A life in bikes both human and petrol powered has brought Mark to this point. Inside his bustling workshop, amongst the rarities and the antiquities, the welding jigs and the boxes of tubes lies the identity of all the bikes that Mark produces under the banner of Groves Cycles. For the last six years Mark has been learning his trade from a background of engineering and refurbishing high end metal antiques. His workshop lies between Billericay and Ramsden Heath close to The Duckhouse. Between a variety of metal antiques lies Marks jigs and tubing. His background and craftmenship is reflected in the detailing on his bespoke frames; the attention to detail and pride that he takes in his work.
Mark at work
Like most framebuilders we have met he is modest about what he does but of late his production has increased and he has started to gain notoriety in different quarters with bikes being built for riders of various disciplines from full on adventure do it all machines to out and out race bikes with one of his machines being lined up for a heavy season of use with the culmination being the prospect of an appearance at the British Cycling National road race championship in Norfolk.
Mark builds the majority of his frames from Columbus tubing and the style of the rider will dictate the types of tubes that go into the eventual finished product. As a bespoke product he works with riders from start to finish. This maybe from a bike fit or from a more straight forward chat. Frames can be made straight and stiff for out and out race use or curved to allow more flex and thus comfort. The range of work Mark is able to undertake is broad and indeed he revealed to us the plan for a recent BMX cruiser build which looks very ornate and quite special indeed!
From raw tubes to jig to something resembling a bike!
Mark built his first frame in 2013, a bespoke road frame for himself that he rides to and from his workshop most days. Every bike he makes is a one off and whilst there are indeed many excellent off the peg bikes available every Groves bike is special. Each feature included or omitted to suit the riders style and preferences. As well as the tubing riders can opt for lugs although these can constrictive unless totally bespoke to the build. Steel is Marks preferred material using mostly Columbus tubing for his frames; it's the most durable of all materials and easiest to work with. Some customers do prefer the British aspect of Reynold tubes however and this is something mark recognises in order to produce frames designed in britain from British steel. What is gives away with weight it gives back with ride quality and a buttery smoothness on the road. All Groves frames are painted by a specialist painter who deals mainly in custom cars and motorbikes and although anything is possible it can come with a cost.
One of Marks finished builds.
Mark recognises that function doesn’t go out of fashion and as the cycling industry continues to jump onto innovation after innovation that doesn’t mean that consumers should necessarily do so too. Having said that bigger tubes for internal routing and newer standard threaded bottom brackets are a step forward. As are mountings for disc brakes for a more generous clearances for certain builds. The most important part of the process of Groves Bikes builds is the attention to detail and picking quality components that last. High end Shimano and Campagnolo groupsets are combined with parts by the likes of Chris King, Hope and more recently Hunt wheels. Even though the artistry of the frame building process is important it is always vital to remember that the bike is a functional machine and that the combination of raw materials, design input and rider preferences go on to make something that will stand the test of time.