I was delighted to have the opportunity of an entirely free hand in the designing of this new Raleigh model which bears my name. It incorporates all the points that experience on the road has taught me are essential for the Clubman's 'perfect' mount, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to my fellow riders.
Charles Holland, Raleigh-Sturmey Archer Professional Rider.
Of all Raleigh lightweight racing/club cycles, the Charles Holland Continental is probably the most obscure. Introduced in autumn 1938 in the wake of Munich and war scares, its production was curtailed when war finally came in autumn 1939 and its manufacture ceased by 1942 so that few were made and even fewer have survived.
Rareness aside, the Charles Holland Continental-- or better known as the "CHC"-- as the Raleigh Record Ace was known as the "RRA," was a minor milestone machine for Raleigh. It was its first designed for the nascent sport of mass start road racing in Great Britain, its first racing/club machine with Sturmey-Archer gear as standard fit (as opposed to the traditional fixed/free hub set up that hitherto dominated British time trialling and cycle sport), and the first Raleigh named after one of its professional star riders who also had a hand in its design and specification.
Charles Holland, British Cycling Champion
Charles Holland (1908-1989, Midland C&A) was, with Frank Southall, in the pantheon of British cyclists during the inter-war period-- on the British Olympic Cycling Team in the 1932 Los Angeles Games (winning a Bronze Medal in the Team Pursuit) and 1936 Berlin Games; the World Championship Road Race in Leipzig in 1934 (placing fourth); winning the 1936 Best All Rounder (BAR) in time trialling, winning the first Isle of Man International road cycle race in 1936 and the first Briton to compete in the Tour de France (1937). Holland was part of three-man "British Empire" team of two Britons and a Canadian, and only Holland made it past Stage Two. With no support whatsoever, he had to abandon after stage 15 after he punctured, had no remaining spare tyres and his pump broke. It would be another 18 years before another Briton competed in the tour.
|Charles Holland (left) during the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games, (middle) c. 1936 when he won the first Isle of Man road race) and (right) during the 1937 Tour de France.|
On 25 April 1937 Holland signed with Raleigh Cycle Co./Sturmey-Archer Gears as a professional to ride in the Six-Day Race at Wembley that May. Holland was then, with Frank Southall, the best-known British road cyclist, and his joining the Sturmey-Archer squad was a huge coup for Charlie Marshall, dean of Raleigh road racing and himself a former champion.
|25 April 1937: Charles Holland signs as a professional for Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer. Ahead lay the Coronation Six Days' Race in May, the Tour de France and RRA records at home. One of Britain's premier cyclists was now a Raleigh Man.|
As a Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer professional, Holland joined Sid Ferris and Bert James, already in the thick of astonishing road record breaking efforts and achievements which had commenced in October 1936 and all undertaken on Raleigh Record Aces fitted with the new Sturmey-Archer AR close-ratio three-speed racing hubs. The aim was to smash all of Hubert Opperman and Frank Southall's records won on BSA and Hercules machines with Cyclo derailleur gearing and to prove the supremacy of the hub gear. And of course there was a certain irony that Birmingham area (Aldridge) native Holland was now competing against two of the great Birmingham cycle companies.
|Sturmey Archer advert in Cycling, 21 June 1938 heralding Charles Holland's first road record as a Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer professional. credit: Sturmey-Archer Heritage website.|
Charles Holland broke his first road record for Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer on 9 June 1938, Liverpool-Edinburgh, clocking 10 hours for the 210 miles, 12 minutes faster than the previous record held by Frank Southall, and averaging 21 mph. On this ride, he used a Raleigh Record Ace with the AR hub.
The Raleigh "Charles Holland Continental" Model
Although Holland was to eventually chalk up "only" three RRA (Road Record Association of Britain) road distance/time records for Sturmey-Archer, he had broader experience than his teammates in both track and massed start racing and was consequently better known in the clubman circuit. Thus his name was more marketable for his sponsors. So much so that plans were developed, most likely by Charlie Marshall who led racing/club development for Raleigh as well spurred on the concept of the racing/club close ratio hubs for Sturmey-Archer, to create a new Raleigh lightweight designed for mass start racing and general club riding and "designed", endorsed and named after Holland, just as Hercules had done for Southall and BSA had for Opperman.
The new machine was, in fact, a reworked version of the enormously-successful Raleigh Record Ace which had been designed for general club riding as well as the traditional British time trial. It would feature more upright "Continental" angles, a different fork, handlebar set and incorporate the new Sturmey-Archer AM hub which was a medium-ratio three-speed hub specifically meant for club riding and mass start racing. And it was a cycle that, if the advertisements can be believed, Charles Holland took a hand in its specifications and indeed one that could (and was) used by him in furthering road record breaking for Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer.
Design and production of the CHC was apparently done in some hurry, most likely to capitalise on the flurry of road records won by Messrs, Holland, Ferris and James. Intended for the 1939 model year, Holland rode the first examples in August 1938, but the model was never properly presented or depicted in any of the 1939 catalogues. Instead, it was offered as a variation on the RRA. And when Raleigh introduced its 1939 range in September, the photo of the CHC showed it to be just that. Just in time for the November 1938 National Cycle Show, Raleigh displayed a proper full production machine.
|The specification sheet from the CHC flyer, the only comprehensive one printed.|
The frame of the CHC was largely derived from that of the RRA, featuring the same lugset and constructed of Molybendum steel in the main tubes and Reynolds HM (High Manganese) in the front fork and rear triangle. By then, of course, full Reynolds 531 frames were common, but like the RRA, the CHC was spec'd to achieve a retail price under £10 and Raleigh wouldn't introduce Reynolds 531 until after the war.
The biggest change from the RRA was the geometry, the CHC having angles of 73° head and 71° seat vs. the 71° parallel of the RRA, the 73°/71° combination already established as the classic British road racing standard that would endure through the 1950s and beyond.
Also completely different was the front fork. This was a variation on the popular Russ-style fork, named after the famous British framebuilder Ernest F. Russ, on which the fork blades, round in section, were tapered and straight to the mudguard eyes and then the fork offset "swooped" out. This was said to provide both resilience and better handling than conventional forks. Raleigh first used this on its new Special Club Sports, model 43, introduced in 1938. It was adopted for the CHC, differing in that the blades were in 18/21 taper gauge HM steel and painted rather than chromed.
There was some confusion with the frame sizing of the new machine. The initial specification called for the same as the 1939 RRA namely 20", 21", 22" and 23" (new that year) whereas the CHC was actually produced in half sizes-- 20½", 21½" and 22½". The wheelbase was 41½" and bb height was 10½".
The CHC was one of the first Raleigh lightweights to both eschew the traditional Raleigh all black dipped enamel finish and to be offered in a wide range of customer selected finishes:
- pale blue lustre with contrasting dark blue flamboyant seat panel and head tube
- silver lustre
- gold lustre
- maroon lustre
- green lustre
- green and red
- light and dark blue and gold
- white and two blues
- rose beige with red, white and blue bands
- flame, black and silver
- two greens
Mudguards (Bluemels No Weight) and pump (Bluemels Featherweight 15" x 7/8" were ivory celluloid and the cabling was silver.
The CHC retained the same wheelset as the RRA, namely Dunlop 26 x 1¼" Endrick rims, Dunlop Sprite wire-on Sprint tyres with a Raleigh racing front hub. New that year were stainless spokes, and unlike the RRA, the front wheel of the CHC was conventionally spoked 3x rather than radially. The CHC also featured chromed rims rather than the traditional black enameled of the RRA, but it too had chromed rims as standard for 1939. Like the RRA, 27" (really 700c) sprint rims and tubular tyres could be fitted, but interestingly despite its close relationship with Dunlop, the CHC like all Raleighs still could not accommodate the new (since 1936) 27 x 1¼ Dunlop HP wire on tyres and rims owing to frame/fork clearances and brake reach. It could take the 26" version, but these were not offered as a catalogue option.
The CHC was the first Raleigh club/racing machine to be sold with a hub gear as stock rather than with the traditional fixed/free rear hub that was the hallmark of the British time trialist. With the CHC, Raleigh sought to instead offer a bicycle suited to general club riding and massed start racing and featuring the recently (April 1938) introduced Sturmey-Archer AM three-speed medium-ratio hub gear. This featured a 15.55% increase/13.36% reduction and weighed 2 lbs 6 ozs. On this and the RRA, the new 1938 pattern "black face/long lever" CG3 trigger shifter was standard fit at no extra charge.
The handlebar set of the CHC was entirely new, featuring a chromed headclip fixed stem with a 3-inch adjustable extension, chromed steel 15" wide (c-c), 5⅜" drop Pelissier pattern bars with coloured tape and plugs. Like the RRA, there was a Heron head lamp bracket mounted under the underside of stem as well as one on the left-side fork blade.
|The specification for the CHC review machine.|
In the 14 December 1938 issue of Cycling, Nimrod reviewed the new CHC, "An attractive machine for the clubman and racing man":
For the clubman, the Charles Holland Continental model by the Raleigh Cycle Co., Ltd. (Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham), is an attractive proposition, for with the substitution of sprints and tubulars it forms an ideal mount for massed start racing or time trials. Charles Holland himself has proved the machine's worth for long-distance record breaking.
I chose for my test a 22½-in. frame and the only variation from standard specification was the substitution of Dunlop Speed tyres instead of Dunlop Sprites and the addition of a Dynohub lighting set.
A good position was obtainable with the Brooks B.17 saddle comfortably placed, and the Pelissier handlebars with taped grips afford a good hold for riding at speed, whilst the tops enabled me to take it easy when so inclined.
A upright head (73 degrees), in conjunction with the special-type front fork, gave easy steering, and when 'dancing' up hills the machine rode perfectly steady and answered to every thrust with remarkable liveliness. The well-balanced frame design assisted perfect control and held the road in such a manner as to give full confidence under all riding conditions.
The Sturmey-Archer AM medium-ratio three-speed hub gave me gears of 57.6, 66.4 and 76.8-- a useful combination for normal club riding, and the trigger control assisted rapid changes without removing my hand from the grip.
Raleigh caliper brakes acted with commendable efficiency, the neat levers allowing easy application.
My test mount was beautifully finished in a pale blue lustre with dark blue flamboyant panels on the seat and down tube and head. The brake cables and gear-control cables were silver-coloured, making an attractive ensemble, and the price of £9 15 s, represents particularly good value.
The Raleigh Charles Holland Continental was a pleasure to ride and attracted favourable comment wherever clubmen gathered, both for its well-chosen specification and fine finish. Any clubman considering the purchase of a new mount for 1939 would do well to study this modern Raleigh lightweight. It is the 'goods'.
|The complete CHC review in "Cycling" 14 December 1938. credit: Peter Jourdain|
|Review of the CHC in The Cyclist 17 May 1939. credit: Paul Whatley|
Record Breakers: Charles Holland & the Raleigh C.H.C.
287¼ miles, over a hilly course, impeded by torrential rain and four punctures-- surely sufficient to have kept the Land's End-London record secure even from record-breaker Charles Holland! He rode the machine designed by himself-- the Raleigh Charles Holland Continental Model, equipped with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear! The result: a new record time of 13 hrs. 44 mins. (25 minutes less than the previous record) and another spectacular endorsement of the world's easiest-running cycle!
|Sturmey-Archer/Raleigh advertisements heralding Charles Holland's breaking the Land's End-London record 13 October 1938, riding the Raleigh CHC to its first RRA record.|
Ridden by its namesake, the "CHC" was used to break two RRA road records 1938-39.
Holland's second record for Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer, Land's End-London, was hard won and required three attempts. These were all ridden on his new Charles Holland Continental model with an AM hub. The first, 20 August 1938, saw him clock 14 hours, 8 minutes, 19 seconds for the more than 300 mile run. But as the Road Record Association averaged times up to the next minute, that only tied Opperman's 14 hour 9 minute time. The second effort, made in September, was cancelled owing to bad weather.
|Frustration, as evidenced in these news cuttings of Holland's first crack at the Land's End-London record in August 1938, when he was judged by RRA rule to have tied Opperman's time owing to rounding seconds to the next minute.|
Between these efforts, there was more frustration and if there was ever a case of crying over spilt milk it was in late September 1938 when Holland attempted to break Southall's record for the London-Brighton-London record of 4 hours 38 min 27 secs. Rounding a hairpin turn into Hyde Park Corner, he skidded on a pool of... milk... from a diary lorry which had dropped half its load onto the road. Crashing hard, he damaged his CHC and was forced to abandon the challenge. A pair tandem riders, also racing to beat the tandem record for the same trip, likewise crashed on the "great white way" at Hyde Park Corner in one of the more bizarre episodes in British road records.
Undeterred, Holland set for the third time from the Land's End Hotel, Cornwall, on 13 October 1938, on his CHC, destination, The Capital.
As reported in "Cycling", 19 October 1938:
At his third attempt on the Land's End to London record, Charles Holland, the Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer professional, was successful in reducing the Australian, Hubert Opperman's, time of 14 hrs. 9 mins by 25 mins. Holland's actual time was 13 hrs, 43 mins. 35 secs., but on this record fractions of a minute count as a minute. It will be remember that in August he equalled Opperman's time after a thrilling finish and his second attempt was abandoned owing to unsuitable weather.
On Thursday (8.15 a.m.) of last week (October 13) Holland was started by Mr. B.W. Best, the timekeeper, from outside Land's End Hotel in a miserable drizzle, but with a favourable south-westerly wind of encouraging strength and a temperature that very good for riding at speed.
Wet roads with fallen leaves and tricky corners made the going treacherous, but Holland is an accomplished bicycle rider and he covered the first 25 miles without a mishap in 1 hr. 6 mins. At 50 miles he was showing 2 hrs. 10 mins, which was 6 mins slower than Opperman's time to this point, but faster than on his own previous ride.
Swooping down hills at 40 m.p.h. and 'dancing' up comfortably at a speed that seldom dropped below 'evens,' Holland clocked 4.32.30 for '100,' which included a change of machines after puncturing at Lifton (83 miles). The Australian was 1½ mins faster for the century; but Holland was moving well and easily.
Exeter (120 miles) was reached in 5 hrs. 28 mins (Opperman 5.35), representing a gain of 5 mins on schedule, planned to beat record by 19 mins, and in 6 hrs. he had ridden 131 miles. Practically dry roads were reached for a time and then once again light rain fell. A short stop just before Amesbury to fit lamps and Holland was off again as strong as ever. At Basingstoke a 6 mins. Deficit on schedule was shown, but this was accounted for by two punctures sustained with a mile of each other just before reaching that town.
By the time 12 hrs. had elapsed Holland had covered approximately 252 miles, and at Bagshot (261 miles) he had regained some of his loss on schedule, being only 1 min. down.
Easy roads and the following wind enabled Charles to step on it to good purpose and gradually he gained on his schedule. London traffic caused little delay and a handsome reduction on the record appeared obvious.
Within two miles of Hyde Park Corner he experienced yet another deflation, but a quick change of machines and he was off again to reach his goal just after 9.58 p.m., beating the record by 25 mins. As already stated. At Hyde Park Corner, by no means distressed, was congratulated by a little group of clubmen gathered there to meet him.
Holland's bicycle was a Raleigh, 'Charles Holland' Continental model, with a 22½-in frame, equipped with a Sturmey-Archer A.M. three-speed hub, giving gears of 71, 81 and 92 and operated by the trigger control. Apart from the four punctures already mentioned Holland experienced by other trouble, his feeding arrangements, etc., working smoothly without a hitch.
|Charlie Holland with two of the greats in Raleigh cycle sport: Charlie Davey (left) and Charles Marshall (right). credit: Peter Jourdain|
The official time for 292-mile-journey was 13 hours, 44 mins, handsomely beating Opperman's time of 14 hours 9 mins set in 1935. Holland average a speed of 20.91 mph.
With the development of the latest Sturmey-Archer hubs-- the four-speed AF close ratio and FM medium ratio-- 1939 promised to be another busy and productive year of record attempts by the Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer team. This was now based at Donington Hall, near Derby and site of the famous Donington Park racing car circuit. The team used the track for fast road training as well as the local roads for long distance training.
What proved to be the last RRA record won for the Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer Team was by Charles Holland, again on a Raleigh CHC fitted with the new four-speed close-ratio AF hub. And by the closest possible margin and a most thrilling fashion as wonderfully described in Cycling 14 June 1939:
With the most sensational finish seen for many years on a record attempt, Charles Holland, the Sturmey-Archer professional, broke the Edinburgh-York bicycle record last Thursday, by the narrow margin of a minute. His time for 186 miles was 8.35.39. Frank South, previous holder of the record, covered the distance in 8.36.24 in 1935. In each case the official time is recorded to next whole minute.
Right until the last moment it was impossible to say whether Holland would break the record. He approached York running very close to record, and with two sets of traffic signals to negotiate, and twisting streets of York crowded with vehicles of all sorts, valuable second that may meant the difference between gaining and losing the record could easily have been lost.
But under difficult conditions such as these Holland is at his best, and he weaved his way through the heavy traffic in a way that would have made a London taxi driver green with envy. With only a few hundred yards to a set of signals were red as he approached, but as the hearts of his helpers sank, the amber light came on, followed by the desired green. Away went Holland, stamping on his pedals with all he knew, and passed the post office where J.T. Wells, the timekeeper, stood waiting, watch in hand.
Holland was not aware that he had broken the record until some miles farther on, for he continued through to attack the next record on his schedule, the Edinburgh to London. A few miles outside York, however, he came to a stop with a bad attack of cramp, brought on the sudden accelerations necessary in York. After a five-minute rest, however, Holland was able to continue, but for some time he was obviously feeling the strain of the last few hectic miles to York, and at 4.53 p.m. he decided to abandon the attempt on the Edinburgh to London and 24-hour record, having ridden 209 miles since 7 a.m. that morning. It was later found that the attack of cramp was due to strained leg muscles.
When Holland started from Edinburgh conditions were favourable, and over the first stages of the journey he got moving very well. He was soon inside his schedule and riding with plenty of zest and fire. The several sharp hills that are encountered on the road from the Scottish capital Holland took in his stride, dancing on his pedals in true Tour de France style, and it was his excellent climbing that him 3 mins. Ahead of his schedule, which was planned to beat record by 5 mins., when he reached Jedburgh (47½ miles). On the climb up Carter Bar and over the border into England, he continued to gain steadily, and he took his first food bag at the top of Carter Bar he was showing no signs of distress. Just before he reached this point the 50 miles went by in the creditable time of 2.15.0.
But a reaction to all this climbing was inevitable, and during many of long descents Holland used his free wheel to good advantage while he emptied his food bag, and when he reached Otterburn (73½) he was level with his scheduled time. From here until Newcastle-on-Tyne (105½) he lost slightly over his schedule, although his 100-mile time was 4.34.0, mainly through the heavy traffic, while in Newcastle itself he was forced to walk down one road because of a jam caused by a brewer's dray. This put him even further behind his timetable, of course, and when he reached Northallerton (154 miles) he was 5 mins. In arrears-- that is to say level with the record and 32 miles to go.
It meant fighting all the way, for at this point the wind was blowing strongly from the north-east, hitting Holland on his left shoulder, and at times the turn of the road brought the wind almost into the rider's face, and to beat record he had to average 21½ m.p.h. all the way to York. But Holland was keeping a steady average, often getting right out of the saddle in order to get that little extra bit of speed. Slowly but steadily he gained on his schedule, in spite of the conditions, and it looked as if the record would be well broken, when the fates took a hand in the shape of a large steam tractor and wire cable that was pulling a tree trunk across the road.
Holland was off his machine in a flash and had climbed over the obstacle and was away up the road very quickly, but even so the stopping and consequent getting away must have lost him almost a minute. But once more the 29-year-old Birmingham man showed that he has pluck. A well-organised band of helpers had drinks for Holland every few miles, for the hot sun was beating down unmercifully on the black-clothed figure, and Holland kept on riding strongly all the way to the finish.
Holland used his usual Raleigh bicycle, fitted with Sturmey-Archer's latest innovation, the AF four-speed hub gear, which gave him gears of 64, 76, 84 and 93 inches. He had no mechanical or tyre trouble at all during the ride.
For the 186-mile run, Holland maintained an average speed of 21.7 mph.
The coming of war on 3 September 1939 ended further record breaking endeavours by Raleigh/Sturmey-Archer although Tommy Godwin carried through with his mileage record effort through to May 1940. That year's Cycle Show was cancelled and commercial cycle production was drastically curtailed with Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer switching over to 90% munitions production. A reduced range of cycles was still advertised (although getting one was a different matter) and the Charles Holland Continental and the RRA both remained in the line-up and figured in the 1940 brochure, ironically, the only time the CHC actually appeared in a Raleigh catalogue.
1941 was the last year Raleigh produced a brochure for the duration and the CHC, whilst still technically part of the range, was reduced again to an unillustrated addendum to the RRA. Further production of club/sports machines was effectively ended at the end of the year as did Sturmey-Archer hub gear manufacture.
|The last appearance of the CHC (and the RRA) was in the 1941 catalogue-- the last for the duration-- but it was but a brief mention at that. credit: ThreeSpeedHub.com|
Charles Holland was called up and served in the Royal Corps of Signals. By the time the war had ended, he was too old to resume his professional career and the rules of the time precluded his competing again as a amateur. When this changed in the late 1960s, Holland came back to cycling, winning the Veterans Time Trial Association Best All Rounder competition in 1974 and 1975. Charles Holland died in December 1989, living long enough to see a Raleigh Team and bicycle win the Tour de France eight years earlier, although not long enough to see a Briton win what he had started back in 1937
Through no fault of its own, the Charles Holland Continental proved to be one of Raleigh's shortest -lived lightweights. Indeed, Raleigh's revived and intense participation in both the clubman's market and in professional road cycle sport was likewise brought to an abrupt halt, not to mention curtailing the significant development and market penetration of the Sturmey-Archer racing hub gear. The Continental War thus ended a promising chapter in British cycle development and achievement in cycle sport.
Special thanks for Peter Jourdain for sharing his collection of back Cycling issues, the V-CC online catalogue archives, ThreeSpeedHub.com website, Sturmey Archer Heritage website, Trove, National Library of Australia on line newspaper archives.
© Peter C. Kohler
Special thanks for Peter Jourdain for sharing his collection of back Cycling issues, the V-CC online catalogue archives, ThreeSpeedHub.com website, Sturmey Archer Heritage website, Trove, National Library of Australia on line newspaper archives.
© Peter C. Kohler