Archive for Rotrax

Rotrax: A Short History

Posted in History, Rotrax with tags , on October 1, 2008 by rotraxcycles

Welcome to the Rotrax blog. First post we thought we’d let you know how we’ve got here.

The forerunner of the Rotrax Marque was founded in Southampton by Bill Harvell who incidentally took part in the 1932 LA Olympic Games winning a bronze medal in the cycling events. The business was eventually taken over in 1945 and expanded under the Rotrax name by Messrs Harris, Potterton and Robins with the aim to be probably the first to introduce the much more graceful and raking lines of the Continental machines rather than the old fashioned British “upright” bicycle of the times.

About this time Freddie Prince took over and was determined to revolutionise the business. Cycling historians will agree that the sport reached its peak of popularity in the early 1950’s. Post war austerity had eased, young men had money to spend and – as yet – the roads were not cluttered with motor cars. Rotrax Ltd, was well placed to meet the boom and with a skilled work force rising to 20 was able to produce light- weight road and track cycles to the standard demanded by the enthusiast. Production running at 40 per week for the lowest priced “Shirley” frame and distributed through out the country by 500 cycle dealers

In 1952 Rotrax Ltd, reached its peak of prosperity, Rotrax bicycles were ridden to victory in many notable cycle races both road and track. By the late fifties the relentless progress of the motor car was into top gear and bicycle sales fell year by year. By 1960 the sales were too few to keep all the specialist frame builders in business. This also applied to the world famous Rotrax speedway motorcycle frames that were produced in quantities alongside the bicycle business. By 1963 it had been sold on to Messrs Kinchen,Compton & Charles Noble. For a short period Witcomb Cycles of Kent had a licence to sell frames under the Rotrax name, this was subsequently terminated, Rotrax frames being exclusively build in Shirley Southampton..

From 1986 the Rotrax marque has continued with the production under the ownership of Tim Maund. The Rotrax name, “Quality First” is still the watchword for handbuilt British frames.