The Return of Chater Lea? Oct 31, 2017


Photos via Fixed Gear Gallery

Anyone who’s dabbled in the world of vintage British path racers has surely heard this name before. I almost bought some Chater Lea cottered cranks and “sprint” pedals on a Higgins Path Racer years ago and a recent press release not only hints at the brand’s return, but states that the best of Britain’s foremost engineering minds from the world of Formula 1 are on board for the relaunch. I’m very into this news and cannot wait to actually see something come from this project.

Check out the press-release below.

“Born in the age of steam, Chater-Lea prevailed as the world’s pre-eminent cycle manufacturer for the first half of the twentieth century, delivering year after year with consistent styling themes and innovative features. Rare is the company that has mastered this delicate balance over generations, incorporating the latest advances in innovation and technology while maintaining some flavour of the classic elements that identify their products. Auto-maker Aston Martin shines as an example. From decade to decade, styling evolves and engineering progresses yet vehicles retain an essential Aston Martin-ness. (Let’s give them a pass on the 1980s, shall we?) Watchmakers Patek Philippe and Rolex have accomplished the equivalent with time pieces.

Reviving Chater-Lea is the work of balancing past and future, old and new, tradition and transformation. While expressing the essential aesthetic of Chater-Lea, our products must deliver the superior performance the most discerning cyclists expect. What makes the challenge more sizeable is the break in product lineage. Chater-Lea last produced its world-renowned cycling components in the mid-1950s (albeit the company struggled on until the late-1980s as a contract manufacturer). A lot changes in six decades. To create a product that embodies sixty years of design and engineering progress yet clearly descends from the original design aesthetic, and delights customers old and new, is no small feat.

Our 1928 catalog could just as well stand in today:

Ever since this business was established in 1890… the measure of our success can be estimated from the growth of this organization and the esteem with which Chater-Lea products are regarded through the world. This growth can only be attributed to the fine quality of our manufactures, and to the fact that the rider of a Chater-Lea invariably becomes an enthusiast…. We on our part are not standing still; we have never favoured the introduction of a new pattern merely for the purpose of creating a new fashion, but we do realize the necessity for sustained research in design, material and manufacturing methods, and no effort on our part is spared in order to justify the goodwill of our numerous clientele. Our plant is replete with the most modern precision machinery, our designers are practical road-men of long riding experience, and our skilled London engineers are the finest in the industry.

Nor are we standing still today. We recognize the enormity of the challenge. To meet it, we have partnered with some of Britain’s foremost engineering minds from the world of Formula 1, with designers happier on a bike than on their own two feet and with manufacturers as advanced as any around the globe. When you once again choose Chater-Lea, you will choose the best of what the future promises, married to the best of what the past has celebrated.”

  • I desperately hope this is true! With Pashley Cycles getting the Burgess family to restart production of GB parts and accessories made in the UK, having an incredibly iconic brand as Chater-Lea come back to life would just be incredible. I just hope this venture, is pure to the mark, and properly made in Britain.

    • I’ve got a soft spot for Made in the UK goods and I was completely surprised by the LACK of it in London shops. Not so much cycling shops, but just stores in general. I went to a dozen “menswear” stores before I found a UK wool jacket, made in the UK. Manufacturing is still present in the London area, companies just see money and want higher margins. It’s really sad because it’s a lost art these days.

      • Leo Watkynson

        It’s there – just gotta keep those peekers peeled… and get out of London ;)

        • I lived in the UK for three years (Hendon, London) and I agree with this sentiment. Get out of London, and there is in fact a lot of proud UK manufactured goods. On the upside, London does have a good number of extremely talented frame builders.

      • Chater-Lea

        With the advent of advanced manufacturing we would expect to see a lot more Made in GB emerging in the coming years. The UK is still global HQ for world class design in many fields, its just the unit economics of manufacturing became impossible. This will begin to change as new high quality, low volume production processes comes on line. Its still nascent but we hope to be part of this renaissance.

  • John Palmer

    Wonderful news, I started riding time trials in 1958 with Chatter-Lea pedals and chainset on my road/track Invicta roads / track / racing bike. Heavy stuff, but superb quality.Now I plan to win the Manitoba over 80 championship next August.

  • Curtis Odom

    Long time Chater-Lea fan!
    I would love to see what they have planned?