Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A two-wheeled aristocratic lineage of almost 40 years

1) Carlton (circa 1973-4)

Though I rode my elder brother's Phillips as a teenager, I was really introduced to serious cycling by my friend Eddie Bartkowiack in the early seventies. Against his advice, I first bought a Raleigh Carlton. Carlton Cycles was founded by Fred Hanstock in 1896. During their heyday, Reg Harris, a world champion track racer in the 40's and 50's, raced a Carlton. They were taken over by Raleigh in 1960 and as a result became a semi-mass-produced machine, though at the higher end of their range. Eddie insisted that I would very soon want to upgrade and he was right. The Carlton moved on to another friend, Reg Littlefair who owned it for years!

2) Roy Thame (circa 1974-1986)

Holdsworths was one of the four better-known high-end bike shops in London at the time (the others being Condor, Evans and Witcombs). Sandy Holdsworth had originally taken over Ashlone Cycle Works on the Lower Richmond Rd. in Putney in 1927. In 1953, Holdsworth hired Roy Thame who worked with the company for more than 50 years and managed the professional team that the company established in the 1960s as well as Great Britain teams in world championships. Thame added his name to the Holdsworth stable of custom racing machines.

Eventually the original business divided: the shops were operated by W.F. Holdsworth Ltd and the wholesaling branch became the Holdsworthy Company. Roy Thame died aged 85 in 2006. The shop on the Lower Richmond Rd is still there.

My Roy Thame was my first high-end frame and came in yellow which was to remain my colour of choice for over thirty years. It was a ten-speed and had mainly early mid-range Shimano components. In those days I did not know better and could probably not have afforded Campagnolo anyway. I upgraded to wonderful Suntour components in New Orleans but the bike ended up with a friend, Ron Parsley. When Ron moved onto to other bikes, he very generously sent the Roy Thame back to me as he knew it had been my first “real” bike.

3) Ellis Briggs (circa 1983-1987)

Most schoolboys in Yorkshire in the 1960s aspired to one of two high-end bicycles. One of these was an Ellis Briggs (the other was a Pennine). Briggs Cycles was founded in 1936 by Leonard Ellis and Thomas Briggs. After Thomas died in 1953, his son Jack took over the business with his wife Nora. Jack and Nora Briggs retired in 1986. Their two sons John and Paul, had been working in the shop since the 60's, Paul as a mechanic and John as salesman. They took the reins and have run the business till today. Finally, almost 20 years after my schoolboy salivating, I owned an Ellis Briggs. It was built-up by Joy Boone’s shop in Houston. Though supposedly a custom bike, the frame was actually a tad too big for me (!), and so was eventually sold after I moved to New Orleans.

4) Allin (circa 1985-2007)

The Allin was bought as a “stand-in” while I was waiting for my Bates (see below) but ended up staying with me as a quality, trustworthy bike for over 20 years. The firm was originally known as A. H. Allin and Sons, the two sons being Archibald Edward and Charles William. The Allins were in partnership with Freddie Grubb (hailed as "the fastest cyclist in the world") for a short period at 132 Whitehorse Road, West Croydon in Surrey and traded as Allin and Grubb during that time.

The business was eventually sold to Dave Rutter and Linda Allin in 1984 but they eventually closed the business and moved to Bognor Regis. I used the Campagnolo Nuovo Record components from the Ellis Briggs to build it. A couple of years after I bought my Spectrum (see below) that finally brought me into the 21st century, the faithful Allin moved on via eBay.

5) E.G. Bates (circa 1986-2003)

I decided that the replacement for my Ellis Briggs was to come from London. Bates Cycles was set up in Swete Street in 1926 by Horace T Bates. That same year he began to produce his first frames and in 1927 was joined in the business by his brother E.G. (Eddie) Bates. One famous name that raced in the Bates colours was the World Champion, Beryl Burton.

The company continued to build frames throughout the 1960s. When Horace Bates died in 1968, his son Peter carried on with the business and Bates frames were produced in small numbers until the late 1980s. I built up mine with the then-revolutionary Shimano Dura-Ace components with generous help from Stephen Smith at Bike-Smith in New Orleans. My Bates served me well though had a chain-stay rust problem that was fixed by Skip Hujsak in Wimberley. He had built the bike on which John Howard set a land speed bicycle record (paced) of 152 mph. My Bates never went that fast so it too eventually succumbed to eBay.

6) Spectrum/Tom Kellogg (2002-present)

Tom Kellogg is one of the great American post-war frame builders. The story of my Kellogg/Spectrum is told in another blog entry below. It is has a painted titanium frame (in revolutionary blue, not yellow!) and a Campagnolo Record triple set-up.

7) Crumpton (2006-present)

Nick Crompton’s work has been voted “best carbon frame” at the North American handmade bicycle show on at least two occasions and also won “Bicycle Magazine’s “Dream Bike” award. My own carbon Crumpton has also been documented in another older blog entry. It too has Campagnolo Record components but with a compact double. The “blue-tint over black” looks spectacular as it positively sparkles in the sun.