Would You Like A Unique Touring Bicycle Frame Hand Built For You?
If you are considering buying a bicycle, I wonder if you have ever thought about having one hand built for you, exactly to your requirements?
I have been grateful in compiling this article for the help of a small Worcestershire (UK) company called T.J.Cycles who have supplied me with information and photographs to demonstrate how their amazing bicycles are built.
This article is not intended to be a 'sales pitch' for T. J. Cycles but is a celebration of the amazing skill and craftsmanship that goes into building just one of their frame Designs, the 'Flying Gate'.
It may be that you think that the price of such a bicycle would be beyond your means but you might be surprised as well as have the pleasure of a touring bicycle with such a superbly designed frame, made specifically for you, with the lugs hand cut and chromed and the paintwork to your exact specifications.
A Brief History of The Flying Gate Bicycle
Trevor Jarvis, (the T.J. in T.J. Cycles) started the company in 1979 when he re-introduced this frame design, called the ‘Flying Gate’. In the 1970s, Trevor was a design engineer and keen cyclist who had his own small engineering company in Burton on Trent. As a cyclist, he wanted to start building bicycle frames alongside his engineering operation, but realised that with many long-established businesses in the industry, he would have to come up with something exceptional if T.J. Cycles was to become a recognised brand.
His love affair with the Flying Gate Bicycle began when he renovated a ‘Baines’ VS37, otherwise known as the Whirlwind and also known as the ‘Gate’. It was a very unusual design of frame and Trevor recounts that it seemed to ‘go’ as if the wind was behind him. The difference between this bicycle and others he had ridden was remarkable.
This frame definitely had the ‘wow’ factor that he had been looking for and Trevor decided that T.J. Cycles should bring this wonderful design back to life. It had been discontinued when the Baines factory which had run from 1936, closed in 1954. If you would like to read more of the history of Baines Cycles, please use the link. Trevor managed to locate Bill Baines and obtain from him, the rights to manufacture the VS37 frame. He re-registered the design under the ‘Flying Gate’ name.
Now 75, Trevor is still actively involved in the business and his business partner Jeremy Cartwright is now carrying on the tradition of building hand-made Flying Gate Bicycles as well as orthodox frames.
What Makes The Flying Gate Bicycle So Special?
The Flying Gate is very responsive and has excellent road handling due to the configuration of the frame. It has enjoyed huge success in Time Trialling, please see the photo of Martin Pyne, the national 25 mile champion who is pictured in full flight on his “Breckland” Model Flying Gate. If you would like to see more images of the Flying Gate, please visit the T. J. Cycles website and view the picture gallery.
Apart from the racing world, this frame is ideally suited for touring due to its rigid construction and positive ride. It handles heavy loads and climbs hills very well due to the frames rigidity. The frame is very responsive, this is because the wheelbase is shorter due to the vertical tube allowing the rear wheel to move closer to the bottom bracket, shortening the drive and making the bicycle more positive and responsive. The reason for this is that a vertical tube takes the sideward thrust from the cranks far better than a sloping seat tube.
Another huge advantage is that the small diameter struts from the rear drop-outs to the vertical tube hold it absolutely firm, thus eliminating the whip between the head and the seat when the bicycle is loaded up when touring. These struts add very little additional weight because the tube is smaller in diameter than a conventional seat tube. The clever part is that the top tube can be made to any length without altering the geometry of the frame so it is almost infinitely variable to suit cyclists of all heights and is especially advantageous on tandem frames.
A Recently Completed Track Bicycle
Reader Alex Tully Tells Us Why He Chose A Flying Gate Frame
Alex Tully who commented on this hub, was kind enough to send me some pictures of his new Flying Gate frame and tell me why he chose this model.
"After I had reached the decision to buy my dream bike, I realised how much things had changed, so I had to do my homework - thank God for the internet. I wanted a good 'old school' steel bike, and quickly realised that British frames were coveted by almost every cycling country in the world. Several builders still existed, and my choice quickly came down to Mercian, Bob Jackson, or a number of bespoke frame builders, all offering beautiful frames that I couldn't choose between. I wanted something unusual and distinctive as I wanted people to stop and chat to me as I cycled the local Monmouthshire-Brecon Canal towpath, as I could now talk for hours on the finer points of bikes and cycling.
Mercian's frames were very beautiful, very high quality, but standard designs - so after I wiped the drool and tears from my notepad, I ruled them out. Hetchins (now built by Bob Jackson) seemed to be everybody's first choice, but it occurred to me that curly rear stays were only designed to soften the bumps out of the ride, and most modern roads are pretty smooth now, Bates did something similar with their front forks so it didn't seem as if there was much to be gained, however for sheer aesthetic appeal they are extremely hard to beat.
Then I came across Flying Gates, my first reaction was "what on earth is going on with those frames - they look really wrong", but I found that something about them just kept niggling at me, and I kept looking and finding out as much as I could. Their very unique design also offered something that other designs could not - better power transmission, my aging limbs need whatever help they can get, and Flying Gates are supposed to have an advantage here. Chromed lugs were an absolute necessity, and Flying Gates had lugs to equal those of Hetchins.
So after just over two years of self doubt I settled on placing an order with Trevor (Trevor Jarvis of T.J. Cycles), and took paid him a visit. Trevor is such a nice bloke that I felt no doubts that I had made the right choice, and his own beautiful Flying Gate dispelled any lingering thoughts that the frame could look ugly. As he is a master engineer on the verge of retiring, I felt as if the timing was right and I would be buying a master-piece, my own little piece of cycling history.
So... eventually I became the proud owner of an exotic Flying Gate frame made from Reynolds 725 tubing, and sporting the new Trevana Lugs (I got the second set of lugs produced), with a beautiful paint and chrome job done by Argos (of Bristol), and couldn't be happier. I am currently transferring the bits off my previous bike across, and will replace them in time with nicer components (as I can afford them).
What do I hope to do with the bike?
Well I'm hoping to get back on the Monmouthshire-Brecon Canal towpaths with my partner, as it is such a cracking route to ride, and people actually smile back at you. Someday soonish I would also like to do Land's End to John O'Groats, but I have to get a lot fitter, and spend a packet on camping kit first - but that's another story."
Did You Enjoy Reading This Article?
If you have enjoyed reading this article about the amazing Flying Gate Bicycle and how hand built frames can be made and pained to your exact specifications, please help me to publicise it by clicking on the Tweet this or Like buttons at the top of the page under the title or using the share it button at the foot of the page. I would love to read your comments and will ensure they are passed on to the company I have featured in my article, T. J. Cycles. Thank you.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on March 20, 2012:
@Adrian Hills - thank you so much for leaving your comment - it is always great to hear from someone who speaks from personal experience. Your Flying Gate trike sounds amazing!
Adrian Hills on March 18, 2012:
It took me a few years but finally I managed to persuade Trevor to build me the 13th Flying Gate Trike. Included in the persuasion was the use of the exotic Columbus Aero tubing. So far it has raced in the National 24 (unfortnuately bailed out after 75 miles as the event passed my house) and also recorded nearly 20 mph for a 25 miles. I have done nearly 25 mph, but that was 27 years ago.
I have various Gate bicycle frames and I really think the design Works.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on April 22, 2011:
Interesting point Fineprint, I certainly admire the skill with which these bikes are crafted.
Fineprint from AL on April 21, 2011:
Very interesting article and a unique looking bike. It's amazing how someone with skils can out build some of the big companies with all their R&D, but then again that's how a lot of the companies started out too.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on March 23, 2011:
Hi Ian, thanks for leaving your comment - I would love to publish a picture of your tandem - if you would be agreeable to this, please get in touch via hubpages, I can contact you with my email address to send it.
Ian Furness on March 23, 2011:
I am the very fortunate and proud owner of both a Flying Gate road bike and a tandem. They are truly hand crafted works of art! There is nothing else quite like them!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on March 22, 2011:
Paul, thanks so much for taking the trouble to leave your comment here, we look forward to adding a picture of your Flying Gate when it arrives!
Paul Taylor on March 22, 2011:
My Flying Gate is due to arrive in a few days, but I have the pictures to whet my appetite. It will take me a while to build, but as per all the other comments on this page it is exactly the thing that makes you want to get out and enjoy cycling. Excellent job from Trevor and Jeremy. I was speechless when I saw the pictures.
I went through a similar process to Alex, though all the big and small names, but nothing compares to the beauty and functionality of a Gate.
I'm looking forward to joining the Flying gate weekends in September.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on February 10, 2011:
Alex, your new bike sounds fantastic, if you would like to contact me through hubpages, perhaps we could get a picture of your new bike to add to my hub? Great to get a personal recommendatation and hope you will be enjoying your Flying Gate for many years to come.
Alex Tully on February 10, 2011:
I picked up my new Flying Gate (Trevana lugs) off TJs, three days ago, and I couldn't be happier. Cannot fault the workmanship at all (i'm a really fussy bike entusiast), and in metalic deep red with chromed lugs it looks stunning. If any one is considering ordering one, I would say 'go for it', with confidence.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on September 07, 2010:
Thanks katiem2 they really are beautiful bikes aren't they? Thanks for your comment.
Katie McMurray from Ohio on September 07, 2010:
WOW, I love bikes and have three already but now I want a Flying Gate Bicycle, what an amazing product and thanks for the information.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on September 07, 2010:
Hi Billy, cycling is great for fitness! Thanks for your comment, they are really beautiful bikes, really got the 'wow' factor and cannot be done justice to in a photograph.
billyaustindillon on September 06, 2010:
I am a big bike fan - used to read 15 miles everyday - enjoy the freedom and the fitness aspect. Thanks for letting me know about Flying gate hand built bicycles - a great inspiring story how it all came about - great looking bikes!