Dr Alex Moulton had never intended to manufacture the Moulton bicycle himself. He had shown the prototypes to Raleigh, who, despite some initial interest, declined to take up the design in 1962. They later admitted that they were very wrong!
Market research conducted by Dr Moulton confirmed that the concept was a good one and would be commercially successful. Dr Moulton reluctantly set about manufacturing the bicycle himself, initially at a new factory at Bradford-on-Avon, and later outsourced to the BMC factory at Kirkby. The Moulton bicycle was a huge success, and Raleigh soon found themselves playing catch up.
Their answer, launched in 1965, was the RSW16. The RSW was superficially similar to the Moulton, with it’s step through frame, and 16 inch wheels. However, it used wide, low pressure “balloon” tyres to compensate for the lack of suspension. The result was a bicycle that was slow and heavy.
However, the marketing power of Raleigh, the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world at the time, ensured that the RSW was a success. This provided intense competition to Moulton, and in 1967, Moulton sold the bicycle business to Raleigh in what he called a “distress sale”.
Production moved to the Raleigh factory in Nottingham and Dr Alex Moulton continued to act as a consultant to Raleigh, although they did not always heed his advice. For example, the Moulton Midi was launched without a front suspension, which resulted in frame cracking as Dr Moulton had predicted, and a product recall and the fitting of a special strengthening plate was required.
Raleigh consolidated the Moulton range, reducing the number of model variants, and options. In 1970, the Mk III was launched, alongside the RSW Mk III, and the Raleigh Chopper. The Chopper became a huge success, and the Moulton was dropped altogether in 1974.
Raleigh eventually agreed to sell the Moulton designs and patents back to Dr Moulton, allowing him to continue development of his bicycle concept. This work would result in the launch of the AM Spaceframe in 1983.