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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:47 GMT
A century of bicycle production ends
bikes
Competition from Asia has shaken up the industry
The last Raleigh bike rolls off the Nottingham production line on Thursday ending a 100-year bike-making tradition in the city.

Raleigh, renowned for the cult classic Chopper with its Harley Davison style handlebars and high-back seat, was a stalwart in the city for decades.

But competition from the Far East has forced the company to move most of its production out of the country.

Most of its bikes will be made in Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka, but it will still distribute bicycles from a large warehouse in Eastwood, just outside Nottingham.

Family tradition

"The decision to close the factory doesn't reflect on the workers - it is a question of global economics and economy of scale and other factors," said Allan Spencer, operations director for Raleigh.

For years, the bikes have been assembled at the plant in Nottingham using parts sent from overseas.

Raleigh chopper
The chopper was a cult hit for Raleigh
About 400 people work at the Nottingham factory, but only 120 will have jobs after it closes.

In 1952, thousands of people were employed on the Triumph Road site that stretched for acres.

One Raleigh worker said: "Over the years at Raleigh I don't think there has been a family in Nottingham that hasn't had someone connected to the company - at one time or another."

Redundant workers, who have known about the closure for months, remained proud of their product: "We built everything from frames for the Tour de France to mountain bikes for British teams."

'Badge of pride'

Nottingham-born novelist Alan Sillitoe based his story of working class life, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, on his experiences in the factory.

Frank Bowden started the Raleigh Cycle Company in 1888 on Raleigh Street, and it grew dramatically, making bicycles, tricycles and even toys.

Worker at the Raleigh factory in Nottingham
The current Nottingham factory opened 50 years ago

During the two world wars, the firm turned its hand to munitions.

Philip Darnton, chairman of Raleigh UK, said until recently a new factory in the Bulwell area of Nottingham was a serious option.

"We thought we would be able to justify the initial investment of 11m and continue making bikes here.

"But in the past few years the quality of bikes made in the Far East has improved significantly, until then we had not been convinced the quality was there."

In 1999, financial pressures forced the company's previous owners to sell the Triumph Road site to the University of Nottingham.

At that point the firm was selling 500,000 bikes a year - a far cry from the apex of the company's success when it employed 8,000 people making 2 million bikes a year.

MP Graham Allen said: "I go all around the world, I talk to people and once you've got over Robin Hood, the thing they know about Nottingham is the Raleigh cycle.

"It's the thing that every kid wanted for Christmas. It was the thing that was really a badge of pride for the whole of Nottingham."

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC's Jon Douglas
Global economics shut us down

Click here to go to Nottingham
See also:

09 Sep 02 | Rob on the road
14 Mar 02 | England
10 Dec 99 | UK
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