First UK production mtb a Ridgeback?

Synthiaks

Retro Guru
Yes, memories can play tricks and a bike that was named after an MTB expedition up mount Kilimangaro in 1985 is highly unlikely to predate that event. The imbedding of incorrect facts, or incorrectly conflated facts as above, into long-term memory can turn the most honest of people into abject liars. "Repetition makes truth." so the more the lie is repeated, the more convinced the person becomes that it is an unchallengeable fact. These misrememberings can spread like wildfire and end up being written down as history and fact.

And then there is conformation-bias, where people want so much for something to be true that they search out unconnected information to confirm it.

In the case of the date of the first Saracen / F.W. Evans ATB to be produced, I have no problem with being 1983 but I have to-date, seen no definitive evidence.

We do no that the bike was being advertised in 1984 as the first MTB to be produced in Britain. Such advertising would have come under the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority and so open to challenge by other bicycle manufacturer's or members of the public. So its place as the first US style mountain-bike to be produced in Britain is secured. Though evidence from Cleland's promotional material means that Cleland Aventura holds the position of the first non-US originating mountain-bike to be produced in the UK/ Europe. Cleland only produced mountain-bikes so there is no confusion about what they were producing whilst Saracen produced road bikes before they moved onto making their ATB models.

I am currently gathering contemporary, primary source information about the origins of the Saracen/F.W.Evans ATB. I already have this advert from 1985 that names Gary Smith at F.W. Evans as its designer. I know that I have further contemporary information about Gary Smith's central role in how the bike came into being. However, finding it in my archives is taking time.

Bellow: Advert published in Bicycle Action Magazine in 1985 which states the the bike was: "Designed by Gary Smith of F.W. Evans..." and also that: "...Nick and Dick Crane rode Evans designed Saracen bikes to the top of fabled Kilimanjaro,..."


And yes...the 'Ridgeback' in the 1983 freewheel catalogue trying to claim first 'UK' MTB.....but understand the frames were imported so although sold as British brand, not UK made....just assembled here I assume.

But all this is a well trodden path on this thread!

great you (and others) are gathering all this info...also guess even a month or two on a release date makes a difference, also that these bikes didn't appear form knowhere and protoypes etc may have been around for some.

The guy I bought the Kili from was so convinced, no amount of proof would turn him....he was very nice and definitely had had it form new but just mixed up as to when that was....hopefully he hasn't got his kids birth date wrong as well.
 

GrahamJohnWallace

Retrobike Rider
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'...also that these bikes didn't appear form knowhere and protoypes etc may have been around for some' time.
A very good point.

Back then there was no internet and research was done via; books, magazines, word of mouth/telephone-conversations and letter writing.
There was no Google Translate and if you wanted to source components from abroad you either had to hope that they understood English or know somebody who knew their language. Pre 1983, if you wanted to build a mountain-bike you would have to do it using motorbike, BMX or road bicycle components, tubing etc. as very few MTB specific components were being produced.

I have a great deal of respect for Geoff Apps sheer tenacity end determination in taking his design from its conception in 1978 via seven prototypes to the first production bike in 1982. And he wasn't even an engineer and had no frame-building skills. Also, unlike later designers, he didn't have any US bikes to copy. In particular, I find it amazing that, without the internet, he managed to track down and import extremely obscure snow-tyres from Finland.

In particular relation to the first Saracen/F.W. Evans ATBs, they were made from Reynolds 501-All-Terrain tubing; lugs, fork blades/crowns etc, which according to the Reynolds website, did not become available until 1984. It is therefore likely that any prospective UK mountain-bike manufactures, wanting to use this tubing, would have to wait until it became available before production, or even prototype building could start.
 
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BoyBurning

Karma King
I was under the impression 501 ATB was released in 1983 not 1984? I wouldn't give much credence to the Reynolds website - in its current guise and ownership - as being a font for accuracy dates-wise.
 

GrahamJohnWallace

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I was under the impression 501 ATB was released in 1983 not 1984? I wouldn't give much credence to the Reynolds website - in its current guise and ownership - as being a font for accuracy dates-wise.
The Reynolds website is at best a secondary modern source of information and so only can be trusted if the information it contains comes from primary contemporary sources. So when you say that you 'wouldn't give it much credence', I partially agree that you. Yes, the information it contains may include unintentional errors. However, too many errors would leave it open to criticism and ridicule.
Reynolds Tubing Dates

In order to prove that Reynold's sold 501 All-Terrain tube-sets before 1984 we will need to find some evidence. Were are these bikes now? And where are the contemporary adverts, reviews, flyers etc?

When I went into F.W. Evans shop in London in early 1984 there were no mountain bikes in the shop. So I asked them if they had new anything about mountain-bikes, and they told me that they had designed a mountain bike and were expecting the first delivery of bikes in a few weeks time. I had recently graduated and had to move from Liverpool in order to find work and was keen to buy British. They assured me that the bikes would be made in Britain. Though they had no pictures or brochures to show me, but took my telephone number. Later they contacted me to let me know the delivery date and say that I would need to go to their Kingston shop to see the bikes.

Though the above information is primary and contemporary and I believe it is honest and accurate, it comes from a anecdotal source written down many years later and so could include unintentional errors.

However, here is the earliest primary source information I have to support my recollections. It is the receipt from when I hired one of the bikes shortly after the first batch of ATBs was delivered to Evan's Kingston Cycles branch. You will notice that I lived in North London. Kingston was quite a long way to go and the only times I went their in 1984 was to see, hire, return and collect my modified F.W. Evans ATB.

Evans ATB Reciept.jpg

Here, is the bike they put together to my specification a few weeks later. I later on I updated some of the components and still have all the parts I removed.
FW Evans1984.jpg

However, my account does not prove the date of any pre-production prototypes or that Saracen badged versions were not on sale before this date.

Somewhere in my archives is a primary source, contemporary published account about Gary Smith of F.W. Evans designing both the Evans and Saracen ATB's. When I find it I will post it.
 

BoyBurning

Karma King
Out of interest, what was the black one you hired made from - was it 501 or 531 do you recall?

Presumably the silver one above - the one you eventually bought and had modified - was 501?

It's all an interesting topic of research isn't it!
 

BoyBurning

Karma King
Another interesting - for me anyway - point to confirm is whether 501 and 501 ATB tubing were released at the same time, or if ATB tubing came later. Given that the Japanese - Tange, Ishiwata, Miyata - had stolen a march on this front, presumably Reynolds would have been keen as mustard to get their own ATB tubing to market asap? 1983 trek catalogues list 501, but don't specifically mention ATB. Same for Raleigh, but they were only sports racer types as they were later to the market with their own MTB of course. If both tubings were released at the same time, 1983 is a definite possibility going by published catalogues at least. Would smaller frame builders in the UK have access to early tubing before the big manufacturers were convinced to come on board? Doesn't seem implausible, but again the definitive dated proof is not there at this stage to confirm!
 

GrahamJohnWallace

Retrobike Rider
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Out of interest, what was the black one you hired made from - was it 501 or 531 do you recall?

Presumably the silver one above - the one you eventually bought and had modified - was 501?

It's all an interesting topic of research isn't it!
Yes, it would be great to tie together how the reported designing of the F.W. Evans/Saracen ATB by Gary Smith links to the creation of the bikes. The timescale for this will be between the preparation of the two Ritchey Montares for the February 1983 Sahara Expedition and the bikes first arriving at Kingston Cycles in May 1984. The production of the bikes may have been delayed whilst waiting for 501-All-Terrain tubing to become available. Pretty cool though to have a bike that was born as a consequence of such a ground-breaking and epic expedition.

All the first F.W. Evans ATBs I saw were made from Reynolds 501-All-Terrain tubing and forks, as were the Saracens. Back then 531 versions was not an option I had to consider. The black bike I hired was the only black one I saw until I later saw some black Saracen versions at Bell St. Bikes in London. I now wish that I had looked at the top of the hire bike's seat tube to see if it stamped as Evans, or was it actually a Saracen frame fitted with Evans decals.
 

GrahamJohnWallace

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Cleland Fan
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Another interesting - for me anyway - point to confirm is whether 501 and 501 ATB tubing were released at the same time, or if ATB tubing came later. Given that the Japanese - Tange, Ishiwata, Miyata - had stolen a march on this front, presumably Reynolds would have been keen as mustard to get their own ATB tubing to market asap? 1983 trek catalogues list 501, but don't specifically mention ATB. Same for Raleigh, but they were only sports racer types as they were later to the market with their own MTB of course. If both tubings were released at the same time, 1983 is a definite possibility going by published catalogues at least. Would smaller frame builders in the UK have access to early tubing before the big manufacturers were convinced to come on board? Doesn't seem implausible, but again the definitive dated proof is not there at this stage to confirm!
The 1981 start date for Reynolds 531-All-Terrain tubing given on their site does not make sense when viewed against the general timeline for MTB production or surviving 531 MTBs. However, the earliest date they give for 501 road tubing is 1981 and the dates they give for 531-All-Terrain tubing is 1984-1989.
https://www.reynoldstechnology.biz/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/decal_history.pdf

In 1984, with Raleigh deciding not to enter the emerging MTB market and Dawes using standard 531 tubes and lugless construction, the UK market for Reynolds' All-Terrain tubing would have been the amongst the smaller builders.
 

Synthiaks

Retro Guru
The Reynolds website is at best a secondary modern source of information and so only can be trusted if the information it contains comes from primary contemporary sources. So when you say that you 'wouldn't give it much credence', I partially agree that you. Yes, the information it contains may include unintentional errors. However, too many errors would leave it open to criticism and ridicule.
Reynolds Tubing Dates

In order to prove that Reynold's sold 501 All-Terrain tube-sets before 1984 we will need to find some evidence. Were are these bikes now? And where are the contemporary adverts, reviews, flyers etc?

When I went into F.W. Evans shop in London in early 1984 there were no mountain bikes in the shop. So I asked them if they had new anything about mountain-bikes, and they told me that they had designed a mountain bike and were expecting the first delivery of bikes in a few weeks time. I had recently graduated and had to move from Liverpool in order to find work and was keen to buy British. They assured me that the bikes would be made in Britain. Though they had no pictures or brochures to show me, but took my telephone number. Later they contacted me to let me know the delivery date and say that I would need to go to their Kingston shop to see the bikes.

Though the above information is primary and contemporary and I believe it is honest and accurate, it comes from a anecdotal source written down many years later and so could include unintentional errors.

However, here is the earliest primary source information I have to support my recollections. It is the receipt from when I hired one of the bikes shortly after the first batch of ATBs was delivered to Evan's Kingston Cycles branch. You will notice that I lived in North London. Kingston was quite a long way to go and the only times I went their in 1984 was to see, hire, return and collect my modified F.W. Evans ATB.

View attachment 588061

Here, is the bike they put together to my specification a few weeks later. I later on I updated some of the components and still have all the parts I removed.
View attachment 588062

However, my account does not prove the date of any pre-production prototypes or that Saracen badged versions were not on sale before this date.

Somewhere in my archives is a primary source, contemporary published account about Gary Smith of F.W. Evans designing both the Evans and Saracen ATB's. When I find it I will post it.


that is a nice looking ride.....

drops on MTB work well...have done tat myself more than once.
 

enkidu

Saracen Fan
We have beautiful documentation that F. W. Evans started selling Conquests in 1984. It still leaves open the possibility that Staples/Saracen sold their mountain bikes up to a year earlier.

The Evans Cycles Facebook page has an entry from 2016, picturing a 1984 Conquest, stating:

This FW Evans Conquest early MTB - made from Reynolds 531 tubing and featuring @rideshimano Deer Head - was made in collaboration with and manufactured by @saracenbikes in Leamington Spa in 1985 where, 31 years later, it will return to our brand new branch this weekend.

Designed by Evans, built by Knight and Staples?
 
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