Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bob Jackson

My first upgrade to a handmade frame was a Bob Jackson. My wife and I had bought Raleigh Competitions, circa 1973, which were the best bikes we had owned up to that point in time. They had sew-up tires and French equipment. They bootstrapped us up to wanting even better bikes. In a small shop that carried frames, we both picked out a new Bob Jackson frame. Mine was cream and red and hers was dark silver-grey. We moved all the parts over from the Raleigh's.

When, years later, both bikes were stolen from a bike shop during a break-in we looked to Bob Jackson for replacements. We were living in Alaska and there were no dealers that handled handmade frames. So we contacted Bob Jackson directly in Leeds, England. We have since been doing business with Bob Jackson for over 30 years.

Bob Jackson (John Robert Jackson) started out as JRJ Cycles in 1935. They have probably been making frames longer than any other builder still making frames today. Bob served in the Royal Airforce during WWII and afterward restarted his business.

In 1955 he acquired the "Merlin" label (not to be confused with the US titanium builder of much later) after they ended the business. From about 1978, the "Hetchins" brand cycles were made by Bob Jackson.

Bob Jackson sold the company in 1986, feeling it was a good time to retire, but the new owners drove the company into the ground. Donald Thomas convinced Bob to come rescue this grand old company and he bought it back in 1993. As General Manager, Donald turned the company completely around and by 1997 needed larger, more permanent facilities. The company was moved to its current location at Bramley, Leeds.

Bob Jackson passed on in 1999 but the company he built still thrives.

They can make any type of bike, from trike to tandem from race to tour.

Bob Jackson is known for their oven baked fancy paint jobs. They can do any color combination with panels, barber pole and pin striping by hand.

In 1990, we decided to do a bike tour of the English Lake District. We would order new frames from Bob Jackson and pick them up at the old Harrogate store front in Leeds.

Bike building is a long-standing tradition in this area with names like Woodrup, Ellis Briggs and MKM being a few calling Yorkshire home along with Bob Jackson. Here is a picture of my bike with Jackson head builder Danny Foster.

We packed up our bags and started a wonderful ride through the English countryside.

We were going to ride to the coast and catch a ferry to Ireland but the wind was blowing so strongly that it blew a Boeing 747 off the runway at Heathrow so instead we crossed the Channel to France. Stashing our bikes at a train station, we went to Paris for the start of the  Paris-Nice race where I got this photo of "some guy" giving interviews.

Greg Lemond at the start of the 1990 Paris-Nice stage race.

When I decided I wanted a fancy-lugged British bike, like a Hetchins, I thought it would be a better idea to support living craftsman rather than a long gone company. So I talked to Donald about building a Legend with a modern steel, like Reynolds 853. It turned out better than my expectations.

For more information www.bobjacksoncycles.co.uk

1 comment:

rlove2bike said...

I always enjoy your posts! I think you folks have more bicycle history than anyone I know. I take that back...I KNOW you have more bicycle history. Thanks for the post!