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Originally built by the Baines brothers and known as the VS37 and International TT, the classic racer featured a unique frame design that allowed for a super short wheelbase, resulting in a more responsive, faster bicycle and enjoyed much racing success over its 87 year history.
Sadly in 1954, after being in business since the late 1800s, the Baines brothers shut up shop, and with it the production of this wonderful vintage steel frame ceased, but the Flying Gate was resurrected by Trevor Jarvis of TJ Cycles in 1979. Over the next 35 years Trevor refined the design, offering increasingly elaborate finishes and fancy lugwork, much to the delight of vintage cycling enthusiasts around the world. After dedicating 35 years to this historic masterpiece, the time had finally come for Trevor to hang up his frame building torch, but the prospect of finding somebody suitable to take over the mantle was looking increasingly unlikely. That was until Liz Colebrook came along...
We were lucky enough to visit Liz & Trevor back in 2016, and alongside good friend Michael Drummond we made a lovely little film about this fantastic story, and introduce the new bearer of the torch.
You can watch the video above or on youtube here. If you enjoy it please give it a thumbs up and feel free to share it around 😊 👍
A late 1930s Baines 'International TT‘ with 3 Speed Internal Hub Gears. Image courtesy of TJ Cycles.
Trevor Jarvis on the design and origin of the name:
“The ‘Flying Gate' was originally known more specifically as a VS37, Whirlwind or International TT. These subtly differing models were designed in 1934 by Reginald Baines of the Baines brothers, Bradford. VS37 was an abbreviation of ‘very short’ with reference to the wheelbase of 37 inches (94cm). The word "Flying" (and of course whirlwind) was due to the success of riders such as Jack Fancourt, Jack Holmes and many others recording excellent times on this new design and "Gate" came later, derived from its unusual construction. The nickname stuck and this is what we call it today.
The basis of the design was to shorten the rear chainstays thus radically reducing the overall wheelbase. The traditional seat tube was ‘cut off’ and a new vertical tube fitted from the bottom bracket, perpendicular to the standard length top tube. This enabled the rider to maintain an optimal ‘tucked’ riding position but with greater acceleration, as the rear wheel sits much closer to the bottom bracket. Where the vertical tube meets the top tube (known as the T-lug), small diameter strut tubes were added to join directly with the rear dropouts, giving a secure fixing point for the short seat tube as well as contributing to the desired responsiveness, which remains true to this day. Having the vertical tube run up to join the top tube where it does adds stability to the head tube too, but without making the ride feel ‘harsh’. The vertical tube adds triangulation that counters the torsional pedalling forces, producing a bicycle that has given great pleasure to all those who have ridden one.”
Trevor Jarvis in his workshop in 2016, image courtesy of Michael Drummond.
The Second World War brought a stop to frame building, but the Baines brothers picked up where they left off once the war had ended, and continued building until the early 1950s when the company closed having built in the region of 2000 frames. It wasn’t until 1979, when engineer and fervent classic cycling fan Trevor Jarvis was looking to get into frame building that this iconic marque was resurrected. Trevor knew from riding his Baines that this was the frame that needed bringing back to life. He contacted Bill Baines to ask for the right to build the legendary Flying Gate. Terms and conditions were granted and the name was registered to TJ Cycles.
The bikes enjoyed huge success in the racing world, breaking numerous records along the way and adding to the success of the Baines models during the first half of the century. Not all of these frames were built for racing of course - standard road bikes, touring bikes, track bikes, tandems and even trikes were available too and it’s mostly these variations that make up the ever growing community of enthusiasts, or ‘Gaters’ as they’re known in the inner circles.
Bob Carey's Columbus tubed TJ Cycles TT/Road Flying Gate from the 1970s. Image courtesy of TJ Cycles.
TJ Cycles 'Flying Gate' tricycles in tandem, image courtesy of Michael Drummond
Trevor built over 600 Flying Gate frames, dedicating over 35 years to this wonderful piece of British cycling history, so it was a huge relief when Liz Colebrook came along. Flying Gate fan and owner, but more importantly respected mechanic and owner of Beaumont Bicycle. With Liz’s passion, drive and vast skill set, the Flying Gate had finally found someone to keep the distinctive silhouette alive.
Liz Colebrook of TJ Cycles in her Shropshire workshop back in 2016. Image courtesy of Michael Drummond
A few words from Liz back in 2016:
“I first encountered this remarkable frame design when I was 20, walking past my local cake shop in Leeds. There against the window was a Flying Gate. I went in and asked the most likely looking cyclist to tell me all about it. With great enthusiasm the young man forsook his place in the queue and regaled me with the marque's history and the frame building brilliance of Trevor Jarvis. Years passed and this chance meeting became a great friendship. Last year, I finally met Trevor Jarvis. Having owned a 'Flying Gate' and demonstrating my passionate depth of knowledge on this classic short wheelbase design, I was delighted that Trevor asked me to start building for him alongside my own frame-building business.“
Since filming the video, we've been in touch with Liz & Trevor to catch up on how things have progressed over the past few years. Trevor still plays a supportive role, especially with enquiries concerning renovating the original Baines models. Trevor passes any enquiries for new builds (and renovations to post 1979 frames) to Liz, who will liaise regarding the design, tubing, componentry and answer all the technical questions relating to combining modern components with a classic frame build.
Since Trevor’s day, more and more customers want Liz to build the complete bicycle, and Liz has an additional skill set having been an occupational therapist - she can suggest design modifications when called for without compromising on the traditional, classic look of the iconic Flying Gate frame.
A Modern Day Flying Gate 'Dovedale Deluxe' in Flamboyant Red with Pearl Panels, built for Chris Harrington. Image courtesy of TJ Cycles.
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