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Flight of the Condors: part two

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Photographs: Cathal Macilwaine

A pipe from the annual dinner of the Pickwick Bicycle Club, founded in 1870. Each member has their very own Dickens character assigned to them – Monty being given Mr Green. It could have been much worse: The Middlesex Dumpling or Don Bolaro Fizzgig, for instance. “Gentlemen, you must smoke” reads the type on the side of the box…

Condor’s history is entwined with several of the great marques – and the greatest riders – of British cycle sport. They remain a Brooks stockist, and the saddle brand recently made a promotional film in the shop. In the 1960s, Monty gained a reputation among the sport’s elite riders for his skill in softening the leather. “They used to ride hundreds of miles on that,” says Monty, gesturing at the saddle pictured. “We’d punch the rivets out and put new rivets in; work the leather with a mallet and soften it. We were the first to drill out the rivets and replace them, and reshape the leather. It was brutal, actually. Tom Simpson came down and we did him a special saddle. He was a gentleman; a proper gentleman.”

Alan Dunn, the road manager of the Rolling Stones, appears sporadically through the Condor Cycles journey, and this silver jacket presented to Monty represents another chapter. “It may have been that the group had them and Alan had an extra one made for my dad,” Grant says. “I think Monty wore it for a bit, and then it was forgotten. It was only when he moved recently that we found all these things he had.”

The Youngs are only one example of family-owned businesses in cycling. The father-son duo have formed a friendship with Italy’s first family of cycling, Campagnolo. This is a rare example of a brakeset from the Vicenza brand’s long-abandoned mountain bike group, the Euclid, featuring massive levers that would look more at home on a motorbike.

Bradley Wiggins is perhaps the best-known rider to don Condor colours. Grant recalls that the teenaged Wiggins first came to the shop accompanied by his mother and Haverhill Wheelers club stalwart Eddie Taylor. “Eddie used to bring these guys in and say, ‘Monty, can you help this young guy? His parents can’t really afford for him to be in the sport.’ It was always one of those things where you try to help everyone. We couldn’t really do it. It was very much a strain on the business, but of course we did. Eddie said Bradley was going to be something special. Everyone seemed to know, from an early stage, that he was going to be something special.”

Grant Young was born in 1958 and identified this model as ‘born’ in the same year when it was presented to Condor by a customer who discovered it in a barn some 15 years ago. The tubes are joined with the Condor No 1 lug (each set would take three days to make by hand). The riveted head badge, chromed to preserve its appearance, is another clue to the frame’s vintage. It reads ‘90 Grays Inn Road’ – the first premises from which Monty Young traded.

These decorative plates were presented to Monty at the Harrogate show over 30 years ago. He remembers Tullio Campagnolo as “a lovely man”, and notes that “the son” (Valentino) runs the business now. The parallel with the Youngs is obvious. “I owe it all to Grant,” Monty tells us, prompting laughter from his son and an assertion that the reverse is true.

A 7” picture disc of “Out Tonight” by Michel Austin, released by Chrysalis in 1984. It was not a hit, despite his bike. This copy of Stern magazine from 1986 may have sold rather better, although “a woman came in and staged a protest,” Grant remembers. “She said, ‘I’m not leaving until you take that down’.”

Monty was renowned for the quality of his wheelbuilding, and visitors to the tightly-packed former premises across the road from the shiny new shop would most likely find him tucked beneath the staircase, spoke key in hand, putting the finishing touches to another pair of beautiful hoops, usually with some highly polished Campag hubs at their core. Monty’s battered book listed every combination of hub, rim and spoke length under the sun.

Three generations of Condor: Grant, Monty and Sebastian Young.

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