Posted: Wednesday 03rd June 2020
Major Bros. were a small shop in Thornton Heath, South East London; they traded from about the late 1940’s to the; late 1960’s. Both the brothers Arthur and Frank were very keen cycle tourists and rough stuff enthusiasts. Unlike most shops they focused on this type of machine rather than the racing market and were popular with local members of the Rough Stuff Fellowship (two Home Counties Area Secretaries had Major Bros. bikes) and the local CTC DA’s. Frank was a great friend of ‘Chater’ Willis a leading member of both clubs who was also librarian for the VCC. Some frames were built on the premises; other later ones were bought in, possibly made by Leader or by the frame builder for Allins of Croydon.
According to Anthony Richards. (a great-nephew) both brothers were employed as instrument technicians during the war – possibly at Farnborough- which gives an early indication of the skills they would later bring to their cycle making . They immigrated to Canada after the war but returned fairly soon to set up first one and then a second shop. (Like many other close siblings with strong characters they seem often to have fallen out and separate shops allowed them to keep their distance from one another when necessary!) They moved to Scotland and remained very active cyclists until Arthur’s death in about 1990. Frank died in 2005.
Major Bros.’ frames are all very distinctive with a number of unique adoptions principally around brake cable routing. (See the attached illustrations). Arthur had very strong view on components, referring to FB as “the world’s finest hubs” (an opinion shared by several present day enthusiasts). The brothers pioneered the early use of Guidonnet levers in this country with Mafac brakes. Major’s use arose from a medical problem as he found he could not use a conventional lever with his arthritis Conloy rims and Campagnolo/FB or Airlite hubs were favoured, often with a 4-spd Sturmey /Cyclo derailleur combo. Frame angles were often around 69/70 so pretty slack, with braze-on mountings for dynamo (a Lucifer the best in Arthurs view) and cabling. It appears that after the late 50’s no more frames were built by them, as demand had declined; a few frames were made for them, usually ordered by local CTC/RSF riders who appreciated their innovative special touches.
With thanks to Stephen Chard who provided much of the above information and images.