Vickers Bicycle Company

The Journal

A Very British Problem: Can a Bicycle be Made in Britain?

Once British bicycles ruled the world. That’s something we’re incredibly proud of here at Vickers Bicycle Co. Our desire to be part of the movement to reclaim that title helped us to create something special: our Roadster bicycle. Handmade in Great Britain.

Handmade in Great Britain

If you look closely – and you do need to look closely because we’re not ones for flashy decals – you’ll see “Handmade in Great Britain” etched onto the nameplates of each of our Roadsters. Those four words are incredibly important to us here at Vickers Bicycles.

It was, in part, our desire to create a bike made in the Britain that gave birth to Vickers Bicycle Co. When we set out, our ambition was to make “as British a bike as possible”. That might sound like quite a lofty ambition and some that we spoke to in the early days thought we were more than a little naive. They Assured us that it was all but impossible to do and, in any case, most bicycle-buyers simply didn’t care where a frame or a crank or hub was made.

Somewhat unsurprisingly and, looking back, maybe a touch arrogantly, we were convinced otherwise so began the process of creating our “as British as possible” bicycle. As such the provenance of every part, component and the craftsmen we work with was, and still is, something we care about deeply.

The Home of the Modern Bicycle

As a British bicycle brand this care has undoubtedly been formed by the British bicycle industry’s rich heritage. We feel genuine pride that Britain is the home of the modern bicycle. And by happy coincidence, it was from a Coventry workshop just a few short miles away from where our frames are made today that John Kemp Starley first pedalled his Rover Safety Bicycle in 1885.

Starley’s bicycle “set the fashion for the world” and as bicycle ownership exploded it was accompanied by a boom in manufacturers. To get a sense of just how big the UK bicycle industry was, take a look at this list of Coventry-based bike makers. Remarkably it stretches to over 400 companies – including household names of their times, such as Singer & Co., Starley & Co., Humber and Rover Cycle Co.

There was a time too when each of the components on a British bicycle were made here in Great Britain. In 1948, just before the start of decline in British manufacturing, there were over 120 individual companies making bicycle components – everything from saddles to spoke and handlebars to inner tubes. A “British bicycle” truly was a British bicycle.

But those glory days are gone. Today the British bicycle industry is a shadow of its former and just a handful of bicycle & component manufacturers remaining. Globalistaion has change the bicycle industry.

Which, it’s fair to say, somewhat dashed our “British bike” plans against the rocks.

A Choice of Quality

So while we would love to be able to source all our bicycles’ components from here in the UK it proved an impossible task.

Even companies with strong historical links to British bicycle industry have had to source materials from overseas. So companies like Reynolds, maker of the legendary 531 tubing, now sources its steel from Germany, the US and the Far East. Even Brooks England, possibly the most quintessentially British of all component companies, while continuing to hand-make many of its products in its Smethwick factory sources the leather it uses from the Far East.

All is not lost though!

There are, as mentioned, still a handful of UK manufacturers producing world-class components. And given our original aim it would be foolish of us not to work with them! Which is why you can specify bottom brackets and hubs from Royce for your Roadster build and all of our bikes come with bar plugs from Hope Technology.

In the selection of the rest of the components we use ‘quality’ has been the deciding factor. So we’ve searched the world to find high-end parts, made to our exacting standards, which add to the overall quality of our the Roadster.

Which is why our handlebars, seatpin, stem, pedals, headset & bottom bracket all come from Japanese manufacturers. The dynamo hub and lamp plus the brake cables, tyres and inner tubes we use are made in Germany. Chains, cranksets and brakes are from Taiwan. The wheel rims are made in Italy laced with spokes from Belgium. The 2-speed automatic hub is from the USA and the 8-speed hub is another Japanese part.

A “Made In Britain” Revival

We’re confident and extremely proud that our Roadster is as British as can be.

It’s a bicycle that was designed in Britain – based on an iconic British bicycle that started a revolution in cycling. With the heart & soul of each one, its frame, handmade here in Great Britain; using techniques that have been past down from one generation of builder to the next. Our frame’s stainless steel lugs are polished by hand and each frame is sprayed by hand. While every pair of wheels is handmade in a small workshop on the South Coast. And finally, the completed bicycle is hand assembled here in Lichfield.

But it doesn’t stop there though. While we’ve create a beautiful bicycle we’re constantly looking for new parts from British designers and manufacturers. And, as cycling and a desire for British made items is undergoing a revival in fortunes, who knows, maybe we’ll also see the return of more British component manufacturers.

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