Classic Lightweights UK
Don LouisBy Robin Haigh
Robin Haigh - Florida Tells us that, as a teenager and as my funds improved I had my first track iron brazed up to fit while I stood and watched by Don Louis Cycles which was located just around the corner from Railton Road in Dulwich Road.
Every part was hand chosen by me and even though I was only 15 I knew exactly what I wanted. I understand that Don Louis framebuilder whose name I forget worked also for the local Post Office but he was a genius as a framebuilder. The frame builder was Johnny Monger says John Barnes. Subsequently I had four track irons made by Don Louis all 24" and 74 parallel and I would dearly like to be able to buy one back again !
Right: Image of Richard Mead's Don Louis showing the track heritage of the marque
based at Herne Hill which was the home of track racing in the South
The Don Louis shop was in Dulwich Road in Herne Hill and the building is still there now according to Google Earth Street level mapping. I remember that the counter was right angles to the shop window as you entered and the brazing/assembly room was behind. Boxes of lugs were there as well as frame jigs and fork sections. He stocked a large range of what we think of now as quality parts.
All his frames were hand built in shop unlike many others who simply put their own badges on frames made elsewhere.
Detail shots of Robin Haigh's Don Louis frame number 7959 (No. 79 0f 1959?) below:
Gary Whelan: Regarding Don Louis frames, and with reference to Robin Haigh's frame number, John Monger (the builder) used the day, month, and year of completion as his frame number. Thus Robin's would have been built (or completed anyway) on 7th September 1959. Mine was 1261. I am assuming that JM was the builder in 1959..... I showed up (as a 14-year old) in 1960, I think. Then started putting my paper-round money in a jar.....
In his piece on Gillott frames, Mark Stevens states: Bill Philbrook had annoyed Harry by making 'homers'. Harry had also caught Bill with torch in hand at Don Louis' cycle shop in Herne Hill.
Left: Head of Don Louis with second style of Nervex Professional lugs
introduced c.1955. Speculating on the frame number could date this frame as
fifteenth frame built in 1959
Peter Holland on Don Louis:
As a young lad Don Louis's was one of of the shops that I visited often, I found him hard to get on with but he was certainly a character. He spoke with a very broad French accent, smelt of garlic and had a black onion berry on his head, he always rambled on about France and cycling there.
I can remember on several occasions when I glimsed into his workshop there would be a frame in the vice and a file in his hand that was just for effect . I am am pretty sure he had the brazing equipment but I am very doubtful that he did any frame building himself. I had also heard the story about Bill Philbrook moonlighting for Don Louis.
Graham Strugnell tells us:
I had a Don Lous built in the early sixties by Johnny Monger, it was light blue with Cinelli fork crown (this was sold to help pay for a scooter). I can remember Johnny cutting down my Brooks saddle and trying to soften it by pressing it with a hammer handle. I used to take various frames to the sprayers (in Streatham I think) to help Don and John out when they were busy. I would ride on my bike with the frame slung over my shoulder, true 'trackie' style.
Peter Underwood (Webmaster) went to a cycle event over the weekend and spoke to the owner of a Don Louis standing near the race headquarters. The owner, Richard Meed of the Lewes Wanderers CC, kindly mailed me the following:
The only marking on it when I got it when I bought it as a tatty bare frame was the frame no.1559 on the bottom bracket. I bought it from Ian Burgess, son of Mick Burgess (now sadly passed away) stalwart and chairman of Lewes Wanderers CC early last year, 2009. He used it on the track at Preston Park and Ian used it in time trials in his junior days. Ian couldn't remember what the makers mark was before Mick refurbished the frame with red aerosol! Only that they got it from Peter Crowsley, now of Edenbridge. Eventually I contacted Peter, who methodically recorded all his bikes from day one. He said the frame was a Don Louis and was originally owned by Ian Jenner, followed by John Goldsmith, then Graham Orchard before it got to him.
I found an origional set of varnish fit transfers at H. Lloyd Cycles at Penrith and had the frame re-sprayed by Dave Crowe at Colourtech, Dartford, who transformed it as you can see. I use the bike now, usually on a 66" fixed gear, most weeks and it is built with a mix of old and new parts, TA cranks and ring, Bayliss Wiley Airlite hubs. The rest is 'parts to hand' to make it 'comfortable riding', new Brooks team Pro saddle which is slowly becoming comfortable, the first time I've ridden one since the 60's when riding with the East Surrey Road Club.
Roger Rivenell from SE Australia, on a sudden whim I did a Google on Don Louis and found your site:
I have a Don Louis road frame I designed on graph paper and had built by Don Louis in mid-1956. My original plan has alas long since disappeared. I specified Reynolds 531 double-butted tubing, forks and stays, Nervex Professionnel lugs and all the measurements including fork rake. They used Campagnolo front fork ends, which created a bit of a problem with the front British Hub Co. Airlite QR hub spindles, which are slightly thicker than Campagnolo's, but some very gentle work with files fixed that problem. I still have the original 'Gem' tape on the GB alloy Maës handlebars as well as the GB (French brand this time) handlebar ends. I did have a Cyclo dérailleur, the latest model, Mark 7) in 1956, but finally replaced it with a Japanese one with the now usual parallelogram action. I replace the front dérailleur too, but kept the original Cyclo levers on the down tube. Apart from the heritage aspect, there are brazed Cyclo brackets there. I couldn't afford Campagnolo at the time, or probably wouldn't have used Cyclo. I'm glad I did now! My frame was built by John, who reputedly had come from Gillott. I was pleased about that, as the other frame builder, whose name I've totally forgotten, didn't quite have the technique of blending the spelter which came out of the lugs during brazing into the tubing, thus the excess was visible, a bit like glue which had oozed out of a joint. I noticed that on a few of his frames.
It's been repainted a couple of times since and I used to have a set of Don Louis transfers, but they were kept in a typing manual of my mother's and when she went back to England the manual went with her! Enough said. I built a complete bike from it with my favourite components of the time, including GB brakes, which were never sold in Australia as far as I know. I've had a few offers for it here over the years, including one from an English-born bike-shop proprietor, who knew what he was looking at.
I thought that Don Louis wasn't French but Welsh! Perhaps someone knows for sure. I can just vaguely see and hear him in my mind, but a French accent isn't part of the picture.
Webmaster: This copy arrived by email but when I try to 'Reply'. the mails keep returning - sorry Roger
Detail shots of Richard's Don Louis track frame built with Nervex Professional lugs
Thanks to Richard for the images of his Don Louis on this page.
If you know more about Don Louis or if you have any images of a Don Louis frame, or of a Louis bike being raced, please contact the webmaster. Email address is on the home page.
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