Posted: Sunday 07th June 2020
Ken Janes was an enigmatic character who was brought up in Cambridge, left to work in the cycle trade and served time in the army, and returned to Cambridge in his later years, which is where I met him. Sadly, he passed away in 2009. I spoke to him from time to time and he talked about his early life and the schools he attended here. Ken said that his father worked as a frame builder for Claud Butler pre-war and that he followed in his footsteps before moving to work with ‘Spanner’ Rensch at Paris Cycles. He shared accommodation with Spanner and his wife.
As far as I know, Ken never built frames but concentrated on cutting and filing lugs and bi-laminates. When I first met Ken several years ago he was producing laminated lugs for various contemporary builders to create bi-laminated frames in the main. He showed me many of his lugs and sheafs of drawings too – he was a good draughtsman. He named several builders he cut lugs for and told me that it had been denied that he ever did this for a certain builder. To disprove the statement he showed me letters ordering lugs and paying for them. This was rather typical of Ken as he was always involved in controversy of some sort and like a lot of these builders from the early post-war era never had a good word to say about any other builder.
Ken’s other interests were military and he had collections of badges and ephemera as well as many stories of escapades in the Special Operations Executive, which became the SAS.
When Ken died he left several cards with laminates afixed and they are shown below.
Shortly before he died Ken sent me a note out of the blue along with the picture above saying, ‘These are probably the last I shall cut, now being made up by David Miller – Ken’. I think the reasoning behind this was the increasing arthritis in his hands coupled with less than perfect eyesight.
Many of the old frame builders cut ever-increasingly complex lugs well into their old age. My personal view is that they often went over the top just to show what they could do and sometimes didn’t realise that failing eyesight meant that the lugs are not as accurate as they may have been. Symmetry can be one of the casualties.