by Adrian Thornton
Comet Cycles was one of Auckland’s most established post-war bike shops, and also a builder of fine racing frames during this classic period.
Comet was started as Southern Cross in 1937 by Slater Hayes and Harry Bull (first name unknown). Bull sold his share to Slater upon his return from active duty in 1945. The shop became Comet with Bull’s leaving and was situated in Aucklands K’Rd until about 1970. At that time, under the management of Slater’s son Jacky Hayes, the shop was moved to Grey Lynn, finally closing down in 1997. It should be noted that not much frame building had gone on in the last twenty years of business.
Slater had learned the bike trade and cycle construction while working for one of Auckland’s other well known cycle traders, Clarke’s Cycles during the 1920’s-mid 30’s. Clarke’s were builders of the famous ‘Leader Superb’ and later ‘Leader Special’ racing frames.
Slater Hayes had been a pretty successful cash (pro) rider himself during the late 1920s to late 40s, winning the New Zealand road championship title in the mid 30s,while riding a Leader Special.
Just prior to WW2 and until 1949 Comet had also in it’s service one Doug Hills, who went on (taking the Comet secretary Nora with him) to start Auckland’s most important cycle shop of the late 1950’s- 70’s Hills Cycle Works.
Comet racing frames were, although not pretty in the English lightweight sense, light and robust more in keeping with French racing bike design. Signatures are the half wrap seat stay (with a few file marks), Simplex rear drop outs on nearly all rear derailleur bikes during the 1950’s,serial numbers on the rear seat cluster, usually three to four digits.
All of the later 1950’s bikes that I have seen are 531 Reynolds butted tubes with Nervex lugs.