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Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Builders 
 

Jensen Cycles

Bryan Clarke
 
Jensen 2
Allins were not the only bicycle and frame builder in Whitehorse Road, Croydon. For over decade they had a rival manufacturer, in Jensen, within striking distance across the road which must have caused more than just a little consternation for the old established firm.  

In 1958 frame builder Stan Etherden and track coach John Barclay set up Jensen Cycles at 92 Whitehorse Road. John had just left the Norwood Paragon whose members were loyal to Stan Butler at Allins.  But loyalties were tested, as he had also been a mentor and friend to many and in particular medal winners such as Paragon rider Wally Happy. Nevertheless, Jensen gained a following with other clubs in the area and they built frames for local shops such as Geoffrey Butler under the trade name of the Croydon Cycle Works. A few copies of invoices supplied by John Barclay indicate that they were making around one hundred frames per year from the late 1950s until the mid 1960s. Another frame builder associated with the firm suggested by Cliff Shrubb and VCC member Bob George was Ted Woodall Junior whose father built Leader frames and ones for the Hercules professional team. It was also rumoured that Jensen had difficulties over the name, from Jensen Cars who may have threatened legal action but nothing significant seems to have come from it and they continued in business until around 1970. Concentrating only on the top end lightweight scene may have contributed to their demise.

Jensen had their following with top time trialists such as Barnet rider Joe Mummery (seen image on left) but perhaps their most famous association was with Dave Bonner (below right) of the Old Portlians CC who rode a Jensen before turning professional for Condor.

Terry Harradine (below left) purchased a Jensen frame second-hand for £5 in 1965 that had a stripped bottom bracket thread and he took it to Major Nicholls for repair. Major, himself a meticulous frame builder was very complimentary about the build quality of the Jensen. The Super Professional model cost 16gns in 1961. If this model was the type owned by Terry then it was built ‘squarely’, with 72 degree parallel angles, a 40” wheel base, made with Nervex Professionel lugs and Reynolds 531 butted tubing. This specification is certainly borne out by Colin Davies who had two frames made for him in the 1960s.

Frame numbers are prefixed by the year then the total build number ie 61310, 63710, 661012 and shows a steady output over this period.



Jensen 4 Harradine
Terry Harradine racing on Jensen
Jensen 3 Bonner
Dave Bonner time trialling on Jensen

This short article was prompted by research carried out by Terry Harradine and my conversations with Colin Davies, Wally Happy and Eric Hall. 

Paul Gittins responds to this page :
I was interested to read the feature on Jensen frames - which were very rare up here 'in't north'. In fact the only one I remember seeing was ridden by Alan Sturgess when he was a member of Calder Clarion in the early '70's. He was, I believe, an ex-member of Norwood Paragon which relates to the link between them and Jensen mentioned in the article. Attached is a shot (taken by F W Loasby) of Alan riding his Jensen, which was Orange colour, in the Askern Road Club 3-up 25mile time-trial on the O2 in April '72. The arm you can see just into the picture is mine! We did an '0' for 5th place and won a Milremo 'tub' wrapper each for our troubles. I've still got mine and use it in 'Old Skool' events for my spare. Notice that Alan has a pair of Campag brakes fitted which were very exotic in the day - the first I'd seen - and we all thought he was mad! After all, they cost £20 a set!! A pair of Weinmann 500's was less than a fiver and probably worked just as well - or so we thought!

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Below: Jensen Cycles frameset list and order form
(
Click on each image for larger version - a click on the second version will release it from screen size limit)
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1962 framesets
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Frame order form

Bryan Hill (Epsom CC) unearthed these documents in his loft.  He got them from Jensens but never actually ordered a frame although he regularly visited the shop as he worked as an apprentice at the nearby Creeds of Croydon.  He did however get two frames re-enamelled, an Allin road/path which he still owns and am E A Grimstead road bike which was stolen from the bike racks at Croyden Technical College later that year.

Terry Harradine has this interesting Jensen which he purchased from John Barclay (former Jensen shop owner) in October 2009, it was painted in a sponsors colour scheme so a trip to Argos Cycles in Bristol was the first stop,  A set of transfers and a new headbadge came with the frame.  I had been in contact with John for a year or so when he said he was thinking of selling his bike and I could not turn down the chance of owning it.

There are a mixture of components on the bike some dating from the early 70's and some as late as the mid 80's, but I feel that as the frame had been modified a little over the years this would not matter, and the style of the components had changed little anyway.
       
John was pretty sure that this was the last frame built by Jensen and this was the reason he kept it for himself, he was not sure exactly when it was built, but probably late 1969.

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Frame: 22"   Jensen "Italia"    top tube 22¼";  531D.B. throughout circa 1969/70;  Gears: Rear - Campag Nuovo Record (1970) with Super Record jockey wheel guides.
 front - Campag Nuovo Record on braze-on Mech; levers - Campag twin down tube braze-on. Campag chain; Chainset -  Campag Gran Sport with 170mm. cranks and 52-42 rings:       Pedals - Campag Gran Sport with Christophe Clips(Med.) and Christophe Straps; Bars and stem - 3ttt. Criterium with 11cm stem, Benetto tape; Saddle - Iscaselle on Campag 2-bolt 27.2 (We think this item once belonged to Ian Hallam); Wheels - Campag Nuovo Record small flange Q/R hubs 36/36 with Rigida 700c rims Veloflex 700x23mm. tyres; Brakes - Campag "Victory"
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