Saturday, 31 March 2012

Bill Soens

A huge thank you to Bill Soens, one of Merseyside's finest ever frame makers, and member of possibly Merseyside's most famous cycling family. Bill has sent us the following piece for the blog.

  There are quite a few incorrect assumptions and/or otherwise regarding who built what etc etc.  So herewith the authentic version from a 75 year old son of the late Eddie Soens.

Leaving out my grandad _Jim Soens snr whose business was closed during the 1st World War - there were three bike shops/builders named Soens.  My uncle Jim (jnr) opened his business in circa 1936 and to the best of my knowledge built all or most of his own frames - I have no doubt that he did badge a few later in life.  He simply called himself "Soens Cycles".  Fair enough since there was no one else of that name to compete.

I opened "Eddie Soens Cycles" in the late Autumn of 1957 just after I completed my National Service in the Royal Signals, acquiring the shop off Aussie Hurlen for whom I worked before I was called up in 1955.  Aussie had gone down the pan like dozens of others but it was he who taught me how to build using coal gas and air !   I quickly changed this for Oxy-Acelylene.

I built almost all of my own frames - about 800 - badging only a very few cheaper Italian "in the rough" ones.   This was very common practice in those days and many well known "builders" did the same.    All my frames were numbered under the bottom bracket starting at 001 but I don't have any records of them now. Sometimes I can roughly identify a frame even if it has some other's name on it.

All the frames were badged Eddie Soens with a smaller SoenSport logo on the left chainstay at a later stage.
The third "Soens" shop was opened about three years after me, run by my two other uncles Tommy and Dougie.  Both of these two gentlemen were painters and decorators and they never built a single frame in their lives.   Almost all of them were badged Holdsworths or possibly even one or two I built for them   The famous photo of Tommy Simpson on a "Tommy Soens" was almost certainly a Holdsworth.  Sorry but that's the situation.

There is nothing wrong in this.  It was done all over the country by many well-known dealers and frankly I have little doubt that many of the bikes we see now have been built in Taiwan, USA, Europe or where-ever but carry British names.  I would be very surprised to learn that there are dozens of carbon-fibre ovens all over the UK - but I'm open-minded and happy to be corrected.

On my own business - I was a good frame-buiilder and a not good businessman !  I closed it down after about eight years or so but in that time my bikes won most National Championships road and track and several Worlds with mostly Beryl Burton.  I believe I get a mention in Barry Hoban's autobiography.
All history now and who cares anyway.

Bill Soens

As always, we'd love to see your pictures and your stories, contact us at

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Deeside Olympic Road Race 1964

A big thank you to Roger Milroy for sending in the action photo above, Roger adds the following information.
"I just came accross your web page a couple of days ago - here´s a photo of me - off the back! - in an early season Deeside Olympic Road Race in 1964. The photo was taken by Billy Soens and you can see Ken Matthews of Kirby CC ( who had a weekly column in the Liverpool Echo ) in the background. The bike is an Eddie Soens I bought from Pete Cubbon, formerly of Merseyside Wheelers and a founder member of Liverpool Premier Road Club, to use while Billy was building a new frame for me; it´s easy to date the vintage as large-flange hubs had not yet gone out of style and the TA chainrings are bolted to cranks with cotter pins!"
We'd love to see your race action shot's... Please contact us at the normal address .

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A Mail From South Africa

Some time ago i recieved a e-mail from Al Johnson from South Africa, which i thought i'd publish on the blog, because as bicycle fans we have all had the same feelings.


I’m one of those older businessman, who, while very computer literate, feel I can’t afford to waste time surfing about on the internet etc. 
This afternoon I am at work (week-end) while some of my technicians work on a breakdown….and I thought I would look for my dream bike builder on the internet…and who did I find!
I am 63 now and still cycle, riding the local events (our annual Argus Classic here draws 35 000 entrants) with a friendly bunch of guys and girls.  I started cycling at the age of 11 back in 1959 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.   Cycling was in my blood, as my Grandfather and his brother were both champions in their day.   I represented our Province first at Schoolboy level, then at Junior, doing well. I had a few bikes, Carlton, Claude Butler, Legnano, and a few I do not remember, and was very fastidious with my accessories using only Campagnolo and Cinelli.  All my pocket money and then earnings, went on this. 
A friend of mine’s Dad (Andy Anderson) imported bikes and I spent quite a bit of time at their house.   One day (I think it was 1963 or 4) he unpacked a track bike that took my breath away.  It was white (the colour looked so deep you could almost look into the paint) , with red white and blue sections on the seat tube.  In large lettering down the diagonal tube was the name EDDIE SOENS.   I just had to have this bike, and acquired it soon thereafter.  I fitted it out all Campagnolo, and used it for sprints, and with another set of 28 spoke wheels, for time trials and pursuit.  It was the best bike I ever owned and I sold it years later with a sad heart when I left South Africa and needed funds.  I never forgot that bike.  I only ever saw one other SOENS in SA, which belonged to an Italian chap I got to know.  I never did find out who/how/where the bikes actually originated from.

Wasting a bit of time this afternoon I typed EDDIE SOENS into my computer, and well, I found so much.

Kind regards to you, I thought I had to drop you a line.

Al Johnson
South Africa

And in a later e-mail Al again spoke of his Eddie Soens.

"I wrote my rather long blurb after finding you guys on the internet and
being so thrilled about it.  I virtually worshipped my SOENS and it went
around South Africa with me and we competed in quite a few SA Champs etc.
Unfortunately as I said I was forced to sell it a long time ago and I
believe it's probably scrap metal by now.  I only have one photo and
unfortunately it's not a clear one."
So did it end up as scrap metal, or is it tucked away in a shed in South Africa, because Al would sure like to know.

As always you can contact us at

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Frames for Sale

Browsing the other day, i noticed that Hilary Stone has four frames for sale, with Merseyside connections. A lovely Bill Whitcomb frame, (image below), a handsome Harry Quinn track frame ( image also below) a Cougar and a Dave Lloyd frameset.
Hilary's site can be found at
Images by Hilary Stone.

Images by Hilary Stone.

Photo Request

Charlie McCoy's son Steve has been in touch with the blog, asking wether any of the our reader's have got any more photo's of Charlie in action on his bike.
You can send any scan's to the blog, or i can pass on your contact details to Steve. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

James Fothergill catalogue

Big Fothergill fan, Mike Duffy from Wrexham  has kindly sent us some scans off a circa 1958 Fothergill catalogue.