Posted: Thursday 04th June 2020
Dave Russell was born in Fulham, however his family moved to Slough when he was a youngster. He attended Slough Grammar School until 1950 and then went on to serve a five year apprenticeship with OMT, a local engineering company. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he went on to serve out his two year National Service in the Royal Air Force. He then worked for a few engineering companies but could not settle down.
During the fifties cycling was booming and bikes were the pre-eminent mode of transport, recreation, exercise and sport for many so it was natural for Dave to settle down and work with Ron Kitching. After several years with Ron, Dave moved on to Hobbs of Barbican. Some time later an opportunity opened up for him to rent premises in Slough close to the town centre. He now could open his own shop to repair, build and sell bikes.
His business expanded and it was not long before he had to find larger premises. He rented and then purchased a shop in Chalvey Road in Slough. This was his shop for many years. Eventually, upon reaching retirement age he decided to slow down and moved to smaller premises in Twyford, near Reading. It was from these premises that Dave finally retired.
Dave Russell bikes were built only to order. He was certified to use Reynolds 531, 653 and 753 and was particularly proud of the 753 certification because of the intensive testing required. Dave incorporated both Nervex and Prugnat lugs into his bikes. In later years he incorporated Ishiwata and Columbus tubing into his bikes.
Dave’s building career stretched over 30 years and amounted to over 3000 frames including tandems. He lost count of the wrecked frames he resurrected and made so-called bargain bikes ridable. He had a reputation for being open with his customers explaining in clear terms the work that was required. He would equally use his skills on a custom bike as well as in the repair of a boy’s cherished wheels.
In the seventies, racing in West London was in its heyday. Steve Heffernan and Ian Bradbury were both National Pursuit Champions. Roger Queen of the Velo Club Slough was National 50 mile Time Trial champion and was in the top three in the National 25 Time Trial Championship on several occasions. It was these successes on Dave’s machines that caused several top dealers to use his frames, branding them in their own names. Reg Barnett of South London was one such dealer.
I lived in Stoke Poges and bought a custom built tourer from him in September 1984, a gorgeous metalic lilac bike. I went into his shop often during that period. I spent an hour there once, the longest I’d ever spent in a shop as he loved to chat being a very amiable chap. I was 19 when I got my bike after some four months but often went there afterwards just to have a look at his bikes and the old & new (mess) equipment in his cave.
Anyway… on his page on your site it mentions the swan sticker- a lovely emblem. He told me this- face to face: the swan he used was purely because when he set up Chalvey, Slough where his shop was, use to be a part of Buckinghamshire (it became part of Berkshire circa 1973-75) and the emblem for the Bucks shield was a swan. So Dave used the Swan because his business (and probably his home if he lived in Slough) was in Bucks and the swan was the emblem for Bucks.
There is some truth for being near the Thames (perhaps the swan was used for Bucks because of its location to the Thames as I think that use to be the Berks-Bucks boundary) but it is kind of the opposite argument. I trust this is clear. I know Dave died a few years ago and thought I may just straigten this out a bit.
I also had a Jack Hearne (he had a shop in Slough and I bought one of his last bikes shortly after he retired) – I should have kept them both or at least sold them to a real collector. I now have Chas Roberts cycles but would also love a Robin Mather in titanium!
I was especially interested in the Jack Hearne and Dave Russell pages, my cycling career started at the age of 13 or 14 when I joined the Chiltern Road Club and Jack and Jaffa introduced me to the Tuesday chain gang. Jack drove a battered old white Ford Cortina with all the windows down shouting instructions and Jaffa motor-paced us almost back to the end of the line on his moped – he always left a couple of bike lengths for us to close on our own. No sooner were we back on than Jack was shouting at us for missing our turns, I think it is fair to say it was more often me than us at first.
I also used the blue tick book (credit) quite extensively! However, I was not a star in the making, there was no money and very little support at home and I made do with a pretty rubbish bike dreaming of the day I could get on one of the FH Grubbs or Jacks own frames that filled the shop.
I remember that Jack knew how much everyone owed and what kit there was on everyone’s bike and woe betide anyone who bought kit elsewhere – especially if it was from Dave Russell! The shop was always immaculate and ably staffed by a lady named Joyce who must have had the patience of a saint. Although I got on alright with Jack it was never really as a friend and the shop was run exactly in the same manner.
Later on, I think in 1969 or 1970 I started doing a lot with the Windsor Section of the South Bucks CTC where I met Alan and did a bit of time-trialling in the racing part of the Section – the South Bucks Road Club. Just about everyone went to Dave’s and I did too, firstly to his tiny shop in the indoor Market in Slough and then in Chalvey (from 1969 to about 1988-ish) and latterly to Twyford (this was Peter Hare’s old shop).
Dave also had a workshop cum shop down the bottom of his garden. I was an army chef and often in Germany but when I was home I spent a lot of my leave and days off in the shop especially in Chalvey, building bikes, doing repairs, serving behind the counter, as well as making the lunch and coffees for people who “popped in for something quickly and were still there 5-hours later. We used to call it the only bike shop in the country with full-time professional catering staff.
I helped Dave with the move out of Chalvey to the shed and can remember a couple of occasions when I drove him up to Joe Whiskers at Welwyn to buy kit, it has to be said some of it was for me so a vested interest at times but it gave him a chance to relax a bit.
Lots of other people did much as I did over the years, if you were in the shop and something needed to be done we helped out. Unlike Jack’s all the shops were untidy but the products, frames, wheels and bikes were fantastic. There was a clubroom atmosphere to the shops too that meant people stayed.
In all I have had five bikes with the Russell badges, the first was an off-the-peg fast-back time-trial framed road bike which I sold in a moment of madness. One was built in 1975 by a lad called Phil who worked there at the time, two were built by Dave himself and lastly I have a mountain bike badged Dave Russell but built by Nigel Dean – the ex pro rider. Dave did the framebuilding consultancy work for him and that was part of the deal. The head badge on that though was a diamond design and was used for frames Dave did not build himself. The photos of the head badges are interesting – all of my bikes have the Swan but not Slough underneath,
I can remember roughly when Dave started to use those in around 1970. Previously the transfers and head badges had been in what is described on the H LLoyd site as “Chinese lettering” and were waterslides very fragile and I guess expensive. Whether or not the Slough was removed because of the move away from Slough or for cost reasons I do not know.
I’m fairly certain that all the bikes were re enamelled in the 90’s in the shed at Dave’s house at 553 Bath Road (appropriate for a cyclist) Cippenham, Slough
I kind of lost touch with both cycling and Dave for a while in the late nineties which was a real shame, Dave was a good mate and I guess an inspiration to many people for so many years. I’m sure I would not be alone in saying that and it was not just in cycling – he was a swimming coach too.
Sadly Dave is no longer with us.
My 1975 frame is off to Mercian’s for a well-earned fresh paint job now that I have found out where to get the transfers – it just would not feel the same with a different name on. I think I have a photo of it though as original ,with TA chainset, Campag seatpin and hubs, Mafac Race cantilever brakes, Shimano bar end levers and sprints and tubs!
I’ll have to dig it out and send it to you for the site. I’ll do the same for the other bikes too though it has to said they are not quite so classically equipped but are fine frames nevertheless.
By the way in Ron’s narrative from Steve Heffernan there is a reference to Ian Bradbury – it was actually Ian Banbury
I’ve got a suitcase full of old Cycling Weekly’s with photo’s of them and Eddie Adkins etc plus International Cycle Sports and if memory is right a couple of Ron Kitchings Everything Cycling
Here is a nice picture of a fastback time trial bike that Dave Russell built for me in 1990.
It is interesting to note that Dave stamped his initials DR on to each side of the fork crown which was a nice touch. He used DJR on top tube and seat tube and full Dave Russell on either side of the main down tube. You can just see the edge of the swan emblem at the front.
Also in between his shops in Slough, Chalvey and Twyford he worked from a large garage at the back of his house on the Bath Road in Slough where he built frames. I know this because this is where Dave built my bike and I spent many hours in his garage chatting to him about parts / rides etc This was summer 1990.