The Jack Taylor Story

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues

The Jack Taylor Story

Some stories are too big for a regular magazine article. They could just about fill a book! In those cases, we dedicate almost an entire edition of Bicycle Quarterly magazine to a single topic.
The Jack Taylor story in Vol. 7, No. 4 is a good example. My friend Mark Lawrence became friends with the Taylor Brothers during his university years. The brothers had achieved world-wide fame for building touring bikes and tandems that rode wonderfully, yet were relatively affordable.
We decided that their story had to be documented, and Mark was the person to do the job. He spent many hours interviewing the surviving Taylor brothers, Ken and Jack, as well as Jack’s wife Peggy. The brothers gave him full access to their photo archives with wonderfully evocative shots of racing in post-war Britain, of the “works” (their shop), and of the bikes they built.
What emerged was a fascinating insight into the world of three “working lads” who started making bicycles in 1936. Their whole lives revolved around cycling: its social events, rides and races. The brothers were fascinated by European-style racing, and were suspended for life from their local club when they entered a renegade massed-start race. Back then, Britain’s official cycling bodies only sanctioned time trials. Undeterred, they rode in the first Tour of Britain (above). Ken Taylor is the third from the right, with the white cap.
I was most fascinated by their stories of going to the Paris Bicycle Show. They were blown away by the components and bicycles on offer in France. They came home loaded down with bike parts, and from then on, their machines were inspired by the French constructeurs. They started making custom racks, stems, tandems with oversize tubing, and even a copy of the Goëland trailer (above, Jack Taylor is chatting up a model during a photo shoot.)
When the Taylor brothers visited the Goëland shop, Louis Moire, the owner, asked them whether they could make trailers for him, too. He found trailers too labor-intensive to make a profit!
Later, the Taylors were discovered by American cyclists, and suddenly found themselves with dozens of visitors camping on the lawn near the works, wanting to visit and order bikes!
In the interviews, the Taylors talked about bicycle geometry and tubing, and many other aspects of what made their bikes special. Ken Taylor also related the secret of how Daniel Rebour made his famous drawings; the two had met many times at the various bike shows and bonded over their common interest in Leica cameras.
That issue of Bicycle Quarterly also included a photo feature of a Jack Taylor tandem in their typical “flamboyant” paint, and a ride report on that machine in an eventful 300 km brevet. From the Taylors, we learned that the “Mondrian” decals were designed by one of their first American customers, Audrey Radmore, who visited the works during a round-the-world tour.
Even after much editing, it was still impossible to fit all the great photos and stories into a standard issue of Bicycle Quarterly. So we extended the issue by four pages, making it our largest to date.
Click here to order the Jack Taylor issue.

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