was altogether more attractive and suitable to a racing machine than the original brown mink. The livery changed actually on the final batch of F series frame made in 1971 although the Mark IV was a 1972 model year offering. Adding to the confusion, a brown Mark III was used to illustrate a Mark IV in the 1972 catalogue.  It was a fitting beginning to a four-year production run that ground out more Mark IVs than probably any top-end racing machine of its era. Specifications changed "without notice" during this busy time with many variations and contradictions in terms of lugs, chain stays, bottom brackets, mudguard eyelets, rear spacing for 5- or 6-speed freewheels etc. The above cited examples in detail remain "a work in progress" in terms of ascertaining what happened when in relation to serial numbers and build dates.

The sheer numbers produced taxed Carlton's production capability past its limits and there were consequently quality control issues c. 1972-3 with the whole of Worksop's output although the vast majority of Pros were still a credit to the old firm. For the collector today, most of the indifferent examples have long since been winnowed out and indeed the number of near mint Professionals available is proof enough of its popularity in sales in a boom as opposed to its actual use.

Prices (suggested retail/dealer cost) for Raleigh Professional Mark IV (model DL-180)
  • 23 April 1973      $460/$314
  • 26 April 1974      $575/$406
  • 1 March 1975      $649/$494
  • 26 March  1976   $650/$495

The author's Raleigh Professional which was built in late 1971 (serial no. F8165), but completed in 1972 (Campagnolo date codes) as a Mark IV in the new "Blue Mink" and silver scheme. Bought on eBay from the son of the original owner, this is typical of many Pros of the era in having barely a 100 original miles on it and in near perfect, mint original condition. Quality of Pros vary greatly and it's generally conceded that these F series ones (and yes, they did turn out Mark II, III and IVs all that one year!) are the best with superb build quality and finish.

Build details on the author's 1971-built Mark IV showing the beautifully shaped fork with the original short (46-47mm offset), Brampton Latin Line head lugs and chromed Davis fork crown, the distinctive "Victor" seat cluster and fastback stays and the unusual mating of a 3ttt Record stem to GB Map of Britain 'bars which characterised these lovely machines.

Details from serial no. G17XX offered on Bikeville.com and showing the distinctive Haden "Birds Mouth" lugs used on these 1972 built frames as well as the dimpled chainstays. The lugs were mostly leftovers from discontinued Carlton Flyers and Grand Prixs c. 1964-71 which used them. credit: Bikeville.com

The "CC" (Carlton Cycles) cut-out in the bottom bracket shells was introduced in 1973. credit: Bikelist.com

Beginning with the G serial numbers, the front fork has a greater offset and the rake begins lower in the blades.The original fork offset was 47-48mm whilst the later one was 65mm.

The uniquely stamped "1037 A" Campagnolo Superleggera pedals as fitted to most Raleigh Professionals from 1973 onwards. credit: www.gscicleria.com

The Professional finally got its own brochure page in the 1973 catalogue and the first time the Mark IV was portrayed in blue mink even though it had been in production since the end of 1971. credit: ThreeSpeedHub website

The Professional Mark IV shown in the 1974 catalogue in the optional silver/black livery found on late A and W series frames built in 1973-74. credit: The Headbadge website

A stunning and completely original example of the silver/black Professional Mark IV, serial no. WL4004642, as offered by www.gscicleria.com. credit: www.gscicleria.com

The first Raleigh team professional offered to the public was by Carlton in 1972 which sold, to the UK market only, a Mark IV frameset in either the old Carlton Team livery or the new Raleigh one introduced that year.  This mint example above, fitted with full Campagonolo equipment, was purchased new that year. credit: d.m.muschiall from Yahoo Raleigh Team Professional group.


RALEIGH TEAM PROFESSIONAL (1973-1974)

A serial nos. for 1973 production. Model no. DL-185. The first Raleigh Team Professional for the U.S. Market and essentially a Mark IV Professional painted in the new TI Raleigh Team livery introduced in 1973 and fitted with the new Campagnolo Super Record component group which featured titanium bb and pedal spindles, alloy headset, lightened seatpost and more cut-out chainrings. This reduced the overall catalogue spec'd weight from 22 lbs. to 20 lbs. The fork rake was back to the original 47mm judging from the catalogue mock-up model. 

This was introduced in the 1974 brochure although it is believed most if not all were indeed made in 1973 with "A" serial numbers. This same frame was sold in the U.K. market as a frameset only in the new TI Raleigh colours or the old TI Carlton livery as per the Carlton price list 1 May 1973.

These should not be confused with the Raleigh SBDU built frames from Ilkeston which first came into production in April 1974 and were of a completely different design and had SB prefixed serial numbers.


The object of much lust and envy by young cyclists in the 1970s, the new Raleigh Team Professional as portrayed in the 1974 brochure... and rather fancifully with black anodised headset and chainrings not offered on production Campagnolo Super Record components. This was one of the first complete racing bikes sold in the U.S. with the complete SR gruppo. 

For the American commercial market, the team replica in fact had the far superior Campagnolo Super Record group compared to the components used on the actual team bikes and was one of the very first complete bicycles sold to the general public with the new gruppo. The price list for Raleigh Industries of America date 26 April 1974 shows only "Special Order Only/Price on Application". Very few appear to have been sold as bona fide original examples (as opposed to later repainted Mark IVs in team colours) are exceptionally rare and limited, so far, to the below example.

A very special machine: serial no. A6230 owned by Mark Winkelman. This was originally shipped to Raleigh's West Coast sale representative in 1973/74 by Gerald O'Donovan. It was obtained by Mark directly from the sales representative in 2002 in all original paint. Delivered as a frameset only, the sales rep switched a component set from a stock Mark IV Pro. It is, however, not the frame used in the famous 1974 brochure photo being a 23 1/2" frame rather than the 22 1/2" used in the photo. Note also this has the greater 65mm fork offset. Mark completely outfitted the frame as per the brochure depiction with the adnodised parts and including an exceptionally rare 1973 date coded Super Record rear derailleur. credit: Mark Winkelman. 

Details of the same machine. credit: Mark Winkelman


RALEIGH PROFESSIONAL MARK V (1976-1981)

Mark V: W serial nos. for 1976-81 production. A complete rework of the model for the 1977 model year and based on the SBDU Ilkeston team racing bikes with conventional rear stays with oversized caps, rapid taper chain stays, semi sloping Vagner fork crown and standard height bb. Haden Sovereign lugs with windows. Chromed drop-out facings only. GB Biba stem/Raleigh bars. Brooks large rivet Professional saddle. Mavic sprint rims and low-flange Campagnolo Record hubs.

With its frame dating to 1965 and considered "quirky" in its handling by some, it was time to replace and upgrade the Raleigh Professional by the mid 1970s. The Bike Boom had run its course and sales of top-end racing bikes fell back to their merit rather than fad or frenzy. Raleigh, too, was now at the top of competitive racing with its world famous TI Raleigh Racing Team headed by Peter Post and its racing bicycle production by the new Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) as a separate operation in Ilkeston under Gerald O'Donovan. This designed and built a new generation of top end racing Raleighs both for the team and the specialist consumer and helped pioneer the latest Reynolds 753 tubing.

Thus the inspiration for the latest (and last) Raleigh Professional was indeed Raleigh not Carlton and was, in effect, a mass produced, at Worksop, Reynolds 531 version of the latest Raleigh Team bikes being built at Ilkeston. Almost all of the essentials-- lugs, geometry, frame features-- were replicated in the new Professional which was fitted out with full Campagnolo Nuovo Record components.   The colour, Steel Blue, was very similar to the Blue Mink and the silver seat tube bands and head tube was carried over from the Mark IV.  In keeping with preferences of the era, the Mark V lacked all the glorious chrome of the early model but had chromed dropout facings.

Costing $699 (as of April 1977), the new Mark V Professional breathed new life into the model and the marque. If anything, it was a more conventional stage racing machine than the Mark IV with nimble handling, but more predictable steering and more stable with a standard bb height. Workmanship issues at Worksop had long since been resolved and many consider the Mark V the best of the lot overall for its handling and build quality.


For the 1977 model year, the Raleigh Professional was totally reworked with a new frame modelled after the Raleigh Team bikes made by the SBDU in Ilkeston with conventional road frame geometry (73 parallel) and lower bb compared to the Mark IV. Alas, for the US market it also came festooned with CPSC mandated reflectors and, yes, a chainguard on the crankset! credit: The Headbadge website

Build details of the completely redesigned Mark V Pro: note the oversized seat stay caps, Haden Sovereign lugs and slotted bb shell, Vagner fork crown, bb braze-on cable guides and chromed drop-out facings. Serial no. WK8001539 denotes the 1539 frame built at Worksop in July 1978. credit: from an eBay auction, December 2013.

The presentation of the Mark V was especially pleasing and detailed in the 1978 catalogue. credit: The Headbadge website


The Raleigh Professional Mark V in the 1981 brochure at the end of its production run. These were among the last frames built at Worksop before the closure of the works that May.


The Raleigh Professional Mark V in "exploded" form in the 1980 RIA spare parts manual. credit: ThreeSpeedHub website


And the complete parts list. Note that the colour is now referred to as Steel Blue. credit: ThreeSpeedHub website


RACING RALEIGH PROS



The Raleigh Professional proved worthy of its name and figured in the top echelons of the professional peloton from 1966-73 as well as being the first "real" racing bike of many a young aspiring amateur competitive cyclist. Indeed, it figured uniquely in the formative years of British professional racing on the Continent and the start of the famous TI Raleigh Team and the first participation of American riders on the European pro circuit. 

RALEIGH-BMB (1966)

Hitherto, Raleigh's involvement and sponsorship of professional competitive cycling was confined to track racing (Reg Harris) and pre-war with RRA individual road records. Its purchase of Carlton led to it entering the growing field of mass start road racing with the first Carlton-BMB team in 1963. The name Raleigh  was first attached to the team in 1966 as Raleigh-BMB rather than Carlton and raced as such for one season before changing back to Carlton-BMB in 1967. Managed by George Shaw, Peter Chisman, Benny Dobson and Mike Coupe comprised the squad and were the first to use the new Giro d'Italia in professional racing as Raleigh badged Professionals. These were fitted with mostly French components, but with GB stems/'bar/brakesets as GB was a co-sponsor. 


The initial Raleigh-B.M.B. team of 1966 (left to right: Mike Coupe, George Shaw and Benny dobson) with their Raleigh Professionals, the first time the type was used by a professional racing team. The following year, the team was renamed Carlton-B.M.B. and continued to use the machine, badged as Carltons, until 1971.

TI RALEIGH (1972-1973)

In 1972 Raleigh decided its name would hitherto be attached to the longstanding and very successful TI Carlton Team and starting that season it would be known as TI Raleigh Team. This was still managed by George Shaw initially and then by John Larcombe and carried on with most of the former Carlton team members including Dave Rollinson, Brian Jolly, Fiory Ongenae,  Phill Marrows, John Atkins, Pete Smith, Derek Harrison and Steve Williams. 

For equipment, the team settled on Carlton made Mark IV Professionals (the Carlton team switching between this and a model with conventional seat stays) in the Raleigh racing livery of overall deep red with white-blue-white seat tube bands and white head tube. Components included Brooks Professional saddles, toeclips and straps; Simplex Criterium gears and seat pillars; Stronglight 93 chainsets; Weinmann rims and brakes.

The first year of what would eventually become one of the most successful professional racing teams of the era was inauspicious with Dave Watson, Phil Morrows, Pete Smith and Brian Jolly all suffering from injuries and illness throughout most of it. The team competed in the Tour of Switzerland and the Amstel Gold Race but the big win came in the Tour of the North in England with Brian Jolly claiming the honours. Gordon Johnson came in second place in the World Championships and won the Australian Sprint competition. 

For the 1972 season, the TI Carlton Team was renamed the TI Raleigh Team and equipped with Mark IV Professionals.

The March 1972 issue of International Cycle Sport introducing the 1972 TI Raleigh Team and detailing the specifications of the Pro Mark IV's used. credit: member "retrovelo" from Yahoo Raleigh Team Professional Group.

Another photo of the newly renamed TI Raleigh Racing Team of 1972 posing with a Raleigh Professional outside the Waldorf Hotel, London. The brakeset appears to be Weinmann 500s with slotted levers. Credit: Erik Van Herck, Cycling Archives websites

The 1972 TI Raleigh Team. credit: Erik Van Herck, Cycling Archives website

Brian Jolly on a Raleigh Mark IV team professional. Note the all chromed front fork.  Jolly won that year's Tour of the North. credit: member "retrovelo" from Yahoo Raleigh Team Professional Group

Peter Smith with his Raleigh Mark IV team professional, 1972. Note he still wears his Carlton embroidered shorts. credit: Cycling Archives, Hugo Tack.

For the 1973 season, TI Raleigh adopted a new racing livery that would come to be one of the most distinctive and recognizable in the professional peloton. A brighter overall red than the 1972 shade was used with yellow-black-yellow seat tube bands and a yellow head tube which emulated the Belgian colours and was originally planned for a new Raleigh Europa model. The characteristic "Raleigh" slanting font was used instead of the traditional block letters. The Raleigh Mark IVs also featured a revised component list that included the new Huret Jubilee derailleur, Nervar crankset and Weinmann 500 brakes and rims.

July 1973 centre-fold advertisement for Team TI Raleigh showing its new livery and riders Billy Bilsland and Reg Barnett who joined the team that season. 

That year Reg Barnett, Phil Bayton, Billy Bilsland, Dave Lloyd and Mick Holmes joined the squad and considerably added to its road racing talent which was soon put to the test as the team competed in the early spring classics starting with Paris-Nice 28 February with Derek Harrison placing 19th overall, but most of the team not finishing the race which was run in appalling weather conditions.

The team came to attention of the European peloton when, during the Milano-San Remo race of 19 March 1973, Dave Lloyd and Phil Blayton's early breakaway had them alone in the lead for 170 kms although the effort wore them out from finishing the race, the publicity was enormous and it was the first time TI Raleigh came to the fore in European racing. "Similarly Phil Bayton and Dave Lloyd have made the name of their sponsors known to thousands, possibly millions. That their four-hour duet in Milan-San Remo was doomed for all its 110 miles is of comparatively little importance. Their achievement was to be seen, to be admired, to have their names recorded in the notebooks of the many reporters." (International Cycle Sport, April 1973).

They rode Mark IVs for this and the unusual and dated design of their machines did not escape notice on the Continental as well. Consequently, the team was issued new Carlton designed and built machines with more up to date geometry, conventional rear stays and all Campagnolo components more in keeping with Continental practice. All of this paved the way by the end of the year to a complete rebuilding of the team under new manager Peter Post, a new cadre of mostly Dutch riders and the creation of the Raleigh SBDU under Gerald O' Donovan to built a new generation of racing bicycles. From the humble beginnings of 1972-73 riding the "old" Mark IV Pros, TI Raleigh went on to dominate the professional peleton for a decade and for the first and only time, a British-designed and built machine would win the Tour de France in 1980.


Billy Bilsland on a Raleigh Mark IV team professional in 1973 showing the new TI Raleigh Team colours. For the season, these machines were fitted with Huret Jubilee gears, Nervar cranks and Weinmann 500 brakes and rims. credit: Pez cycling 

Dave Lloyd (front) and Phil Blayton during their famous 170 km-long breakaway on the 1973 Milano-San Remo race. This was probably the last major race the Mark IV was used as it was replaced a different team specific model of more modern design with Campagnolo components for the rest of the season. credit: davelloydtraining.com

RALEIGH-CENTURY ROAD CLUB (1972-1973)


"The Raleigh Boys". Raleigh Industries of America played a pivotal role in nurturing the nascent American presence in international road cycle sport when, in 1972, they sponsored the Century Road Club of America to race in the Tour l'Est in the Province of Quebec and the next year sent four riders, John Howard. Bill Humpreys, Stan Swaim and John Allis (above) to the Raleigh-Dunlop Tour of Ireland, the first American team to race in an European stage race with Howard placing 3rd. During this, John Allis (left) rode a Mark III Professional. 



BIKE BOOM & BUST


Certainly the best photo ever taken of a Raleigh Pro, a perfect time capsule of '70s Bike Boom in all its groovy glory. Taken in 1974 at a cycle race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a local bike shop displayed a brand new Pro (including the price tag still on the brake cable) which attracted the attention of this lovely, leggy lady. credit: "GMS" posted on www.bikeforums.net in 2008. 


The Raleigh Professional reached its zenith in terms of sales, popularity and "it" factor with the Mark IV and precisely at the apex of the "Bike Boom" in America for which it was both an icon and an indicator of the sudden strength, breadth and depth of a hugely increased market both in number of bicycles sold but the range, type and specialization of them.

The Raleigh Professional, along with the Schwinn Paramount and the Peugeot PX-10, were the most popular quality lightweights widely available during the "Bike Boom" in the United States during the early 1970s when interest in cycling, especially "10-speed racers", exploded almost overnight. Bicycle bike sales went from fewer than 7 million in 1970 to over 15 million in 1973. More importantly, the sales of adult bicycles sold grew from 15% to over 50% during the same period and of lightweights from 17% to 70%. Foreign made cycles comprised more than 25% of the bikes sold in the U.S..

The Bike Boom was driven by what was generically called "The 10-Speed Bike" and it was as loosely defined in terms of product quality, price and purpose as evident in the range of "10 speeds" being sold at record numbers, many to people who never owned a bicycle since childhood. A lot of the bikes were $89 wonders with 10 speeds but little else to recommend them. However, the established big makers like Raleigh, Falcon, Peugeot, Motobecane, Gitane, Schwinn etc. offered a range of quality machines at various price points and headed by a "flagship" top-end racing model.  At the top of the range of the biggest cycle manufacturer, the Raleigh Professional Mark IV was unquestionably the Bike Boom Flagship and the sales of such a top-end, sophisticated racing machine were unprecedented.



Pedal Power was Groovy in the 1970s as America experienced an unprecedented "Bike Boom" c. 1970-73. 

By virtue of Raleigh's established nationwide distributor network and production capability, it initially benefited enormously from this boom and Raleigh quality attracted record sales. No other company offered a wider range of quality Reynolds 531 tubed machines and the very desirable Campagnolo Nuovo Record components featured on the Professional and International models. By 1970, Raleigh was exporting £4.7 mn in cycles to America alone.

Given the numbers of machines being built by Raleigh and every other cycle manufacturer during this time, production and product alike were taxed to the limits. Consequently, specifications changed based on component availability and yes, quality, too, showed the pressures of, in effect, mass producing what had been quasi bespoke frame production for Carlton, at least. Indeed, the range of quality all or partly Reynolds 531 frames for Raleigh at this time was unprecedented and never repeated and the vast majority of it for the export U.S. Market. c. 1971-1975 Raleigh 531 racing machines comprised the Professional, International, Competition, Gran Sport, Super Tourer and Super Course. Of the "10-speed" range only the Grand Prix and Record models were not made at least partially of Reynolds 531. Moreover, four of the models had tubular tyres and this was unquestionably most sophisticated quality lightweight range of the era.

Beyond the Bike Boom sales bonaza, the Raleigh Professional was a quality and competitive machine both on the pro circuit and amateur races. It was also one of the very first production lightweights to come with a six-speed freewheel and 126mm rear spacing as standard beginning in 1972. The Raleigh Professional, along with the Schwinn Paramount and the Peugeot PX-10, were the most popular top quality lightweights widely available during the "Bike Boom".

Raleigh advertisement for the U.S. market c. 1970 showing the diverse range of the company to a country just discovering cycling in all its forms: the traditional three-speed hub black Raleigh Sports, the Chopper and the Mark II Professional. 

All this put enormous strain on manufacturing capabilities at Carlton, Worksop, where production increased almost overnight by 40 per cent. By 1973 2,500 machines were being turned out a week (it had been 50 a week in 1960 when Raleigh acquired the company) and employment reached a record 340. Alas, this meant that Carlton's old motto of "Handbuilt at Mass Production Prices" changed from mass produced at inflation/dollar devalued prices and a change from the traditional individually hand-brazed frame to assembly line "charge and dip" production. Custom framebuilding at Worksop ended and led to the establishment of the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) at Ilkeston in 1974 under Gerald O'Donovan.

There were also inevitable shortages of components especially Campagnolo for whom Raleigh was their biggest single customer with the Professional and International having these top-end components. This shortage so acute that a new model, the RRA, was hastily conceived in 1973 as an option to the Professional and fitted instead with French components. Quality suffered and there was a real quality control issue for all Raleigh products c. 1972-73 and the Professional was not immune from this. F series frames are by far the best crafted and finished but quality of "G" prefixed frames varied. Raleigh took immediate steps to improve quality control and building techniques so that this was shortlived but the reputation of the model and make suffered.

Among the most sought-after and popular of the best of the Bike Boom machines were Raleigh's top-end line-up of the International (left), Professional (centre) and the Professional track bike (right) and, of course, the cool kit that went with it. 

Still, a great many Raleigh Professionals were sold during the 1970s, probably more than any machine in its class except perhaps for the Paramount and PX-10. The Professional was the most expensive "10-speed" generally available and appealed to the "gimme the best bike you got" cycling neophytes as much as to discerning customers. In many respects, it was not ideal machine for inexperienced cyclists owing to its specialised design, harsh angles, high bottom bracket etc. Many are still found today on eBay and Craiglist looking like their original owners had put about 50 miles on them before they were hung on the wall... the Icon of the Bike Boom quickly became Garage Queens.

The Bike Boom ended almost as suddenly as it began exacerbated by the 1974 recession, the devaluation of the US dollar which increased prices for Raleighs (see below) sold in the US and cuts their profits. Raleigh's US market was halved between 1974 and 1976. Even Carlton was obliged to lay off 100 employees in 1974 as demand suddenly slumped.


Some Raleigh Professionals never found a buyer when the Bike Boom went Bust. Serial no. WM4007877 (above) a Mark IV with a '74 date coded rear derailleur and '73 date coded cranks sat unused complete with its original tags and wheelcovers and offered NOS 50 years later by Velomine.com. credit: Velomine.com

Another unsold NOS 1974 Raleigh Professional Mark IV, still in its original carton and wrapping as offered on eBay about 50 years after it left Worksop. 

By April 1975, Raleigh even ceased for a time exporting new machines to the United States due to the glut of unsold stock. Altogether it was estimated that there were 3.5 mn. unsold bicycles in the country. The work force at Worksop went to a three-day week and for a time, 500 employees were laid off. There was a marked decrease in top quality Reynolds 531 and Campagnolo fitted machines in future catalogues.

Sales of the Professional slumped, no longer the object of impulse buying by well-heeled bike boomers and its now dated design less appealing to the cognoscenti who embraced Italian marques like Masi and Colnago. Contemporary reviews of the machine in magazines and bike buying guides were critical of Pro's uneven workmanship and high price. A new Mark V Professional came out for 1977 and was a mass produced but very high quality well-built 531 tubed version of the SBDU made Reynolds 753 Raleigh Team Professional. It sold well in the United States, but never to the extent of the Mark IV in its heyday and the top-end market by then overwhelmingly favoured Italian marques. By 1978, the Pro was but one of only three Raleighs in the U.S. market made of Reynolds 531 and one of the two with Campagnolo components.


A great name in British cycling and cycle manufacture ended on 27 May 1981 when the Carlton Works at Worksop closed and the last 220 employees made redundant. And with it, the end of the Raleigh Professional series. credit: steel-vintage.com

Production at Worksop decreased markedly in the late 1970s and in 1981 it was decided to close the works and on 27 May production ended. A new Raleigh Lightweight Unit was opened in Nottingham to take its place although the Carlton name was soon phased out. Production of the Professional ended by which time Raleigh in the US turned over its marketing to Huffy (which ironically imported Carltons under its name in the early 1960s). Thus ended more than several eras in quality Britsh-built lightweight cycles for the American market. Ironically, America's Bike Boom had largely contributed to the eventual demise of Carlton by changing the focus of its product and production.  With the demise of the Pro, British cycle imports of all types was all but ended, too, and by the following year cycle imports from the U.K. totalled less than 1 per cent of the U.S. market.

Today, the Raleigh Professional in all its guises remains a cherished reminder of the real rebirth of American cycle sport and a delightful machine to collect, ride and restore. For many, a chance to finally own the long coveted bicycle that was the apple of teenage eyes many years ago.




SOURCES

Books
Raleigh, Past and Presence of an Iconic Bicycle Brand, Tony Hadland, 2012
The Story of the Raleigh Bicycle, Gregory Houston Bowden, 1975

Websites
www.bulgier.net/pics/bike/Catalogs/
www.velo-pages.com
www.cyclingarchives.com
www.threespeedhub.com
www.bikeraceinfo.com
www.veteran-cycle club on line library
www.kurtkaminer.com/bikecollection.com
www.bikeboompeugeot.com