Witcomb Lightweight Cycles
Posted: Saturday 06th June 2020
Witcomb Lightweight Cycles have traded as Witcomb Trading Co. since 1949 at Tanners Hill, Deptford, London SE 8.
(It now appears that Witcomb Lightweights Cycles has finally closed down and is not doing business – October 2009 PU)
“A new model to be called the Giri d’Italia featuring Campagnolo fittings and fork ends will be introduced next year. This will be built with Italian ‘styling’, 74 degree seat – 73 degree head angles and will be coloured ‘Witcomb Lilac’ with the red, white and green Italian colours on the seat tube. Optional finishes will be enamel or flamboyant. Price for the frame will be £15 15s.
The only change in the Rotrax range which Witcomb’s acquired earlier this year is in the transfer design. Standard colour in the Rotrax range will be tangerine with black head. Boult frames have now been discontinued. Nine Witcomb frames are manufactured. The new Italian model will be in the same style as the Professional Tour de France model. This is in Reynolds double-butted 531 tubing, Simplex forged front ends, 543 rear ends and features 5/8″ rear stays and complete wrapover top eyes. Nervex Professional lugs, reinforced seat bridge. Stronglight head and bottom bracket fittings. Witcomb’s own pump pegs and brazed-on fittings as required. It costs 15gns. The concern have recently introduced a steel reinforcement for rear ends which fitted on a frameset will cost around 10s 6d if specified.”
In February of 1964 in Sporting Cyclist their advert states “You are invited to call and see our new models in production at Tanners Hill where all frames are built on the premises and under personal supervision……….”. In October 1963 they had advertised, “What can’t talk can’t lie. You are invited to call and inspect our works at the above address at any time without prior arrangement, where ALL our framesets are made by craftsmen.” It would seem that there must have been rumours put around stating that Witcomb were not building their own frames.
Anyone researching 50’s production will be aware that the stories of who builds for who produce many conflicting accounts even to this day. Witcomb Cycles had an advert in Sporting Cyclist (April 1964) announcing that they had signed Dennis Farr, Barry Wiloughby and Howard Cooper to ride under the famous Witcomb Lilac/Black colours for 1964. They would be riding the Giro-D-Italia Mk II framesets (price £17 9s 6d) together with GB brakes, bars and stems; Williams AB77 chainsets; Cyclo P2 gears; Carlton tyresavers and Witcomb clothing. They also advertised that their “frames are second to none. Used in World Championships 1963 and many other famous events.” Also that they were “Suppliers to Forces Cycling Clubs”.
I remember Ernie Witcomb of Witcomb Cycles as a tireless worker for cycle sport. He organised huge amounts of races, I rode quite a few of these but two are still quite vivid in my memory. The first was the 1967 Dover-London which started on the sea front in pouring rain which kept up all the way to the finish.
The second was on 13th July 1967. Ernie had organised an evening race in South London and on the drive there from Essex in a friend’s car, we heard on the news that Tom Simpson had collapsed on Mount Ventoux and had been taken to hospital. Lining up for the start Ernie then told us the sad news that Tom Simpson was dead. We stood for a minute’s silence and I know that Ernie was not alone in shedding a few tears. I can’t say I remember any details of the race but nobody seemed much interested in racing that
I have a 1973 Witcomb with which I’m extremely happy, having covered many miles in the thirty plus years of owning it. The Witcomb was built in the UK. I believe for a short time in the mid 1960’s Witcomb frames were built in the USA – Connecticut I think – but the timing was bad, ten years too soon.