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Peter on Right (1949).

Classic Lightweights began as Cambridge Lightweight News, a printed newsletter that Peter Underwood produced and sent to friends with a similar interest in vintage British ‘Lightweight” bicycles. The first edition appeared in October 2001, and it continues to be produced today. Word spread and soon people were sharing photos and stories of their own bikes, favourite builders, interesting components and reminiscences from the golden age of British handmade bicycle-building. Peter launched the website in 2006 with content being continuously donated by its engaged audience. The site grew quickly, with Peter working almost full time to manage it. Over the last decade some two million visitors from 200 countries have enjoyed its unique content.

From its launch, the site’s main focus was the “British Lightweight” scene, in particular the period between the mid-1940s to 1970s. As many of the most influential bike builders and component makers established their businesses in the years prior to this, the content began stretching further back in time. As a result of its organic development, the archive contains a wide variety of interesting items and stories to discover. So don’t be surprised if you spot the odd French derailleur here and an Italian frame there, all of which help tell the story of this uniquely British scene.

L'Eroica, Italy (2013).
Peter & Patricia

Peter Underwood was born in Norfolk and started club cycling at 15 years old with the King’s Lynn Cycling Club. He was brought up in the discipline of time-trialling as there was no road racing in the area at the time. However, there were grass track events in many of the towns and villages, which kindled his interest in this particular branch of the sport.

He continued cycling until finishing his National Service, after which he became consumed by the world of sailing for the next 30 years. He moved to Cornwall to pursue this passion, and from time to time he would purchase a classic racing bike to enjoy. During one of his frequent sailing trips he met Patricia, who went on to marry him and provide support to his Classic Lightweights project. Together Peter and Patricia collected, edited and curated the site to tell the stories of the artisan builders, their skills and craft, the components and materials used and the world of riders, clubs and events that existed during this era.

Today Peter and Patricia continue to pursue their passion for cycling both at home and on overseas tours. Now in his mid-80s, Peter still rides 8,000-10,000 miles on an annual basis.

Peter on Bates Vegrandis and Patricia on her Hetchins Swallow. Photo by Horst.
The Future

Securing the long term future of the site became an increasing priority for Peter in recent years. While it contains rich and timeless content, the original site was looking increasingly dated and difficult to use. It also lacked many of the modern web tools that make it easy to find, enjoy and share content with others. In 2018, a meeting with Andy Richman, leader of the revival of Chater-Lea, uncovered a shared interest in preserving the history of this unique period and a desire to ensure that new audiences could enjoy the site. These discussions ultimately resulted in Chater-Lea taking over the site in early 2020 with a view to redesigning, rebuilding and ensuring its continuation as a free, non-commercial resource to be enjoyed by visitors. The vision is to continue the work of Peter and Patricia and to ensure that future generations can continue to access this incredible resource.

Latest News

Vol. 2, Issue 89 - September / October 2020

These editions of Lightweight News are rather light on lightweight news as so much is in abeyance these days.  To provide some reading material I am selecting items from the website which I think you may have missed.

Vol. 2, Issue 88 – July / August 2020

Who could have imagined that in the Spring of this year that the whole world of cycling as we know, or knew it, would be turned so completely upside down along with all other aspects of life?

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