Greatest ever uk frame builder?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
User avatar
speedsixdave
Posts: 670
Joined: 19 Apr 2007, 1:48pm
Location: Nottingham, UK

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby speedsixdave » 30 Aug 2016, 9:20pm

cooper_coleraine wrote:Over a long cycling life I have had a number of different cycles; the best touring ride has been on a 1987 Raleigh Randonneur
built in their Specials division. They named each bike's builder, but I cannot put my hand on the documentation at the moment.


My 1987 Randonneur was built by one Ken Tongue, and is still going strong 29 years later (14 years after the frame guarantee ran out). Definitely a good bit of work, Kenneth.

The 1987 frame was a little bit of a curate's egg, with some quality detail like the spare-spoke-mount chainstay guards - which I've not seen on many other bikes - along with the egregious omission of mounts for a four-point rack. Corrected for the 1988 frame in Raleigh's case, and in 2010 by Mercian in mine.
Big wheels good, small wheels better.
Two saddles best!

User avatar
speedsixdave
Posts: 670
Joined: 19 Apr 2007, 1:48pm
Location: Nottingham, UK

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby speedsixdave » 30 Aug 2016, 9:28pm

And I'd happily chuck into the ring the builders at Alex Moulton. A couple of those guys have been brazing spaceframes since the 1980s. The amount of quality work that goes into mitring and brazing those frames is pretty stunning (even if there are jigs involved), and doubly impressive if you consider the stainless steel frames with all joints on show and no hiding beneath a flashy paintjob!
Big wheels good, small wheels better.

Two saddles best!

User avatar
bigjim
Posts: 3109
Joined: 2 Feb 2008, 5:08pm
Location: Manchester

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby bigjim » 30 Aug 2016, 10:18pm

What exactly is a hand built frame? Dawes and Raleigh make a point about their hand built frames. Yet they are mass produced but still hand built. I don't see why hand built is better than something built to exact dimensions by a computer. Probably the nicest riding frame I have is my 1985 Raleigh Royal and evidently it is handbuilt. But is it?
My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.
Nothing left to prove.

reohn2
Posts: 35853
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby reohn2 » 30 Aug 2016, 10:44pm

bigjim wrote:...My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.

Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.
-----------------------------------------------------------
I cycle therefore I am.

Brucey
Posts: 35529
Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby Brucey » 30 Aug 2016, 10:54pm

as I mentioned upthread, not all mass produced frames are in the same league. Arguably nearly all brazed frames are 'hand built' in that the spelter is usually added by hand. But if the parts are rubbish, the prep is rubbish, and tubes are not mitred correctly etc then it matters little how the braze metal is added, and 'hand built' becomes a near-meaningless term, in this context.

IMV great framebuilders make frames that have an excellent combination of form, fit and function.

However this thread is in danger of straying into the territory of value judgements such as 'quality' and perhaps even 'value'. The products of great framebuilders of course must have 'quality', however it might be defined. 'Value' shouldn't really enter into it, because the best frames are often built by people who view making them as a vocation (rather than a mere method of earning a crust) and however much (or little) they cost, it might still be worth it.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PH
Posts: 7485
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby PH » 30 Aug 2016, 11:45pm

Brucey wrote:IMV great framebuilders make frames that have an excellent combination of form, fit and function.

Indeed, but a framebuilder isn't always an individual, nor should they necessarily be. Mercian are framebuilders, but who? Those in the shop with the expertise in fit and design or those in the brick shed with the skills in construction?

User avatar
bigjim
Posts: 3109
Joined: 2 Feb 2008, 5:08pm
Location: Manchester

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby bigjim » 31 Aug 2016, 8:58am

reohn2 wrote:
bigjim wrote:...My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.

Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.

As far as I am aware the problem with the brit bikes was that they were very labour intensive wheras the Japanese invested heavily in modern machinery that could produce engines with much finer tolerances then man was capable of. So you had reliable machines that did not leak oil all over the floor and could tolerate higher revs etc. It was not design that killed them off it was poor quality control and lack of investment.
Why would a hand made bike today be better then a computer controlled, machine built frame, or even as good? Surely the margin for error is greater?
Nothing left to prove.

User avatar
Vetus Ossa
Posts: 1055
Joined: 22 Oct 2012, 7:32pm
Location: London, Paris, New York but mostly Plymouth.

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby Vetus Ossa » 31 Aug 2016, 9:11am

I think the topic is really only about British steel hand built bicycle frames isn’t it?

pete75
Posts: 11705
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby pete75 » 31 Aug 2016, 9:13am

reohn2 wrote:
bigjim wrote:...My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.

Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.


In the context of this thread 70's and early 80's Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc were, framewise, very inferior to any 50's Norton with a Featherbed frame or even a swinging arm A10.

reohn2
Posts: 35853
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby reohn2 » 31 Aug 2016, 9:24am

pete75 wrote:
reohn2 wrote:
bigjim wrote:...My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.

Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.


In the context of this thread 70's and early 80's Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc were, framewise, very inferior to any 50's Norton with a Featherbed frame or even a swinging arm A10.

Ah!
But I didn't say Nortons :wink:
The 70's and 80's Commando/Interceptors weren't up to much though.
I had a Suzuki 500K that the 750 Commando could drop in a straight line but as for road holding and refinement,reliability,and sheer joy to ride the Suzuki would leave them for dead,the Suzuki could cruise all day at 80+ too :) .
I never could understand why the featherbed frame was dropped from production :?
Anyway that's all water under the bridge today's machines are in a different league.
-----------------------------------------------------------
I cycle therefore I am.

pete75
Posts: 11705
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby pete75 » 31 Aug 2016, 10:09am

reohn2 wrote:
pete75 wrote:
reohn2 wrote:Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.


In the context of this thread 70's and early 80's Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc were, framewise, very inferior to any 50's Norton with a Featherbed frame or even a swinging arm A10.

Ah!
But I didn't say Nortons :wink:
The 70's and 80's Commando/Interceptors weren't up to much though.
I had a Suzuki 500K that the 750 Commando could drop in a straight line but as for road holding and refinement,reliability,and sheer joy to ride the Suzuki would leave them for dead,the Suzuki could cruise all day at 80+ too :) .
I never could understand why the featherbed frame was dropped from production :?
Anyway that's all water under the bridge today's machines are in a different league.


But I did say BSA as well :wink:

They stopped the featherbed because they wouldn't/couldn't afford to develop a new engine which didn't vibrate a lot so designed the isolastic Commando frame as a way of keeping vibration away from teh rider.



I had a Commando roadster and with the isolastics set up properly it was a brilliant handler. Didn't have any reliability problems either even though the motor was tuned to 75 BHP rather than the standard 58. People didn't believe me when I said it was 75 but the motor had been tested on a dynamometer at the old BRM factory. Being put together right helped with this and my motor had been assembled by an engine mechanic at BRM.

I did get a Suzuki 500 twin after my Norton was stolen in Leeds. Good bike, I liked it a lot but not as good to ride as the Commando which I still think is the best bike I ever had.

reohn2
Posts: 35853
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby reohn2 » 31 Aug 2016, 10:48am

pete75 wrote:But I did say BSA as well :wink:

So you did,I had an A10,spitfire cam,9to1's,cleaned and polished ports,a lumbering machine with no finesses unlike most of the Japanese bikes I owned.

They stopped the featherbed because they wouldn't/couldn't afford to develop a new engine which didn't vibrate a lot so designed the isolastic Commando frame as a way of keeping vibration away from teh rider.

Which doesn't say a lot for the British motorcycle industry of the time?


I had a Commando roadster and with the isolastics set up properly it was a brilliant handler. Didn't have any reliability problems either even though the motor was tuned to 75 BHP rather than the standard 58. People didn't believe me when I said it was 75 but the motor had been tested on a dynamometer at the old BRM factory. Being put together right helped with this and my motor had been assembled by an engine mechanic at BRM.

I did get a Suzuki 500 twin after my Norton was stolen in Leeds. Good bike, I liked it a lot but not as good to ride as the Commando which I still think is the best bike I ever had.


I didn't have a Commando myself but was going off a couple friends who did,one who swapped his for a T500K like mine and couldn't believe how nice it was in comparison.
I got the T500 trading a 1971 Honda 750 four in for it because it ate rear tyres and was heavy,but awesomely powerful for it's time,friends at the time thought I was nuts but I'd ridden one and loved it.
The Suzuki was such a well behaved machine,a bit like when I bought the Salsa Vaya a feeling of 'yes this is the one' big smiles happy bunny time :D
-----------------------------------------------------------
I cycle therefore I am.

reohn2
Posts: 35853
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby reohn2 » 31 Aug 2016, 11:15am

bigjim wrote:
reohn2 wrote:
bigjim wrote:...My machine/computer built Honda motorcycle is a lot better than my hand built Triumph motorcycles ever were.

Ah,but that's design rather than hand built 'quality',The Suzuki's and Honda's I owned in the 70's and early 80's were superb machines compared with the BSA's and Triumph's I had before them.

As far as I am aware the problem with the brit bikes was that they were very labour intensive wheras the Japanese invested heavily in modern machinery that could produce engines with much finer tolerances then man was capable of. So you had reliable machines that did not leak oil all over the floor and could tolerate higher revs etc. It was not design that killed them off it was poor quality control and lack of investment.
Why would a hand made bike today be better then a computer controlled, machine built frame, or even as good? Surely the margin for error is greater?


The oil leak thing was solved by the Japanese by splitting the crank case horizontally rather than the old British industry vertically.
The higher revving capability was refined design if it didn't work the Japs didn't use it and learned fast putting huge amounts of money into R&D which the UK industry wouldn't,the car industry suffered from the same diabolical blinkered attitude.
Story alert:-
I listened to a chap on radio 4 who was head of sales and developement for BMC motors in the 60's he said knew he was on a loser when the board point blank refused to spent the extra money on the Morris 1000 to put a lockable door handle on left side for the over seas market,claiming the driver could open the car from the off side slide across and unlock the drivers side door from inside.
Can you believe that?
It shows how resting on you laurels and thinking johnny foreigner couldn't possibly make anything better.
We are now where we are as a result of such stupidity!
If you've ever stripped down a Japanese motorcycle engine you'll realise just how good their engineering is,awesome,beautiful even and above all simple to work with.
Superb engineers
-----------------------------------------------------------
I cycle therefore I am.

Samuel D
Posts: 2852
Joined: 8 Mar 2015, 11:05pm
Location: Paris

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby Samuel D » 31 Aug 2016, 11:26am

reohn2 wrote:The higher revving capability was refined design

One such refinement was that the Japanese bikes tended to have much lower peak piston speeds for a given RPM, which had a lot of positive knock-on effects, not least on long-term reliability.

It wasn’t for lack of good and creative engineers in the UK, though. The problem as I understand it was rather a lack of investment due to a culture of short-term thinking (e.g. ‘segment retreat’), lack of government support for manufacturing, unchecked privilege of the management classes at the time, etc.

British manufacturing is healthier today, though the big British brands withered.

pete75
Posts: 11705
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Re: Greatest ever uk frame builder?

Postby pete75 » 31 Aug 2016, 11:36am

reohn2 wrote:
pete75 wrote:But I did say BSA as well :wink:

So you did,I had an A10,spitfire cam,9to1's,cleaned and polished ports,a lumbering machine with no finesses unlike most of the Japanese bikes I owned.

They stopped the featherbed because they wouldn't/couldn't afford to develop a new engine which didn't vibrate a lot so designed the isolastic Commando frame as a way of keeping vibration away from teh rider.

Which doesn't say a lot for the British motorcycle industry of the time?


I had a Commando roadster and with the isolastics set up properly it was a brilliant handler. Didn't have any reliability problems either even though the motor was tuned to 75 BHP rather than the standard 58. People didn't believe me when I said it was 75 but the motor had been tested on a dynamometer at the old BRM factory. Being put together right helped with this and my motor had been assembled by an engine mechanic at BRM.

I did get a Suzuki 500 twin after my Norton was stolen in Leeds. Good bike, I liked it a lot but not as good to ride as the Commando which I still think is the best bike I ever had.


I didn't have a Commando myself but was going off a couple friends who did,one who swapped his for a T500K like mine and couldn't believe how nice it was in comparison.
I got the T500 trading a 1971 Honda 750 four in for it because it ate rear tyres and was heavy,but awesomely powerful for it's time,friends at the time thought I was nuts but I'd ridden one and loved it.
The Suzuki was such a well behaved machine,a bit like when I bought the Salsa Vaya a feeling of 'yes this is the one' big smiles happy bunny time :D


The British motorbike industry was badly managed - Bert Hopwood's book Whatever Happened to the British Motor Cycle Industry? tells a sorry tale. New and viable designs were available but senior management had neither the wit nor the imagination to sanction their production. They also brought in so called engineers from outside the industry who spent a lot of time and effort developing new frames both at Norton and Triumph/BSA and not much on the engines. Strange when the frames were streets ahead of the japs but the engines well behind in many respects.


I had an A10 - a Rocket Goldstar - handled well and was quicker than a CB750 four. Dad made a lot of special parts for the engine including much lighter valve rockers made out of titanium and steel con rods which enabled it to rev a lot higher than a standard A10 motor along with tuning intake manifold length and port shapes on a gas flow rig. The inlet valves were machined from Can-Am Chevy racing engine valves. Only real fault with the bike was the need to slip the clutch up to about 10mph because of the close ratio rrt2 gearbox - it would have been brilliant with a 5 speed box.

Have a 71 K1 CB750 now along with an A10. Strange how perceptions change - when the CB750 came out it seemed a totally different beast to something like an A10 but today compared to modern bikes they actually seem very similar.