My focus is built around doing what I can to keep people cycling! Why? Because that is all I remember doing. From my earliest bike memories of fixing bikes with no money and using whatever I had, through to my last job, where everything was about making sure everyone had access to reasonable cost bike repairs and training.
How it started
I was a child of the 70s and lived my teens through the 80s. Life was all about bikes and my Raleigh Grifter. I was the boy who fixed all his friends bikes in my own little workshop based out of my parent’s shed in Ashington. The 80s was also the decade when I got my first job as a bike mechanic. It’s therefore no surprise that I developed a passion for bikes of that era.
I worked as a bike mechanic in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north east of England and experienced the widest range of bikes, from the huge amount of student bikes repaired on a budget, couriers riding across the city who needed on the spot repairs, commuters who rode everyday in all conditions and needing quick turnarounds, to professional road and MTB bikes built to top specifications and using the latest technologies.
The shop was called Denton Cycles. I learned my trade in this shop, surrounded by decades of knowledge and experience from others.
Steel frames and wheel building were our main business, Reynolds 531, 653 & 753 frame sets from the local suppliers such as Dave Yates and Joe Waugh, to vintage Mercians, Flying Scots and Hetchins, together with the finest steel and bonded frames from builders such as Colnago, Vitus & TVT. MTBs from Orange, GT, Kona & Marin were built and sold. Every discipline was catered for… Road, Time trial, Track, Cyclo Cross and even Tandems! Mountain Bikes were even in there too, 3 of the bikes I built being ridden by a National champion in 3 World downhill championships.
A little bit later
Although there were lots of new frame designs and materials coming through in the nineties, the steel frames of the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s remained my firm favourite. And that is how my passion for Raleigh’s Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) started.
For over 10 years, I’ve researched and blogged about the [SBDU] and their frames. That involved delving into the details about frame design and geometry, tubing types and the small details that underpinned my ability to identify genuine frames. My blog has had over half a million views and I’ve written 300,000+ words, I’ve given buying, identification, estimates and restoration advice to owners across the globe on this niche subject.
My Own Frame Build
A few years ago, I visited Dave Yates and built my own frame under his tuition. Every tube mitre, cut of the hacksaw blade, sweep of the file and flow of brass was my own – with Dave on hand to pass on his masterful knowledge. There is no better feeling than riding off down the road on a frame & wheels built by you, and a bike assembled by you.
For the last few years I’ve used my skills and experience by helping to manage a local north east bike charity, Recyke y’bike.
During my time there I’d see lots of bikes sold at Dentons come through the door as donations (all of them still having the small ‘DC’ sticker on the back of the seat tube).
Recyke y’bike has helped so many in the area with access to affordable and refurbished bikes, parts and repairs. And for those on low incomes, many have been helped with a bike at no cost.
During my time there, I’d run training sessions to individuals and groups, even doing online training during lockdown. Delivering outreach work in the local area was a key part of the charitable objectives, so I helped to keep kids pedalling with free pop up repairs, while passing on skills on how to repair their bikes and giving the message about the value of recycling and reusing.
Absolutely any type of bike could come in as a donation, so a wide ranging knowledge of different bikes, both vintage and current was essential.
My main role was as a technical lead (and vintage expert), ensuring that on average, 5000 donated bikes a year were processed, and either refurbished and sold, customers bikes were repaired, and our surplus bikes were recycled responsibly, or given away to other charities.