Classic Lightweights UK
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Thanet Cycles

By: Robin Walker

Thanet cycles were the brainchild of a keen cyclist, Les Cassell from the Isle of Thanet in Kent.

The famous Silverlight frame with its cradled bottom bracket and cross over seat stays was developed by Les during the later war years and in mid-1945 a shop premises was located in Bristol.

The first Silverthan frames were produced late in 1945; Jack Denny came and worked for Thanets in early 1946 and taught Ernie Janes how to build frames. He was to be their main framebuilder until 1949. This was followed in 1947 by the Silverlight frame which was said to be based on aircraft design principals in that the bottom bracket was suspended in a cradle in the same way that aero engines were.  The early silver-soldered bottom brackets were not without problems however and later frames used lugs to strengthen the joints.

Frame builders in later years included Frank Butterworth, John Hayles and Dave Oliver.  Virtually all the frames were custom built and Les went to great pains to satisfy customer’s requirements. 
Thanet Head
A close-up of the Thanet head tube showing the lugwork, headbadge and the letter 'T' incorporated in the fork crown. 
Always expensive and controversial, Silverlight frames sold very slowly and with very little development until in 1957. The last few Silverlights were built by Rotrax Cycles of Southampton from the middle of 1954 until around 1958.

Thanet Bottom Bracket 300

A close-up of the lugged Thanet bottom-bracket showing the unit suspended in a triangular cradle.

The letter 'T' is cut out twice in the lugwork just inside the seat and down tubes.

Thanet Silverthan

A 1949 23" Thanet Silverthan with Sturmey Archer gear,
Chater Lea chainset, etc.

Thanet Silverlight 400
1951 Thanet Silverlight

Silverthan ladies 400

A very rare ladies Thanet Silverthan - 1947