14 British bike brands you should know
British bike brands can still hold their heads up against worldwide competition. We take a look at some interesting brands.
We’re told that due to globalisation British companies can’t expect to compete on the world stage. But all over the UK small brands are working away producing some cracking kit. Some have been around for years while others are new to the scene, but they all share the same passion and drive. To celebrate them we’ve put together a short and not complete list of British bike brands that are bucking the trend.
Let’s take a look at bikes first. Britain has always had a long history of making bikes, usually using the renowned Reynolds 531 tubing. Construction methods and materials have changed since those halcyon days and with these changes, new ideas have proliferated. Sloping top-tubes, wider clearances for fatter tyres, aerodynamics these have all changed the look of the modern bicycle. While the brands below all produce bikes, each takes a different approach. Some are producing limited runs or bespoke bikes. Others are competing on an international stage, whilst others are rolling along quieter roads.
Hope components have been around almost as long as the Mtb, but it’s not just components, they also build bikes. If you watched the 2020 Olympics track events, you would have seen their HB.T bike hurtling around the boards. This wild looking bike with its wide, splayed-out seat-stays and forks was a real eye-catcher and helped bring the medals home. But Hope haven’t stopped with track bikes, they’ve also got two off-road frames, the HB916 and HB130. The HB916 is their enduro race machine, while the HB130 is more of an all rounder.
Hope Bikes aren’t an all-out bikes brand, but it’s their reputation as practical engineers, delivering quality products that make them worth looking out for. Who knows, one day you may be riding a Hope road bike?
Hampshire based Handsling Bikes has been around since 2015 and has been growing steadily ever since. What started as a small race-team has grown into a UK brand selling bikes all over the world. Handsling bikes have been ridden at the top level on the track, road and cyclo-cross. With their racing background Handsling Bikes have a reputation for producing race winning bikes.
Despite suffering like many during the pandemic, Handsling expanded. They bought their own moulds, moved to bigger premises, added new models, and now sponsor two race teams – DAS-Handsling and Chaney Windows & Doors. While they are expanding they are well known for their personal touch when it comes to customer care and bike customisation. Take a look at their recent Jaw Droppers entry at the Cycle Show to see what they can do.
Bicycles from the Field Works bear their cast bronze Handmade in Sheffield badge with pride. With Sheffield’s tradition of steel working it’s only right that Field’s bikes are hand-made steel beauties. The frames are TIG welded from a mix of Reynolds 853 and Columbus Life tubing to exacting standards: producing that sublime “steel is real” ride. And once the frame is built it’s time for some amazing paint jobs, with the customer encouraged in their flights of fancy. With a limited run of only 25 bikes a year, Field are definitely catering to bespoke customers who are prepared to wait.
While most modern race bikes are carbon-fibre, if you’re after a custom built frame it will be made from steel or titanium: unless you head to Filament Bikes. Here you can get a truly custom carbon-fibre frame. With a background in bike racing and product development, founder Richard Craddock started making bikes for himself. Fast forward a few years and Richard is now producing one-off custom frames in his Worcestershire workshop.
Filament use carbon tubes, bonded and wrapped together, to create unique frames. This process – all carried out by hand – means they aren’t limited by set lug sizes or moulds. And it’s this combination of modern materials and traditional craft skills, that produces some truly amazing bikes. Take a look at their Instagram feed to see some of their tandem and road frames.
Components & Accessories
Once the bicycle became a common object ridden by all, the tinkerers and home builders started making their own parts. Whether it was to allow you to go faster, further or in more comfort these small companies all had innovative ideas and products. And companies all over the UK continue that proud tradition. This is just a small selection of what is available.
When Parcours started they had a simple plan, to make aerodynamics more accessible. They wanted cyclists to be able to be able to buy a proven aero wheelset, without breaking the bank. After some serious r&d they have achieved that goal. Working with the Sports Engineering Department at Nottingham Trent University, Parcours came up with differential front and rear rim profiles. These are designed to optimise performance for the real-world yaw angles created by cross-winds. You’ll see this on their wheelsets with their U shaped front and V shaped rear rim profiles.
Testing took place not only in the wind-tunnel and virtual-world as is the norm. They have also been tested in the real world with sensors taken from the world of sailing. And it’s not just aerodynamics that Parcours are developing, they have an exclusive partnership with carbon manufacturer Hypetex and are working with Classified Hubs. Hypetex have produced an innovative coloured carbon-fibre that has colour that is a part of the fibre, rather than a coating or paint-effect. You can see a set of their gold Chrono wheels on the Handsling A1ROevo bike in the bikes section of this article. Parcours also offer Classified Powershift hubs on some of their wheels. These hub gears replace your front mech with clever electronics. Proving you can have aerodynamics, craft, technology and looks all in one product.
Exposure-USE produce a variety of bike parts from a retina-burning range of lights, aero extensions for the go-faster brigade and a variety of gravel and mtb friendly parts. Everything is designed in the UK while the Exposure lights are also manufactured here. Those lights have evolved from simple beams to modern lighting marvels. Exposure have models that can sense your speed, ambient light levels and how you are riding. They will adjust their brightness so that riders behind aren’t blinded, warn others when you’re braking and allow for speed changes. There are lenses for road or off-road riding, power boosts that only require a tap on the light’s body to activate: cycling innovation at its best.
I remember USE way on back when I was riding the Mtb in the 90s. I used to have their bars and seatposts, with added anodising of course! Nowadays they are still producing Mtb kit, but also have a huge range of aero parts to help you break that PB. And there are a couple of gravel suspension seatposts in there as well as some flared gravel handlebars.
Royce describe themselves as one of the “last traditional British manufacturing industries left in the South of England”. Sad as that is, it’s good to know that Cliff Polton and his small workforce are still plying their trade, designing, manufacturing and testing top quality cycle components.
And when I say top quality, you have to see their products to believe the finish on their hubs and bottom-brackets. But they don’t just look good, Royce components have been used at the highest level. Chris Boardman took gold at the ’92 Barcelona Olympics riding a Lotus bike with a Royce bottom-bracket. And Boardman also used Royce for his Athlete’s Hour Record at the Manchester Velodrome. In that attempt he used Royce’s track hubs and Stealth Nipples to break Merckx’s record.
Chater-Lea is a bit different from the other brands here being both an old established company and a new project. Originally, William Chater Lea started his company way back in 1890, making frames and components. In time they also made cars (1907-22) and motorbikes ( 1903-35) before concentrating on components. These were the halcyon days for Chater-Lea, they became famous for their parts and the release of their catalogues was always eagerly awaited. By the late 50’s the British cycling boom was coming to an end as Raleigh bought up its competitors and with the rise in car ownership and by the 80s Chater-Lea had come to an end, or had it?
In 2019 Chater-Lea rose phoenix like from the flames and is now once again producing classic cycling components here in the UK. You won’t find any carbon-fibre or marginal gains in their parts. Instead this classic British brand is concentrating on a slower, more considered ride. No PBs to smash, just country lanes and village greens. Their parts are stainless steel and aluminium, made to last a lifetime with as much an eye on aesthetics as performance.
Hope Technology get their second mention in this list of the great and the good of British cycling. And with good reason, Hope have been designing and manufacturing bike-bling at their factory in Barnoldswick since 1989. From the early days of disc brakes, they have expanded their portfolio until it covers almost the whole bike and includes: hubs, brakes, controls, wheels, drivetrain, accessories and lights. Surely it can’t be long before they produce an entire groupset? Combine that with their own bikes and soon you could be riding around on a bike that is truly made in Britain!
And once you have your bike and chosen your parts, what are you going to wear? These islands have a great tradition of fashion and bespoke tailoring, is it a surprise we have companies doing that with cycle clothing?
When Endura started back in 1993 making Mtb clothing could they have known that their clothing would end up being used by WorldTour teams and Hour Record holders? This Scottish brand has grown to produce clothing too cover every cyclist from head to toe, no matter their chosen discipline. I have always found their kit to be well made, of a high quality and it just fits right!
With their manufacturing base still in Scotland and still growing, they have a strong ethical approach to any partners they use to manufacture abroad, something we can all applaud. Endura are a great British brand, making quality gear here for riders everywhere.
Hackney GT are a classic London brand, born on the mean streets of…Clapton! Hackney GT started back in 2011 when founder Russ Jones – a devout weekend racer and DJ – created a one-off jersey for his club. It soon became a classic and from one design others followed. If you raced cyclo-cross in London their jerseys were a regular sight on the circuits.
Hackney GT have their clothing made in the UK at workshops that have been SMETA audited. So you can ride safe in the knowledge that their ethics are as clean as their designs. And Russ continues to support the sport with a race team, events and even a Mtb series. You can’t fault Russ’ final words on the company ethos, “create jobs, support young people and help people to live healthy, that is what we like to do. Inclusive not exclusive , love wins”.
Dashel Helmets are for riders that don’t want to look like cyclists. Founder Catherine Bedford wanted a helmet that looked more like the cap she normally wore: so she made one! Since she launched it 2017 the Dashel helmet has been featured in Vogue, GQ and the Wall Street Journal. The Design Museum London also featured Dashel’s Helmet in its Cycle Revolution exhibition, as an accessory of the future.
Dashel are made in the UK, the original factory was in Cornwall and the carbon-fibre models is still made there. The rest of the range is made across the border in Devon at a factory that is run on 100% green energy. And the name? Dashel means thistle in Cornish.
Another helmet made in the UK, this time it’s the Headkayse, a folding one-size-fits-all helmet that can take a beating. Unlike most helmets that are fragile and have to be handled with care and replaced after a few years, the Headkayse is a tough customer. Take a look at their videos and you’ll see them being dropped, kicked and scuffed and still maintaining their protective qualities.
And if the worst should happen there’s a twICEme Technology medical chip embedded in the helmet. Tap on it with a smart-phone and first-responders can access your emergency medical details. You can even buy a premium model finished with leather and carbon-fibre for that little bit of luxury.
Velobici clothing is cool; end of. If you are a fan of Mod culture, Northern Soul and 60’s cycling you will love their clothing. The colours and styling is retro and minimalist, but with little touches that make you go “oh yeah!” Embroidered logos that hint at the Northern Soul movement and die-cast zip pulls are just some of the touches that set Velobici kit apart.
But it’s not just all cool design flair, Velobici keep a tight grip on their manufacturing as well. All their clothing is manufactured in their Leicester workshop, where they run an apprenticeship programme to maintain a skilled workforce. They also offer a free repair service should you damage your Velobici clothing. And when your favourite jersey finally reaches its end of life you can return it to Velobici and get a 30% discount on your next bit of kit.
So there we are, foureen great British brands proving that the UK can still produce great kit. And these are by no means all. Do some research and you’ll be amazed at the companies out there producing innovative and quality bicycling gear, enjoy, I know I did.
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