Pete Matthews 'The Worlds Best Handbuilt Custom Cycle Wheel Builder' talks about his cycling history and wheel building

  • Country : UK

    Currently riding : Custom fit bikes, Pete Matthews and Pianni
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    Bio :

    Pete Matthews ‘The Worlds Best Handbuilt Custom Cycle Wheel Builder’ began road racing at 15 years old in 1958. Always built his own bikes and began truing wheels in the 1960’s.He raced internationally from 1966 to 1972 and became the national road race champion in 1968, won the Star Trophy (Now Premier Calendar) in 1969 & 1970.

    In 1972 Pete bought Jim Soens bike shop in Anfield, Liverpool. He immediately began designing, building and selling wheels for a living. Residing over his shop he spentmany hours in the evening, experimenting with various components. He discovered his foresight and painstaking work paid off and offered the world’s first “Stay True Guarantee”. By realising that his wheels were one of the biggest advantages to his own racing performances, he rode 28, then 24 spoked wheels to prove to others it was possible to use these in road races.

    Already building for various Great Britain Pro Teams and individuals. Discerning riders began to take notice of Pete’s wheels and those who wanted something special contacted him for their personal use. Professionals who were sponsored by continental teams sought an advantage, Sean Yates rode 40 spoke front and 40 spoke rear, Tony Doyle rode 28 spoke for 6 days, and this was unheard of as 36 spokes were the norm. In the late 1980’s Pete began working on and perfecting UPC – Ultimate Position Concept, enabling riders to buy a bike knowing the position was perfect for them. Having produced Robert Millar’s first hand built frame in the mid 1970’s, Robert wanted special wheels for climbing.

    Website :

    After owning his own bike shop for 40 years Pete Matthews Cycles, Pete has now gone online, in business with his son Lee. Building all wheels on his very own imported rims 'PIANNI'. Pete has been a member of the Liverpool Mercury RC for 55 years.

    Think back to when you were a kid; tell me about your earliest memories of cycling?

    First memory was seeing the Tour Of Britain Stage race go through Loggerheads, Wales when I was on holiday in the early 50’s. Having seen them I realized that I wanted to be a bike rider. I saved for two years to buy my first sports bike, a Raleigh Super Lenton in 1956. A year later I had saved enough money to buy my first hand built frame, an Aussie Hurlen, a year later again I bought a Harry Quinn on which I rode my first road races on in sept 1958.

    You have a list of race entries dating back to 1966 and 354 wins to date, tell us your best bits/highlights?

    My wins started in 1960, and I won an event every year up to 2011, with the exception of 2000 when I was ill. My highlight was becoming British National Road Race Champion in 1968, beating Les West and Dave Rollinson who both went to the Olympic Games a month later. I also won the Star Trophy a season long competition, which is now known as the Premier Calander in 1969 and 1970. Representing England over 20 times and at the worlds in 1970 plus 7 milk races, 1 Tour De L’avenir.

    What was the appeal of wheel building, rather than any other part of a bike like frame building?

    I'm now in my 5th decade of custom wheel building, and initially I had come to the conclusion that the wheel products readily available were not suitable for ultimate quality wheels. Therefore I experimented with 16, 18 and 20 hole wheels before I purchased my own components for this drilling I confirmed that they were perfectly adequate for lightness and strength.

    What makes you the ‘go to man’ to buy wheels from as your client list includes many professional riders?

    My customers who have included the world's top riders desired something that was very special and customised to their needs for improvement and couldn't obtain anywhere else.

    What’s your typical client profile, can you build wheels for beginners as well as pro’s?

    I can build wheels for anybody, depending on their height, age, weight and which discipline in our sport they wish to use them. However, I can build a pair of wheels that can encompass more than one discipline. We have products ranging from 24 & 26" super light wheels for juveniles to every other aspect including wheelchairs and bomb proof Trans world tourers with every innovative component.

    What’s the advantage of buying a custom wheel over a pre built wheel from a typical bike shop?

    Each pair of wheels we sell are designed to each customer's individual specification. If you are 8 or 18 stone, a shop will sell you a pair of factory built wheels which may only be suitable for a small amount of riders between those weights. It's like having a handmade suit and the confidence that goes with it when you buy a pair of wheels that have been specifically built for that individual.

    What’s your cycling regime today? Do you test many of your wheels building creations?

    Yes, we do test them. They are race, stress tested before they are dispatched and I am still designing / inventing product combinations, which I think will be an advantage in the future.

    What does your son Lee bring to the business?

    He brings a fresh outlook on our partnership and being a lot younger than me rides with a different age group and category of riders, gleaning information of their wants and needs. He also has a superior understanding and knowledge of today's technology, including web design, Twitter, Facebook and our email accounts, which gives me more time to spend on research and development.

    Do you have a specific interest in Cyclocross and is this now a big part of your business?

    I have an interest in all disciplines of our sport, and in the early 60's I was runner up in the Merseyside Cyclocross Championships and enjoyed riding them. Currently the bikes and wheels for cyclocross are a lot different to what I used to ride as back in the day they were not specific components.

    What are your thoughts on Lance Armstrong and the recent Oprah interview, genuine or hidden agenda?

    I never saw the interview, so I cannot comment; however I am extremely disappointed at Lance and all other cyclists who have been involved in taking performance enhancing drugs. It was like being told there was no Father Christmas when I heard the latest accusations. We all need something to believe in and Team Sky seems to be the world's first team to eliminate all dishonesty.

    Finally, if the world were completely cycle friendly, where would you go?

    Southern Europe is probably the best place for weather, scenery, terrain and culture. I love riding my bike with likewise bikies.

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