Rotrax: A Short History

Welcome to the Rotrax blog. First post we thought we’d let you know how we’ve got here.

The forerunner of the Rotrax Marque was founded in Southampton by Bill Harvell who incidentally took part in the 1932 LA Olympic Games winning a bronze medal in the cycling events. The business was eventually taken over in 1945 and expanded under the Rotrax name by Messrs Harris, Potterton and Robins with the aim to be probably the first to introduce the much more graceful and raking lines of the Continental machines rather than the old fashioned British “upright” bicycle of the times.

About this time Freddie Prince took over and was determined to revolutionise the business. Cycling historians will agree that the sport reached its peak of popularity in the early 1950’s. Post war austerity had eased, young men had money to spend and – as yet – the roads were not cluttered with motor cars. Rotrax Ltd, was well placed to meet the boom and with a skilled work force rising to 20 was able to produce light- weight road and track cycles to the standard demanded by the enthusiast. Production running at 40 per week for the lowest priced “Shirley” frame and distributed through out the country by 500 cycle dealers

In 1952 Rotrax Ltd, reached its peak of prosperity, Rotrax bicycles were ridden to victory in many notable cycle races both road and track. By the late fifties the relentless progress of the motor car was into top gear and bicycle sales fell year by year. By 1960 the sales were too few to keep all the specialist frame builders in business. This also applied to the world famous Rotrax speedway motorcycle frames that were produced in quantities alongside the bicycle business. By 1963 it had been sold on to Messrs Kinchen,Compton & Charles Noble. For a short period Witcomb Cycles of Kent had a licence to sell frames under the Rotrax name, this was subsequently terminated, Rotrax frames being exclusively build in Shirley Southampton..

From 1986 the Rotrax marque has continued with the production under the ownership of Tim Maund. The Rotrax name, “Quality First” is still the watchword for handbuilt British frames.

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68 Responses to “Rotrax: A Short History”

  1. jeff alley Says:

    I am currently restoring a rotrax that I used to race on in the ’70’s. I would be greateful if you could tell me any thing about it ie, model, year, etc Frame No.53023 Also where can I get original logo badge and forks which are missing?I bought the frame from a neighbour when I was 15 yrs for 50p and re-built the bike with saved pocket-money and raced on it. Many thanks in anticipation

    Jeff Alley

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hi Jeff, Nice to hear you have still have an old Rotrax. The frame number indicates we made it in 1953 and it was in the first month of that year. Should you require decals and metal headbadge, we can provide these if you get in touch with us.

      Tim

  2. Fantastic to find this site. I was a student in Southampton in the 80’s and remember the shop in Shirley fondly. Sadly I couldn’t afford a bike from there but I do somewhere have a musette bag with a big Rotrax logo on the side.

  3. pete cunningham Says:

    any one know what has happened to rotrax that jon bayliss used,blue frame,,,,,,

  4. Neil Cawthra Says:

    I had a Rotrax “Shirley” when I was a teenager, paid for by means of my paper round in the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire, and with the help of my father. This “low priced” model seemed very expensive to me at the time. I believe I was 13 when I got the bike, purchased from Baines cycle and toy store. (Anyone remember the short wheelbase Baines Special with abbreviated saddle tube so the rear wheel could be moved forward? yes, that Mr Baines)I would ride it to and from school every day, about 6 miles each way, as Bradford is a hilly city, this kept me fit. I toured around Yorkshire, youth hosteling with a friend on his BSA Tour of Britain Sports, and went on a 10 day youth hostelling holiday at age 15 in the wonderful hot summer of 1959 staying at, amongst other places, Sheringham in Norfolk, and at Ely, where we went to see the cathedral, eventually climbing up the backbone of England via the Derbyshire Dales. I remember enjoying several miles of downhill going into Sheffield. Total 1043 miles according to the mileometer clicking away by the front hub. The bike was pale blue, lined in gold, with mid-blue Bluemel’s Clubman mudguards and Cyclo Benelux 8 speed gears, chrome steel rims, Weinmann brakes, and, initially, Palmer tyres. I subsequently joined the East Bradford cycling club, we would go out on club runs every Sunday, usually around 100 miles, and also I would ride a 10 mile time trial occasionally on Wednesday evenings in summer at Pool-in-Wharfedale on the A61 between Leeds and Harrogate. Good times!. I sold the bike to a friend when I was 17 when I was an engineering apprentice in order to help run a 350cc Velocette MAC motorcycle of ancient vintage that I had bought for 10 pounds, that being 4 weeks pay.
    I now live in Canada, still cycle, using a Raleigh SuperCourse 12 speed (now 14 speeds), purchased new in 1980. I believe this was marketed in England as a Carlton, but that name is not well known here. I live in the lovely Caledon Hills about 50 miles North West of Toronto in Ontario, which is good bicycle country, hilly, which keeps me fit still. The Raleigh has done about 2500-3000km every summer, is now Campagnolo geared with a Super Record chainwheel and bottom bkt assy I replaced the original Raleigh branded Sakae one with about 12 years ago. I was riding yesterday, November 26th, the latest I have ever ridden in Canada, but today we have wet snow showers, so that’s it until spring. The bike is polychromatic red, faded to pink in places, as we get hot sun in summer, with the same (only white) Bluemel’s Clubman mudguards and Weinmann brakes. It is interesting to see how little development there was on cycles between the fifties and 1980, and how much since then. I cannot afford a carbon Cervelo, just like the Ellis-Briggs I couldn’t afford back then. I still have a Velocette motorcycle though, a 500cc 1959 Venom, purchased in Derby in 1974. I loved that Rotrax, it was my magic carpet on which I explored the Yorkshire Dales and places like York and Knaresborough. I was sweet on a girl at the time whose name was, incredibly, Shirley. There was a pleasing symmetry about that.

  5. Gdday from Vic Australia..my first job at age 15 was working for Mike Compton. 1972-73. at that time he was building Rotrax frames,and his own brand which he called Kingston.
    It was part of my job to braze on the pump pegs and other smalll stuff.
    I was also a keen racer and actually did own a beautiful orange Rotrax track bike.
    I spent one of the happiest years there,was great when the well known riders in the area would drop in for repairs ,or frame orders .and talk cycling[as I raced with many of them on the road,cyclo cross,and the track..
    Anyway hope my small contribution may help ,or has some relivence to your history. Norm Gray..Formerly Gs europa CC,, now racing in Australia at 52,after a break of 25 years.

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Norm, Good to hear from an ex “Rotrax” employee and still racing. You may be able to place some names to some of the faces in the workshop photo line up. Regards Tim

  6. Laurence Jenkins Says:

    As this is a brief history, I thought I’d put my ‘two penneth’ in. I was brought up in Shirley, Southampton and often popped in to the Rotrax shop on the corner of Kingston road. When I was 16, in 1974, I bought a Kingston frame (that the original client never bothered to picked up). I was told that a Kingston was a better frame than a Rotrax, more of a racing frame (?). Both frames were made down the road at the frame workshop where the “Rotrax”, “Kingston” and latterly “Silverlight” frames were all made. For a short period production frames used the “Kingston” name due to a dispute over the use of the “Rotrax” name.
    My twenty three and a half inch pride and joy was painted Plum and Cream with Gold detailing around the lugs. The number was 730001. I’d fitted it out with a hotch potch of Campag, Zeus, Sugino equipment etc. as and when I could afford them.
    Unfortunatly, it was stolen a few years later and last seen underneth someone cycling into Gate 9, Southamton docks.
    I would dearly love to know what happened to my frame/bike and would like to perhaps buy it back?
    Glad to see people are still interested in Southampton now Saints are no longer in the Premiership!

  7. Terry Harradine Says:

    Hi I am the proud owner of a 1951 Rotrax “Concours” (see readers bikes Classic Lightweights) It was given to me a few years ago by my good friend Trevor Flowers, I believe he bought it from the original owner in 1957. I was told that this frame was shown at the Cycle show in1951 and was actually bought from the stand, I can’t cnfirm this.
    I have had the frame refinished, and I have rebuilt it with period equipment, it looks great, and rides beautifully. Earlier this year I rode it in the BLRC reunion ride at Westo Super Mare.

  8. hi have just bought rotrax shirley. Can you tell me where the frame number would be located please
    neil

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Neil. You will find a matching set of numbers about 3mm high stamped under the bottom bracket and the fork steerer.

  9. Great to find this site! I have my Rotrax still languishing in a shed…it has lived with me in America and Italy and this year, I believe will be 50 years old….I need to look for those lttle numbers to check. It was a birthday present from my parents and I have always understood it to have been a special sized frame for me…maybe not!. We lived, at that time, near Lymington. Both my parents used to cycle…dad road raced and after I appeared, they also added a sidecar to the tandem and apparently I toured Wales at 10 weeks old!
    I would love to restore the bike this summer and any help /advice/ contacts would be much appreciated. I have always had great difficulty finding tyres….26″ x 1.25″

    Angie Keating

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Angie, Good to hear you still have your old “Rotrax” and yes we can refurbish your frame and it is possible to alter the frame so that 700c wheels can be used. Particularly as the 26″x 11/4″ rims are no longer available and tyres are of poor quality. Please email us pictures of the frame and we can give you some indication of the cost involved.

  10. Mark Jones Says:

    I am restoring a Rotrax thats missing its headbadge; the two rivets are still in place. Its also missing the Reynolds stickers on frame and forks, the code on the bottom bracket is 05492. Its a mid green with gold lining, and the groupset is Sachs, the wheels were beyond repair so I have put some sprints on (Maillard 600 hubs with Mavic GP4 rims and Vittoria tubulars)
    I’ve added mudguards and a Brooks B17 saddle – it looks the business.
    Can you confirm when it was built please and clarify the type of frame tubing – I want to locate the appropriate stickers and buy a head badge if possible. Its a super ride, really comfortable and quick, and has been great fun to restore.

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Mark, The frame you have is one we built in July 1954 with Reynolds 531ST tubing. The ST decals you can obtain from H. Lloyd Cycles, we can supply the metal head badge incl. rivets, p&p for £10.00

  11. i have just stumbled across your Blog as i now live in Canada. Many an hour was spent in Rotrax talking to Charlie Noble and of course shopping for the odd bottle for Sherrie ( hpoe the spelling is right).I was explaining to my teenage daughter who is just getting into the cycling world over here about the Kingston frame i used to have. We have aquired a frame of a Canadian framemaker called Joe Gardin but need a replacement pair of forks which is proving to be a problem. I remember norm grey and his orange Rotrax as i raced at the same time firstly for the Crabwood and then Rufus Wheelers. Well must carry on my search but it was so good to find your site and wish Rotrax and its customers many more years more happy cycling years

  12. John Crump Says:

    How about selling me a jersey to ride my 1953 Super Course in?

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello John, The Rotrax jerseys are available in chest size 42″ and 44″ cost £45.00 inc p&p.

  13. They look fantastic. I’m over in England in a few weeks. Will pop in and grab one. Are you still in the same place in Shirley?

  14. Peter Williams Says:

    I still mourn a Rotrax road frame left languishing in our garden hedge. I had a Hercules “Tour de France” – a lightweight look a like off the shelf. I acquired the Rotrax for my brother – it had been converted to a town bike and was selling S/H in a shop in Wolverhampton near the Cinelli & Hercules shops. Stripped, it was and still is, the lightest road frame I’ve ever come across in I presume ‘531’ D/B. It was too big for me sadly and my bro had lost interest. To cap it all, my mate in Cornwall came back from Plymouth with a Rotrax frame built into a bike !! OK, I went onto some quality lightweights, notably Mercian, but I STILL hanker after a Rotrax frame !! I just never forgot. If anyone has a 21.5″ or 22″ road frame in good knick………

  15. Ted Wright Says:

    Hi everyone, I used to “work” in Rotrax on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday afternoons, that would have been around 1949. It is difficult to imagine today the part that the Shirley shop played in the local cycling scene. There were two bike shops in the town, Rotrax and Jim Guards, Jim Guard was a time trialist or tester but Rotrax was involved with the trackies as Southampton had a track at the Sports Centre where meeting were held on a Wednesday evening. The shop served as a sort of unofficial clubroom and my job largely consisted of filling the huge brown tea pot and running down the road to get filled rolls from the cafe. Just about everyone in the cycling game came to Rotraxes even if they did not ride one. I remember Charlie Blandford and Tony Hoare used to jump up the kerb, ride across the pavement, in through the front door of the shop, through the shop and down the corridor to the back room. The workshop was in a long shed built alongside the building and there you could find Sherry, he was a fabulous wheel builder and could turn out anything you wanted. The first time I ever saw single sided hubs spoked laced on the gear side and radial on the other with the front wheel fully radial. His ability to get the awful gears of the time working wes legendary. Not many people these days realise that Simplex, Huret and the Cyclo Benelux gears used one spring to move the chain between sprockets and provide chain tension. The spring was a coil spring with a reducing diameter and a small spigot on either end. The gear arm was fixed and the gear cable pulled the gear cage into top gear and relied on the spring to push it into bottom gear. Most people set up their gears with a bias towards the higher gears as overshooting bottom gear put the whole thing into the spokes and disaster. It was not unusual to see riders climbing a steep hill climb off their bikes, turn it upside down and select bottom gear by hand then starting off again.
    Rotrax Cycles had an “independant” team, Ray Naylor, Dave Webster, Brian Packer and Pete Lynch, these were semi pros who raced in events all over what was called the Wessex region. I remember a group of us riding from Southampton to Bath to see them ride in an event. Brian packer went through the hedge descending the famoud Brassknocker Hill and broke his arm. Pete Lynch was well known after winning the last stage of the 1949 Brighton to Glasgow with an enormous solo breakaway. In early 1953 I left the area and went to start an engineering apprenticeship in the RAF. For the three or four months before I left I worked full time in the frame shop with Compton. My jobs
    seemed to be largely polishing frames with emery cloth to get them ready to go off to the enamellers
    Fred Prince and his wife lived in a big house off the Lymington to Beaulieu road where his wife bred Pyreanean mountain dogs. She often bought them into the shop One of them called Plage stood taller than me and used to stand on its back legs and lick my face which always caused a laugh.
    Glad to hear that the name is still going strong
    Regards Ted Wright

    • Roger Turner Says:

      I was a police cadet in Southampton from 1949 to 1952 when I left to join the RAF. I rode on the track at Southampton with my Claud Butler road/track bike, and later acquired a Rotrax for road use. I was a member of the Solent & District Road Club, and we used to congregate at a local shop – could that have been Jim Guard’s?

    • Simon Flack Says:

      I was Pete Linch’s GP. Sadly he died in July 2009 of a stroke, but he had Multiple sclerosis diagnosed in 1965. He remained a great character is spite of it. He knew of my interest in cycling and often chatted about his Rotrax days and his famous 1949 victory. His widow, Janet, who was happy for me to post here still retains the program printed for the event and the newspaper clippings of the results. Pete used to send his old copies of Cycling Weekly round to the surgery for the waiting room right up to the time of his death.

  16. Tim Must Says:

    As a 13 year old, living just north of Southampton, I had spent a small fortune building a very nice bike around a Holdsworth 531 frame – I had a second bike for messing around on which was my Dad’s 1950’s Raleigh Sport but that was getting a bit long in the tooth. So when think about replacing it, my Dad suggested we go down to Rotrax shop in Shirley to see if they were still making frames. They were, and the old guy (sorry don’t know the name) made up a Reynolds 501 frame. It was the first of that year; frame number is 81-01. I picked it up in May so they weren’t making many by that time. As he was building mine he built another which was red with quite ornate lugwork, if I remember right.
    The Holdsworth is long gone – I gave up on it after breaking one of the rear ends a couple of times. But I still have the Rotrax. It is currently gathering dust at my in-laws – I probably last used it 20 years ago – but I’m thinking of resurrecting it.

    • Tim Must Says:

      Update: Just cleaned up the bike. My menory isn’t that good and above isn’t quite right – the frame number is 002-86 – the second one of 1986, the red one must have been 001-86. It’s a 501SL frame with 501 forks. I’d be interested to know how it fits into the history.

  17. Gareth Yandell Says:

    Hi , I have a crackle finish green and white Rotrax track bike , frame number 07795 . Can you tell me anything about it . Year of production, made by, ( frame builders name ) . Was it sold as a complete bike or just a frame , if sold as complete bike then what spec did it have . Really look forward to hearing back from you about this . Cheers Gareth

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Gareth, We built that frame in February 95 and it was sold as a frame and forks only to a customer in Dorset. Finish was “Verde Scoro” (metallic green) and “Pearl” fork and head fade. Tubing is a mix of 531c and 725.

  18. dean edwards Says:

    Hi. I have recently acquired a Maroon-ish track frame and fork set number 49039. I have no idea about it`s pedigree, only to say it has the diamond de-cal and lots of twirly lug work.
    The frame also came with a wooden rimmed wheel. I would appreciate any information you could provide. Cheers Dean

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello Dean, Sounds like one of our very early frames if you send us some pictures we can maybe give you some more details.

  19. I am looking for info on Jim guard bikes. I have one that was built for my grandfather in Southampton England. I live in Houston tx.

  20. ted wright Says:

    I would like to get in touch with Terry Harridine who mentioned a BLRC reunion ride in Weston super mare. I recently attended a BLRC reunion dinner up near Chesterfield where Brian Robinson was a guest. Cheers Ted Wright

  21. Peter Bedingfield Says:

    I have been given ’56 frame 56263, with its C34 50T chainset, GB Maes on Il Primo stem, single GB Courier Superhood lever, Atalet headset, unknown b/b. Forks half chromed, as are crown and head lugs. Colour now reddish-brown with blue-ish forks. Any further details would be welcome (Model? Colours when new? Accessories fitted?). The top tube has been dinged, probably needs a new tube.

    Peter Bedingfield

  22. Roger Pontin Says:

    I have a chrome Rotrax bike which I bought second hand in 1955 from pocket money earned cleaning windows on Saturday. I loved it as it was different to ‘ordinary’ bikes.It now looks very sad and is very rusty.Could anyone recommend anyone who could restore it, obviously if present day Rotrax was available to do so that would be great.

    Roger Pontin

    • In the early fifties the Rotrax shop had a few hire bikes which were all chromed. They had flat bars and a three speed Simplex gear, I do not think they were very successful as they were usually borrowed by customers who did not want to risk their own bikes to go shopping in town. I used one quite often when I was working in the shop and had to run errands. Happy Days

      • ted wright Says:

        Hi, as far as I can remember there were only the two cycle shops, Jim Guards was down in Bitterne at the big road junction at the bottom of Lancers hill. Rotrax were at the bottom end of Shirley high street after the traffic lights with Archers road which was where the town foot ball ground the “Dell” was situated. I also left the area to join the RAF in 1953, I went to Halton to do an apprenticeship and was an airframe fitter for 7 years and a loadmaster for 7 years and left in 1970. These days I ride a Bianchi, fairly slowly, around Devizes area and Salisbury plain with the occasional “sportive” thrown in.
        Regards Ted Wright

  23. Kim Compton Says:

    I am Mike Comptons daughter and I worked for him in Mansion Road, Freemantle, Shirley until he closed the business in 1982 (I think), he still built frames from our home in the New Forest, we had cyclists from all our the world visit to place their orders and chat. Apart from racing bikes he also built tandems, my Mum used to ride the bike he made her to work. Glad to hear people are still interested in the work he did.

    • norm gray Says:

      Hi kim, I also worked for Mike, in 1972 and 73. he had a building in a hayloft above a readiator reparers and we used to build Rotrax and Kingston bike frames..I think I looked after you one time when you were little. Norm gray ,[the one with the funny face] now in Australia.

      • Kim Compton Says:

        Norm,
        Yes I remember you, you’re right Dad did have the loft above Kingston Radiators, but moved to Mansion Road, opposite Hemmings Garage. I would have been about 10 when you worked for Dad, hope all is well with you in Oz. It was nice to find this site with all the comments on his bikes. It’s a shame that all badges and bits & pieces have all got lost over the years, take care Kim

      • David Stark Says:

        My name is David Stark and I also new Mike and Norm I had frames made and chromed by Mike.Like norm I left England I now live in Canada and my Sixteen year old daughter is learning to ride indoor Velodromes. This sight brings back so many memories for me. thank you Rotrax

  24. M. Fellender Says:

    Anyone know anything about Croysdale frames? It is a 531c frame. I have recently got hold of one, the owner def. bought it from the shirley shop and thinks it was one of the cheaper frames they sold. I can’t find anything out about it on the web, thanks

    • rotraxcycles Says:

      Hello M.Fellender, Yes, certainly you were right, the Croysdale frames were supplied by us. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the wholesaler (now long gone) we purchased from, other than they were based in Essex and were the main Agent for Huret Derailleurs.
      Regards Tim.

      • Thanks again Rotrax ,Have you thought of doing a FB page?
        Hi Dave ,yep I remember, you mostly at Calshot track,with Nigel Sign .Derek witt,Kieth davage and Harry Jackson..The Davages are in Canada also. Nigel the Davages and me are on FB ,take care ,Norm

  25. PS wonderful technology Looks like if you click on my name it will take you to my FB

  26. Paul Loosemore Says:

    I started at Rotrax (Shop) aged 14. Chaz (Charlie Nobel) wasn’t sure about taking me on as I was so young. I only laced wheels to start. I would run errands like take the frame repairs down to Mike Crompton. The shop was a institution. Selling cycling shoes was a event. Determine size and style. Get step ladders (very wobbly). Get box from self. Stop customer putting shoes on oiled floor. Get brown paper off roll and lay on floor for customer to stand on. Hopefully they fitted. A game Chaz and I used to play was to guess the Saints result by the faces of the supporters going home. I learnt a lot which has helped me…working for Raleigh, Madison and now with my own shop in Gloucester…Striking Bikes. Glad to be part of Rotrax just need to add one to my collection.

  27. Nigel Tipple Says:

    I was a member of the Crabwood team in the 70’s and Rotrax was the centre of our universe. Charlie Noble offered great support and encouragement to us as young riders and would happily arrange interest free credit and significant discounts to allow us to afford our sport. I owe him a debt of gratitude. About 10 or so years ago, I bumped into him in my local boozer in the Test Valley and had the opportunity to thank him. He was genuinely good man. Is he still with us?

  28. R. McShane Says:

    Hi everyone
    I have a rotrax frame No 54358 bottom bracket also marked nervex 61.64.D222 E58 ( the last 2 is smaller ) I guess made 1954 but what does the rest indicate .The 61.64 could be angles in degrees?
    Where the frames finished in stove enamel ? Thinking of renovation.
    Many thanks.

  29. Barry Black Says:

    My name is Barry Black and I owned a Concours back in 1958. I bought the frame used and had it refinished at Rotrax in Shirley and used to ride it from Hythe where I lived to the Rotrax shop every Saturday morning for tea with the guys there, and time trial it out at Ower. My dad grew up in Shirley and knew Charlie Prince and I got great deals on used Campag and Cenelli bits and pieces as I recall. I’ve lived in Alberta,Canada for the last 45 years but have just retired to Vancouver Island and am getting back into cycling. I’d love to get my hands on another Rotrax.

  30. Bill Palmer Says:

    Rotrax? Remember it well – glad to know you are still at it.

    As a young lad with the Kingsgate and Venta Road CLub in Winchester I was often down of a Saturday, my converted-to-racing heavy old Rudge roadster hidden well out of sight while I listened to the great local riders Sanger, Glasspool, Spike Lewis etc. chat. Charles and Sherry were like elder statesmen to me then.

    When I could afford it I got my first real racing frame – a red Fiorelli from the shop and was a very happy 16 year old! When the Fiorelli got scratched I had it repainted as a white Jim Guard (sacrilege) and fitted Benelux gears like the independents who rode for Jim.
    Later influenced by Evian G.B. advertising, got a French Helyett frame (only available in green / white team colours of Anquetil, Darrigade and English independents Hewson and Sutton and the required Simplex parts from Charles at Rotrax . Two or three of us rode these in the junior races and were looked at a bit sideways by the Campagnolo fans… I also rode a bit of track as a junior on a lashed up converted road bike.

    When I was 20 I needed a proper track frame and it was made at Rotrax. Reynolds 531 D.B. and Prugnat long pointed lugs. It was supposed to look exactly like the Helyett, in Helyett green with white writing and panel with French blue white red rings. They did a pretty convincing job – shots sent to the contact email. It must have been one of the last of that series of Rotrax – mate John Andrews had one made around the time and his was called Kingston – the “new” marque from the Kingston Rd workshop.I rode mine at Southampton, Portsmouth and later (when like a few others here… I had joined the RAF) at Calshott and at Leicester, although it was a bit long in the stays for steep tracks. The builder (was it Compton?) and I had had words because I wanted a pure track frame but drilled for a brake. “Then it’s a road / track frame” said he and built the geometry accordingly. The brake was meant to ride to events (no team car in those days).

    I have the bike still here in Zurich, and have ridden it at the Oerlikon tracks – outside and the wooden track in the hall. Number is 6117. Happy days— I’ll have to glue on some tubs and get it out again!

    Good luck.

    • I have to start with an apology because I cannot place you although I must have known you.I was at Peter Symonds but spent my free time in Eastleigh/Southampton. I was great mates with Spike Lewis and Alan Sanger and also Phil Blacksell from Aylings bike shop in Eastleigh. We were all little “leaguers” and graduated from south of france bars to “maes” square style bars.I remember Jim Guard as a stalwart “tester” who hated us as we played havoc with their regimented club runs, I was very surprised when I heard that he was sponsoring an “indie” team. I left home to start an RAF apprenticeship in spring 53 and did quite a lot of racing in the Chilterns but I did get home to race on the Lyndhurst circuit which finished almost outside Fred Princes house, he was the owner of Rotrax cycles. I had a one off model of Rotrax which Fred agreed to sell to my father for 25 pounds. Fred then provide me with a top of the range model which had C ampag front and rear changers. In 56 I came to the end of my apprenticeship and my Rotrax was passed on to my brother Bob who was a member of the Venta. I went of to the middle east to join the conflict which is still going on today.The “league and the “Ncu” came together but all of the independants were ex-communicated and I met quite a few who joined the RAF.Today I have a Bianchi but dont ride fast enough to disrupt anyones club runs.

      • Bill Palmer Says:

        Hi Ted,
        In that case I should know you too! Many have gone – including Pete Glasspool. I was only an average junior rider but got better later in life.
        I am glad you have a Bianchi too – I have a bunch of them – the oldest from 1937, with the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa changer – a dreadful gear but very interesting. The newest one – my baby – is an Oltre with all the latest gen Campag equipment and weight just over 6 Kilos… The others are all somewhere in between.
        The first Bianchi I ever saw was a new beauty in Netley Abbey where the owner was trying to adjust the front changer as he watched the road race. Later I saw a Bianchi frame hanging up in Rotrax after a respray, with the long ends with teeth for the Cambio Corsa or Paris Roubaix gear. It belonged to one of the lads.
        From that moment on I was fascinated by the Campag story and was delighted years later when I managed to get an example – in Fukuoka Japan, of all places. I also bought a 1951 model with the Paris Roubaix gear (a’La Fausto) recently from a guy in Portsmouth. It has been unfortunately renovated – looks great but lost its personal history a bit.
        Let’s not forget that this is the Rotrax site – but also remember that Rotrax was much more than a bicycle shop – they sold Cycling!
        Best wishes, Bill

    • John Andrews Says:

      Well guys ,there’s a blast from the past ! We are in Perth Australia and Singapore these days. Noted it was Eddy Merck birthday and thought I’d check in the various John Andrews in cycling – the TdF rider and our contemporary from Somerset and up popped me – race results and Rotrax.

      Our daughter gave me a montage of my faster racing days and it largely features the Rotrax in all its glory. Will send photos when back in Perth.

      Started racing again 3 years ago when the kids bought me a carbon Italian job.
      Anyways , any one from Peter Symonds or KIngsgate & Venta RC drop me a line ( multi-tec@bigpond.com ).
      Would love to swap war stories.

      John Andrews

  31. Just found the site, have been researching on tinternet to be as factual as possible with my autobiography which features the 1950’s
    heavily and was the period of my cycling ventures, riding of course a Rotrax. Had an ancient black cycle with rod operated brakes for my 11th birthday in 1949 cycling daily from Woolston Southampton to Portswood Secondary, an 8 mile a day round trip you would not let your 11 year old cycle these days. Started an apprenticeship in 1953 at Folland Aircraft Hamble and within a few months saved enough to purchase a Rotrax frame from the shop in Shirley almost
    next door to Park road motorcycles, where you could frequently find me when I got into Nortons in the 1980’s. The frame was a special as far as I can recall, a beautiful metallic bronze paint job with all angles merging into smoky black and was hung up in the shop window where I spotted it and had to have it. Bought lightweight wheels and tyres, up to date braking equipment AND Campagnolo gearing, a must. I too used Jim Guards shop at the bottom of Buller Road, now I think a glass and mirror shop. Did a little fixed wheel racing at the sports centre, but the bike was a tad too heavy. Joined a cycle touring club which operated out of a pub on the Portswood / Swathling road and got in quite a lot of touring in Hampshire before my interest in cycling waned and the attraction of motorbikes took hold, but I had 3 good Rotrax years before I succumbed to the lure of motorised transport. I do however look back on those days with some nostalgia.

  32. David Mummery Says:

    \Hello folks. It’s a lovely surprise to find this site and to read the reminiscences. Like all of the comments, I endorse how much we all enjoyed the Saturday morning “social-session” at Rotrax Cycles. Charlie Noble always made us welcome, whether or not we had funds to spend on bits and pieces. I too owned a (pink) Rotrax track frame which served me well for both time trials and the Sports Centre track meetings. So nice to read about so many characters from the 1950s and 1960s, the days of my youth. Once every year the surviving old lags from the Rufus/Erramus still meet up for a nostalgia session, usually in Lyndhurst. Best wishes to all survivors.
    David M.

    • Kim Compton Says:

      David, when do you meet at Lyndhurst, I only live a couple of miles away & would love to meet some of the people who own the bikes my Dad made the frames for, Kim Compton

      • David Mummery Says:

        We still meet annually in September, usually at the Lyndhurst Park Hotel for lunch and a gossip. It’s primarily for surviving members of the Rufus Wheelers, several of whom will have owned a Rotrax frame or two over the years. Sadly I don’t know what happened to mine after I left it in the care of my parents when I ceased cycling.
        Let me know if you’d like to join us; ?I’m sure that you’d be welcome. I’ll pass on the name and phone number of the organiser.
        David M.

      • Wish you all the best for your meetimg. Rufus Whls were a great bunch of guys in my day [early 70s] I think Keith and Val Davage met through them …I also worked for Mike C in the hay loft .
        Norm Gray Vic Australia

      • Bill Palmer Says:

        Well its getting quite reminiscent here! Just for info, the Kingsgate and Venta “Old Boys” still ride – this year we lost Roger Brown unfortunately and will be having a memorial ride for him – also in September (7th probably). If any of you remember Roger and would like to come along, contact Jim North on jim.north@wanadoo.fr
        Would be nice to meet some more old friends…
        Bill Palmer

      • Joff Cooke Says:

        Hi Kim, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have found this site, and then to have found Mike’s daughter on here! I grew up in Southampton in the 70s and 80s and was a regular at the Rotrax shop with my dad, Brian Cooke. For my 21st birthday in 1990 dad excitedly told me that he had persuaded Mike to build me a frame, even though he was adamant he had retired by then! I remember several trips out to the house (was it somewhere around Marchwood?) to see the frame progressing. Unfortunately, I then discovered rock climbing as a new passion and spent the next 15 years hanging off cliffs rather than cycling. However, this also means that I have a pristine, less than 500 miles ridden, electric blue Kingston bike in my garage which I have just put new tyres on and taken for a ride this month. I wonder how close to being the last frame Mike built this was? I would be interested to know. It has been a while for me to remember the detail in order to search on Google so this is a revelation to find references to Kingston frames around the world.

      • hi kim, i worked with mike compton in kingston rd i was his apprentice

  33. Dave Skinner Says:

    Had a Rotrax in the mid 60’s, light as a feather with a frame finished in chrome + a fixed wheel. Cost £90 second hand, at least thats what my father told me. My friend John Bletso also had one finished in red ,we joined the Swindon Wheelers and did a few 10 mile time trials. Our school was so liberated we even had a time trial included in the sports day, can’t imagine that happening today somehow. Sadly John had an argument with an icecream van while out on a training run and ended up in a wheelchair. Believe it or not i became a billposter and moved to Bournemouth, imagine my suprise when i was working on a hoarding in Shirley Rd,Southampton and the shop next to it had Rotrax proudly dislayed in the entrance. The bike shop had long gone but it brought the memories flooding back.

    • John Andrews Says:

      Sounds like mine. When I get back to Perth WA I will try and post some pics in here. Cant recall what I paid for the track / TT bike but know my Hellyet pro team look a like road bike ( a la Anquetil etc ) cost me GBP 75.00 – which was 3 months wages back then. I got into Rotrax as they resprayed my very first racing bike – a Frejus – for me and did a really great job.

  34. Pete Trundell Says:

    I remember Rotrax Cycles shop in the mid to late 80’s. The running of the shop appeared to be in transition then. Can someone elaborate please as I can see the proprietors faces but never knew their names. I hankered after a proper frame of which there was a mouth watering selection hanging from above as you walked in the door of the shop. And oh, what a shop even then. proper old school with bare floorboards, dark wood cabinets and musty smells. I bought my first frame there; a very basic Japanese Hirame. The wheels built too (which never went out of true) by the chap in the back room. A kindly fellow with a glint in his eye and the air of a true craftsman.

  35. Brian Hall Says:

    Hi, there is a Rotrax frame on ebay with a frame number 400, which the seller admits is not the usual format. It is original, but the question of frame number is keeping me from buying it. Can you shed any light on the frame?. Brian Hall.

    • John Andrews Says:

      Sorry Brian,
      Mine was a track bike also used for fixed wheel TTs. Looking at the photos on the wall I don’t have a pump so figure I used a CO2 system but will go through my albums and check again.
      Mine was silver & chrome with a dark red seat pillar patch & head tube.
      All the best mate.
      John Andrews
      Perth WA & Singapore.

  36. Brian Hall Says:

    A frame on ebay has the number 400. Can you identify it ?

  37. I have a bike which was suggested may be a Rotrax, it has been respayed turquoise and white, but has no decals (apart from 531 tubing) or head badge to identify it. One unusual feature is a pump peg on the inside of the head tube. Could this be a Rotrax? I admire the quality of workmanship of these classy bikes, so would be delighted if it were so. P.S. I used to hang around Bill Harvell’s Hilsea shop and he encouraged me to ride and race and helped me rebuild a track bike which I rode everywhere and raced a few times.

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