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Starting to get Interesting.....

Over here in the home country of Raleigh, little is known of our favourite bike manufacturer's activities in America. Well, I'm here to spill the ugly tin of beans...... Raleigh had for some time been, basically, copying every move that Schwinn made.
Raleigh always had a range of bikes exclusively for the US market that never appeared on our shores. These bikes usually had the Schwinn style cantilever frame design, with two thin crossbars curving gracefully up from the rear wheel to the headstock. Also, unlike our familiar front forks with chrome 'dimples', seen on UK Raleighs, the US bikes often had a front fork almost identical to Schwinn's.
It comes as no surprise, then, to discover that Raleigh, seeing the popularity of the Schwinn Stingray, and in unison with every other company selling bikes in America, soon brought out a Stingray lookalike.


The Raleigh Rodeo had 20 inch wheels, apehangers,and basically was a Stingray clone. Unlike the Stingray, it had thin wheels, taken straight off the standard Raleigh 20in boys' bike. .Also, it had Sturmey Archer 3 speed rear hub changed by a stickshift on the cantilever frame...... There was one big difference between the Rodeo and the Stingray and its other clones.........Yes, we're back in seat territory again folks.......

In common with the Stingray, all the other manufacturers of apehanger bikes used the Pearsons style solo polo seat, in various designs, often metalflake! (often called 'banana' seats) However, our hero, the Raleigh Rodeo, set itself apart from these upstarts, and proved its family ties to the Raleigh Chopper, by having a thick padded, pleated vinyl seat, which next appeared on the Raleigh Chopper range, but hey, we've a little tale to tell before we finally reach our goal. The Rodeo lasted well, it was released in 1966 and was still on sale in 1970. It had several colour variations, and was available in 3 speed or 3+2 5 speed. It even made a brief appearance in the UK Raleigh sales catalogue....anyone got one?

Raleigh tried to keep up with Schwinn, and realised that although the Rodeo was selling, it was lacking a little something. In late 1967, the 1968 Raleigh Fireball was released into US dealers, the Fireball was a little tougher variation of the Rodeo.

fireball 1


fireball 2

The Fireball finally had a larger width rear wheel....shod with a cool Raleigh gold dot rear slick tyre. It retained the family thick padded seat, available in red vinyl on the red Fireball. The Fireball still retained the Schwinn cantilever style frame however, and was available with Dunlop whitewall tyres.

By 1968 Schwinn had stamped its authority on the youth bicycle market in America. The Stingray was selling well, and it was time for a new Stingray to catapult Schwinn sales into the 1970s. What Schwinn did was take the chrome springer front forks off its 24 inch wheeled bike, fit it to a 20 inch Stingray frame, and lower the front end back down by fitting a 16 inch front wheel. This was the unfortunately named 'Krate' bike, for some unimaginable reason. Schwinn designers named their hard hitting, youth oriented new bike after a fruit box........ Orange Krate and Apple Krate being the first two models, being orange and green respectively.

apple krate
1972 Apple Krate

Our little pal , the Raleigh Fireball had been selling in respectable numbers, but the introduction of the Schwinn Krate series, running alongside the expanded Stingray range, basically nailed the coffin shut on the competition.

In an unusual move, Raleigh decided, for the first time in their life, to design a new bike for the American market that wasn't a direct copy of a Schwinn. The Fireball had run its course, and Raleigh's chief designer, Alan Oakley, was put on a 'plane for the west coast of America to have a look at what was going on, and cast a fresh, unprejudiced eye over the youth bike scene. Legend has it that Alan sketched the Raleigh Chopper on the back of an envelope on his return flight. This may or may not be true, but if the Fireball was the daddy of the Chopper, Allan Oakley was its midwife.