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  • Journal
    Bicycles
    15.11.15

    Rouleur Classic: Condor Cycles

    Winners of the inagural Rouleur "Our Favourite Shop" award

    Words
    Timothy John
    Photographs
    Cathal Macilwaine
Three men, stood in a line, smiling, elderly, middle aged and young, Condor Cycles, pic: Cathal McIlwaine

There are shops and there are institutions. Condor Cycles is the latter.

The family business was awarded Rouleur's first ‘Our Favourite Shop’ award on the opening night of the inaugural Rouleur Classic for its unparalleled contribution to British cycle sport.

Condor Cycles is at once a thoroughly modern business and a bastion of the old school. Founded in 1948 by Monty Young, now one of the industry’s elder statesmen, it is run by his son, Grant, the current managing director. The father-and-son duo share an extraordinary history, having borne witness to much of the history of cycling in Britain.

In the early days, they would build frames by hand in the basement beneath the first of three premises occupied on Grays Inn Road. When the bell rang in the shop above, Monty or Grant would run up to serve the customer.

Compare and contrast with the large, double-fronted shop at 51 Grays Inn Road that Condor Cycles occupies today. It is a thriving business. The plate glass windows that dominate the premises are filled with objects of desire from the likes of Campagnolo and Mavic, and, of course, with Condor’s own machinery, the famous “Lightweights” of Grays Inn Road.

’Twas not always so. There was a period in the early 1960s when the prevailing economic gloom forced father and son seriously to consider the legitimacy of remaining in the industry. As ever, they rode the storm, continuing to support some of the leading teams in British cycle sport.

The Condor-Mackeson team saw Monty and Grant attract sponsorship from outside of the sport, in the form of the Mackeson brewery. The trend continued with Condor-Percy Bilton, and survives to this day with the current outfit, which enjoys support from insurance giant JLT.

Condor can boast an impressive roster of riders from down the years too, with two of Britain's finest - Tom Simpson and Bradley Wiggins - enjoying Monty and Grant’s support during their careers. In Wiggins’ case, the support was offered at a crucial stage, when the young rider from Kilburn was most in need of a helping hand, before the advent of lottery funded cycling programmes.

Finally, there is Condor’s celebrity clientele; not the modern day C-lister, but the likes of Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, stars of international reputation, from an era when talent was a prerequisite for a career in show business.

Alan Dunn, road manager of the Rolling Stones, was a keen supporter of the shop and provided Monty with cherished items of memorabilia over the years, including a signed photograph of Mick Jagger and a striking silver tour jacket.

All of which adds up to a remarkable history. It’s difficult to think of a more deserving winner of Rouleur’s first ‘Our Favourite Shop’ award.

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