• One of the earliest Raleigh motorcycles known
• Fafnir engine
• An older restoration
• Offered with photocopied period literature
Britain's best-known bicycle maker, Raleigh also manufactured motorcycles from circa 1902 to 1905, and again from 1919 to 1933. More recently, the Nottingham company offered a range of mopeds plus a scooter in the late 1950s/1960s. Raleigh's first powered two-wheeler looked very much like the contemporary Werner, carrying its engine in front of the steering head with drive being transmitted via belt to a large diameter pulley clipped to the spokes of the front wheel. Within a year or so Raleigh had adopted what is now considered the conventional position within the frame.
Powered by a German-made Fafnir engine, this remarkably original machine represents Raleigh's first truly practical motorcycle, contrasting with the earlier Werner type. The design of Raleigh's 1903 model is sometimes attributed to Mr G P Mills. Whether or not that is correct, Mr Mills was a high-profile racing cyclist who won various events including John O' Groats to Land's End. His feat in 1904 of riding a specially built Raleigh motorcycle over the same route certainly suggests an involvement with Raleigh. That motorcycle was a two-speed model, which was available from 1903. The Mills machine, however, had no pedals; as likely as not a marketing ploy to prove them unnecessary on a Raleigh. Other options included all-chain drive, which was criticised by the motoring press of the day as being too harsh. Raleigh dealt with that by fitting the earliest cush drive, which consisted of a large coil spring on the engine shaft and rubber blocks in compression in the rear sprocket.
The handlebar controls used Bowden cables; one twistgrip operated the throttle and also Fafnir's exhaust lift regulator to control very slow running (a system licensed to De Dion who used it on their engines up to 1907). The other 'twisting handle', as described in the 2nd December 1903 edition of 'The Motor', controls the high/neutral/low gear if fitted. The usual reversed control levers at the 'bar ends operate the front rim brake and the exhaust lifter. By 1905, a 500cc model was available but sales slumped. Advertisements show that machines were offered at knock-down prices, no doubt at a substantial loss. So ended Raleigh's first venture into motorcycle manufacturing.
Dating from Raleigh's pioneering days as a motorcycle manufacturer, the wonderful machine offered here is an evocative reminder of those heroic times. An older restoration, it represents an exciting opportunity to acquire a rare survivor from the British motorcycle industry's formative days of the early 1900s.