If you’ve ever had a Royce hub or bb you’ll know just how high quality a British made bicycle component can be. If you haven’t been lucky enough to be a ‘Royce user’ I can highly recommend it. Even if just to see your own satisfied grin reflected in the shiniest of shiny finishes the bike industry knows.
Here in our latest in the series of bike industry interviews, Retrobike goes behind the shutters of Royce Engineering down in the New Forest. And gets inside the very interesting mind of Cliff Polton, engineer, cycling and pedal car enthusiast and mouse trainer*, who has been at the helm of Royce Engineering for 20 odd years…
* please see question 18.
1) Retrobike: Hello Cliff, how’s business in 2011?
Cliff Polton: Phenomenal. Enthusiastic!
2) RB: Why the name Royce?
CP: It’s got a nice ring to it, sounds like a quality product.
strong>3) RB: What is the Royce philosophy?
CP: Nothing is perfect in this world, everything can be improved on.
4) RB: Were you tempted to call the company Royce Racing to utilize an ‘RR’ logo?
CP: No comment!
5) RB: Which came first, the pedal car or the bike?
CP: The bike.
6) RB: Who are Royce’s core audience?
CP: Any discerning cyclist.
7) RB: Your new Tri Taper bottom bracket is interesting. How did that idea come about?
CP: Long story. But it involves Wimbledon tech college. The Germans. 1937 truck drive shafts (Tri Lobes) and engineering exams.
8 ) RB: Why tri?
CP: Torsional rigidity and equal contact.
9) RB: Is it the next big thing?
CP: I’d like it to be.
10) RB: ‘They’ said square taper was dead a decade ago in an age of ISIS and then external. Seems to be still alive to me. Does it usually pay to ignore faddish bike industry claims and inventions or is that a dangerous game?
CP: Always ignore fashion and fads! Prove it first. Look, think and make up your own mind.
11) RB: Ok, serious question, the Retrobike Cake-O-Meter pegs you as a Victoria sponge type of chap. What’s your favourite cake Cliff?
CP: Fruit cake!
12) RB: Desert Island Discs Scenario, Pedal Car or Bike (it’s a part paved desert island).
CP: Pedal Car. Not practical but so much fun.
13) RB: Do you miss the anodized purple years?
CP: Er, no. When were they?
14) RB: Are you aware it ever went away?
CP: I’m not aware they ever came.
15) RB: I presume then that Royce didn’t flirt with the purple haze of the mid nineties. If they had, would you have to have started off with aubergine anodizing to allow for all the polishing to get it to purple.
CP: Ha ha, probably.
16 RB: In a world of computer technology and the ever increasing popularity although little known longevity of carbon bike parts, is the sensible long term answer steel and titanium and known quantities?
CP: No, you have to keep an open mind to the future and evolution of materials.
17) RB: I’ve never felt a bearing as smooth as a Royce hub. How on earth do you get them that slick?
CP: a) buy the best quality bearings in the world and b) machine the tolerances on the parts that fit those bearings even closer than specified for them.
18) RB: Rumour has it Royce employs a team of highly trained polisher mice that stay up all night with tiny cloths to get your products that shiny. Is this true? And if so, can I borrow some for my M900 XTR cranks that could do with a buff?
CP: Of course it’s true! And no, no lending of the polishers, sorry.
19) RB: What’s in the pipeline? What can we expect from Royce in the future?
CP: The Tri Lobe bottom bracket. A track crank arm and a full set of chainrings for it.
20) RB: Finally, I’ve been meaning to ask, can I talk you into a top end American rivaling headset for the future? I’m sure we’d all love to see a British rival to the headset throne. Maybe you could call it the Royce ‘Queen’. Polished silver of course.
CP: Hmm, there is a chance of it. It’s on the backburner at the mo, I’ll keep you retrobikers posted. Polished silver? Naturally.