If you’re a resident of the United Kingdom, you may recognize the name of Claud Butler from a chain of bike stores. If you’ve any interest in beautiful bicycles, hopefully you’ll recognize his name as ‘The King of Classic Lightweights’, the maker of some of the UK’s finest steel bicycles who opened the first of a chain of shops in 1928.
A certain factor of Claud’s success was his flamboyant personality, but it also led to the demise of his brand, despite numerous attempts to resurrect it. Claud can be credited with contributing to the development of the upright frame (as opposed to 69° parallel frames), the short wheelbase tandem and introducing gears on tricycles. Another aspect of British custom bicycle culture his bikes were known for, as were contemporaries such as Hyman Hetchins and H.R. Morris was the industry’s fascination with overly decorative lugs. Claud continued to develop his empire to a number of shops around London and numerous catalog models of bikes, but factors such as the Second World War, petrol rationing, poor financial management and Saudi Arabia’s oil embargo against Britain and France during the Suez Crisis curtailed growth, and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Claud’s drinking didn’t help matters and after a long illness, he died on November 2nd 1978, in a London hospital.
This model featured here, sympathetically restored by France’s Velorama and photographed by Stefano Savarino, incorporates Claud Butler propriety ‘Continental’ lugs and dropouts. I wonder if there’s a dusty set to be found, in a forgotten store room of a London bike shop somewhere – to see them built up would make a fitting tribute to a real character of British cycling.