The rarest of all Thorns?
Many of you who read this blog will either own, or have an interest in, cycles made by that most unique and eccentric of companies, Thorn Cycles of Bridgwater. If this description includes you, then you will know that Thorn have been in business for a number of years building and selling traditional touring bikes and tandems, and they have gone on to become probably the UK’s main specialists in this area, as well as one of the first to introduce bikes with the Rohloff hub gear system in the UK. In addition, they have also built up a sideline business with St John Street Cycles as a web-based ‘specialist’ bike shop. At one time, they even ran a cyclists’ pub in the same street as the shop, although not being a local, I can’t vouch for what happened to that.
Now having been the owner of two Thorn bikes, one of which I still have, I thought that I know pretty much hat the company had produced. A range of models exists, from derailleur – geared Audax focused bikes through to the mighty Raven Tour and Sherpa, two machines built for hauling heavy loads through badly made roads and mountain passes. But it was by chance when I was browsing the YACF cycling forum recently that a fellow member, who shall identify himself only as ‘Cycleman’, mentioned in passing his Thorn recumbent. Now hang on, I thought to myself, Thorn never made a recumbent. But, on further questioning, Cycleman verified that indeed he had bought this very laid-back bicycle from Thorn a number of years ago, and despite having been stolen, recovered and losing all its decals from the frame, it was very definitely sold as a Thorn.
By this time, my interest had been piqued, if you will. I decided that the only possible course that my investigation could follow was to the desk of the man who stareted it all, Robin Thorn himself. And so it was that I corresponded with him recently to seek the facts out.
“From memory we bought 5 frames from a builder in Belgium i think, something like 15 years ago, maybe more. We built them up and sold them, 2 to a couple locally.”
Robin points out that, although badged as Thorns, the frames were actually designed and built externally, and Thorn themselves then decided that tandems and touring bikes were their main focus, so the project was not taken any further. So these bikes really are as rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth. I’d love to hear from anybody else who owns one, and I can only imagine the thought of riding one with a Rohloff. They are a distinctive design, and I have to say on looking closely at the pictures I rather like the bike. The front end is very Chopper-ish, but it looks like a very viable long-distance steed.