I originally trained to be a sculptor, and potter, at the Stoke on Trent College of Art, and North Staffs Technical College. There I learned to carve wood and stone, to model in clay, and to cast (plaster, cement, resin, and metal). I had an immediate affinity with metal, and taught myself how to form and fabricate it. It was not long before I had mastered gas, braze, and a bronze welding. Seeking to understand all aspects of the craft I had come to love I built my own furnace, and later a kiln.

During this time I cycled the eleven miles each way to college so that I could save on the bus fare, and keep fit. I liked to ride ten and twenty-five mile time trials, and raced on the banked track at Cannock Stadium. My favourite bike at that time was a custom built Roy Swinnerton road track special with a steep angles, built for fixed wheel it had a high BB (Bottom Bracket) and single brazed-on Mafac front brake – very minimal. With weight on the drops this bike could change direction in an instant and yet could be ridden mile after mile no-handed. I usually rode an absurdly high fixed gear of 92", for long weekend rides I'd sometimes consent to a lower gear of 80". Inevitably I had knee trouble, which together with a particularly nasty accident on the banked track put an end to cycling (for a while). I didn't take it up again until I was in my early forties, but the way that bike handled always stayed with me.

Money was tight in the fifties so to support myself during college, and to fund a torrid love affair with the internal combustion engine; I took on sculpture commissions, sold pottery I made, and repaired and fabricated parts for cars. I rebuilt, and modified, a 1932 BSA three-wheeler I bought for seven pounds (I never could leave anything alone. Always striving to improve whatever I was interested at the time; from rucksacks to crossbows). I eventually raced, and sprinted, the BSA at various racetracks.


After several ill-fitting jobs in the pottery industry as a designer (I had a habit of carefully explaining to senior management why their ideas would never work, or were plain stupid, which lead to me being 'let go'. A mistake on their part, as I was always right, and they found out the hard way) I decided to try something new.


I became a teacher and taught at Stoke-on-Trent, and Epson Art college, for a while. This did not last, and after being 'let go' again, I wished to do something more tangible. I walked into the nearest sheet metal fabrication works and persuaded them to give me a job. I went on to work on the shop floor in various companies. During this time I gained experience in many differing aspects of metalwork (including precision engineering and even jewellery). In this field I thrived, but I still lacked full control, I needed to be my own boss.


I started a design and prototyping business in the early seventies. Using my highly developed sense of aesthetics, and considerable practical experience gained on the shop floor, I quickly built up a name for myself. Always more interest in job satisfaction, and challenge, than money: I undertook problem-solving jobs.


1981. At this time, after seeing my much-modified MG Midget a rich property developer persuaded me to work on the restoration of his garage full of classic cars. In particular a very rare Alfa Romeo. where many of the parts were severely damaged (like the chassis), or completely missing (like the body). Working on my own, at my own pace, in a fully equipped workshop and an adequate budget, these were good days. It was here that I discovered the work of chassis designer/maker John Tojeiro in the form of a 1957 Coventry Climax engined sport car that I had to make repairs to. The super lightweight Reynolds 531 chassis was brilliant. I studied the work of this eminent tube-smith and absorbed it.

Getting back to bikes

Feeling a need to get fitter having given up smoking and never having been keen on running (no freewheel :P ) I looked to cycling again. The problem was that my two crossbreed greyhound hunting dogs needed daily cross-country exercise. I had the idea of a bike for cross-country - a 'bridleway bike'. It would need a high BB for pedal clearance; steep angles and plenty of trail just like my old track bike. One morning I purloined my partner's Raleigh Palm Beach bicycle and took it to my workshop. I cut and rewelded the chain-stays to lift the BB and increase the steering head and seat tube angles to roughly 74 degrees, replaced the seat stays, straightened the forks to increase the trail and brazed a pair of stays from the bottom of the head tube to the top of the seat tube thereby tuning the frame into an immensely strong structure and the Phoenix was re-born – (this was the seed stock of the later HighLight frame). While it was an improvement the Phoenix wasn't as able as I wanted. What with its narrow 650A roadster tires, three speed hub gear and rim brakes (which were near useless in the wet) but it was, otherwise, quite nice to ride (very like my old track bike). Obviously fatter tires were needed, and some sort of hub brake, and more and lower gears - I started hunting for bits.

Mountain bikes?

By this time I was aware of Mountain Bikes but dismissed them. My aim wasn't racing downhill but riding across country quietly, and as unobtrusively, as possible...

The Cleland Connection

1982 and I saw an article in a cycle magazine about Geoff Apps and his Range Rider. Here was a very similar bike to the one I was moving towards. I made contact with Geoff and eventually bought a Cleland Aventura 003.

The Cleland was a revelation. The upright riding position meant a high percentage of one's weight was on the rear wheel and less weight on the wrists. The grip and shock absorption from the 2"x27" Hakka tyre was everything I could ask for. Also appreciated was the massive tyre/frame/chain mud clearance. And finally brakes that worked.


The Cleland wasn't without some problems though. The Atom freewheel broke within a week, replaced with a Maillard, which lasted for two days, replaced with a SunTour, which proved bomb proof. The 180mm cranks had to go. I had always used 7" (178mm) cranks on fixed wheel but there is a world of difference between fixed and free at the initiation of the power stroke. 170mm cranks solved the knee problem.

The Leleu hubs were very crude – oddly it was the measures taken to get over this crudity that allowed the hubs to self adjust and work well. However, the combination of a weak rim and narrow front hub brake (intended for 20" wheels) with thin flanges did not build into a strong enough wheel, it was always buckling - it's amazing how much of a wobble could be tolerated with hub brakes. Next the rear freewheel tread stripped. I obtained a replacement rear hub from Geoff and modified the wider stripped hub to use in the front. The flanges were also padded out to 4mm, which stopped spoke breakages, and the rims were replaced with Mavic M4 full box section eyeleted rims, which gave reliable wheels at last. Later the hubs were further modified to accept cassette bearings and a 12mm chromo axle.

Next to break was the right rear dropout/chainstay joint. When I repaired this I also realigned the rear triangle asymmetrically - offsetting the hub to the right so aligning the freewheel to the chainrings which were set further out than usual owing to the wide crank axle. The frame angle were also found to be more relaxed than stated in the specifications so some adjustments were made to correct this while keeping the 13" high BB. I removed the pannier rack at the same time as I had demonstrated that the only way to keep sandwiches edible was to carry them in a rucksack.

The Cleland was lightly made and intended as an off-road tourer. Geoff Apps was a very competent trials rider and had great sympathy for the machine. He certainly didn't realise the sort of loads that his customers would subject his bikes to, particularly in those early days. Coupled with the gung-ho attitude of his frame builder, and the lack of really suitable components to fit his concept, it is perhaps surprising that Geoff Apps kept going as long as I did.

Going Green

There was a crisis at the car workshop. I had been getting greener in philosophies for sometime. A white 2CV Special had replaced my ex-military Land Rover and MG, and I was finding it more and more difficult to justify spending my time working on classic cars. It had been like having the keys to the chocolate factory and then finding that I preferred ice cream. I had repaired and modified many of the bikes for Geoff and my customers in my spare time and many more were clamouring for me to make bikes from scratch. So a change of direction was indicated.

The HighPath

Starting a new business with virtually no capital was not easy. However with the help of a very farsighted Bank manager (who was only slightly phased when told this new bicycle would cost in excess of a thousand pounds) and the help, both financial and spiritual, of Moira Hay, I founded HighPath Engineering in April 1983.

To put a radical new bike on the market I still faced all the same component problems as Geoff had. Reliable Hub brakes were still needed. So were a wide BB axle and shell as the Bullseye BB was unreliable, decent rims and spokes, simpler handlebars, a better gear system. All-costing very much more so I doubled the target price.

I then designed and made a gimbal mounted frame jig that could accommodate the necessary angles and offsets. And set to re-designing everything from the self-compensating hub brakes and re-forged brake levers to the crank axle assembly, headset and even fork-ends. Bought in components were carefully selected and often modified. Over time the bike was developed so that it could be taken apart with just three Allen keys.