Whitaker and Mapplebeck/Pennine Cycles
A brief history by Peter Underwood
(Thanks to Paul Corcoran, and through him, Johnny Mapplebeck for their
help and Ken Russell for the 40s race images)
Back in the late 40s and early 50s I mis-spent most of my youth riding
a bike, usually along with a couple of good friends, we were all
members of King’s Lynn Cycling Club. One
musketeers was Colin (Dickie) Lines who lived in nearby Dersingham and
was an apprenticed engineer with Dodman’s Engineering.
Although we were all ‘Union’ riders our hearts were
in the more glamorous road racing scene. However
no chance to do it at that time and place so we spent most of our time
time-trialling under the auspices of the NCU, within the Fenland RRA,
whilst fantasising about life as a continental road racer.
In no time at all Dickie fell for the stylish machines produced by
Whitaker and Mapplebeck in Bradford and soon ended up owning first a
Nidderdale in 1950 which was a middle of the range machine.
1952 however he purchased the top-of-the-range Scelta dei Campioni (The
Choice of Champions) which was his pride and joy.
the S de Campioni was later written off in a road accident although the
Nidderdale is still owned by a mutual friend of ours. Colin
remembers the S dei C as having Nervex Professional lugs (see 1947
specification below), 74º head and 72º seat angles.
He had it
built with a twin-plate fork crown and round forks, finished in Ivory
(no chrome) with red and blue double-box lining.
In 1946 Geoff Whitaker and Johnny Mapplebeck were both demobbed from
the army having been friends before the war. On 7th
they set up in the business of frame building along with a retail cycle
shop catering for the lightweight rider – by 1947 the frame
production was up and running (see note below from Ken
Having spent some of their time in the forces serving in Italy, the
Italian influence could be seen straight away in the style, structure,
finish and names of the machines they were to build. They were based at
Ingleby Road in Bradford and soon started to build an impressive range
of cycles down in the cellar. All of the
were keen and committed cyclists which I think was the case at many of
the small manufacturers in those days.
During this period 1948 – 52 Ken Russell worked in the shop
well as racing very successfully for Whitaker &
In 1952 Geoff Whitaker was to leave the business to work in Bristol and
Geoff Wood who owned the Pennine Accessory Company (manufacturing C.O.2
pumps, etc.) came into the company bringing the Pennine
name. During the next 12 months the name of
Mapplebeck was phased out and frames were, and are still, made under
the name of Pennine until this day.
I have a copy of the W & M brochure, said to be March 1949
cover has an action picture taken from the 1948 Burbage Road
Race). The machines listed are:
Scelta dei Campioni,
“The finest racing cycle built,
incorporating a specification of the best British and Continental
components, which make a machine worthy of a champion.” -
“Popular choice.” – Frame
price £12.12.0 (Image below of
Derek Browne's restored 1949 Nidderdale with correct period parts)
Ingleby, “For those
who prefer the welded frame.”
– Frame price £11.11.0
Re Della Corsa, (King of
the Race), “All its name
implies!” Frame price £13-19-6
Weights, where mentioned were:
S dei C complete machine with gears, etc – 21
R della C
– frame only – 6 ½ lbs.
As you can see from the specification below, they obviously chose
components with the idea of keeping the weight down to what
very respectable level in those days.
The catalogue describes all models as road racing machines but says
that they could also be supplied as pure track machines. The
suggested specification for the S dei Campioni
Frame: Superbe hand-cut and filed lugs to our own special design,
Reynolds 531 Butted Tubing, Lytaloy Head fittings and head-clip,
73º head, 71º seat, 22½” top
fork rake, 40½” wheelbase; or to customers own
requirements. Size to order. Wheels:-
Scherens hollow 27” sprint rims, Gnutti alloy hubs, Inciclo
Vittoria tubulars, GB alloy wingnuts.
Tour-de-France 18”. Saddle:-
B17. Brakes:- Bulla alloy.
alloy Chainwheel and cranks:-
3/32” Gear:- Huret, Osgear or
with Eureka freewheel Bars:-
Strata stem and
bars (shape to choice) Finish:-
with contrasting head-tube and panel on seat–tube, lugs lined
double box-lining. Colours to choice.
£46-13-3 (or with Durax cranks and Simplex
and changer £49-19-6).They would similarly build touring
The specification of the finish on these machines demonstrates the
Continental influence and shows that W & M were building with
‘League’ riders in mind rather than the more staid
‘Union’ time-triallists who would at this time be
black from head to toe – so as to be inconspicuous!
Later in 1960 Pennine listed an Italia frame with the seat stays welded
direct to the seat lug. Equipped with 5-speed gear and sprints and tubs
this machine turned the scales at 19lbs. There was also a
Primo frame set with the ubiquitous Nervex Professional lugs and Campag
ends. The Re Della Corsa by now was built
Italian style plain lugs and Campag ends with 72º head and
73º seat tube which gave a slightly shorter top-tube.
Pennine were also marketing the Richmond frame with 72º
angles, 531 tubing with “elaborately cut Prugnat lugs and
Benelux, Agrati or Campag (extra cost) ends”. To
their range at this time the Nidderdale was produced using Legere lugs
and the bottom-of-the-range Marilyn which was only sold as a built-up
Patricia, my wife, has a 1964 Pennine Richmond 19” road
64041 (64041 – 64 denotes year – 041 shows it was
built that year). This has the 72 x 72º angles, with
21” top tube; 16 ¾” chainstays; braze-on
under top tube, pump pegs (19”) on down tube and a fork lamp
boss; Agrati front and rear ends; Red with white bands:- 6
½” on the seat tube and 5
½” on the
down tube, a replica of the original finish. The Reynolds 531
butted tubing has Prugnat lugs. In 1960 the Richmond frame set cost
£13 15s. but Campagnolo ends were 15s. extra.
Patricia’s frame has the decorated seat-stay tops with
depicting an Alpine scene. This work was done on selected
by Johnny’s wife May until sadly she died.
There is an entry on Peter
Southart under Classic Riders covering the years he rode for
Another strand in the W & M/Pennine story concerns the Baines
Flying Gate. One story is that Bill Baines had decided to
production of the Gate in the 50s when he received an order for six
frames from the States. He had tubing left in stock but not
facilities to build them up so he sent the tubes to W &
who built the frames for him. These frames will have
lamp bosses. It could be that some tubes were left over and
were also built up as W & M frames. Peter
one of them, believed to be 1954.
Above: an image
Peter’s W & M ‘Gate’with W
& M transfers
Johnny Mapplebeck was to continue working until he was 80
years of age when he retired during February 2000 to live and carry on
cycling in Canada – he was 87 in May this year.
Corcoran who had worked full-time in the company since 1991, and prior
to that part-time, took over the business from Johnny when he
Below: Johnnie's daughter, Barbara Mapplebeck,
track racing at the York Rally, 1963
Paul was managing the business in 1995 when they moved
premises from Ingleby Road to 1019 Thornton Road, Bradford, West
Yorkshire, telephone 01274 881030 - 1 mile up the road from the old
on her Whitaker and Mapplebeck track iron
Ken Russell at the finish of Burbage RR, Sheffield,
1947 riding Whitaker & Mapplebeck
Ken Russell at the C.J. Fox Memorial RR. Rhodesway, 1948 (on one of the
earliest lugged frames)
The following note was sent
to me by Ken Russell a few days
“The photo of me at the finish of the "Burbage R.R" 1947
riding the very first W&M that was built during Spring / Summer
1947. Both Geoff & Johnny (and myself) were involved in the
of this. I won my first Road Race on it's first outing, the "Shropshire
Hospital's RR" 3rd & Jnr's.( August 1947)?. The
have mentioned shows a rider who was my closest friend until his death
in 1990. His name, W.(Bill) Sugden and he won the Burbage RR in 1948. I
have just put the phone down after speaking to Johnny for almost an
Terry Harradine sent in
the following image and information on the late Peter Buckley winning
the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 1966
Brian Baysinger from
My first racing bicycle was a Pennine imported into the USA around
1963! I purchased it in about 1973 in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. The seller was a gentleman named Ken Woods. Mr.
Woods was, I believe, from England. He was for many decades the
heart of the bicycle racing community in the Minneapolis area. He
mentioned at the time I purchased the bicycle that it was one of a
group of Pennines that someone had imported to the USA in
1963. This one was a 21" frame, kind of copper colored. I
think Mr. Woods said 10-12 of the bicycles were imported. The
bicycle still had the original tires and appeared little used.
Not knowing what would happen, I pumped up the tires as soon as I
brought the bicycle home. They blew out as the stitching no
longer held at all. The frame did have mountain scenes painted on
the tops of the seat stays. I recall the frame had a 41" wheelbase and
a substantial amount of fork rake. Might it be possible that it
also had an unusual fork crown? I seem to recall that it
had a crown where the lugging was inside rather than outside the fork
blades. I used the bike to secure a modest victory in my first race, a
25 mile time trial. I was competing as a 14 year old class
intermediate and I believe my time was 67 minutes and 14 seconds.
I managed to defeat the other 3 or 4 entrants in my age group.
These few notes may help me shake loose some other details about the
bicycle. Oh yes, it had Campagnolo Record low flange hubs, 32
spokes in front and 40 in the rear. I will need to think more on
the rims. They may have originally been Mavic, but I also recall
the hubs having Fiamme Yellows laced to them.
Saunders continues to build custom-built framesets and execute
frame repairs on the premises, having worked for the company
over forty years, some of them alongside Johnny Mapplebeck, who
presumably taught him his frame-building
this day Whitaker & Mapplebeck (Cycles) Limited trading as
Cycles is owned by Paul and his wife, Sandra, operating as an
independent bicycle dealer still making custom-built lightweight steel
framesets for the racing man and providing a quality professional
service for the rider. This year Pennine Cycles will be celebrating
sixty years in the business.
cycling today, a photograph of this year’s team launch