Raleigh Superbe

This is my bike, a modified Raleigh model 13 - Superbe Dawn Tourist.

This model was first introduced around 1947 in England. After World War II the population needed bikes badly, as wartime production and distribution of consumer goods was severely limited - this was compounded by the poverty inherited from prewar times, a population that largely grew up malnourished and in slums, a million miles away from even considering owning a car.

The war meant that industry had been heavily developed and modernised in order to create new and better armaments, seeing serious improvements in the precision and quality mass production. In the immediate postwar situation, this meant that factories switching back to civillian purposes were in a position to make the very best .* With sales booming and a pressing need for desirable export products, there was room for everything - from the cheapest of the cheap pig iron to very fine crafted and seriously expensive machines.


The Superbe is probably the most well known example of the latter, with a reputation for quality and durability even above other Raleigh bikes**. Serious thought was put into making sure the bike would last. All painted metal parts have a black rubberised basecoat for rustproofing. The chaincase is completely water tight, painted inside and out, and completely covered inside in a thick layer of oil.

Care was taken to intergrate all the bikes features together in the best performing, most durable way. While Sturmey Archer gears built into the wheel hub were already common, Raleigh took it further by intergrating the Dynamo into the same housing. This eliminated the drag and the wear of tyre dynamos, had nothing in need of adjustment, and nothing that could be accidentally hit and broken. The problem of Dynamo lights is that they only work while the bike is moving. They solved this by converting the dynamo power to DC and running it through a rechargable battery, keeping the lights lit at all times.

The brakes are solid metal linkages and work by pressing rubber against the inside of the wheel***, instead of the more modern way of squeezing the sides. Most people nowadays hate these because they don't know how to set them up to work properly &endash; nobody has written down any good information so the learning process involves breaking stuff a lot. On the other hand, they look nice and when you figure them out they work prefectly.

Security is by a built in steering lock, cleverly concealed in the fork crown. It can't be defeated without destroying the fork or dismantling the entire front of the bike, so even if a thief manages to saw through your normal lock, he still can't ride off - only get flung off. 

*When they weren't shipping everything off to America to service war debt, that is. Most anything manufactured in Britain had waiting lists up until the early 1950s.

** The Sunbeams of up to 1936 were arguably better made than Raleighs, with impressive touches like a chain submerged in oil, but they were very much older technology and had nowhere near the mass market impact of anything with a heron stamped on it.

***For the exact same price they sold a Superbe Sports Tourist that was exactly the same except it used cable operated brakes like a modern bike. This is objectively superior in every way, so I've no idea why the rod brake system was kept around in the UK market until the late 1980s, beyond that it looked cool.