Production capacity has increased despite the recession, due to a revival in steel bikes. Reynolds steels are lightweight and strong which makes them ideal for use in cycles as Dawes and Mercian can vouch.
A management buy-out on 24th January 2000, led by Keith Noronha, took Reynolds – which had been acquired by an American company – back into private ownership, keeping all the employees on board and continuing to manufacture in Tyseley, Birmingham. After 90 years at Redfern Road, Reynolds moved to a modern factory building in Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham.
Mr Noronha (centre) explains: “Over 80% of our business is now export, with an increasing amount supplied to Taiwan for high-end cycles frames made for US/EU customers. We now have a much larger niche, high-end customer base that has doubled and includes sports cars, the oil industry and sports wheelchairs. In the past we just had a few OEM accounts for which we made products sold under another company’s brand name. This has spread the business risk, and provided higher margins.”
RTL is renowned in the cycle industry, with 27 Tour de France champions crossing the finish line on bicycles built with Reynolds tubing. See the history of the company with details of these victories in its ‘Timeline’ and travel to next year’s cycle show to see some models.
From its large warehouse in Birmingham, Reynolds despatches tubes across the world to official distributors in France, Taiwan and the US for cycle tubing, and a UK-based company for motorcycle tubing.
Research and innovation
The company works actively with Birmingham University to develop new high-performance materials and processes. It has celebrated its 100th anniversary by announcing a complete product range, using steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre.
Endnote: a ’guest author’ for Rapha, which makes fine cycling clothing and accessories writes:
“Before I visited the Reynolds factory, I thought I’d be greeted by super high-tech billion pound machines churning out carbon for motorbikes but what I actually saw looked like it hadn’t changed since Reynolds was first established in the heart of England in 1898.
“The workforce at Reynolds is made up of 12 men and the building is very small, no bigger than a school assembly hall. But the place is full to the brim with old bespoke machinery. Some of the 12 have worked here virtually their whole lives. Fred, with big oil stained hands – still content with stretching tubes, as he has done for over 50 years – quietly stands beavering away at his pile of stacked steel. He pushes these tubes from 12″ in length and with heavy sidewalls through dies into tubes 30″ long with super thin walls.
“Reynolds steel has an allure like no other, oozing British heritage and a rich lineage of world-beating performance. It’s hard to believe, but this small factory in a suburb of Birmingham makes arguably the best stuff in the world”.