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Inside the bespoke Yorkshire bike shop still in gear after 84 years

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Contained in the bespoke Yorkshire bike store nonetheless in gear after 84 years

Ellis Briggs Cycles have been making bicycles for greater than 80 years and their craftsmanship continues to be in massive demand, as John Hayes discovers. Footage by Bruce Rollinson.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 11:45 am

Bicycle body builder Paul Gibson at work on a bespoke metal body at Ellis Briggs Cycles, Shipley.
Image Bruce Rollinson

The epic climbs and descents of the area’s Tour de Yorkshire bike race could possibly be an ideal analogy for the biking trade. At the moment having fun with a renaissance, thanks largely to decreased visitors ranges through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, no person is bound 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 palms.

Paul Gibson, as the present proprietor of Ellis Briggs Cycles, a enterprise based mostly 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.

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In keeping with Gibson, Ellis Briggs’s longevity will be attributed to the enterprise adapting to shopper tendencies all through the a long time. Through the warfare years, the fledgling enterprise fought for survival promoting youngsters’s garments and enamel paints alongside their bikes.

Bicycle body builder Paul Gibson at work on a bespoke metal body at Ellis Briggs Cycles, Shipley.
Image Bruce Rollinson

Later, the corporate was in a position to capitalise on an curiosity in street racing whereas serving in Italy and France. Through 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 regarded to Europe for high-quality bikes. Then all through the Eighties and Nineties, each the BMX and mountain bike tendencies saved 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 usually forty years-plus, typically they’re into their sixties and even seventies,” says Gibson.

Bicycle body builder Paul Gibson at work on a bespoke metal body at Ellis Briggs Cycles, Shipley.
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 motorcycle much like one they maybe couldn’t afford once they had been youthful.”

Whereas racers will usually 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.

“Quite a lot of carbon frames, particularly on the extra entry-level finish, are usually a bit overbuilt and provides a somewhat harsh experience,” says Gibson.

“A metal body tends to take a little bit of the sting out of using on our roads, taking a little bit of the thrill out of the vibration and the potholes.

Bicycle body builder Paul Gibson at work on a bespoke metal body at Ellis Briggs Cycles, Shipley.
Image Bruce Rollinson

“Metal is mostly an excellent materials to make a motorcycle out of it. It does every thing, it’s light-weight, it’s robust, it’s sturdy, and it lasts a protracted, very long time when you take care of it.

“It’s simpler to restore, simpler to make alterations to. If you do purchase a metal body, you mainly preserve it, so it’s a good funding.”

It usually 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 modifications since Ellis Briggs first opened within the 30s, the way in which it builds frames has remained largely the identical.

Ellis Briggs Cycles, Shipley.
Image Bruce Rollinson

“The body itself, the geometries and issues have modified nevertheless it’s mainly the identical course of,” says Gibson.

He realized 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 received a job at Ellis Briggs initially as a motorcycle mechanic,” says Gibson. “I turned interested by framebuilding and so simply ‘nattered’ to Andrew till he lastly gave in and began instructing me. Most body builders at this time are self-taught and don’t have the expertise of being skilled by a grasp body builder like I used to be.”

Gibson is very happy to go on his information and provides framebuilding programs all year long. “I do about six a 12 months,” he says. “They’re a few week-long and I match them in after I can. Whereas a novice can not be taught all the talents required to construct a body in per week, the programs give individuals a style of what goes into constructing a motorcycle body.

“I mainly information them by means of the method and anytime that they don’t seem to be fairly as much as the usual, I assist them. By the top of the week they arrive out with an excellent body that they’ll construct up into an honest bike.

“It’s only a actually good expertise. They actually find yourself appreciating every thing, how a lot work has gone into the body, the end and every thing else, plus you find yourself speaking about bikes for per week.”

Speaking about bikes is one thing Gibson by no means tires of. “They are saying when 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 of buy. Nevertheless, potential clients is likely to be stunned at simply how inexpensive a bespoke bike body from Ellis Briggs will be.

“Relying on what degree of elements the shopper would need to placed on, builds begin from £2,500 to £3,000 and upwards,” says Gibson.

Nevertheless, when you suppose you may wish to see an Ellis Briggs bespoke bike body beneath your Christmas tree, you may need to be just a bit bit extra affected person as a result of there’s a ready listing. “We’re on about eight months in the meanwhile,” says Gibson. “Subsequent season is what you’re looking at when you ordered one now.”

Whereas dedicated to the normal 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 wish to get into sooner or later,” says Gibson. “They open up loads of alternatives. Say you’ve received a husband and spouse and so they need to exit on rides collectively however considered one of them is a stronger rider, typically the electrical bike is usually 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 need to experience a tandem. I haven’t found out how I can do it on a traditional trying 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 remodel lives. “I actually suppose that bikes can change the world,” says Gibson. “I believe it’s some of the fantastic innovations of the final couple of hundred years actually. It’s one thing that may change the world in so some ways once we pay money for it and use it. It’s exhausting to think about any draw back to biking to be trustworthy.”

When Gibson isn’t constructing bike frames, he can typically be discovered using bikes and feels blessed to dwell in a area so suited to his ardour.

“The beauty of residing 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 vehicles round,” says Gibson. “I’ll experience into the Yorkshire Dales, typically I’ll go as much as Skipton and even into Lancashire…”

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