In the latest of our industry interviews, we visited a small outfit in the south of England producing some of the best known British bike components of the last couple of decades, Middleburn Engineering. Chances are you will have come across their chainrings at some point over the years in your retro chainset buying experience, but there’s a lot more to these guys than just cogs…as we found out when we nipped down last month for a cuppa and a chat with Matthew Starey, head honcho at Middleburn.
There is also a companion article to this twenty questions in this month’s Switchback Magazine, check the Switchback issue 3 preview here.
1) Retrobike: Hi Matt, how’s business at Middleburn in 2011?
Matthew Starey: Hello Retrobike! Going the right way thanks. We’ve got some big changes, our machine shop moving is the main thing. Getting everything in under one roof.
2) RB: Ok, why’d you stop doing the hubs and skewers?
MS: I wasn’t happy with the quality of the older designs. There have always been work in progress prototypes but it’s finding the time to put a new hub or skewer design through that’s the issue.
3) RB: After all the RS crank designs, why ‘X-Type’ for the new one instead of RS9?
MS: It was a dilemma, but they are RS8’s and they are for X-Type BB’s so…
4) RB: What does the ‘RS’ in your crank names stand for?
MS: Robert Strawson (Bob) – the original Middleburn owner.
MS: Anodising batch costs. If we could have got the requests….
6) RB: Do you miss anodized purple?
MS: No, I overdosed in 1993.
7) RB: Are you aware it ever went away?
MS: Yes, big time. Red’s where it’s at now.
8 ) RB: I see the Middleburn RS crank as the Porsche 911 of cranks, gently evolving a classic design over time. What’s next? Feel like making a GT3RS lightweight version?
MS: Very likely.
9) RB: Ok, the Retrobike Cake-O-Meter has you pegged as a chocolate sponge kind of a chap, what’s your favourite cake?
MS: Coffee and walnut. Or any cake.
MS: It was just an engineering firm that was bought and evolved into biking work.
11) RB: Were there ever any other ideas for Middleburn components Care to share a few that never made it into production back in the day?
MS: Our Hydraulic brakes nearly made it, but we couldn’t get the quality up to the required state for Middleburn, so they didn’t make it sadly. They would have been ahead of their time too.
12) RB: XTR’s arrival in 1992 was the writing on the wall for many of the 1990’s aftermarket chaps, how did it affect you boys?
MS: There was a lot of technology and design ‘sharing’ back then. Actually it’s arrival helped us as we ended up making replacement rings for their chainsets that lasted longer and proved very popular.
13) RB: Do you miss the Halcyon days of the early 1990’sanodised lightness or are you happier on the modern side of cycling life?
MS: Modern is pretty user friendly, but the machining of most aftermarket stuff was so much higher grade than these days and it was all so much prettier wasn’t it?
14) RB: How’s the work/ life balance? Do you ride enough?
MS: Not balanced the right way (yet) and No.
15) RB: Do you have one cycling related thing that you particularly cherish?
MS: My Specialized Ultimate.
MS: Shhhhh, that’d be telling….but it is Ti.
17) RB: Any chance of a limited run of anodized purple or rasta fade RS7’s (square taper of course) just for the Retrobike fraternity?
MS: If there’s enough demand…(smiles)
18) RB: What’s your favourite anodized finish for your cranks?
MS: My (very) limited edition camo ano RS7’s. They cost a fortune to anodise, but they’re too nice to use!
19) RB: I’ve never ridden anything like it, would you sell me your Specialized Ultimate please?
MS: No chance.
20) RB: What does tomorrow hold?
MS: Catching up with orders. Then a ride. ????
Middleburn’s Matthew Starey and his Specialized Ultimate
Images and text © Augustus Farmer 2012