If you grew up in the UK and are above a certain age, there’s a decent chance you’ll have owned a Raleigh bike at some point. Next week, an hour-long documentary on BBC4 will celebrate an iconic brand founded in the East Midlands in the 1880s that became a global powerhouse.
Pedalling Dreams: The Raleigh Story airs at 9pm on Wednesday 15 March and charts the history of the Nottingham company that once operated the world’s biggest bike factory, at its peak employing 7,000 workers and turning out more than 1 million bicycles a year.
Some of those workers will feature in the documentary, made by Testimony Films, as will people who raced Raleigh bikes or simply rode them for leisure or as a means of getting around.
Now owned by the Netherlands-based Accell Group, whose other brands include Batavus, Diamondback and Lapierre, the BBC says “the programme takes viewers on a journey back to cycling's golden age - rediscover the thrill of learning to ride your first bike and find out what went on inside the Raleigh factory, where the company's craftsmen produced some of Britain's most iconic bikes.”
Raleigh celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012, but had ceased assembling bikes in the UK a decade earlier and as well as telling the story of its rise, “the documentary reveals what went wrong at Raleigh – the battles it had with its rivals, the controversy behind the design of the Chopper and the effect the closure of its factories had on its loyal workers.
“This is the extraordinary untold story of the rise and fall of Raleigh bikes,” the BBC adds.
The programme will be repeated at 2.45am on Thursday 16 March, and will also be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.