Legendary 1930s Olympian Stan Butler - he competed for Great Britain in the road races at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics - and his son Keith, a Continental pro in the 1960s, rode and endorsed Allin bikes. And the South London marque’s almost century-long history is forever intertwined with that of the Butler family and their local club, Norwood Paragon CC.
The Allin Stan Butler bikes are the rarest and most collectible. There was an SB Popular, an SB Club and the gorgeous flagship SB Special. Stan Butler went into partnership after World War II with Charles ‘Ching’ Allin, son of AH ‘Arch’ Allin who set up just after World War I, and their names were proudly painted above the door at 57-59 Whitehorse Road in Croydon.
Just over a decade later Keith Butler was riding an Allin frame when he went abroad to race in Belgium in 1963, and there was an Allin Belgique model produced after that. Keith Butler recounted to Classic Lightweights that he had used his Allin resprayed as a Gitane team bike – the British bike was “many kilos” lighter than the French machine.
When we spotted this Allin at Golden Age Cycles in Oxfordshire. we grabbed it for a photo with the speed of any Butler – we haven’t so far mentioned 1990s time trial star and former UK end-to-end record holder Gethin, son of Keith – despite it not being quite the racing machine we would have liked.
Frame number 2523 dates from the 1980s post-Butler period (Stan and Ching sold the business in 1980) and is a light tourer perhaps built for Audax. It has some unusual braze-ons that are probably dynamo cable routing as well as mudguard eyes and rack mounts.
We can’t absolutely be sure who built it but legendary British frame builder Cliff Shrubb, who died in 2014, reputedly worked for Allins in the 1980s while also making his own frames, and this bike’s super-smooth fillet-brazed joints could be his.
The components are something of a mish-mash and the head badge is missing, but as one of the last ever Allin frames – the shop finally closed in 1998 – it’s still special and will make a great restoration project for an Allin enthusiast.