Saturday, 17 October 2009

Another old bike

Thanks to fleabay, I finally landed myself a frame that I've wanted ever since I saw one leant against the wall at the "Meffy" in Woolston about 20 years ago. This one is a 1939 or 1940 Bates Vegrandis in a very fetching lilac-purple. Hateful, but with this frame I could live with any colour. This one has diadrant forks which are Horace Bates' trademark and as much a signature are Hetchins' curly rear stays as well as "Cantiflex" tubing which gives a cigar shape to each of the frames main tubes. These days manufacturers trumpet that their latest aluminium frame tubes are "Hydro formed" when they have bulges in their middles. Reynolds were doing this for Horace & Co. with simple internal mandrels 80 years ago. So much for progress, eh?
The story of the Bates brothers is an intersting mix of fantastic business acumen, innovation and infighting. Mine was made when the brothers were still together with a manufacturing base in East London and sales outlets as far apart as the City and Grays, Essex. Interestingly, they never had a dealer network, preferring to sell direct from their own outlets. About 10 years after this one was built, they split up with EG Bates staying in London and brother Horace moving operations to London Road Westcliff, coincidentally the top of the road I used to live. EG continued to make high end frames for the local racing community with considerable success while Horace held the rights to both the Cantiflex and Diadrant features experiencing similar fortunes until the early 1960's. Horace died in 1968 and his son took over the business, continuing to make frames but by now in decreasing numbers until the 1980's. Eventually after a couple more changes in both name and ownership the shop became a branch of Action Bikes, but its empty now. I remember that when Action Bikes took over the new manager told me that they'd found several sets of tubes together with fittings, lugs, fork crowns etc. upstairs. I'd love to think that they went to Ray Etherington who now holds the rights to the design, but they probably got chucked in a skip by some spotty 16 year old. The Volante model is still being made by, I believe, Classic Bikes in Scotland albeit in limited numbers. Lets hope the old Bat (Bates TM) lives on for years to come!

1 comment:

Glenn Vincent said...

I commissioned a Bates from Martin Coopland in 2004. It is a grand creation and is a perfect stablemate to a Bates 1949 Best All Rounder. The BAR is used for All Rounding, and the newer Bates is dedicated to saddlebag touring. I don't think Martin is still in the business of building Bates frames, but I'm very happy with the service he did me. Cheers, Glenn Vincent in New York State's Niagara Frontier