You may well ask who Bob Chicken is and why there’s a whole book written about him. Well if you want to get into the bike industry, you could learn a lot from Bob. His business has built into one of the largest bicycle part distributors in the UK. He is responsible for those wonderful French and Italian components that adorn the cycle shops up and down the country as Bob saw the benefit of importing quality bike stuff from Europe over fifty years ago. Products from companies like Time, Mavic, TA, Selcof, ESGE, Cinelli and many others are all in the UK because of RJ Chicken and sons – the family run cycle importer and distributor – all masterminded by Bob Chicken. The respected journalist and cycling writer Graeme Fife has written this biographical and historical account of the great man and his influences.
Bob Chicken is also one of the key figures behind pushing for the London based Cycle show and he’s sponsored the Bob Chicken Grand Prix in Westminster for the past two seasons too. So despite his age (he’s older than he looks, I kid you not!) he’s a man who puts his money where his mouth is by backing projects that benefit cycling. He’s just got on with helping riders and supporting events without much fuss.
Bob Chicken – A Passion for the Bike by Graeme Fife, tells a much wider story than that of a man whom Phil Liggett describes as ‘a doyen of the bike industry’. It draws in many other strands of the social and commercial history of Britain since 1945. There is an account of the invention and early development of the two-wheeled machine advertised as ‘the horse which eats no hay’, of the social revolution it sparked and the advent of its main rival on the roads today, the motor car.
And what happened to the UK bicycle industry ? Like many of his generation who had fought in the War, Bob Chicken espoused the cause of European unity, and the support of European markets, in a rapidly changing commercial world. Whilst iconic British manufacturers like Raleigh, Hercules, BSA, buckled and eventually yielded to the pressure of fierce competition from the Far East, a number of old firms in France and Italy survived by holding true to their traditional production values as well as adapting to new demands.
The troubled history of cycle sport in the UK plays a large part in the story, too: the unseemly wrangles between the purist sponsors of the narrow discipline of time-trialling and the more buccaneering spirits of road-racing continue to bedevil the sport. Like the Board of Raleigh, remote and supercilious, the cycling authorities in Britain have so often closed the official door on these buccaneers – men like Brian Robinson, the first Briton to make a career in the continental peloton, and Sid Barras and Keith Lambert, both of whom rode in a team sponsored by RJ Chicken.
More details here: www.bobchicken.co.uk