Dave Yates, although now based in Lincolnshire, is a true northerner. He is a man of good humour and has a good northern accent to boot. Originally a metalwork teacher, Dave took it upon himself to take advantage of the facilities of the school workshop to teach himself how to build bicycle frames. He had been racing since he was a schoolboy and knew what he wanted in a frame. After purchasing a tube set and building and racing his first frame, word got around at his local cycling club and he found his new skills much in demand. He eventually left the school to take up frame building as a full-time career, giving himself a provisional two years to see how it worked out. It worked out very well.
These days, thirty-six years later, he works from a beautifully equipped workshop on his smallholding in the Lincolnshire countryside. As well as making frames, he conducts a series of frame building courses throughout the year, ‘not so much teaching people to be professional frame builders,’ he says, ‘but guiding them through the process of making themselves a frame, a frame they can take away and proudly say: I made this.’ Dave has a few hobbies that he carries out in his workshop, including beautifully carved walking sticks; he ‘just likes to make stuff’. We can relate well to Dave. He likes to keep himself busy and enjoy himself at the same time and this is why Dave Yates is a strong name amongst British hand built frames, not to mention his great personality and enthusiasm!
Is frame building what you initially planned on doing?
No, it just happened. When I was a lad, I wanted to join the air force and be a pilot, but my eyesight wasn’t that brilliant and I didn’t think I’d get through the medical. After I finished 6th form I went to teacher training college, and I was good at metalwork and woodwork, so that’s what I did. I’ve actually got all my old school reports from when I was 5. Most of them say ‘Aye the little sod could do better’ but every one, the craft bit, A’s, brilliant, all the way through. I went to Wallsend county technical school, and they had this wonderful workshop block: 2 metalwork rooms, 2 woodwork rooms, drawing office, the whole works. By the time I was in the 6th form I practically had my own key for the workshop block! I just lived there! And then I went to teacher training college to become a metalwork / woodwork / craftwork teacher. I got a job at a school in Newcastle when I left and was there for 10 years. I made my first frame in ’76 and all the lads in the club were like ‘aw, that’s nice, make me one!’. You’d see the light bulb going above their head saying ‘cheap frames’, and all I wanted to do was make things, so it was great. The 2nd or 3rd one I made was for a chap that was only 5ft. It was an 18 inch frame and I thought if I could make one for him I’ll make one for anybody! We were all racing at the time, so they were all used and I was getting good feedback. It got to the stage where I thought that I could make a good living out of it and decided that if it didn’t work out after 2 years then I’d go back to teaching. The rest, as they say, is history.
Extract from Matthew Sowter & Ricky Feather’s book, Made In England, to find out more visit his site here.
Photography by Kayti Peschke