Keith Noronha, Managing Director, Reynolds Technology Ltd.
Words by: Dom Thomas (Fairlight Bike Designer)
I have worked with Reynolds steel for many years and I massively value their expertise and their openness to collaborate on new projects. Usually I will have an idea for a particular tube shape so Ill call up Keith and ask him if it is possible to create the tube. He’ll have a quick think and if it indeed possible then him and the team will always bend over backwards to make it for me. Sometimes it is not a new tube shape I need, but an existing shape made from a different material. Sometimes a request is as simple as needing a tube with thinner walls to make a lighter frame, or thicker walls to pass ISO fatigue tests.
Their approach is open and honest and I always enjoy having a chat with Keith, Paul or Tom. Their experience and knowledge with steel is second to none and I consider myself lucky to be able to work so closely with them on projects like this. They’ll quickly tell me if I am being too optimistic but at the same time they are always willing to try new things and to continue to evolve their range to meet the needs of the modern rider and the ever evolving standards of the industry.
I’ve visited the Reynolds factory in Birmingham many times and it is always something I look forward to. As Keith always points out to me, they are hugely reliant on the experience, skill and craft of the guys who are on the factory floor, most of whom have worked there for decades. The subtle way they place the tubes in the machines, or tap the mandrels in, it looks easy but you know it isn’t.
Most of the huge machines are very old (some from the 1940’s) and they are simply not available anymore, there is no manual or website to tell you how to use or service them, just the knowledge of the staff which is passed from one generation to another. The place is loud, oily and very busy, nothing there is for show or pretense. Everything within the four walls has a function and a purpose.
Slowly but surely they modernize when they have to; a recent purchase has been a CNC machine, which amongst other things allows them to create head tubes from solid lumps of steel billet. The XX44 headtube for the Strael are created in exactly this way and tooling was bought especially to create these tubes for us, especially in the long lengths of up to 220mm for the 61cm frames.
The fact that we can manufacture our frames in Europe from Reynolds steel made in the UK, is a huge advantage to us. We can evolve tubing designs quickly, or just try something new and the raw materials can be sent from Birmingham to Europe within 48 hours. This gives us great flexibility and allows us to keep pushing forward with our designs and create the very best steel frames in the market.