Posted: Saturday 30th May 2020
The first ‘John Spooner’ frame was built in 1969 by John who was a skilled fitter in a Brighton factory at the time. It was a joint effort with a friend who owned a garage in Hove, Sussex. This machine was a Hillclimb Special for John to use in RTTC Hillclimb events. The frame was built with Columbus forks and stays and Reynolds 531 main tubes, Bocama lugs, 75º head – 75º seat angles combined with Thanet type seatstays .Nine National Championships were ridden on this bike.
In 1973 John moved to Pulborough in West Sussex to work on an apple farm as the Brighton factory was having redundancy problems. In 1976 he decided to start building some frames as riders were seeing the hillclimb bike and enquiring about the possibility of John building them a frame. 1976 saw three “J R SPOONER” frames built. No. 3 was the first to be built for a customer – a cyclo cross frame.John obtained his tubing, etc, from both Holdsworthy Co. and Ron Kitching Ltd. to start with. Holdsworth visited John’s workshop and, being happy with his reputation and set-up, agreed to supply him with frame-building materials.
John worked on two fruit farms so the first eight frames were made at Toat Lodge, Toat, Pulborough,West Sussex. Then numbers nine to twenty-five at Upper Stile Place, Gay Street Lane, West Chiltington,West Sussex. In 1979 John purchased a cycle shop in Worthing known as “Pavilion Cycles”, which had been a cycle shop since 1901. He then changed the name to “JOHN SPOONER CYCLES” and extended the shop to give himself a purpose built frame-building room.
He was then able to produce more frames to meet the increasing demand for them so frame nos. twenty-six up to one hundred and sixty-eight (in 1993) were built at his premises at 21 South Farm Road, Worthing, West Sussex. These were all badged “JOHN SPOONER”.
The frame numbering system gave frame number,month started, and year e.g.
0260280 was frame no.26, built Feb. 1980.
1680193 was frame no.168 built Jan. 1993.
All “J R SPOONER” and “JOHN SPOONER” frames were individually built by John himself using low temperature brazing and silver soldering. Some frames were bronze-welded (nowadays known as fillet brazing), including the four tandem frames built over the years.
The first of these, a track tandem, was very sucessfully used by Sussex sprint champion Dave Barnard, at the Herne Hill, Leicester and Brighton tracks.
John was among the first of the “smaller” framebuilders to pass the Reynolds 753 building test whereby a frame had to be built using very low temperature silver solder and sent back to Reynolds for testing before approval to build with this ultra light tubing was granted. This was in 1982. The early to mid-1980s were the most successful for the frames with several Sussex championships being won on “JOHN SPOONER” bikes.
Most of the frames were built with Reynolds 531 or Columbus SL and SLX, a few in Reynolds 753, 531SL, 531Professional, Vitus172 and Durifort. To satisfy a demand for some cheaper stock frames’ some unenamelled Simoncini frames were bought in from Italy. These were badged “JOS SPORT” to avoid confusion with the genuine “JOHN SPOONER” hand built frames.
By 1987 the shop was getting so busy that John decided to ease up on the frame-building and spend more time in the shop so only a few frames were made for friends and some for stock up to frame no.168 in January 1993.
John sold his business in January 2000 to Michael & Barbara Bate who are now trading in the same premises as “Michaels Cycles”.
JOHN SPOONER CYCLES was a traditional/lightweight cycle shop, a main agent for Peugeot cycles, spares, clothing and same day repairs. John was also a specialist wheelbuilder. The shop had a good reputation for friendly service and fair prices. The framebuilding side of the business retired with John, although no frames were built after 1993 but the cycle sales and repairs business was bought by the Bates and continues as one of Worthing’s longest established businesses in the same trade since 1901.