Re: [Cr] British Frame Design. digest

Example: Production Builders
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 10:25:12 -0400
Subject: Re: [Cr] British Frame Design. digest
From: "ben kamen" <>
To: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

5/20/02 9:20
> Sheldon Brown wrote:
>> Another reason for some of the quirkier British designs is related to
>> the cult of amateurism.
>> If you've seen _Chariots of Fire_ you have a bit of a feel for the
>> amateur ethos that existed for much of the last century in That
>> Sceptred Isle. While the defenders of amateurism had all manner of
>> high-minded justification, the bottom line was the class system, and
>> keeping sporting success the province of the leisure classes.
>> The governing body of cycling was very worried about sponsorship of
>> riders by bicycle manufacturers, and enforced rules about how
>> prominently the manufacturer's name could be painted on the bike.
>> The idea was to make it impossible for spectators or viewers of
>> newspaper photos to tell what kind of bike was in use. This was
>> supposed to destroy the incentive for manufacturers to subsizze star
>> riders.
>> Many of the manufacturers counterattacked by designing their frames
>> to be distinctive. Hetchin's curly stays, Bates bulbous tubes,
>> Helenic stays and other gimcrackery originated from this.
> The following is quoted from a Hilary Stone post to the CR list November 2000:
> "I don't really know how many times it has to be said that Britain's
> RTTC ban
> in 1938 (which lasted effectively just two years) on maker's names being
> clearly shown in photographs had no effect on frame design in the UK. Most
> of the funnies (Hetchins, Bates, Baines, Sun Manx, Saxon SWB, Moorson etc
> etc) had already been designed and built prior to this and the ones that
> came after were not aimed at time triallists (Paris Galibier, Sun
> Manxman TT
> – road racers, Thanet Silverlight – tourists). It is a myth that needs to
> be killed once and for all." --Hilary Stone
> Chuck Schmidt
> SoPas, SoCal

all fair and interesting points but perhaps reading into it a bit too much.

post both wars in the Uk steel was an expensive and rationed commodity as was most everything else. a frame had to stand out and ooze quality if anyone was to pass their (very) hard earned pounds on purchasing one. builders had to make the most of what was available as well as offer value by showing what the money was spent on.

add to this the fact that there is 11 months of grey skies, drizzle and damp and id say GB frame builders had whiter legs than their teeth as its hardly ever nice enough to ride. im sure that they were indoors so much that filing and elaborating away made sense as there aint much else to do. some of them had more bohemian influences and i hypothesize that a few very elaborate makers were very keen on absinthe as a panacea (for the grey skies and little money) and influence (curly stays and over-detail).

dont get me wrong; my years in the UK are fond, and i have a rich appreciation for the style and quality of GB frames - more so, as wacky as my theory above sounds there is truth to it as sometimes style and culture are fashioned by the elements and economic realities. makes more sense to me than what ive read thus far.....

if i were to go out in london almost all of the youth on the street could identify exactly (make, year, model) my jeans, shirt, sneakers(trainers) etc etc. talk about detail orientated!!!! having competed with sneaker collectors far and wide for a pair as rare as hi-lo campy front hubs i soon found when i moved to NYC that they were stepped on and no-one could tell them apart from a $20 pair. but to this day i can tell an englishman on the street as he will immediately spot my sneakers and as quite a few here are tourists they will ask where they can get a pair.....always with an accent from accross the pond.

that tradition of very particular nuances and knowing them is cultural and is part of the vernacular with expressions like "trainspotters" and "sneakerpimps". that their handbuilt frames each have to be a little different and with idiosyncracy shown with pride is no surprise at all. why all this detail stopped and didn't extend to food is a much bigger mystery indeed (but i long for IRN-bru and pasties).

my opinion FWIW


ben "ate my fair share of parkin in worksop, sheffield" kamen - NYC