Raleigh Bicycles may be British born, but it's been well over 10 years since its bikes have been made or assembled in the UK. That's all set to change with the new Militis eTap bike, which features the much anticipated wireless SRAM Red eTap groupset.
The Raleigh Militis eTap is a special-edition bike that will only be produced in very limited quantities. While the frame may be being produced in the Far East using advanced carbon frame manufacturing technology, the bike will be lovingly assembled at Raleigh's UK headquarters in Nottingham - the first time since the company's UK assembly lines ceased in 2002.
Shorter lead times
The Militis eTap weighs in at a reported 6.7kg, according to Raleigh. Assembling the bikes in the UK means a much shorter production lead time, and given the anticipated interest in owning a bike featuring the eTap system, and the limited availability of the system, it's likely this will give Raleigh an edge over competitors when it comes to satisfying the wants of those riders who want the system, and want it now. It's certainly something the company is pushing as an advantage.
"For the Militis eTap, there have been a lot of customers desperate to get their hands on SRAM’s new wireless groupset" Raleigh's product manager Duncan McKenzie tells BikeRadar. "Availability of the groupset is very limited and we wanted to be one of the first brands to have stock available to buy in the UK. By assembling the bikes here, we will shorten our lead times by 4-5 weeks and will have the bikes ready for our customers as fast as possible."
In addition to the SRAM Red eTap system, the Militis will feature Zipp 202 Firecrest wheelset, Zipp Carbon SL-70 aero bars, Zipp Carbon SL Sprint stem, Zipp Carbon SL seatpost, Schwalbe Pro Ones tyres and Fizik Arione R5 saddle.
The frame alone weighs in at 880g according to Raleigh, and it says this is the lightest and stiffest the company have ever produced.
Raleigh also state that each bike will be quality control checked by hand in the UK, and new owners will have the privilege of owning the first bikes to be assembled in the UK by Raleigh since 2002. The Militis eTap will retail at £6,000, and can be pre-ordered now through local Raleigh dealers and retailers, with the expected availability being early March 2016.
Founded in Nottingham in 1885, Raleigh grew significantly during the early part of the 20th century, expanding to Europe, the USA and Canada. However, the company suffered from various buyouts and financial issues that saw the majority of the manufacturing shift overseas to Taiwan and Vietnam. Raleigh ceased frame production in the UK in 1999, and the final UK-assembled bikes rolled out of the factory in 2002.
While its return is welcome, Raleigh isn't alone in producing bikes in the UK. Although the vast majority of bicycles are still made in the industrial heart of bicycle manufacturing, Taiwan and South East Asia, increasing numbers of companies are starting up or shifting elements of their production to the UK. The classic examples are Brompton, Moulton and Pashley, all of which are both manufactured and assembled in the British Isles.
No return for Arthur Seaton-types… yet
So does this move from Raleigh signal the start of a new golden age of bike production in the UK? Carlton Reid, executive editor of BikeBiz - the main bike industry publication - thinks not.
"The Raleigh move is welcome. I’ve been editing bike trade mags since the mid-1980s so I was lucky enough to be around during the full circle. I visited the sprawling factory many times – it was later razed and made into student accommodation." Reid tells BikeRadar. "Prior to this land-sale, highly expensive robots were installed by Raleigh in the 1990s only to be scrapped a few years later when the decision was made to move all manufacturing to Asia."
"Of course, we’re not going to see a return to mass manufacturing of bikes just yet – nor will we see the return of characters such as Arthur Seaton, the hard-drinking, womanising and work-shy Raleigh worker immortalised in a famous novel by Alan Sillitoe – but returning to the UK to manufacture will grow." Reid continues. "This is a trend that’s been evident for the last year or so, what with washing machine manufacturing and other such tasks coming back to the UK because of increasing labour costs in Asia."
Do you think this heralds a return to UK manufacturing for the bike trade? Let us know in the comments below.