Essential Guide to British Bike Brands (Vintage & Modern)

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reviewed by Rory McAllister
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As a nation with both a stellar reputation for quality engineering and a deep-rooted cycling culture, it’s no surprise that there is a wide range of excellent British bike brands.

British bike brands may not have the same name recognition as their continental counterparts, especially those from Italy, but vintage enthusiasts and modern riders know that there are exceptional British bikes to be found across all disciplines.

So, here’s our A-Z guide to the best British bike brands. Some of these you’ll know about already, and some are less well-known.

Before we start, we’d like to acknowledge that there’s absolutely no way this is an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of wonderful vintage bicycle brands out there, and we’d love for this list to evolve with the suggestions of our readers as we fill in the gaps!

Which is your favorite vintage cycling brand, and is it missing from this list? Let us know in the comments at the bottom!

British Bike Brands: Title Image

Legendary British Bike Brands A-Z


  • Founded: 2007
  • Origin: London, UK
  • Known For: World-class carbon fiber racing bikes.

Boardman Bikes were designed to win Olympic Golds.

Legendary British racer Chris Boardman founded Boardman Bikes in 2007 before joining Team GB as the equipment and technical manager for their legendary outing at the 2008 Games.

Chris Boardman heads up R&D for the brand, whose bikes are informed by a technical approach to performance training, they manufacture world-class carbon fiber racing bikes, as well as gravel bikes, hardtail, and full-suspension mountain bikes.

They’re not cheap, but despite that, they’re difficult to beat in terms of value for money given the quality of their design and componentry.


  • Founded: 1976
  • Origin: London, UK
  • Known For: High-quality vintage folding bikes.

Brompton are the original iconic British folding bikes and use a patented curved, three-hinged frame based on founder Andrew Ritchie’s 1976 prototype.

The design hasn’t changed much since then and the bikes are still handmade in their factory in London today, which is incredible as Brompton is the largest volume manufacturer of bikes in the country.

Brompton has something of a cult following, and the novelty Brompton Folding Bike World Championships attracts costumed riders all over the planet.

As well as their “classic” model, today called the “C” line, Brompton also offers electric bikes adapted from the “C” line, and their premium “P” line.


  • Founded: 1948
  • Origin: London, UK
  • Known For: Vintage and modern bespoke racing bikes.

Condor has been building bespoke bikes since 1948, when the premises on Gray’s Inn Road in Holborn, London, first opened.

Condor founder Monty Young’s bespoke lightweight racing bikes became popular among professionals for his innovative “Monty Young Race Wheels” in 1957.

Riders signed to Condor racing teams such as Condor Makeson, Condor Olympia and Rapha Condor have ridden in Le Tour and World Championships since 1967.

In the 1970s Condor had serious cycling chic among professional riders and celebrities alike; Mick Jagger and members of the royal family were riding Condor bikes.

Today Condor is known for modern top-class bespoke racing bikes and their impressive range of vintage racers which can sell for thousands.

Condor’s frames are designed in Britain, and built by hand in Italy.


  • Founded: 1980
  • Origin: Lancashire, UK
  • Known For: Olympic Gold-winning track bikes

Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins, Katie Archibald, and Chris Hoy have all won Olympic medals on Dolan Bikes.

Dolan is held in the highest regard in track racing. The DF3 was the weapon of choice during the “Golden Age” of British track racing as they took the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics by storm, and today the DF5 is the fastest bike Dolan has ever designed.

Their range of carbon and aluminum road, triathlon, gravel, and cyclocross bikes are world-class, and currently, UCI Continental team AT85 rides Dolan Ares road bikes.


  • Founded: 1926
  • Origin: Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Good quality, reliable steel frames

Dawes is an extremely well-regarded cycling brand, who have been manufacturing high-quality bikes since 1926.

Originally a motorcycle company from 1906 – Humphries and Dawes – they switched to the bicycle industry, later becoming a prominent bike brand in the United Kingdom.

Dawes made a name for itself by making bikes for the armed forces during WWII, and after the war ended, became renowned for its road and touring bicycles in the United Kingdom.

One of the most famous models was the Dawes Galaxy touring bike. A line that was in production for nearly 50 years, it is often touted as one of the best and most reliable touring bikes of all time. The line sadly was discontinued in 2020.

Since then, however, Dawes has continued their production, largely specializing in commuter and folding bicycles.

Ellis Briggs

  • Founded: 1936
  • Origin: Shipley, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Oldest handmade steel frame builders in the UK

Leonard Ellis and Thomas Briggs opened up shop producing lightweight bicycles in 1936. Today, Ellis Briggs is the oldest handmade steel frame builder in Britain still operating.

Ken Russell won the 1952 Tour of Britain riding for Ellis Briggs as an independent, drawing fame for the brand, which would go on to sponsor a host of international riders.

Though still in operation today, Ellis Briggs is best known for lightweight frames made to order in the mid-twentieth century.


  • Founded: 1880
  • Origin: Brigg, United Kingdom
  • Known For: One of the oldest British bicycle manufacturers

Though originally a bicycle manufacturer, their early success from 1898 until the Second World War was largely in the motorcycle industry. However, post-WWII, they concentrated their efforts on racing bikes and became the company “Falcon Cycles”.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that they grew to what they’re known as now. They made a deal with Eddy Merckx to make a Merckx-branded line (this was before Eddy Merckx Cycles) in Merckx Molteni orange.

These are a highly regarded line of ’70s vintage bikes and are highly sought-after.

During the ’80s, they were purchased by the Elswick-Hopper group, and in turn took over the Holdsworth cycling company, which included the other classic vintage brand, Claud Butler, in 1987.

Although Falcon still produces bikes today, their reputation in racing bikes has certainly diminished since its golden era as a 1970s bicycle brand.


  • Founded: 2006
  • Origin: Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Croix de Fer the “proto-gravel bike”

After the success of British brand Ridgeback’s Day One model, the bike was relaunched as Genesis, a brand in its own right.

Genesis found success of biblical proportions with the Croix de Fer. Launched in 2009, this model has been retrospectively been called a “proto-gravel” bike.

With 35 mm tires, a steel fork, and an early example of disc brakes mounted to drop handlebars, the Croix de Fer was a forward-thinking design that preempted the gravel biking explosion.

Early adopters included Vin Cox, who set a world record time circumnavigating the world, and The Montane Icemen, who cycled Iceland’s 1600-mile coastline in under 14 days, cementing the Croix de Fer’s rough-and-ready creds.

To be entirely transparent, I adore my own Croix de Fer, so while Genesis is not a world-class brand, they are so close to my heart that I just had to include them in this roundup!

Harry Quinn

  • Founded: 1890
  • Origin: Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Vintage lightweight bikes.

Harry Quinn was a legendary British manufacturer who hand-built bikes characterized by aggressive geometry.

The company was born in 1890 by Quinn’s father as Coronet Cycles, before passing to the younger Quinn and being renamed. The bikes were endorsed by a slew of professionals before Harry sold the business in 1977 having lost vision in one eye, though he remained the master builder until the workshop shut down and the business was sold again to Falcon.

The firm was a British cycling institution: frame builders who cut their teeth at Harry Quinn included Dolan’s founder Terry Dolan, founder of Merseyside Bicycles founder Bill Whitcomb, and two of Harry’s brothers who left the family business to form Quinn Bros Cycles.

Authentic Harry Quinn frames are a real collector’s item, and if you do come across one be sure to check for the frame’s unique serial number against the official registry for authenticity.


  • Founded: 1948 (first bike produced 1992)
  • Origin: Norfolk, UK
  • Known For: Type 108 Individual Pursuit Bike

The Lotus 108 is an essential character in British track cycling lore: the original monocoque track bike which Chris Boardman rode to win Team GB’s first cycling gold for 72 years in the Individual Pursuit in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The revolutionary LotusSport Pursuit Bike was born when a cycling enthusiast at the company proposed applying the British sports car manufacturer’s aerodynamic and carbon fiber capabilities to an experimental bike design.

Today’s descendants of the legendary Lotus 108 include the Hope-Lotus bike – a favorite of GB’s track team – and the Type 136, a £20,000 super-light electric road bike.

Lotus bikes are works of aerodynamic art, and aside from world-class track events, your best chance of seeing one in real life is in a museum, such as the original 108 on display in Alabama’s Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.


  • Founded: 1946
  • Origin: Derby, UK
  • Known For: Bespoke steel frames

Mercian is a historic bike manufacturer, still producing bespoke frames from Reynolds steel by hand in their Derby workshop.

The firm is named for Mercia, the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England’s Midlands.

Beryl Burton, widely regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time, rode a Mercian frame on many of her record-breaking rides, as did fellow British cycling icon Eileen Sheridan.

Vintage Mercian bikes remain highly sought-after by vintage bike lovers.


  • Founded: 1962
  • Origin: Wiltshire, UK
  • Known For: Vintage small-wheel bicycles

Moulton bikes are instantly recognizable for their small wheels and quirky full-suspension frames. Since the ’60s, Moultons have been reliable cruiser bikes bound to turn some heads on the commute to work.

Easy to mistake for a Brompton at first glance, with their step-through frames and <20″ wheels, look a little closer and you’ll notice that the trademark sturdy diamond frame doesn’t fold.

Adapted from suspension technology developed for Mini Cooper cars, the original Moulton design philosophy was to take small, responsive wheels and beef up the riding experience with high tire pressure and front and rear suspension.

This was decades before full-suspension designs entered the mainstream via the MTB world.

Due to scarcity caused by on-again-off-again production today, Moultons are considered collector’s items. They’re expensive and keep their value well, often selling for thousands secondhand.

Orange Bikes

  • Founded: 1988
  • Origin: Halifax, UK
  • Known For: Single-pivot MTBs

Orange manufactures performance trail and downhill bikes, instantly recognisable by the minimalist frames fitted with single-pivot suspension that they’ve used for over two decades.

Back in 2001, the World Cup was won on the fledgling Orange 222 by Greg Minnaar, and over two decades later their bikes stem from the design principle of this model.

Orange bikes are now considered somewhat retro by many due to their single-pivot suspension whereas other brands have moved on to newer systems, but Orange remains one of the UK’s most popular mountain bike brands with an impressive range of downhill, trail, and enduro bikes handbuilt at their headquarters in Halifax.


  • Founded: 1860
  • Origin: Sutton, UK
  • Known For: World’s oldest family-run bike brand

Founded by blacksmith Tom Pearson in Sutton in 1860, the firm is still maintained five generations later by William and Guy Pearson, who run the shop in West London.

Pearson is an iconic British brand known for top-quality road and gravel bikes, and they get extra British cycling cred as a Brompton retailer.

Out of their range, the HammerandTongs (a nod to their smithy origins) is Pearson’s crown jewel, a premium endurance bike that can stand toe-to-toe with its opposite number from any international brand.


  • Founded: 1888
  • Origin: Nottingham, UK
  • Known For: Innovative and interesting bicycles for the everyday rider

Raleigh Bicycle Company, one of the oldest bike manufacturers globally, established a stellar reputation by manufacturing top-notch bicycles during the 20th century.

Unlike numerous bike brands, Raleigh primarily focused on utilizing its resources and innovative design to produce bicycles for everyday riders and enthusiasts.

While other bike companies also catered to this segment, Raleigh set itself apart by designing distinctive and functional bicycles that gained significant popularity, especially in the UK.

Additionally, Raleigh briefly ventured into creating high-quality road bikes for professional use and has consistently delivered reliable, high-quality road bikes at an appealing price range.


  • Founded: 1898
  • Origin: Birmingham, UK
  • Known For: Legendary steel tubing manufacturer

The benchmark for high-quality bike tubing throughout much of the twentieth century was the fabled Reynolds 531 steel.

Despite being introduced all the way back in 1935, Reynolds 531 steel was so far ahead of the competition that it remained state-of-the-art until the late ’70s (and arguably beyond), winning more Tour de France titles than any other frame material in history.

It was even repurposed by the RAF during World War Two to build Spitfires.

However, that 531 decal on your frame doesn’t always mean the same thing. Even within Reynolds 531 tubing, there were different categories varying in quality and price.

Mid-range vintage bikes often used the cheaper straight-gauge (i.e. the same thickness throughout) Reynolds 531 tubes. Decals on these frames will usually only say “Reynolds 531 Frame Tubes” with no further detail.

Higher-end vintage bike frames used more expensive “butted” tubing rather than straight-gauge tubing. Butted tubing is thicker at the ends than in the middle, meaning the steel is strongest where it needs to be, but can shave off a few extra ounces where it doesn’t.

Bikes just below top-of-the-line models often used butted Reynolds 531 tubing for the three tubes of the frame’s main triangle (the top tube, down tube, and seat tube), with the remaining tubes being straight-gauge steel.

You’ll sometimes find a Reynolds 531 sticker marked “Guaranteed Built with Reynolds 531 Butted Tubes, Forks, and Stays” (or a translated version) for clarification, but this isn’t the case for all manufacturers and models.


  • Founded: 1897
  • Origin: Preston, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Leading British bicycle manufacturer

Ribble is one of the oldest brands on this list and has been manufacturing bicycles for over 125 years. They produce a diverse range of bikes for different disciplines and budgets. Today, Ribble is the most popular British cycling brand in production.

Though Ribble has seen success in the professional cycling world, they have largely taken the British bicycle market by making slightly more accessible but still high-quality road bikes.

Ribble is perhaps most well-known for their endurance road bikes. These are still high-performance road bikes, but sacrifice some aerodynamic efficiency to prioritize comfort for use on long days in the saddle.


  • Founded: 1980
  • Origin: Hampshire, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Precision-engineered components

Cliff Polton is the brains behind Royce, a designer and manufacturer of world-class bike components.

Royce was behind the iconic Lotus 108’s bottom bracket axle and has contributed components supporting a roster of British cycling titans.

Royce also provided the track hubs and stealth nipples for the custom bike that Chris Boardman rode to set a new world record in 2000.

Alongside cycling, Royce turned their hand to a range of engineering projects, such as setting a new British human-powered vehicle speed record with Liverpool University.

Rourke Handbuilt cycles

  • Founded: 1972 (Rourke Handbuilt Cycles 2018)
  • Origin: Stoke on Trent, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Bespoke, handbuilt stainless steel frames

Rourke Handbuilt Cycles has inherited the custom frameset expertise from Rourke, who handbuilt framesets to size since 1972.

In their words; “If your feet, hands, and bum are in the right place, on a well-balanced bike, and if you want it enough, you will find success.”

Today building in the shop is led by Jason Rourke, and they offer road and gravel frames built with Columbus or Reynolds stainless steel.

Which of the best British bike brands did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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One of BikeTips' experienced cycling writers, Riley spends most of his time in the saddle of a sturdy old Genesis Croix De Fer 20, battling the hills of the Chilterns or winds of North Cornwall. Off the bike you're likely to find him with his nose in a book.

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