1936 Alworth ‘Family Triplet’ Tandem

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Alec Shuttleworth stands in the doorway of his cycle shop in Campbell Street, Keighley

A founder member of the Keighley Motor Club, he had opened the Tanfield Garage in nearby North Street in 1912, complete with Keighley’s first swing-arm petrol pumps. Subsequently trading as The Alworth Cycle Company, he concentrated on bicycles, making his own brand of Alworth Cycles in a workshop above these premises and patenting the Tri-Velox gear which he allowed Triumph Cycles to manufacture under licence.

In 1944, while working on precision engineering at Cottingley during the war, he sold out to Messrs Knowles and Sutcliffe, who had earlier taken over the Tanfield Garage. Alec Shuttleworth died aged 79 at Shipley in 1971.

1936 Alworth ‘Family Triplet’ Tandem

Frame size: Front 19″; Middle 18″; Rear 16.5″

24″ Handlebars

(Now sold)

Alworth ‘Family Triplets’ were popular in the north of England in the thirties, an era when tandems were commonly used for family holidays to the coast. By the late fifties many tandem-cycling family had replaced them with motorcycle combinations or cars, and tandems went into storage. Probably because they take up even more room than a normal tandem – this example is 9ft long – few triplet tandems have survived. This one was ridden regularly throughout the 1990s by the previous owner and his family. I rescued it from his garden shed, and it has now been mechanically restored.

Although Alec Shuttleworth and William Hill were patentees for Tri-velox gears, on his Alworth bicycles Alex Shuttleworth offered several gear options. Instead of Tri-velox, a customer could order Sturmey-Archer or Cyclo three-speeds, and this example is fitted with a Sturmey-Archer gear.

The triplet is currently fitted with a 26″ front wheel with 26 x 1 3/4″ tyre and a 28″ rear wheel with 28 x 1 3/4″ (622) tyre. It also has widened 24″ handlebars and a brass 1920s motorcycle bulb horn.

This Family Triplet tandem is fitted with five brakes:

The front handlebar’s two brake levers operate the front caliper and front hub brake.

The middle handlebar’s brake lever operates the rear drum brake.

The rear handlebar’s brake lever operates the rear calliper brake.

The ‘captain’ (the rider at the front) can also use his left heel to apply the foot-brake (below), which is connected to the rear drum brake.
















Keighley, Yorks

Tanfield Garage was located in Keighley at number 121, Skipton Road (now North Street), and owned by Alec Shuttleworth (1892-1971). Alec first went into business on the site in about 1912 when it was known locally as Dewhirst’s Cycle Store. However his major interest lay in cars and motorcycles and so he eventually expanded the premises into a neighbouring property and transformed the business into Tanfield Garage. The bicycle side of the business was retained, but only in a relatively minor way.

In early 1928 William Hill (1904-1994) began working at the garage as a mechanic. Unlike Alec Shuttleworth, Bill was a keen cyclist. He had started ‘serious’ cycling when he was about twelve years old and by 1928 had been a member of Barnoldswick Clarion Cycling Club, a club founded by his father Harry Hill, for about six years.

In the mid-1920s William Hill had taken a job as a mechanic in the cycle shop in Settle that later evolved into Settle Cycles: and it was during his time in Settle that he met his future wife, Nellie Bullock. Not long after meeting Nellie, Bill decided to purchase a tandem and introduce her to the world of cycling. However he soon began to find the work in Settle rather stale, so he answered a newspaper advertisement for a mechanic at a motorcycle business in Coventry. To his surprise he got the job. This led to him commuting by motorcycle between Coventry and Settle at the weekends.

During one such visit to Settle, as he and Nellie were taking their tandem over Bowland Knotts, Bill decided there was ‘nowt like this in Warwickshire’ and made the decision to move back north. Passing through Keighley on his return journey to Coventry he stopped for petrol at Tanfield Garage. He got into conversation with Alec Shuttleworth and plucked up the courage to ask him for a job. Alec asked him what he could do and Bill told him he was a motorcycle and bicycle mechanic. Once again, he got the job!

Bill and Nellie married in Keighley in 1930 and continued to ride their tandem at weekends. During one Sunday ride in Ribblesdale, to the north of Settle, they saw a tandem parked at the entrance to the track that leads to Alum Pot, near Selside. They stopped to examine the machine and Bill saw it was fitted with one of the three-speed, Cyclo derailleurs that were then being imported into the UK from France.

Bill decided he did not like the out-of-line chain, particularly on a tandem, and he resolved at that moment to develop a gear which would keep the chain in line. In December 1984, the day after his 80th birthday, Bill spoke to his nephew, Melvyn Hirst about how he developed the in-line, moving sprocket derailleur that evolved into the TriVelox Gear.

It is clear from the company names on the photograph of Tanfield Garage, and the photograph of Alec Shuttleworth, in holiday mode, standing on what is possibly a Triumph car, that Shuttleworth had connections to the Triumph Company in Coventry. Furthermore, the patent application for the gear was drafted by the Coventry firm of patent agents, Walford & Hardman Brown, which did patent work for Triumph. It must be the case, therefore, that Shuttleworth had come to an arrangement with Triumph for the company to manufacture the gear, under licence, in Coventry: and no doubt it was a happy coincidence that ‘Tri’ applied not only to the number of sprockets the gear catered for, but also to the first three letters of the Triumph company name.

[The above article was researched and written by Melvyn Hirst, and is published on his excellent Tri-velox website. A direct link to the website can be found at the bottom of the page]




















The article and photo of Alec Shuttleworth and photo of him in his shop doorway (at the top of the page) with thanks to Keighley News –



Melvyn Hirst’s article and photos with thanks to – http://trivelox.cambrianmoons.com/tanfield.htm


The scan of the Tri-velox gear patent copyright Michael Sweatman at Disraeli Gears –