Legendary Leeds bike brand Bob Jackson will start to produce traditional steel frames again from mid 2021 after being saved from closure by a group of local investors headed by Tony Woodrup.
Woodrup, of fellow Leeds frame builders Woodrup Cycles, told Cycling Weekly that there was too much shared history between the two family businesses for him to stand by after Bob Jackson announced it would close its doors on December 18 last year.
“My grandpa [Woodrup founder, Maurice] was in partnership with Bob after World War II,” said Woodrup. “We’ve always had that connection even after we split. They’re a real iconic brand.”
Tony Woodrup emphasised that despite his becoming one of three new Bob Jackson directors, the companies would remain separate, with Bob Jackson moving to new premises, still in Leeds.
“The old factory needed massive investment to be fair. It wasn’t in a great state of repair. Even if we’d gone in there we would have had to gut the place. So we’ve already found a new building that will incorporate a state-of-the art paint shop and new tooling. We’re looking at opening in around six months.”
When Bob Jackson announced its closure, one of the reasons given was that it had not been able to find younger members of staff to train up. Bob Jackson, who started the business in 1935, died in 1999 and his business partner Donald Thomas had been running the company since 1993.
“None of the old staff are carrying on for now,” confirmed Woodrup. “We’ll be bringing in new blood, bringing in new apprentices.
“For the moment I’m envisaging offering set sizes as Jackson's did before. If you’re semi-mass producing you’re trying to keep the prices down. The prices are going to go up a little bit, but as we’re putting new machinery in there and speeding up the production process, we’re going to keep the prices lower than full custom.
“We’re going to keep the original models going – they were very traditional, inch threaded – but modern frames will also be put into the range. People will be wanting disc brakes so you do need to move with the times but I don’t want to lose the essence of what Jackson's is.”
Woodrup had to move fast to keep Bob Jackson steel and in Leeds: “There were a few people wanting it – there was a European company just basically wanting the brand to stick it on some cheap carbon and send it into America.
“But I’m very proud of the engineering side of it, keeping doing things in the traditional way in the UK. And the thought that it could be lost – it would have been sacrilege.”
The new Bob Jackson premises will not be a retail shop, according to Woodrup, but he sees it including a showroom, as well as visitors being able to access the frame shop.
“People want to see frames being built – it’s the theatre of it. They want to meet the person who’s going to build the frame.”
A new Bob Jackson website is also in the pipeline, where orders can be placed, and the famous Bob Jackson crest, featuring the two lions, has already been digitally remastered ready for the new head badges of the next generation of Bob Jackson frames.
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
And the vital statistics:
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