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The Allin / Grubb story

Posted: Wednesday 19th August 2020

Author: Mick Butler

Fred Grubb set up as a lightweight specialist in 1914.  He was not a very likeable character but he was a prolific record breaker both on the road and the track and was hailed as “the fastest cyclist in the world”. He first came to prominence as a crack rider in about 1910.   In 1912 he took the RRA London to Brighton & Back record when riding for the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club.  At first he struggled in business because of his character and the Great War suspending normal everyday life. Charley Davey, also of the V C & AC, had helped Grubb with finance at the start of his venture. Davey himself broke 7 RRA records between 1914 and 1926.  He held the 24-hour tandem paced track record and won open events from 50 miles to 24 hours.

Back then the biggest time losses on record attampts was due to punctures, getting a wheel out changing a tub and getting the rear wheel realigned was a nightmare – remember there were no forward opening dropouts or quick release systems in general use or manufacture. Charlie Davey had designed a quick release which proved invaluable in use and it was fitted as an extra to Grubb racing cycles but due to Fred’s disposition and the onset of the war not many of these bikes sold.

After the Armistice (1918) Charlie Davey put up more money for Fred Grubb to resume production with Ching Allin in partnership and the firm of Allin & Grubb was founded in 1919. Ching was a much more likable character so with the prestigious name of Grubb on the bikes and the likeable nature and business acumen of Ching the bikes were an instant hit complete with the then revolutionary quick release.

The earliest reference I can now verify is Cycling March 4th 1920 p XVI. GRUBB RACING CYCLES – with the simplest quickest form of quick release wheels – Allin & Grubb 132 Whitehorse Road Croydon.  Funnily, there is also an advert in the same issue for F.H.Grubb 250 London Road, Croydon, just around the corner from Allin & Grubb and Fred’s advert says “no connection with any other firm” so it would seem they had already parted company or all was not quite well.

Next is Cycling September 30th 1920 page XI THE ORIGINAL GRUBB CYCLES with quick release wheels NOTE OUR NAME AND ADDRESS 132 Whitehorse Road, Croydon. Another ad. in1920 was December 23rd page xii WILL ALL RIDERS OF ORIGINAL GRUBB CYCLES from Allin & Grubb kindly forward us news of all their successes on road and path for 1920. For our private information. Details on no account to be used for advertising. Allin & Grubb as previous address.

On the opposite page is an advert for F.H.Grubb “NOT THE ONLY DROPOUT BUT THE ONLY GENUINE QUICK RELEASE”.  I was told many moons ago by Bill Bush and Len James, former stalwarts of the Southern Veteran Cycling Club, that there was one hell of a row between Ching Allin and Fred Grubb over who originally designed the drop-out and quick release on the Grubb bicycle. Apparently Fred Grubb wanted all the credit as his name had top billing on the bikes they were making and Ching was annoyed by this, staking a claim for Charley Davey who was Fred’s money man and the designer of the original QR.  We know that they parted some time in 1920 and both had separate shops by then.

In Cycling August 24th 1922 page X – DAVEY CYCLES quality, quick release, quick attach, quick service, quite the best, A.H.Allin 132 Whitehorse road, Croydon also in this issue is a Grubb advert expounding the GRUBB QUICK RELEASE. Finally, the only other Cycling I have is May 11th 1922 page XII – Davey Cycles Quick Release Quick Attach all British design A.H.Allin (late Allin & Grubb) 132 Whitehorse Road Croydon and on page X F.H.Grubb the New F.H.GRUBB Quick Release Fork End no adjusters, no loose washers, no hollow spindles, no bolts in frame.

Allin Cycles had moved in 1946 to its present home 57/59 Whitehorse Road. For 30 of their 34 years Peter Cobb was their frame builder. Ching was the mechanic and Stan was the salesman, as he was not keen on the mechanical side.

Interestingly Stan Butler was an Olympic cyclist and in the 1932 Los Angeles games he came 17th in the 100k time trial.  He rode on Constrictor wooden rims shod with Constrictor 50’s tubs which weighed 12 ounces and were quite lumpy. The wheels had double butted spokes tied and soldered and a Brooks B17 Flyer saddle.  BSA chain-set with Boa pedals and Southall bars.   He rode with two cracked ribs! Of the seven British riders who went to the games six of them won medals.

Cycling May 5th 1984 reported: “Allin’s Cycles of Croydon is one of those old long established cycle dealers which is known well beyond the immediate locality it serves. For 60 years, cyclists have come from far and wide to Allin’s for traditional service. This is now being carried out by Ray Moore and John Hutt of East Grinstead CC who have owned the firm for the last three years.” They took over the business from Stan Butler and Ching Allin who had run it for 34 years. It was founded by Ching’s father in 1920 at 132 Whitehorse Road, Croydon. His sons Archie and Ching where both in the business in 1939 by which time it had moved to 81a Whitehorse Road.  Ching went into the army and Archie went on war work in Coventry. Both were bicycle polo stars (I think Norwood Paragon).  Ching was of international standard

Frank Southall and Stan Butler were both in the Norwood Paragon where many members rode Allin’s when I was a kid.   Back then many British cycling clubs were loyal to one local builder.  Len James played bicycle polo with the Allin’s and at least one was of international status.  Fred Grubb even had his own cycling club F.H.Grubb C.C.  Cycling’s 1927 carry time trial results for this club.  Allins also sponsored a cycling cup for Whitgift public school.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Wednesday 19th August 2020

Author: Mick Butler

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