Ellis Briggs Cycles have been making bicycles for greater than 80 years and their craftsmanship remains to be in huge demand, as John Hayes discovers. Footage by Bruce Rollinson.
Monday, 14th September 2020, 11:45 am
Image Bruce Rollinson
The epic climbs and descents of the area’s Tour de Yorkshire bike race may very well be an ideal analogy for the biking trade. Presently having fun with a renaissance, thanks largely to diminished visitors ranges in the course of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, no one is certain whether or not that is the beginning of a wholesome transportation revolution or a passing fad bolstered by fitness center closures (now reopened) and furloughed staff with time on their fingers.
Paul Gibson, as the present proprietor of Ellis Briggs Cycles, a enterprise primarily based within the West Yorkshire city of Shipley since 1936 and famed because the oldest customized metal framebuilders within the UK, has an perception into the ups and downs of the bike enterprise.
In line with Gibson, Ellis Briggs’s longevity may be attributed to the enterprise adapting to client tendencies all through the many years. In the course of the battle years, the fledgling enterprise fought for survival promoting kids’s garments and enamel paints alongside their bikes.
Image Bruce Rollinson
Later, the corporate was capable of capitalise on an curiosity in street racing whereas serving in Italy and France. In the course of the 50s, Ellis Briggs’s popularity was bolstered by the biking success of staff together with Ken Russell who gained the 1952 Tour of Britain race.
Within the 60s, when automobile gross sales soared, Ellis Briggs turned its consideration to serving the American market which more and more seemed to Europe for high-quality bikes. Then all through the Eighties and Nineties, each the BMX and mountain bike tendencies stored the shop busy.
Into the brand new millennium, with elevated competitors from mail order and on-line retailers, Ellis Briggs turned its again on conventional bike gross sales and centered on constructing bespoke metal frames.
“Our clients are sometimes forty years-plus, typically they’re into their sixties and even seventies,” says Gibson.
Image Bruce Rollinson
“They are usually individuals who’ve been biking a very long time and by no means stopped, or typically they are often individuals who cycled lots of their youth after which restarted and needed a motorbike just like one they maybe couldn’t afford after they had been youthful.”
Whereas racers will sometimes look to carbon frames, Gibson means that his clients are extra centered on “café rides” and touring and worth the consolation of a metal body.
“Loads of carbon frames, particularly on the extra entry-level finish, are usually a bit overbuilt and provides a moderately harsh trip,” says Gibson.
“A metal body tends to take a little bit of the sting out of driving on our roads, taking a little bit of the excitement out of the vibration and the potholes.
Image Bruce Rollinson
“Metal is usually a very good materials to make a motorbike out of it. It does every part, it’s light-weight, it’s robust, it’s sturdy, and it lasts an extended, very long time in case you take care of it.
“It’s simpler to restore, simpler to make alterations to. While you do purchase a metal body, you principally preserve it, so it’s a good funding.”
It sometimes takes Gibson between one and three weeks to construct a body. The portray, which he outsources, can take as much as six weeks after which one other couple of days to construct up the bike.
Whereas the bike trade has seen many adjustments since Ellis Briggs first opened within the 30s, the way in which it builds frames has remained largely the identical.
Image Bruce Rollinson
“The body itself, the geometries and issues have modified nevertheless it’s principally the identical course of,” says Gibson.
He discovered his craft from Andrew Poudziunas, a person who he describes as each an inspiration and the true definition of a grasp craftsman. It took fairly a little bit of persuasion on Gibson’s behalf earlier than Poudziunas was able to go on his expertise.
“I left faculty and obtained a job at Ellis Briggs initially as a motorbike mechanic,” says Gibson. “I grew to become focused on framebuilding and so simply ‘nattered’ to Andrew till he lastly gave in and began educating me. Most body builders in the present day are self-taught and don’t have the expertise of being educated by a grasp body builder like I used to be.”
Gibson is very happy to go on his information and presents framebuilding programs all year long. “I do about six a 12 months,” he says. “They’re a couple of week-long and I match them in after I can. Whereas a novice can’t study all the talents required to construct a body in every week, the programs give individuals a style of what goes into constructing a motorbike body.
“I principally information them via the method and anytime that they aren’t fairly as much as the usual, I assist them. By the top of the week they arrive out with a very good body that they’ll construct up into a good bike.
“It’s only a actually good expertise. They actually find yourself appreciating every part, how a lot work has gone into the body, the end and every part else, plus you find yourself speaking about bikes for every week.”
Speaking about bikes is one thing Gibson by no means tires of. “They are saying in case you handle to discover a job that you simply get pleasure from, you’ll by no means work a day in your life,” says Gibson. “It’s simply one thing I get pleasure from.”
A hand-built bike body from Ellis Briggs is definitely a thought-about buy. Nevertheless, potential clients could be stunned at simply how reasonably priced a bespoke bike body from Ellis Briggs may be.
“Relying on what degree of parts the shopper would wish to placed on, builds begin from £2,500 to £3,000 and upwards,” says Gibson.
Nevertheless, in case you assume you would possibly prefer to see an Ellis Briggs bespoke bike body below your Christmas tree, you might need to be just a bit bit extra affected person as a result of there’s a ready record. “We’re on about eight months in the intervening time,” says Gibson. “Subsequent season is what you’re looking at in case you ordered one now.”
Whereas dedicated to the standard facet of the enterprise, Gibson additionally has his eye on new tendencies, together with the rising recognition of eBikes.
“The electrical bike is one thing that I want to get into sooner or later,” says Gibson. “They open up a variety of alternatives. Say you’ve obtained a husband and spouse and so they wish to exit on rides collectively however considered one of them is a stronger rider, typically the electrical bike generally is a little bit of a leveller and permit individuals to exit collectively. It’s a bit like individuals used to do with the tandem however not everybody would wish to trip a tandem. I haven’t discovered how I can do it on a traditional wanting bike but with out it detracting an excessive amount of from the aesthetics nevertheless it’s one thing I preserve .”
Gibson really believes within the energy of the bike to rework lives. “I actually assume that bikes can change the world,” says Gibson. “I believe it’s probably the most great innovations of the final couple of hundred years actually. It’s one thing that may change the world in so some ways after we pay money for it and use it. It’s arduous to consider any draw back to biking to be sincere.”
When Gibson isn’t constructing bike frames, he can usually be discovered driving bikes and feels blessed to reside in a area so suited to his ardour.
“The wonderful thing about dwelling in Yorkshire is which you can exit your entrance door and simply go just a few miles down the street and immediately be in stunning countryside with hardly any automobiles round,” says Gibson. “I’ll trip into the Yorkshire Dales, typically I’ll go as much as Skipton and even into Lancashire…”
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