Posted: Thursday 11th June 2020
I had been vaguely aware of this South London marque for some years, having seen the odd bike on a VCC ride and adverts in Sporting Cyclist. Real interest was kindled when early in 2008 I obtained as a job lot four frames one of which included a Fred Dean. No paint was left on it and the only transfer was a red and gold head with a racing cyclist, an address in York Road, Wandsworth, and SW18. These transfers are now available from H LLoyd Cycles (see Links to related sites).
Closer examination revealed a quality lugless frame with Campagnolo ends and brazes on for barcons. There were a few other nice touches especially around the braze-ons which indicated a frame upon which care had been taken. There was a frame number 6704 on the steerer tube on which I consulted Bryan Clarke (the fount of all knowledge on London builders). His suggestion was that it was the fourth frame built in 1967. Fred worked for Claud Butler and was manager of the Clapham Manor Road branch. For two years from 1955 one of our members Eric Hall worked for Fred on Saturdays. He paid a good wage of 30 shillings and Eric remembers him as being extremely knowledgeable and a good employer.
After Claud Butler went bankrupt Fred set up on his own, the shop opening in 1958. He had a number of addresses in York Road: 356 and 535 then finally appropriately 531. It is thought that frames were built by Bill Gray or another frame builder who had worked for Claud. Sporting Cyclist suggested Fred was also a frame builder but this is unconfirmed. It has also been suggested that his lugless frames were built by Ray Cooke who built for Allins.
Fred sponsored a racing team in the early 60’s for which Dave Bedwell and Tony Robinson rode. The first rider to be associated with Fred was Jock Andrews who won 5 French Road races in 1958, competed in the Tour de France and came 13th in the Worlds that year. In his first advertisement in December 1958 Sporting Cyclist prominence is given to a’‘Jock Andrews’ frame priced at £16 16s. At the end of the 60’s Fred seems to have got in trouble with the Inland Revenue and decamped to Europe (possibly Germany as his wife was German) leaving a sign that allegedly hung in the shop window for many years “out to lunch back in one hour” or words to that effect.
Leafing through a pile of Sporting Cyclist I was recently given I came across in the May 1964 issue a three page article about Fred himself. Entitled “One of the First” it told the fascinating story of how in the 1930’s, bored with English time trialling he rode a number of races in France including Paris-Chartres and the Tour de Paris. His first foray across the channel was in 1931 to ride the Paris-Verneuil a 180 mile day race. Unfortunately, he was prevented from competing by the organisers on the grounds he was not French. His first race was later that year the Paris-Dieppe over roads surfaces still not fully repaired after WW1. His bike with its deep Highgate bars and medium ratio Sturmey attracted at lot of interest. In fact most continental racers never having seen a hub gear assumed it was a brake!
Unfortunately, there is nothing about the business beyond a picture of the shop, presumably at the time this would have been viewed as tacit advertising. The article also contains some illustrations of Fred’s own touring bike with a number of interesting features including:
1. Two synchronised Mafac cantilever brakes on the rear working from a single lever
2. Seat pin bolt forward facing to reduce wear on the saddlebag
3. Gear lever mounted at the front of the handlebar stem together with a bell
Fred is also shown in the article riding a racing frame with a Paris Roubaix gear which would support the contention he was an experimenter.
During the ten years the shop was opened he offered a complete range of frames and towards the end offered stock below the recommended retail price. Clearly Fred was an innovative designer, even his own pre war machine looks ahead of its time with its upright angles and close clearances. In 1963 he advertised a frame with a reinforced bottom bracket lug, the Rigidex . He seems to have combined Continental design with British craftsmanship, eg the 1962 Super Italia model. My own frame has had the respray it deserves, courtesy of Mario Vaz, and rides as only a quality frame can; that hard to achieve balance between responsiveness and comfort.
Any further information on Fred Dean would be most welcome, especially sight of a catalogue, information on frame builders, details of other frame numbers, and more information about Fred himself.
Thanks to Bryan Clarke and Eric Hall for information
Fred Dean advertised in Sporting Cyclist from December 1958 until the end of 1966 (usually alternate issues)
May 1964 Sporting Cyclist contains a three page article about Fred Dean
Having recently succumbed to the lure of a plain but beautifully made Fred Dean frame, the seller revealed that he had ownership of more than a few of Fred’s frames and explained the system to me when I asked him to date mine; frame number 5554. Simply, the first digit represents the year of build based on when Fred first started having frames made under his own name in 1958. Therefore 1 = 1958, 2 = 1959 and so forth. Therefore mine has a date of 1962 whilst the frame belonging to Steve Griffiths, 6704 would have been made in 1963. The rest of the numbers could be a running total of frames built but this would mean that 150 were built between Steve’s and mine, surely too many for a small concern but who knows.
There was also confirmation that the great Bill Gray was indeed the person responsible for building Fred Dean frames as suggested in Steve’s article.
I bought my Fred Dean in 1959. It was the “Campione” model, 531DB, Prugnat short point Italia lugs, Agrati forkends. Cost me £13 13s.Fred’s adverts said his frames followed the Italian style with 72 head, 73 seat, with 1 7/8″ forkrake. It was a super frame, so much better than the usual 73/71 with yards of rake most frames had then. The transfers were always on the top tube, FRED DEAN in about ¾” block capitals. and headbadge transfer.
They were very popular in the south London bunches, Thames Velo, Morden CRC etc. The late Ken Warren and his team all rode Deans.It’s a shame I haven’t still got it but I gave it to a Brighton Velo clubmate for cyclo cross. Needless to say it got wrecked! That was in 1964 and I had just bought a Merlin, which luckily I still have.
Here is a photo of me on the Fred Dean in the 1963 Sussex Road Championshipss, 88 miles round the Cowbeech circuit. I came 2nd to Barry Carpenter after puncturing and changing a wheel.
My Fred Dean specification was:
Wheels – Mavic sprints 32/40 on Campag Record l/f q/r hubs with 15/17g spokes but 14/16g on the gear side. Regina 5 block 13-15-18-21-24. Regina chain.
Rear tub D’Alessandro cotton Imperforabile, which punctured! Front was a Dutch Radium Criterium. Lovely tubs, very well made and always went onto the rim dead true. They were hard to get in this country; Chainset – Campag Record 48/52t; pedals – Campag record track; brakes Mafac Racer; stem Ambrosio Grand Prix 5″ with Phillipe Franco Belgebars.
The gears were Simplex Prestige with Campag bar-end control. These gears were new in 1963. Previously I used Huret Allvit – they always worked very well, but I felt like a change.
Saddle Brooks B17 “French” with Ideale Competition clip, with that clip you could get very fine adjustnent. GB stainless clips, Paturaud tie end straps.EDCO nitrogen pump, with Terry clips (under down tube in image above). TA cable guide on stem bolt with Watney Red Barrel good luck charm attached. Tressorex cloth tape. TA “crac” d/t bottle cage.
The frame was Orange flam with Blue panels and chrome front ends.The rider was 21 years old and here is in Brighton Velo yellow Unis Sport jersey, Raxar shorts, Hector Martin shoes. Rider looks tired as he had punctured and took 2 laps (22) miles to regain leaders and then attacked straight away. There were four left on last lap. I finished 2nd in the final sprint
In response to my request for the above information, John replied: “Hope this is interesting. I kept a record of everything when I raced. I wasn’t really an “anorak”, that was the jacket scooter (Mods) riders wore! Actually, I had a Vespa 160cc GS scooter to get to races in those days, and as I came from Brighton where all the Mods & Rockers had their battles I was often stopped by the police asking where I was going. A bit stupid really as I had the bike and wheels strapped to the upright rear carrier!”
I have just read the story on Fred Dean Frames. I used to live in Wandsworth and owned a Fred Dean for about ten years, as did many of us in the South Western Road Club. It was a great bike and served me
well in many races. Fred told me that my frame was built by a guy named Brian Packer.I don’t think there was room at the shop for frame building and I never saw any sign of it. Sadly I don’t know where Bran Packer built the frames. His signature was a curved brake bridge at the rear which followed the shape of the brake stirrups – very cool!
Quite why I bought a London frameset in Spring 1960 when I lived in Cardiff I’m not sure. However, Dave Bedwell rode one and we had a Bedwell lookalike in the Ajax, Jimmy Mathers, who was also one of my heroes. (Jimmy rode The Oats in 1956.)
The frame cost £12.19s 6d from memory; my take home pay was about £4.50s a week. It was made to measure with a 25″ seat tube. The complete bike would have been about £25.00. It travelled to Cardiff by British Railways. It was 531, had plain Nervex or Prugnat lugs and Campag ends. It was finished in gloss black with powder blue head and seat panels and gold lug lining – very tasteful. It had Gold Fred Dean transfers on the top tube which was usual rather than the down tube. This photograph was taken by Len Thorpe in the Severn Road Club 50 in July 1961 when I was eighteen.
Equipment – Campag. large flange hubs, Fiamme rims, Pirelli Leggero tubs, Stronglight cranks, TA Criterium rings, steel Cinelli badged stem and 17B bars, Brampton pedals, Brooks Professional saddle, Mafac Racer brakes, Campag. front and rear gears, HB control for the front changer, five-speed block, Christophe toeclips and straps, Detto Pietro shoes, TA clip-on cage and bottle, Bluemel’s pump with a Campag. adaptor and pump clip. There were no braze-ons – not fashionable at the time – except the rear brake bridge.
The frame was built up for me at Charlie Alexander’s shop in Cardiff docks. Charlie and his frame builder, Cliff Smith, built his own frames (as C.W.Alexander) and they were quality products – he built me a frame in 1966 for the Milk Race.
I cannot remember what happened to the Fred Dean. I began road racing in 1962 and several of us in the Ajax bought Eddie Soens frames from Liverpool – built by his son – Billy? Soens. Team-mates later went for George Brooks frames from Bristol and then Ron Coopers if anyone remembers those names.
Two or three of us in the Wigmore Cycling Club, based in the Medway Towns in Kent owned a Fred Dean in the late 1950’s. Mine was a 1958 ‘Italia’ model, which had plain lugs, looking very similar to the Oscar Egg lugs in one of your pictures, and those on Lee Strugnell’s machine. This was ‘all the rage’ at that time, and my frame was built to twenty one and a half inches with 73/71 seat and head angles (best Italian practice at the time).
It cost sixteen guineas – £16.16s. (£16.80), and I readily recall the Saturday train ride from Chatham to Waterloo and then another to Wandsworth Town station which was 100 yards from the shop at 356 York Road to collect it. Fred took a £5.00 deposit and the balance was cleared by weekly 10 shilling postal orders until it was paid for, and I still have the payments book with Fred’s signature on each receipt!
Interestingly, my current 2010 Colnago EPS has very similar frame angles to the Fred Dean, although the wheelbase is much shorter than that used in the 1950’s. It also cost about 160 times more than the FD…
Fred was always dressed in black shirt, trousers and shoes which somehow added an air of mystery to him, but was always friendly to us youngsters (I was seventeen in 1958) and on each visit there was always the obligatory cup of bike-shop tea.
The frame was painted in a good strong yellow with a black head tube, with the maker’s transfer (on which the rider depicted looked to be the same chap as on the BLRC logo) and a small black panel on the seat tube, with the maker’s name in plain black block capitals on the down tube. The vogue in those days was not to have any bosses brazed on as it was reckoned to weaken the frame, so all cables utilised Campagnolo clips.
Mine was built up with Cinelli stem and 66 ‘Campione del Mondo’ bars, Campagnolo front and rear mechs with handlebar controls, a TA/Stronglight chainset with a Regina 5 speed block. Mafac ‘Racer’ brakes helped to stop, and Lyotard ‘Marcel Berthet’ single sided pedals with Cristophe toeclips and André Bertin straps provided the propulsion. I sat on a Brooks B17 ‘Competition narrow’ saddle. Wheels were Campagnolo quick release small-flange hubs built on to Fiamme sprint rims, but I could only ever afford D’Allessandro ‘Balilla’ training tubs! A TA stem-fitting single bottle cage with a ‘Vitelloise’ bottle completed the whole thing.
I raced around the south-east counties on it for the 1958/9 seasons and then stupidly, with hindsight, sold up in Spring 1960 to fund driving lessons for my first car. The Fred Dean was advertised in Cycling Weekly and sold the day after publication for the advertised £30 to a young lad who was driven down to Chatham from London by his father. What a bargain!
At least one of my friends – Dave Benger (see below) – bought a Fred Dean in the same year, and Dave rode his with rather more success than myself, winning several races
I had my frame built around the same time as Brian (see above). Mine was finished in a complex colour scheme of silver grey metallic with a dark blue rear triangle, orange head tube and alternating orange and dark blue bands on the seat tube. Chrome head lugs and rear ends and, eventually, full chrome front forks. I thought, and still do, it was a very pretty bike, ‘a la mode’.
It was kitted out with Fiamme/Campag sprints, Gran Sport gears with handlebar controls, Brooks saddle, Cinelli bars and stem and Mafac brakes with Universal levers. I had definitely tried to make it look like a Federico Bahamontes bike.
I have attached a picture of me ( below) on it, just breaking away on ‘agony corner’ at the start of Bluebell Hill in Kent in the 1958 Rochester Civic Week Junior road race, which I was pleased to report to Fred Dean I had won, thus, I think, speeding up delivery of the proper chrome forks which were late.
These Italia frames were the first that I knew of built in the modern style of steeper seat angles, shallower head and fork rake and shorter wheelbase with closer clearances. The seat stays were also chunkier with a substantial wrapover at the seat lug. Lively and responsive, I raced on mine until I joined the RAF in 1962, taking a few more wins, including the 1959 BCF Kent and South East London Junior Divisional champs, the first year of the BCF )British Cycling Federation).
I eventually sold mine in 1962, having had it resprayed yellow, the chrome forks having tarnished quickly, to another member of Wigmore CC, whose name escapes me. It went for about £25! Given the benefit of that most accurate of sciences, hindsight, I rather wish I had kept it.
I was 15 at the time and had grown up in Wandsworth, a keen cyclist with a wreck of a bike. My Gran and Uncle decided to treat me to a bike from Fred Dean in York Road, Wandsworth . We went to the shop after Xmas to order it and I remember it as a quite dark, small cluttered shop with a few bikes and accessories plus a counter, in the back a small workshop area for repairs and build-ups , I don’t think the frames were made there but I’m not 100% sure.
I ordered a 21½” road frame in Brunswick Green with white hoops on the seat tube and white FRED DEAN transfers on the down tube, although I have read here that Fred usually put them on the top tube. I had chrome Nervex lugs and chrome front and rear fork ends . The frame was stamped 414 under the bottom bracket . I can remember Campagnolo gears, hubs and seat post, Mafac brakes and Ambrosio bars and stem . I picked it up from the shop in spring 1961, I think it took a year of weekly payments for my Nan to pay it off with Fred! It was a fantastic bike that I rode until I got married in 1967 and then sold it for about £20, more than a weeks wages then. I recently bought another Fred Dean in good useable condition, its an earlier one than I originally had.
I read here that Fred started with the first digit as the year made commencing No.1 in 1958, this would be correct for my original frame commencing 4 in 1961. Mmy frame doesn’t have braze on lugs for brake cables etc and its numbered 317 on one side of the BB and 201 on the other . I’m pretty sure that 317 would be the year and the production number for that year, i.e. 1960 frame, number 17 . And 201 to be the number of frames produced since Fred started in 1958, although it could also be a 1959 frame and bike number 317, if you see what I mean… any comments gladly welcomed.
I have just re-read the entry above on Fred Dean bikes, there is a mention of Brian Packer building frames with a curved rear brake mount to match the brake profile .. my current bike has this feature but I can’t remember if the original one did or not. The photographs that I have seen of Fred Dean frames all seem to have straight brake mounts .