[CR]Revisiting the MKM theme

(Example: Framebuilders:Alex Singer)

From: "Norris Lockley" <Norris.Lockley@btopenworld.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 01:04:54 +0100
Subject: [CR]Revisiting the MKM theme

I noted the couple or so contributions about MKM frames, of Harrogate. As one of them commented the frames tended to be pretty standard affairs, generally quite well put together.

In the late 70s I used to use MKM to spray up the frames I was building at the time and recall that the company, at that time under the ownership of a chap called Crabtree, after all three original owners had pulled out - Kitching to concentrate on what he did best, running and import-export warehouse, Metcalfe to go back into the car trade (I think), and Mason to set up his own bike and frame shop not too far away in the centre of Harrogate. There were about six builders on the shop floor, but not all of them building complete frames, some just preparing the tubes, others brazing main-triangles, and others putting on the rear triangles. Also by this time Ian White had left to set up his own shop in nearby York, and Jack Macklam (or his brother) to set up a frame shop in Leeds.

During this time MKM built quite a lot of frames for the American market often as OEM ie for other companies' transfers.

The foreman builder at this time having started as an apprentice under the original MKM regime was a young chap called Steve Elsworth, who was an absolute magician with an oxy-acetylene torch. In my experience he was one of the finest "lugless" builders the UK has ever seen. His lugged and brazed frames were exceptional and it is always very easy to pick out an Elsworth MKM by the quality of the filing and finishing, particularly around the seat stay top-eyes which were normally turned and chamfered from solid bar, and engraved.

Elsworth, during his time at MKM was responsible for building some excellent lugless frames, generally for time-trialling, the most notable one, being a very short wheel -based one called "The Ultimate". Based roughly on the old Sun Manx TT design whereby the seat tube joined the down tube forward of the bottom bracket by some 4 or 5" or so, thereby permitting the rear wheel to move further forward and use shorter chain stays, in the same way as a curved seat tube.

All these Ultimates were bronze-welded/lugless, and due to the extreme shortness of the chainstays - I recall copying the design several times and managed to get the rear triangle length down to 14" on a "10 mile- in- a -straight- line- Special - the drop-outs were track ends with a gear hanger welded on.

The story goes that the first frame was tested by Ian White, the sprayer, who was an exceptionall accomplished time-trialist. Having just done a PB ( personal best) for a 10 mile race - I think he was actually the National record holder at one time at this distance - when aksed by Steve Elsworth what he thought of the frame, after testing it, White is claimed to have stated.. "...well..it's just the ultimate T-T machine!"

Elsworth set up his own frame company when MKM closed down, building under the name of "Omega" ( no, not the Omega of Mr Joint, of Hetchins fame), but also built many frames for the States, in particular for a company in the early 80s called "Vulcan" or something like that. Once established he traded his frames under his own surname, and for a long while in the 80s built some of the finest time-trial low-profile frames, tandems and triplets, made in the UK. Towards he end of his business before he found he could not make a reasonable living from frame-building, he produced a number or "repro" classics, notably Ephgrave look-alikes. However his frames are just numbered sequentially and could not be mistaken for an original Ephgrave.

So if you come across an MKM study the definition of the seat-stay top-eyes and if it is impeccable in its detail, more than likely it's an Elsworth.

Norris Lockley...pleasantly reminiscing about a fantastic builder lost to the trade