Criterium Corner with Euro Freddie


Last month I was in Birmingham, visiting the Reynolds Tubing Company. Now here is a grand old cycling institution. Back in 1897, they invented double-butted tubing - the standard by which all high-end bicycle frames are measured. In fact Reynolds is top dog, by almost ten-fold, over any other frame material winning the Tour de France. You say you never heard of Reynolds? Well, this is a contemporary problem which the metallurgists in Birmingham hope to improve. While consumers of today’s quality bikes are well versed in Italian Columbus, Japanese Tange, and American True Temper tube sets... Reynolds venerated 531 pipes have recently slipped off the shelf into cycling history. Now the Brits are mounting a comeback, and yours truly, Euro Freddie, was invited to witness not only the tubing, but a new program to retrain frame builders in this new medium.

You see, the art of frame building has become, understandably, a quite refined and rarified craft. But the new Reynolds 911 tube set possesses a hitherto unknown quality in frame building. This tubing has achieved the advanced characteristic of “Error Hardening”. To put it in layman’s terms, the more you screw it up, the better the frame becomes. And this is why Reynolds felt it necessary to implement its retraining program, introduced to me by my host (and TI/Raleigh’s CEO, I might add), Ms. Cheri. At their “School of Hard Knocks”, frame builders from around the world are “de-tuned” with training films by Monty Python, head to head meetings with the infamous Leeds rugby team, and regular, late-hour sessions of pub crawling.

I can honestly report that after my weekend mini-session, I came away quite stupefied. The camaraderie was second to none - I’ve heard of men beating on drums in the forest primeval, but let me tell you, it has nothing on artisans pounding on bikes in the birthplace of the industrial revolution. And if crude, TIG welded, caterpillar joints and dented tubes offend you, as they do me, worry not, for the boys in Birmingham have come up with a rich masking finish, known as “Super Blue/Green Patina”. This interesting process is the chemical byproduct of certain copper alloys in 911, reacting to ammonia, which is derived from the consumption of Guinness Stout, and traditionally administered after bar-time.   Cheers -Euro Freddie.

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