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Ribble Cycles is one of the oldest brands in cycling and has been leading the evolution of the industry since 1897. In this blog, we take you through the rich history and development of this historic British brand. From its earliest beginnings during the Victorian era through to its position today as a cutting edge manufacturer of British built, market-leading bicycles. Read on for the Ribble Cycles’ story, the journey from the bespoke crafting of steel frames to its position today as a market-leading, Direct to Consumer (DTC) premium bike brand.

Decorated for the visit of HRH Albert Edward in 1885. 12 years hence, Ribble Cycles will open its doors for the very first time next door to the Grand Junction Public House. Image courtesy of the Preston Digital Archive.
The Ribble story starts in 1897. During these latter stages of the nineteenth century, bicycles had evolved from the plaything of wealthy young men into a serious mode of transport. The large and ungainly Penny-Farthings had given way to the ‘safety bicycle’. This safety bicycle forms the template for the design of every bike that we ride today. It was amidst this time of the industrial revolution that an enterprising gentleman with a passion for cycling and all things bikes set up shop in small premises on Water Lane, Preston. From here he began the fabrication of steel bicycle frames.

Drawing inspiration from the river which flows through the heart of Preston, the choice of the name ‘Ribble’ was an obvious one. Flowing through some of the best cycling country in the UK, the River Ribble weaves its way through areas of outstanding natural beauty including the Ribble Valley and Trough Of Bowland, before reaching the Irish Sea in Lytham.

The Ribble Cycles Shop on the junction of Strand Road and Water Lane, Preston, circa 1949 (BSA on the shop front). Image courtesy of the Preston Digital Archive.
As demand for this exciting, new and relatively affordable mode of transport grew, by 1913 Ribble had developed into a fully-fledged family run business. Throughout the early 20th-century production of handcrafted steel frames continued. In 1949 ownership passed to a second family from Preston, the Sandiford’s, who continued with the now established business of handcrafting steel frames.

Under the ownership of Hughie ‘The Cycle King’ Sandiford, Ribble Cycles grew from strength to strength. Hughie was an integral part of the cycle industry in the North of England, and was famous locally for his passion for the sport of cycling and his unparalleled dedication to providing excellent customer service. Hughie was also widely respected in the wider business community, becoming president of the Preston Chamber of Trade in 1969.

During Hughie’s ownership, Ribble became the proud bike supplier to the British Olympic cycling team in 1956. The iconic image below hails from this period and was taken during stage 10 (Malvern to Porthcawl) of the 1970 Milk Race, the most prestigious cycling event in the British race calendar which ran between 1958 until 1993. Ribble was the bike sponsor to the England team for this event as well as providing technical assistance. Never too far from the action and always on hand for his riders, Hughie Sandiford can be seen here driving the vehicle, with his son Vernon on the back.

Ownership of Ribble Cycles changed hands once again in 1985. It was during this era that the company evolved from being a manufacturer of steel frames into a market-leading Direct To Consumer (DTC) brand. This era saw the birth of mail-order within the cycling industry, and Ribble quickly established itself as a leading exponent of this new form of retail.

Ribble was still hand-building Steel frames into the mid-’90s when alloy and carbon frames started to take over.
By the mid-’90s however, the cycling world was in the midst of major upheaval and Ribble was at the forefront of this change. The classic steel frames that had dominated the market for decades had been supplanted by the lighter and stiffer materials of Aluminium and Carbon.

John Tanner leads the pack with Mark Lovatt in third aboard their Ribble SC61.10a Scandium alloy bikes.
In 2001 Ribble sponsored the Ribble Pro Vision cycling team for the entirety of the Premier Calendar series. The team boasted the pick of the most talented riders from across the UK and duly went on to rack up a host of victories throughout the season. By season’s end, the team had filled 2 of the top 3 steps of the podium. With John Tanner claiming the overall series victory and teammate Mark Lovatt the position of runner up.

Ribble CEO Andy Smallwood and Head of Product Jamie Burrow lead the way.
In 2017 under new ownership, and with fresh investment, a new leadership team was formed under Andy Smallwood as the newly joined CEO. Bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. His vision was to establish Ribble Cycles as the number one British premium bike brand. A truly global player, through world-class product and revolutionising bicycle retail.

Andy’s appointment was closely followed by the arrival of ex-World Tour Pro rider Jamie Burrow as Head of Product. Jamie’s cycling career started from a young age and included at one time the title of the Under 23 World Cup Champion. His potential being recognised when he signed to the US Postal team in 1999. Jamie’s appetite for success and passion for the sport of cycling remains stronger than ever, transforming race wins into bike design award wins.

The brief was simple; to design the best performing bikes at every price point. This was achieved by utilising cutting edge R&D processes, technology, and materials combined with the very latest construction techniques.

Being passionate cyclists themselves, the Ribble team understands that no two cyclists have the same needs and therefore customisation and personalisation are vital. Through BikeBuilder and CustomColour Ribble offers an unrivalled level of choice. Your Bike. Your Way.

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