Welcome…..

…..welcome to this website dedicated to 50 years of bike building by Henry and Frank Carpenter. If you have anything to add, just get in touch!

ariel.bicyclesWhen Henry Carpenter was born ‘Penny-Farthing’ bicycles were playthings of the rich, the Ferraris of their day. Then they were swept aside by the  diamond-framed, steel-tubed,  ‘Safety’ cycles we recognise today. These affordable bikes triggered a social revolution. Britain led the world in an explosive growth of cycle making; mass market producers were complemented by hundreds of small artisan cycle makers, custom building lightweight race bikes. One of the most respected of these marques was that of Henry Carpenter and his son Frank.

Fast forward 100 years….

boardman barcelona 92 compBy his retirement Frank Carpenter had seen cars displace bikes as a means of transport. However, he probably watched Chris Boardman’s 1992 game-changing Olympic win on TV. All was set for a resurgence of interest in cycling as a recreation and a sport; but this was not a  resurgence that could support the army of craftsmen that had built specialist race bikes. The arrival of carbon fibre wheels, frames and components sealed the fate of the steel framed bike; its long reign was over.

With wheel carriers compHenry and Frank Carpenter, father and son, were not simply bystanders through this era, they were a prime example of specialist master craftsmen of  lightweight cycles. From the early 1920s until the late 1960s they hand-built over 5000 racing cycles, the choice of many leading riders and champions of their day. They established an envied reputation for meticulous workmanship.

This website draws together information about the business, the bikes and their riders, setting them in the context of their time. The ‘Carpenter’ story illustrates the steady development – and eventual demise – of British built race bikes. Their business spanned a whole chapter of technological, manufacturing and social development.

Any text that is in red is hyperlinked to further information or pictures, elsewhere in the site or on other websites.  Click for more! (Then delete the new tab to return to where you were). If you would like to add more information, or comment on what you see, feel free to contact us on petersbed (at) aol.com

Last Updates:

  • 21/08/2017 Photo of #4368 for sale on eBay
  • 14/08/2017 Carpenter marque ride and more details on rider’s bikes added
  • 10/08/2017 Richard Williamson’s #5444 added.
  • 24/07/2017 Photo of #5189, for sale on eBay
  • 03/07/2017 A section on Clubs has been started. Contributions welcome!
  • 12/06/2017 Rod Boot’s Olympic Pursuit #5035 added.
  • 22/05/2017 Details of Colin Cape “Carpenter Olympic” #CC7274 added (also for sale)
  • 25/04/2017 Photo of #4146 and links to a YouTube clips of #3115 and Saxon-Bailey #88137 at Herne Hill
  • 07/02/2107 #3138 added to readers bikes, renovation docs here.
  • 02/02/2017 Youtube video added to Cronosquadra Versilia TTT event report
  • 02/02/2017 #4374 added to bikes seen on the Internet (with receipt)
  • 29/01/2017 #5085 added, owned by wife of “WyvernRH” in NSW, Aus.
  • 12/01/2017 Wheelbuilding price list 1963 added to Docs
  •                          Receipt for #5457 added to Docs
  • 18/12/2016 – #4933 added to bikes seen on the internet.
  • 26/11/2016 – Patricia Killiard’s Olympic Massed Start #5435 added.
  • 07/11/16 – #5540 listed on eBay
  • 07/11/16 – #3021 listed on eBay
  • 13/10/16 – #5241 listed on eBay
  • 02/9/16 – John Goddard’s 1951 SA Speed Ace #4571 added
  • 02/9/16 – Report on Inaugural Carpenter Marque Ride.
  • 02/8/16 Info on #5189 added to bikes listed on eBay
  • 17/7/16 – Sharron von Tutschek’s 1951 Ladies Lightweight Tourer #4614
  • 10/7/16 – Steve Harding’s frame #3388 with original finish/decals added.
  • 12/6/16 – Info on #5169 added to bikes listed on eBay,  a receipt added to Docs

Some Acknowledgements:

  • Terry Harradine for encouraging me to  restore my loved but tatty old Jensen;
  • John, my brother, for saying “Nice! I still have dad’s old Carpenter. Let’s fix it up”
  • Peter Underwood for his inspirational Classiclightweights site, our main source;
  • John Gill, V-CC Carpenter ‘ME’ , for his hugely informative piece on Peter’s site.
  • Janet Bedingfield for her research into the lives of Henry & Frank  Carpenter;
  • Everyone who said “Carpenter? I’ve one in my shed. Too good to scrap. Have it.”
  • Sonia, whose car now has to live on our drive.
  • Garry and Mark Needham (& Martin!) for their expertise at Argos Racing Cycles;
  • Nick Tithecott at H Lloyd Cycles for turning scraps & doodles into works of art;
  • Mick Madgett for magicking true wheels from salvaged bits. Canes on Lee Valley!!
  • Vince Warner for giving me the confidence to delve into epicyclic hubs;
  • Everyone at East Grinstead CC for putting up with an anorak in their midst;
  • Giancarlo Brocci. A true hero, a legend. Say no more.
  • Joe Bedingfield for helping set up this website.