"Originally Mike trained at
Reynolds in the early 70s as a technical apprentice, gradually
making his way up the promotion ladder to the job of being a
supervisor in the tube drawing department, before leaving in
1976 to set up his own frame-building company."
"He moved his business around the centre of England but was
never far from Birmingham and the Midlands. I think that he
ended up building from farm premises in Staffordshire... just a
little further north"
"Although Mike was /is capable of producing excellently
crafted one-off custom frames, he is probably best known in
cycling circles for his ability to build prolific quantities of
frames for the lightweight trade ie other shops. Among his
better known customers were Ribble Cycles, Graham Weigh Cycles
of Deeside and Harry Hall of Manchester."
"I recall some time back in the late 80s that Terry Dove, the
non-cycling owner of Ribble Cycles - one of the UK's most
powerful retailers - asking me how many frames I could make in a
day !! He needed to know because he was about to venture, in a
major way, into the retailing of his own-brand, RIBBLE frames. I
knew well of Terry's hard-headed money-led approach to business
and had already had my offer to build custom frames for him
"The offer he was considering was from a company called
AUTOSTRADA - the frame-building company owned by Mike Kowal.
Mike was also a hard-headed business man who had made a
proposition to Terry to supply frames - the only stipulation
being that frames had to be to Autostrada's in-house
designs...and that orders should be placed in multiples of
seven. Terry was puzzled about the multiple of SEVEN. I had
assumed that this would represent the standard range of sizes
produced. However, some days later, Terry phoned to explain, and
to ask my opinion, that the multiple of SEVEN was the number of
frames made by Mike in a single day...with jigs already set up
for each size in the range."
"Some years later I met up with Mike at the closing-down
auction of a well-known small company of lightweight
frame-builders. Several builders were there, including Chas
Roberts who got the Deal of the Day award for some skilful
negotiation on a huge and very expensive piece of frame-building
equipment that had to be sold without any reserve.
"Mike was bidding on some specific Bike Machinery
tooling. I was surprised at first that he needed such pieces of
large equipment, but then remembered his Minimum Order
requirements.. and mentioned my suspicions of mass-production to
him. He laughed loudly at the mention of the Minimum Order...but
did not deny it...but suggested he could manage such a volume
because he started work early!"
"A couple of years later he happened to telephone me
while I was in the act of brazing up the bottom bracket assembly
of a Columbus SL Frame. Mischievously I asked him how long it
would take him to carry out the operation and what number/size
torch nozzle he would use. His reply stunned me and led me to
think that he must wear an asbestos suit and have arms five feet
long to handle such a flame."
"Big nozzles or not or early rising... Mike has produced a
lot of high quality frames... the majority of them not even
carrying his name. He was still trading a few years ago but had
moved, like most builders into importing aluminium ones from the
Far East... although I heard that he was personally making
Norris Lockley, Settle UK