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Royce Racing Factory Visit and Ducks

Royce Racing Factory Visit and Ducks

09/03/2015
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09/03/2015

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.

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Inspiration and life collide, open the door and venture in and meet the ducks, who live in the workshop.

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Cliff has a soft spot for his friends.

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Behind the ducks was this, the chasis of a soap box racer. One of Cliffs passions.

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A box of titanium hollow axles sits on the side.

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A closer look and one starts to see the precision and quality of the stuff they are making.

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One of the soap box racers hangs on the wall.

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A few prototypes sit in a box on the side.

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Cliff starts to explain to us his passion and offer us a cup of tea.

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Cliff picks up one of his hub bodies, he makes both road and off road components.

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Production runs a very small, in fact bicycle riding is not the main stay of the business.

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We picked up this freehub body, and felt we had some extreme quality in our hand.

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Cliff makes all his pawls with precision.

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These are Campagnolo compatible freehubs, he makes Shimano as well.

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A quick release lever.

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More axles, here Cliff explains the margin of error, which is better than any other product on the market.

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Different materials.

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Cliff takes us to his axles store.

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Well if you are Cliff you care about which axle is right for you.

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This is one of his tri lobed formed axles, beautifully made.

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Cliff has about 20 lengths of axle to choose from, in 2 mm increments, the correct Q factor is available for nearly everyone.

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More quick releases hanging out.

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Cliff then takes us and shows us his chain sets and custom ideas he builds.

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These are solid chain rings. Stiff and power transfer ready.

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Yes that is a 104 tooth chain wheel. We start to see some crazy custom stuff that gets made for all kinds of things.

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Cliff shows us how precise the axle into crank fits, honestly we have never found before anything that fits so precisely.

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Tapered, tri lobed axles available in 2mm increments, with 20 microns of error.

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Some incredible machining that has created some of the most beautiful crank surfaces we have seen.

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Cliff pointed out his family, with children that all studied at Cambridge university.

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One of Cliffs creations. He is still focused on only quick release parts, no modern through axles to be seen.

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The ducks didn’t move during our time there.

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Parts being machined.

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Cliff personally tests materials to see if they meet his very strict requirements.

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Cliff knew if each material was good enough by his own tests. He tests every last component material batch personally.

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Real engineering machines.

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This polish was created with machining not being tumbled.

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These were being made for a non bike project, with the same care…

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One of Cliff’s employees. hand finishing each part.

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Ok so this was something secret?

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This had just been made, a 133 tooth chain ring, for a speed record.

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Some of his CNC tools.

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A small production run was in process.

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We couldnt take pictures of what because the details are so important to this small company.

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It had a feeling of a hobby shop, friendly but oh so serious.

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Cliffs wall of fame was less about showing off more about remembering.

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Past UCI champion.

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Some champions started on his components way back.

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Custom spokes?

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Lock rings, and freehubs.

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More little projects hiding everywhere.

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A carbon fibre sleeve for a hub.

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.

Royce Racing

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