Posted: Monday 21st September 2020
Hyman Hetchin was a Russian immigrant who set up shop in Tottenham, London in the early 1920s selling household appliances, including gramophones and mass-produced bicycles. The shop was known as Hetchin’s (possessive form) but the apostrophe was eventually dropped.
By 1934, Hetchin had made the acquaintance of Jack Denny, a local frame builder with a novel idea: vibrant or curly stays. Hetchin and Denny became partners. Hetchin patented the vibrant stays and gave up selling anything but handmade bicycles for the rest of his life.
Hetchin sponsored many racers and teams over the years, and many victories are credited to the marque, including a gold medal (track) in the 1936 Olympics.
Denny produced several hundred frames per year up until the outbreak of World War II. Sales plummeted during the war years, as men were recruited and metal was rationed. The firm’s fortunes revived after 1949 when a new series of elaborately lugged frames was displayed at a tradeshow.
During the 1950s, Hetchin employed two additional frame builders, as well as lug cutters, to keep up with demand. Hyman died in 1961.
Hyman’s son, Alf, took over the business and Jack continued building frames. Alf began actively exporting frames to the United States, going head-to-head for the road race and criterium market against such famous Italian builders as Cinelli and Masi. Alf once claimed in an interview that the American market had kept the business alive. In 1974, the shop was forced to abandon premises in Tottenham, due to rezoning. Alf moved the shop to Southend-On-Sea. Jack Denny remained in London and continued building frames. During the 1970s and early
1980s, at least some frame building was subcontracted by Alf to an unknown Italian builder, as well as to Bob Jackson Cycles in Leeds.
Since its inception, Hetchins frames have been renowned for high quality workmanship, elegant designs, and a plethora of models. More than 20 different models have been offered over the years, in addition to special orders on demand. The most famous design is the Magnum Opus, introduced in 1950 and in continuous production to this day; however, simpler designs, based on industry-standard lug blanks (such as Prugnat and Nervex) were also produced.
In 1985 Alf sold the business to a London entrepreneur, who also acquired Bob Jackson Cycles at that time. In 1986, Jack built his last frame and retired. Soon thereafter, the Southend shop was closed and production for both marques was consolidated at Jackson’s in Leeds.
In 1993, Hetchins and Jackson were separated. Bob Jackson Cycles continues under separate management in Leeds; Hetchins has continued under the management of David Miller in Preston. The frame builder is Paul Riley.
The company has been in continuous production for over 85 years and has produced to date approximately 12,000 frames.
The Hetchins name is probably the best known in the history of classic lightweights, even non-afficionados are able to quote the name and tell you about the fancy lugs and curly stays. For this reason there are probably more restored Hetchins than any other make of lightweight: such a frame dumped in a skip would be rescued probably within minutes and then passed on to someone for restoration.
For more information, please visit the Historic Hetchins web site at
The production web site is at http://www.hetchins.com