Certain people now go out of their way to get to know the origin and provenance of everything – from what they eat, to what they wear – and for some that also includes their bike. It certain sectors of the bicycle world there is definitely a resurgence in the ‘hand built’ (just look at the recent Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol for evidence of that).
Bicycle manufacturing on a large scale pretty much died in this country when Raleigh closed its factory in 2002, there are of course companies that do still make their bikes here in the UK, but these tend to be bespoke outfits. So step forward small craft workshops, they seem to be popping up everywhere. Ted James starts off a ‘some time regular/once in a while’ snapshot series for us deep from his base in London’s east end. – Mike Rose
From Dirt Issue 136 – June 2013
Words by Ali Todd. Photos by Ben Winder.TED JAMES DESIGN
Heading into down a side street off Brick Lane, London E1, it was instantly obvious that we’d found our destination. A black door showing a white skull and crossbones with ‘TJD’ stencilled underneath. Next to it an entire sheet of ply also covered with the enigmatic logo signalled the presence of a frame builder. In the corner of a courtyard, down an alleyway, then in the corner of another further courtyard…it wasn’t particularly glamorous. On and in, and the overwhelming feature as we went through the door was the smell. Cutting fluid and old oil mixed with coolant, all in a workshop the size of your standard garden shed. It really was tiny, you couldn’t swing a cat without tripping over a lathe – and that was after Ted had moved the biggest one out.
The man himself, Ted, was straight down to business before I’d even got myself ready, taking us through every feature of his office. He’s a fixie rider of some renown, but the contraption that first caught my eye was his signature ‘29gnar’. The gearbox mounted just above the bottom bracket, it was obvious that Ted favoured the more outlandish designs – even despite his lack of enthusiasm for belt drives. He makes the tools to make his own parts, and his designs, whilst unusual, are beautifully crafted. Most of his work revolves around making fixies, but he’ll make you anything, within reason. Definitely one to put near the top of the list if you want something handcrafted from London, his knowledge and enthusiasm is amazing.