I’ve been a reasonably keen cyclist for a couple of years now, and in a fit of misguided enthuiasm I decided, this summer, to do a 3 day London to Paris ride. A fantastic, if slightly achey, experience, but when I nursing my legs (and my broken hand – long story) at my parents house in Paris my mother happened to mention in passing “It’s strange that you’re so keen on cycling – your great Uncle used to be, and ran a bike shop or something in Liverpool”. I was curious, spent a couple of weeks bashing google about and found out that the guy did a little bit more than run a bike shop.
Turns out that he was a chap called Harry Quinn, and that at one stage he was one of the most famous frame builders in the country. He was based in Liverpool, and in the 60s, 70s and beyond he was making some of the most aggressive racing machines available. Reynolds launched their new steels with him, and he took on a chap called Terry Dolan as an apprentice, who now designs bikes for people like Chris Hoy.
Funny thing is that one of my earliest memories is a Christmas morning we spent with the family in Liverpool when a strange man delivered by older brother (aged 6) his first bike. I don’t think any of my family appreciated that the kind uncle who provided my brother’s bike at mates rates was a master craftsman.
Anyway, since then I’ve put a fair bit of time into locating an original Harry Quinn frame to rebuild. It will probably enrage some genuine bike restorers to know that (I do apologise…) I don’t really have any intention to try to recreate the original bike with period parts. Quite the opposite. I don’t want this bike to be a museum piece, or gather dust in my garage. I want to ride it. I want to get it muddy, and use it whenever I can. At some point I hope to use it to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats.
Before you spit your tea out on your keyboard, I’m not going to be a total heathen. I do intend to do it sympathetically, and will be using some vintage stuff. However I reckon if Harry Quinn was helping me build the bike up himself he’d be straight on the Wiggle website getting the best and most modern stuff he could find. After all, he always made his bikes with the most cutting edge parts.
By the way, let me be quite clear about one thing up front. I’m a total, utter, bike maintenance / restoration novice, so will be learning a lot on this journey. So, summoning the Spirit of HQ to guide me, it’s time to get to work on my first ever vintage bike!