My love of old bikes has nothing to do with frames, gears or wheels. It began, perhaps unsurprisingly, with an obsession over detail.
Imagine a World where people would hand-make small numbers of bikes in workshops in towns across the country. That was the reality in the first half of the 20th Century, with a remarkable number of independent brands available. Hetchins were notable for having a base in my current home town, no more than a shop at the end of row of houses, but the significance of their output should not be underestimated. Buying two-wheeled transport in the golden age of the entrepreneur would be roughly equivalent currently of going to a bloke in your county of residence and getting a car built, from scratch, which would be utterly unique and beautiful. It wasn’t just the UK either, this cottage industry happened across Europe.
Before the era of mass bike production, super-light frames and performance-enhancing drugs, cycling was a very different ‘sport’ indeed.
Every badge represents a family business, or an opportunist bike enthusiast, taking their passion and making a business which now fuels a new generation of cycle fans. It isn’t just the racing bikes either: those used in business and industry or even discarded by your children have their niche and history that accompanies them. Ladies bikes, amazingly, have existed for a long time as a separate entity: my trusty Nigel Dean is the tip of an immense iceberg, the depths of which is becoming increasingly interesting to explore.
What would separate the entrepreneurs and their designs from each other would produce some amazing variants on what most of us would consider a ‘normal’ bike. Having taken pictures of several dozen frames, all of which have their own stories to tell, it is my intention to dedicate some time in Issue 2 of the Arguto Fanzine to the stories behind these companies, and the people responsible for shaping a history that is now increasingly celebrated for originality and mechanical brilliance.
So much of the timelines of these companies has been lost, and that seems a terrible shame considering how beautiful many of these frames really are.