The Empire Strikes Back: Part 1 The Empire Strikes Back: Part 1

Lets start with a thankfully brief history lesson. I’ll keep it brief for several reasons.

A – History is not my strongest subject.

B – A great deal of our readership at The Mountain Bike Life, is American and as such think history is stuff that happened in the eighties.

C – The Canadian readers are more than likely busy tending their Moose herds and drinking Labbatts. (which is definitely not as nice as it used to be)

A long time ago (after Mordor, but before the Rubik’s Cube) Queen Britannia or King George the (8th ?) assembled his/her knights and told them to go forth and conquer new lands, far and wide. Off they went to show the World the Benefits of a Fish and chip Diet and the art of forming orderly lines. They did a prolific job of it too and soon occupied new territories in every corner of the globe.

Unfortunately the United Kingdom simply didn’t have enough dazzling white stallions for all of its knights. The King sent word to the lands finest alchemists to create a steed of IRON! Soon a budding, upstart alchemist by the name of Raleigh presented his steel pony before the king….and the rest is history.

Jollies aside, Britain was once utterly prolific in it’s Bicycle innovation, production and usage. In 1932 Raleigh, alone was seeing 62’000 bikes per year leave the factory gates. From coast to coast there were innovative craftsmen competing for greatness. Even after countries such as the USA had started to turn it’s back on the bike in favor of the model T, Britain continued to crank away. But the writing was on the wall and sooner or later, shareholder profit was going to demand that we hung up our welding goggles and let other countries craftsmen play the frame game. Frankly, I think it was probably after we inflicted the Raleigh Chopper on humanity that the gods took away our privileges.

Knowing that we couldn’t summon enough knights a second time around, we figured that we had to get a bit “Ninja” about reclaiming our bike manufacturing. Operation ‘Shred’ was initiated to take back our glory.

Whilst we really had handed away all of our bike manufacturing, we retained a small contingent of maverick frame builders (these will be covered in another post. Please check out Bespoked in the mean time). Britain’s thirst for mountain biking and places to ride gave us fresh motivation. Mountain bike infrastructure surged and Brit riders were keeping some healthy and consistent podium spots in every facet of the shred arena. Like a bear waking from spring, slowly lumbering into action, The Industry did too.

Now it’s fair to say the rules are different this time around. Are we now back to actually manufacturing again? Nope, not really. So is there really such a thing as a British bike brand? Hell yeah! I’m hugely excited about the prospect of showing you just how far we have come and what makes some of our rides, serious contenders.

Can I objectively claim to show you some of our muddy jewels without getting over excited like a ten year old who needs to pee? Without letting my Brit bias get the better of me? Possibly not…but I’ll try.

We are now fit for the fight and you can now choose any frame material (and any wheel size) that is currently favored, from top end carbon (with the right price tag), alloy, slick steel and even Ti. Only a few years ago you had to shop elsewhere for some of the niche areas of our sport, we can now rub shoulders with the serious big travel boys, XC feather weights, enduro all stars, street riders and even the good ol’ weekend warriors.

One of the most seismic and recent shifts has been in our ability to offer some seriously sweet full sussers. And if you honestly think that you need a global brand any it’s R&D towers to give you your full bounce fun, you are both wrong and possibly related to the Ostrich. Orange with it’s single pivot, manliness and Whyte with it’s effortless innovation were probably the only brands that came to mind previously, this no longer the case. For example the resurrected, Frankenstein brand Saracen which is now ‘fathered’ by the mighty Madison group. These guys are extremely good at what they do and they have a big enough wallet to launch a product very conclusively. Or if you favor the fringe/upstart brands, thats fine. We have some devilishly good stuff to offer from the likes of Cotic . We will be covering Cotic in depth soon and look forward bringing some of their dirty little secrets to the surface.

The questions that I intend to ask are is there any notable difference in attitude to how we approach our bikes. (apart from simply adding a little extra tyre clearance for mud!)

In a very obviously overcrowded market is there any need, desire or place for the Shred Britannia bunch?

Will they gain any ground in an away match abroad and does what we do, appeal across oceans?

Who are the people that are moving it all forward? We meet them, quiz them and ride with them.

If you are not bored by my Brit rants, after all that we will also talk to some of the current rider stock that is flying the flag.

Pucker up World, you are about to get BRIT packed.

Have a browse at some of the bike brands that are bringing the noise and get ready to be left impressed.

Apologies for any omissions, but as the deadline clock tics closer and the threat of having the editor let my tires down dawns…

If you want similar info on clothing, components, accessories etc, gimmie a shout.

Mountain, gravity and dirt:


Street and trials


In other news….

Other sports teams played games, matches etc. Some won.

Some dudes in suits, bet all the Worlds money on stuff that we don’t understand and lost.

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