Curiouser and curiouser: Lindsey in bicycleland

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This is the third and final of my posts about my trip to The Science Museum’s archives as part of the Clapham Film Units life of the bicycle Project

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In which i will explore the final space we visited, after crossing the base by taxi we headed to a much larger hanger filled with more bikes most of which are not suitable to display

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This was the sight we were greeted with (squeak!)

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This monster is a Roulette Sociable

On a Sociables riders sit side by side, these became became popular in the 1880’s in tricycle form and in the 1890’s a number of manufactuers began to make sociable versions of the safety bicycle, like this one. The sign tells me they were surprisingly easy to ride, but we had our doubts, wondering if having two riders of different heights and weights would affect the ride. I later found this short film which answers that question.

I also found another very colorful skirt guard, in a wall of dark colours this looked quite daring!

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Dennis pointed out this bike with a drive shaft. A drive shaft is used instead of a chain to transmit power from the pedals to the wheel. they were were introduced in 1890, but were mostly replaced by chain-driven bicycles due to the gear ranges possible with sprockets and derailleurs.

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I was not greatly surprised by this bike as my husband has one. Due to advancements in internal gear technology, modern shaft-driven bicycles have been introduced. this is ours

http://www.biomega.dk/biomega.aspx

Everyone who sees him on it has to stop and talk to him about it!

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This really is a beautiful bicycle, although this racer is from 1928 it still looks modern and is so well made

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This is a Selbach. Maurice Selbach (the man) had his greatest successes in cycle racing in the early 1920s, setting lots of records, this encouraged him to set up business as  a cycle manufacturer in 1924. He was an innovative engineer and pioneered the used of taper tubes in frame construction and was amongst the first to use roller bearings for both the bottom bracket and headsets of his frames. Maurice Selbach evolved many ideas relating to modern lightweight bicycle design.

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Look at the beautiful attention to detail (and branding) on the cogs and pedals. He died in 1935 after train lines caused him to fall from his bike under a truck.

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we had a long discussion about what these tires are made from. Bicycle tire casing is made of cloth, usually nylon, though cotton and silk have also been used. My textile background helped me recognise these as silk. The casing provides the resistance against stretching which is needed to contain the internal air pressure while still remaining flexible enough to contour to the ground surface. The thread count of the cloth affects the weight and performance of the tire, and high thread counts are generally preferred. The dense weave of this silk casing is clearly shown here, were the Rubber tread has worn and rotted away revealing the silk case, which has also disintegrating shown the broken silk fibres.

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I took a picture of this machine as I thought it was quite Steam Punk, I have no idea what it is or how it works, or more importantly what that handles for? do let me know if you do!

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This is the back of a Victorian post office tricycle, sadly you see less and less cycling post-people. When my husband temped as a post-man, cycling was his favorite bit of the job, heavy on the way out and almost impossible up hills, the journey back was much lighter!

After exploring the bikes for some time we misbehaved a little and wondered off to have a quick look at the rest of the collection…

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Really, look at this cool “stuff” how could you not?

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They had whole planes, lots of cars and this beast, and of course we had to take a little peak in the back…

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although it looked untouched the only thing in the back was seats

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no idea what is this, but its pretty cool

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This picture has a Charlotte filming in it for scale 🙂

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This early bike has a horses head on the front which seems quite strange, till you discover that early bikes were often made by blacksmiths

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I became fascinated by the different types and stages of rotting rubber and yes this is as disgusting and sticky as it looks, sadly this happens to all natural rubber which is a conservators nightmare

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Even Dennis didn’t get out of being filmed, here he is telling Charlotte about this favorite bike in the collection

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The hanger was huge, you could be in there forever, but we had to head back to London and real world!

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A big thank you to Anna Watson for letting me use the picture at the top of the page, see more of Anna’s pictures on her flicker page, including more on the The Life of the Bicycle Film project:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/annawatsonprophoto/sets/72157634178589895/

Find out more about the HLF funded Life of the Bicycle project:

http://claphamfilmunit.com/

 

 

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The picture of free, untrammeled womanhood

Continuing on from my last post…

One of the bikes we had that chance to look at was this swift ladies club sports bicycle from 1928

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Unusually it has a flip flop hub, meaning the rear bicycle hub is threaded to accept fixed cogs (fixies) or freewheels. Track bikes are generally fixies and road bikes are normally freewheel.

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It’s a really nice bike, well made and I imagine fast, I love visualising a bike-mad racer girl at time when these things were not common. Lets face it, there is still a lot that needs to be done to even up the scales in professional bike racing.

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When I held reminiscence sessions on dress from the 1950s for my MA I came across a lady who loved to go out cycling with her future husband in the late 1950s and early 1960s around Peterborough, she spoke of having to wear men’s cycling clothes and how people in the small villages she passed were shocked by the fact she was wearing shorts, to ride a bike, on a hot summers day!

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Dress has always been a big issue with women’s cycling. My granddad told me a story of an aunt of his who “ had a very Victorian attitude” and who used to loop a piece of elastic round her foot before pining the other end to her skirt to “ stop boys seeing her stockings”

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Skirts in perturb present unique challenges when cycling, and the skirt guard was designed to counter many of these issues. This ladies bike from 1925 has just such a skirt guard; it is also so perfectly rideable I wanted to stuff it in my pocket for later

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I don’t think I have ever seen anything as textile as these early skirt guards they sit somewhere between, knitting, weaving and welding.

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And then there was a very familiar set of wheels, an earlier (1987?) version of my very own Pashley. My Tube Rider or Pashley fish as I like to call it as the frame is a sort of fish shape, was designed in WW2 to be parachuted into France and quickly put together out of the light components, the modern bikes fall under the heading of beach cruisers, and feel more Venice beach than occupied France. This was my first new grown up bike, my way into cycling as a grown up so it still spells freedom to me.

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For sheer vintage detailing and loving construction you have to admire this Viking from 1961, I can see my 1960s cycling ladie riding round in her shorts on this! Damn I should have worn a coat with bigger pockets!

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The last bike we looked at was this Tera (1982) Charlotte and I knew nothing about this bike and had invented a lovely story about early electric bikes until we were informed that this was the first completely plastic bike, a break through in engineering which was horribly wobbly to ride and so now is one of many cluttering up museums around the world.

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I have to show you a couple of pics of this beautiful early 1960s Viking

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check out these beautiful lugs…

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And then it was time to go over to a new space, a much larger hanger, holding the rest of the cycle collection, which will be the topic of my third and last blog on this trip.

A big thank you to Anna Watson for letting me use the picture at the top of the page, see more of Anna’s pictures on her Flickr page, including more on the The Life of the Bicycle Film project:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/annawatsonprophoto/sets/72157634178589895/

Find out more about the HLF funded Life of the Bicycle project:

http://claphamfilmunit.com/

 

Swifter and yet more swift

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On a cold and windy day not so very long ago myself and a gang of fellow cycle enthusiasts made our way out to the Science Museum’s “archive” in Swindon, for The life of the bicycle, a film being made by Clapham Film Unit with the friends of the Herme Hill Velodrome and the Science Museum.

The archive is really a huge great airbase, filled with hangers, filled with what can only be described a stuff, cool stuff, like a scaled up version of my granddads workshop or a old school Doctor Who set.

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The Science Museum is planning a display of bicycles in the autumn as part of a movement themed display. For this project we were allowed access to the museums collection. (Squeak!)

The first space we went to was a workshop area, in which bikes being considered for display were being readied for shipping to central London. Science Museum curator Dennis-Kelles-Krause was on hand for questions. Although Dennis stressed bicycles are not his area of specialty, he was both knowledgeable and helpful as we skipped about gleefully (well, ok, I did, the others had more self control) discussing each bike and considering point of interest for further research.Much of our time was spent taking pictures, posing questions and exploring potential answers with Charlotte Bill, the films directors recording our ramblings.

My job was to collect our questions as the base for further research back at Science Museum HQ, this blog is that list, mixed in with other ramblings and pictures. It is about this point in writing this post that I realise I have enough material to bore normal people to tears and that this might take more than one post, so this is the first of, well however many it takes, I’m guessing three.

The Original

One you are in the room with an “original” its hard to focus on anything else, I can imagine everyone stopping and staring open mouthed when these first peddled past.

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Commonly know as a Penny Farthing, these were the first fixies. This one is a Windsor and dates from 1878

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Its hard to imagine anyone maneuvering hills on one of these, but Rodger Crosskey highlighted that fact that a poem was written about just that!

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This one by Henry Charles Beeching was written about going down hill on such a bike

Going down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song

 

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind
The air goes by in a wind.

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:-
‘Oh bird, see; see, bird, I fly!

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‘Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
your feathery life in the air!’

Say heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound,
Steel-shod to the level ground.

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Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels are scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, whereso’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.

Or you could imagine it another way…

The Baby Penny

It’s hard to imagine how rich the original owner of this “Baby Penny” as I have decided to call it would have been, or how hard it would have been to learn on, I’m guessing they didn’t have stabilisers? This Childs Penny Farthing dates from 1880. Early children’s bikes was one area of further research we discussed.

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Rattle and roll

Many of the early owners of bicycles were rich young men, keen to let off steam and dare I say it, show off, the very first bike, the boneshaker was the perfect way for the regency man to show of his muscly legs in his finest breeches. Anyone who has worn breeches could tell you how little fun this would be and how likely you would be to do an “incredible hunk” and bust right out of them, never mind the poor washer women’s nerves at a time when light colours were very fashionable.

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These machines were more like a scooter, powered by being pushing rather than pedalled along. This one is in fact a turn of the last century replica of an original (1904-7) It features a seat and a cushion for your arms, comfy…well it’s a nice gesture, like bunch of flowers for a hay fever sufferer.

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Strange bedfellows

The third penny farthing on show was a Rudge ordinary bicycle from 1884, this bike has been stripped down to be lightened for racing, the seat is basic and there is no stand to help you get on thing. This was a track bike, and in the workshop it was placed next to another track bike built for speed and stripped down to the basics.

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This bike is Chris Boardman’s Lotus sport, the 2nd of the replicas of the original made by Lotus Engineering.

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The two could not be more different, but they were both built to do the same thing, go as fact as possible, and the more we discussed this the more we started to see similarities.

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One of the starkest contrasts is the position of the rider, which has changed dramatically, what has not changed is the total lack of fear needed to go at top speeds on these bikes, which don’t bother with niceties such as brakes.

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Mind you having fallen off my Pashley, thanks to the combination of speed and brakes in the last week I’m starting to see the sense in the Bicycle messenger mantra “brakes are death” or at least my poor skinned legs are.

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Both bikes have clearly been well ridden, and the patterns of wear tell as story, in the same way that clothes tell us the story through patterns of wear.

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A big Thank you to Anna Watson for letting me use the picture at the top of the page, see more of Anna’s pictures on her flicker page, including more on the The Life of the Bicycle Film project:

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Find out more about the HLF funded Life of the Bicycle project:

http://claphamfilmunit.com/

My next post, part two of three on this trip, will explore one of my favorite topics, female cyclists.

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In the beginning there was stabilisers

In the beginning there was stabilisers…

When I was first asked to be involved in The Clapham Film Units and the friends of Herme Hill velodromes Film, The life of the bicycle I asked my mum to dig out a picture of me on my bike as a tot.

After much rummaging mum said that there weren’t any, apparently “you never showed much interest” great, thanks mum, that will really go down well on a film about enthusiastic cyclists. She went to tell me she had some pictures of my younger sister learning to ride her bike (yes plural) so much for being the prodigal first child, looks like I was just the warm up act

Anyway the hunt continued after it was confirmed that yes, my sister would rather stab herself repeatedly in the face with a Biro than so much as acknowledge the existence of the bicycle*

Then after we had all give up hope, quite expectantly mum came up with this, in a friends photo album, which I have been instructed to take good care of, lord knows why its suddenly important now!

This picture was taken when I was about 6 or 7ish, outside my grandads house, which was over the road from my own childhood home, I am on my first bike, it was already quite the antique having shown most of the family’s post war children the ropes.

the picture is out of focus, well its not, if you look to the right, the plant claiming frame is nice and sharp…

I am wearing my classic look of 1940s inspired 1980s floral Laura Ashley type smocked dress over a t-shirt, with very 1980s pinky white tights and sandals, I had quite a few of those dresses, its not too dissimilar to what I wear now really

I look happy, in a poesy sort of way but then I still have my stabilisers, I don’t remember having this picture taken but I do remember the day my grandad removed my stabilisers and I discover that riding a bike was in fact impossible

I just didn’t get balance, much to the bewilderment of my sporty parents, even much, much later aged 10+ I was regularly cycling into lampposts, as soon as I noticed them I could not stop myself from cycling into them, I fell off a lot, I dont remember having a cycle helmet, which quite explains quite a lot. My younger sister had one, which she worn on her bike handlebars, which explains even more…

When I look at my happy little face now all I think of is the shock that will soon follow and the next tenish years of trying to get the hang of the whole two wheel thing

Anyhow much, much, much later, here I am covered in bruises and scabs, still learning, still getting back on. Quake with fear lampposts

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* I’m hoping its a stage, do people still go through “stages” in their mid 20’s?