Way back in the 1990’s Royce Racing was synonymous for the best in bottom brackets in the mountain bike world. The dream bike back then was probably a Merlin titanium frame with a Royce bottom bracket. In fact no mater what the dream bike was, the constant was always the Royce Bottom Bracket. Sitting at home one day recently our thoughts drifted to those times and we did a bit of internet research and realised that the company still existed. For the last few months over the northern hemisphere’s winter we had always been travelling the world visiting various factories and places where bike products are produced. Royce racing by luck were located just down the road in the south of the UK in a small industrial unit, where we would step back in time to a world of precision and purity. We gave them a call and asked if we could come look see what they are up to. The response was of course!
Our visit certainly bought us to earth with the realisation that some of the most interesting technology and beautiful products comes from some really dedicated intelligent people who are full of passion and are still beavering away in innocuous places.
Everything is about the product for Royce, no frills no fuss, just quality.
“Royce was established in 1980 by Cliff Polton a Precision Engineer, cycle and pedal car enthusiast. Royce is one of the last traditional British manufacturing industries left in the South of England. It has a small workforce of four engineers, designing and testing these top quality, unique cycle components.”
There was a huge mix of things going on when we visited, he was currently working on a road bike hub run, once machined the hubs are hand finished. We also found a few things knocking around that looked interesting including a 133T chain ring, that was being made for Guy Martin and his drafting bike speed record attempt. He also made custom spokes, nipples and just about anything that you wanted to be custom made and machined for your bike.
It was clear from our visit Royce racing was about passion and concentrating on the highest production quality for a very small number of products. His infinite number of axle lengths for the perfect Q factor was mind blowing, forget two or three lengths, Cliff even complained that major manufacturers were not precise enough really for what they make, he recommend measuring every frame and part to see if it was precise enough if not send it back! This was one reason he had so many different lengths available, to take into account other people’s errors.
Some of the best riders in the world have used their products through the last 30 years, including some of the greatest champions of riding. Making very traditional components, Cliff focuses on extreme precision. We were very lucky to step into his world and see what he was up to.
Cliff left us with a few tips, considering his focus on bottom brackets and hubs, he recommended don’t ever use any cleaning fluid on hub or bearing seals. Clean your bike with a damp rag only, any water ingress under pressure will brake things. Enjoy your bike and have fun. Oh an if you have a custom project he is sure to be interested in helping with any specific requirements.
We left Royce feeling that it’s people like Cliff that are the secret to the core of cycle passion and products, how many other people are there in the world with small facilities like this that might be making some very very special things.