The Bike Brothers: must-watch short documentary about legendary custom bike builders and racers Jack, Ken and Norman Taylor.

by Eric Shalit on May 14, 2012

I met UK-born metalworker Adrian Burns at a party in San Francisco this past weekend. I asked him if he’d ever built a bicycle and then told him I’d met Ken Taylor of Jack Taylor Cycles. Turns out Adrian grew up looking in their shop window in Stockton-on-Tees. Adrian told me about this great BBC documentary made in 1986 called ‘The Bike Brothers’. I’m surprised to have never seen or heard about it before.

Ken Taylor of Jack Taylor Cycles

Time does not permit me to write a thorough article about Taylor Cycles. This weekend I had the pleasure to attend a presentation by Ken Taylor about the history of his family’s custom bicycle business. Taylor Cycles designed and hand-built custom bicycles in Stockton-on-Tees, England for customers around the world from 1936-2001. Collectors from around North America exhibited their Jack Taylor bicycles. In an interview with Jan Heine of Vintage Bicycle Press, Ken said he’d never seen so many of his family’s creations in one place, as 75% of their production was for export to customers in other countries.

That's Ken Taylor in the middle of this c.1940s photo.

Jack Taylor Cycles was the framebuilding collaboration between the 3 Taylor brothers, Jack, Norman and Ken of Stockton-On-Tees, England. A range of frames for touring and racing was produced under the marque from 1936-2001, and they are considered by many to be the closest thing Britain has to a French-style “constructeur” a la Herse and Singer etc. Well-known for beautifully clean lugless (“welded”, or fillet brazed) construction (a method which rose out of necessity during the war years – lugs simply weren’t available) as well as for lugged frames, and impeccable box and lug lining.

This is believed to be the largest array of Jack Taylor cycles ever displayed in one place. About 70% of their bicycles, which were all custom-made, were for export to overseas customers.

Additional Resources

Blackbird SF Taylor Cycles: A brief history of Jack Taylor Cycles.

The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles: A terrific book by Jan Hein who interviewed Ken Taylor at Bike Expo.

Bicycle Quarterly: An essential publication for connoisseurs of classic steel bicycles, new and historic. The Summer 2009 issue has an extensive article on the history of Jack Taylor Cycles.

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