Whitaker and Mapplebeck
Posted: Saturday 06th June 2020
Back in the late 40s and early 50s I mis-spent most of my youth riding a bike, usually along with a couple of good friends, we were all members of King’s Lynn Cycling Club. One of the musketeers was Colin (Dickie) Lines who lived in nearby Dersingham and was an apprenticed engineer with Dodman’s Engineering.
Although we were all ‘Union’ riders our hearts were really in the more glamorous road racing scene. However there was no chance to do it at that time and place so we spent most of our time time-trialling under the auspices of the NCU, within the Fenland RRA, whilst fantasising about life as a continental road racer.
In no time at all Dickie fell for the stylish machines produced by Whitaker and Mapplebeck in Bradford and soon ended up owning first a Nidderdale in 1950 which was a middle of the range machine. In 1952 however he purchased the top-of-the-range Scelta dei Campioni (The Choice of Champions) which was his pride and joy. Unfortunately the S de Campioni was later written off in a road accident although the Nidderdale is still owned by a mutual friend of ours. Colin remembers the S dei C as having Nervex Professional lugs (see 1947 specification below), 74º head and 72º seat angles. He had it built with a twin-plate fork crown and round forks, finished in Ivory (no chrome) with red and blue double-box lining.
In 1946 Geoff Whitaker and Johnny Mapplebeck were both demobbed from the army having been friends before the war. On 7th July they set up in the business of frame building along with a retail cycle shop catering for the lightweight rider – by 1947 the frame production was up and running (see note below from Ken Russell). Having spent some of their time in the forces serving in Italy, the Italian influence could be seen straight away in the style, structure, finish and names of the machines they were to build. They were based at Ingleby Road in Bradford and soon started to build an impressive range of cycles down in the cellar. All of the staff here were keen and committed cyclists which I think was the case at many of the small manufacturers in those days.
During this period 1948 – 52 Ken Russell worked in the shop as well as racing very successfully for Whitaker & Mapplebeck. In 1952 Geoff Whitaker was to leave the business to work in Bristol and Geoff Wood who owned the Pennine Accessory Company (manufacturing C.O.2 pumps, etc.) came into the company bringing the Pennine name. During the next 12 months the name of Whitaker and Mapplebeck was phased out and frames were, and are still, made under the name of Pennine until this day.
I have a copy of the W & M brochure, said to be March 1949 (the cover has an action picture taken from the 1948 Burbage Road Race). The machines listed are:
Scelta dei Campioni, “The finest racing cycle built, incorporating a specification of the best British and Continental components, which make a machine worthy of a champion.” – Frame price £15-15-0
Nidderdale, “Popular choice.” – Frame price £12.12.0 (Image below of Derek Browne’s restored 1949 Nidderdale with correct period parts)
Ingleby, “For those who prefer the welded frame.” – Frame price £11.11.0
Re Della Corsa, (King of the Race), “All its name implies!” Frame price £13-19-6
Weights, where mentioned were:
S dei C complete machine with gears, etc – 21 lbs. R della C – frame only – 6 ½ lbs.
As you can see from the specification below, they obviously chose components with the idea of keeping the weight down to what was a very respectable level in those days.
The catalogue describes all models as road racing machines but says that they could also be supplied as pure track machines. The suggested specification for the S dei Campioni was:- Frame: Superbe hand-cut and filed lugs to our own special design, Reynolds 531 Butted Tubing, Lytaloy Head fittings and head-clip, 73º head, 71º seat, 22½” top tube, 2â…” fork rake, 40½” wheelbase; or to customers own requirements. Size to order. Wheels:- Weinmann Scherens hollow 27” sprint rims, Gnutti alloy hubs, Inciclo Vittoria tubulars, GB alloy wingnuts. Pump:- Bluemels Tour-de-France 18”. Saddle:- Brooks B17. Brakes:- Bulla alloy. Pedals:- Lyotard alloy Chainwheel and cranks:- Allez Chain: ½” x 3/32” Gear:- Huret, Osgear or Simplex 4-speed with Eureka freewheel Bars:- Strata stem and bars (shape to choice) Finish:- Multi-colour shaded with contrasting head-tube and panel on seat–tube, lugs lined and double box-lining. Colours to choice. Price £46-13-3 (or with Durax cranks and Simplex double-chainring and changer £49-19-6).They would similarly build touring machines to order.
The specification of the finish on these machines demonstrates the Continental influence and shows that W & M were building with ‘League’ riders in mind rather than the more staid ‘Union’ time-triallists who would at this time be clad in black from head to toe – so as to be inconspicuous!
Later in 1960 Pennine listed an Italia frame with the seat stays welded direct to the seat lug. Equipped with 5-speed gear and sprints and tubs this machine turned the scales at 19lbs. There was also a Grand Primo frame set with the ubiquitous Nervex Professional lugs and Campag ends. The Re Della Corsa by now was built with Italian style plain lugs and Campag ends with 72º head and 73º seat tube which gave a slightly shorter top-tube.
Pennine were also marketing the Richmond frame with 72º parallel angles, 531 tubing with “elaborately cut Prugnat lugs and Benelux, Agrati or Campag (extra cost) ends”. To complete their range at this time the Nidderdale was produced using Legere lugs and the bottom-of-the-range Marilyn which was only sold as a built-up machine.
Patricia, my wife, has a 1964 Pennine Richmond 19” road frame; No 64041 (64041 – 64 denotes year – 041 shows it was 41st built that year). This has the 72 x 72º angles, with 21” top tube; 16 ¾” chainstays; braze-on cable eyes under top tube, pump pegs (19”) on down tube and a fork lamp boss; Agrati front and rear ends; Red with white bands:- 6 ½” on the seat tube and 5 ½” on the down tube, a replica of the original finish. The Reynolds 531 butted tubing has Prugnat lugs. In 1960 the Richmond frame set cost £13 15s. but Campagnolo ends were 15s. extra. Patricia’s frame has the decorated seat-stay tops with artwork depicting an Alpine scene. This work was done on selected frames by Johnny’s wife May until sadly she died.
There is an entry on Peter Southart under Classic Riders covering the years he rode for Pennine Cycles.
Another strand in the W & M/Pennine story concerns the Baines Flying Gate. One story is that Bill Baines had decided to drop production of the Gate in the 50s when he received an order for six frames from the States. He had tubing left in stock but not the facilities to build them up so he sent the tubes to W & M/Pennine who built the frames for him. These frames will have left-hand lamp bosses. It could be that some tubes were left over and they were also built up as W & M frames. Peter Lowry owns one of them, believed to be 1954.
Johnny Mapplebeck was to continue working until he was 80 years of age when he retired during February 2000 to live and carry on cycling in Canada – he was 87 in May this year. Paul Corcoran who had worked full-time in the company since 1991, and prior to that part-time, took over the business from Johnny when he retired.
Paul was managing the business in 1995 when they moved premises from Ingleby Road to 1019 Thornton Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, telephone 01274 881030 – 1 mile up the road from the old shop.
The following note was sent to me by Ken Russell a few days ago: “The photo of me at the finish of the “Burbage R.R” 1947 shows me riding the very first W&M that was built during Spring / Summer 1947. Both Geoff & Johnny (and myself) were involved in the making of this. I won my first Road Race on it’s first outing, the “Shropshire Hospital’s RR” 3rd & Jnr’s.( August 1947)?. The catalogue you have mentioned shows a rider who was my closest friend until his death in 1990. His name, W.(Bill) Sugden and he won the Burbage RR in 1948. I have just put the phone down after speaking to Johnny for almost an hour !!!”
Terry Harradine sent in the following image and information on the late Peter Buckley winning the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 1966
My first racing bicycle was a Pennine imported into the USA around 1963! I purchased it in about 1973 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The seller was a gentleman named Ken Woods. Mr. Woods was, I believe, from England. He was for many decades the heart of the bicycle racing community in the Minneapolis area. He mentioned at the time I purchased the bicycle that it was one of a group of Pennines that someone had imported to the USA in 1963. This one was a 21″ frame, kind of copper colored. I think Mr. Woods said 10-12 of the bicycles were imported. The bicycle still had the original tires and appeared little used. Not knowing what would happen, I pumped up the tires as soon as I brought the bicycle home. They blew out as the stitching no longer held at all. The frame did have mountain scenes painted on the tops of the seat stays.
I recall the frame had a 41″ wheelbase and a substantial amount of fork rake. Might it be possible that it also had an unusual fork crown? I seem to recall that it had a crown where the lugging was inside rather than outside the fork blades. I used the bike to secure a modest victory in my first race, a 25 mile time trial. I was competing as a 14 year old class intermediate and I believe my time was 67 minutes and 14 seconds. I managed to defeat the other 3 or 4 entrants in my age group. These few notes may help me shake loose some other details about the bicycle. Oh yes, it had Campagnolo Record low flange hubs, 32 spokes in front and 40 in the rear. I will need to think more on the rims. They may have originally been Mavic, but I also recall the hubs having Fiamme Yellows laced to them.
Graham Saunders continues to build custom-built framesets and execute frame repairs on the premises, having worked for the company for over forty years, some of them alongside Johnny Mapplebeck, who presumably taught him his frame-building skills. To this day Whitaker & Mapplebeck (Cycles) Limited trading as Pennine Cycles is owned by Paul and his wife, Sandra, operating as an independent bicycle dealer still making custom-built lightweight steel framesets for the racing man and providing a quality professional service for the rider. This year Pennine Cycles will be celebrating sixty years in the business.