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Renowned framebuilder Mark Reilly dies aged 53 (+ video)

Reilly Cycle Works announces death of founder and titanium frame pioneer “with deep sadness”

Mark Reilly, one of the UK’s most respected framebuilders and widely seen as the country’s leading exponent of using titanium as a material for bicycle frames, has passed away at the age of 53.

In a statement published on its Facebook page, Reilly Cycle Works said: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our founder and friend, Mark Reilly.

“An apprentice of master framebuilder Ron Cooper, Mark's 30-year career spanned workshops including Omega and Enigma before he founded Reilly Cycleworks (initially as Nerve Bicycles) with composites specialist and longtime collaborator, Neil FitzGerald, in 2014.

“Mark cited steel builds for cycling pros Bjarne Riis, Brian Holm and Sean Yates among his favourites. Mark remained passionate about bike design and framebuilding through to the end. He will be remembered for his celebrated geometry and world-class frame designs.”

Reilly teamed up with his longtime friend Neil FitzGerald – a Formula 1 carbon fibre specialist – to create Nerve Bikes in 2014, later renamed Reilly Cycle Works because “so many customers asked for Mark's name on our frames and bikes,” according to the company’s website.

> Nerve 600SL custom carbon bike + chat with founder Mark Reilly

With its main base in Brighton and carbon frames made at a workshop in Brackley, Northamptonshire – an area that is a hub for the UK’s motorsport business – the brand, which also produced steel, aluminium and of course titanium frames, was a regular exhibitor at Bespoked, The UK Handbuilt Bike Show in Bristol.

Ahead of the 2015 show, he was featured on the Bespoked website as its Framebuilder of the Week.

Asked what defined his style as a framebuilder, he said: “I take old school design ideas and marry these to modern materials and building techniques. I never ever rest and I am constantly thinking of new ideas and design tweaks etc.”

Describing his entry into the trade, he revealed: “I just decided that to become a framebuilder would be rather cool, was into bikes in a major way so the choice was an easy one to make.

“I bought a frame building book and a set of tubes from Roberts cycles and the rest is history. I just practised and practised and was very lucky indeed to work with the late, great Ron Cooper who taught an incredible amount.”

Besides Cooper and Roberts, Reilly named famed Italian framebuilders Ernesto Colnago and Irio Tommasini as among his inspirations, and said that if he weren’t working with bicycles, “I’d hope to be an F1 designer.”

Reilly Cycle Works has told us that the company will continue its operations. In the meantime. the thoughts of all of us at are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.

The video below shows the process taking one of the bikes that bears Reilly's name from the drawing board to the road.

Reilly Cycleworks from gavin peacock on Vimeo.

Long-time blogger Jo Burt, the artist and illustrator behind the much-loved Mint Sauce mountain-biking sheep cartoons, knew Reilly well, having been a regular customer over the years, with both based in Brighton. Here's his tribute.

It’s terrible having a frame builder that lives in the same town as you. Mark has designed and built several frames for me over quite a few years, the single speed town bike that’s been in almost daily use for nearly two decades, the magenta road bike, the deliberately twitchy MTB, the single speed cyclo-cross bike, the “like a cyclo-cross bike but with bigger tyres before Gravel was even a thing” bike that was ridden to the Bespoked bike show in Bristol the day after it was built, the bike-fit that took a lifetime of his experience and three minutes of my time to create the most like-a-glove bicycle I’ve ever owned …

Mark knew about bikes, he’d been dong them all his life, he knew what worked and what didn’t and when it came to chatting about dimensions and geometry he was very diplomatic about any ideas you might have but you’d always listen to him in the end, because he knew. He also had an eye, that eye that craftsmen have after years of hands-on experience and he couldn’t help himself when it came to making a beautiful machine. It was also a pleasure, a privilege and a learning experience to hear his views about bikes especially when at a framebuilding show where he could spot genuine craftsmanship versus a nice paint job covering a multitude of sins at 50 paces.  

While I will miss meeting Mark on the odd occasion and cheerfully talking bollocks about bicycles it is through his bikes that he will be remembered by me and countless others. It may be a cliche but he will live on in the miles and adventures his bikes go on and I’m pumping up the tyres on his orange one now.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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