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/

 

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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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It never gets easier, you just go faster.

It never gets easier, you just go faster. – Greg LeMond

Day 30, I made it, in one piece, even if that piece is a little bruised, scratched and stuck back together, this isn’t really cyclings fault, I wasn’t built to be a Concours model, or I would have had some inbuilt spacial awareness and balance.

Today involved the normal cycle to the train station, Cambridge again, 4 and a bit hours of laser-cutting later and its back to the boro and over to the cottage to complete a funding app, over a beer, as is becoming the tradition, then off again to the rowing club to drink tea and hunt round for the thing that’s making the club house smell so nasty, before home, which on reflection smells quite fresh, even if it does resemble a stage from a production of lord of the flies.

I have been trying to work out if I should carry on this blog after today, not everyday, that’s mad, just when I have something intresting to say relating to Cycling. I continued to debate this into the 1st of May, until a reserved an email offering me an exciting cycling related opportunity, so that’s it, the blog carrys on

365 day cycling pledge? Bit much? Ok fine…

 

 

 

 

To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain

To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain….at cycling’s core lies painScott Martin

Day 29, which also happens to be a Monday, new week and meetings about new projects

Last night him-indoors and I watched a film called Premium Rush, unlike some of the other cycling themed films we have watched this was quite a high budget affair

‘In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city”

Or so it said on the tin, Its really quite good…

The main character’s bike is quite a lot like Frank-n-fixie

“I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either”

Its all about the speed, the risk, the skill and you would have to be completely mad, but it makes you want to ride…fast

Its a good film, I dont think I’ll convert to “runnin’ reds and killin’ peds” thou

But

This morning I found myself very late for my train, so on heading off I said to Frank, I need to be at the train station, yesterday, lets go! and off we sped

I like to ride, fixed gear, some brakes, could stop, but it would take me ages to get going again…so ideally I don’t want to

I made the train, out of breath and really for anything…which I needed to be

My day didn’t get any less rushed and it had lost of weird planned for me

I spend the morning sitting in a heritage meeting for someone else, in a theatre, while all around me the Rocky Horror show was being set up

I may just be a sweet transvestite…but I’m one who knows how to compete the correct permission forms for oral history interviews…

So after a super quick snack-lunch I’m off to a swimming pool, representing a football club, to talk about cycling, confused!

The meeting was all bout the Tour de France coming to Cambridge in 2014 and I’m already excited and so pleased to be involved, It was also a great opportunity to meet Representatives from the many different cycling clubs across Cambridge and to find out more about cycling events both locally and nationally.

I wore suitable socks…

Thanks to a canceled train I was super late coming back to Peterborough and thus my Monday night circuits class, which I am very much in need of participating in, the result of which was:

A, I had to get changed into my gym kit in a stinky train loo…again…Superman has to change in public loos less than me

B, I had to run off the train, jump on frank, instruct him I need to be at the gym, like yesterday, pedal like mad, before storming into the class, knackered, which I managed in 8 minutes, which is quite good, when you factor in locking and unlocking Frank and looking for my trainers…

Fast-ish and getting faster

Gosh today is going to hurt tomorrow…Hello pain, my old friend

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But why is the rum gone?

Picture this

My alarm goes off

Bleep, Bleep, Bleep, Bleep…

Getting up is going to require commitment, so lets go in strong, rah, yeh! lets do this…

I swing my leg out of bed, biff! toes hits wardrobe, Hard

Ouch! Thump, I have now fallen out of bed, clutching my toe

The husband sits up, looks at me waling on the floor and says, “I’ll go switch the alarm off”

My poor toe is bloody and hurts a lot, walking is near impossible so rowing is out, oh bugger this is going to make me look soooo bad, soooo lightweight.

After some time the toe stops bleeding and I start to limp around. I both brake and fix myself I lot, so I don’t normally need a doctor to tell me if somethings broken, I know what I have broken feels like, the toes not broken, just bloody and bruised and the nails busted up quite badly, but that’s just a super glue and nail varnish job, no problem.

Well toe, I’m going to give you 24 hours to fix or I shall cut you off old school Tour de France style* as I want to go cycling tomorrow.

And then there’s Frank, he’s still in town, I spend the morning being good and resting, then by lunch time I very slowing force my toe into socks and boots and limp the three miles to town, I’m dressed like….  well I’m not sure what you call this look, sports leggings with those go faster stripes, a new Romantic /pirate shirt and a classic 1970’s men’s jumper with a hat with animal ears.

Who cares, this is Peterborough and town is filled with POSH fans heading to the football in animal onesies. Why? Isn’t your mascot a bloke in a top hat and tails ringing a bell? Why not put your wedding suits on? Middle aged balding football fans in onesies, eeh God.

Frankie’s not been stolen (I know, I was shocked too…) and I try cycling home, on wheels, is better than on feet or toe, so that’s good news.

I spend the afternoon trying to over look the smell of gone off eggs and get on with this blogging business, while him-indoors makes scale models of Peterborough, as you do.

I try to be good and rest to that means no cleaning or tidying right? being about to find stuff is so overrated.

* see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Vietto for more toe chopping madness

 

Cycling away to join the circus ( I heard they have cake)

Reader, The day started badly, him-indoors is very stressed 
about his MA work and I can't really help him, which makes 
me stressed. The house looks like someone has turned upside
down and given it a good shake, my fat upper arms dont fit 
in my blouse and I'm not ready... For any part of the next
three days.

So I'm up at the crack* upsetting the neighbours with my sewing 
machines, trying frantically to get ready for my printing session 
later, while thinking on how to get my new bike to the repair 
shop at the same time.It's not broken, the gears just need a 
professional touch and I really want it ready to ride it on Sunday.  

Of course super-mum comes to the rescue as per, helping me get Jake 
to the bike shop and then making sure I'm at the Uni in time for my 
printing slot. Mums rock, she even brought him-indoors pork pies, 
which means I can tick off "feed husband" from my weekly list of 
jobs.

I arrive super-stressed, but as soon as the smell of the print room 
hits me I'm as calm as can be, and after a few small battles with 
the laser printer my days starts to reflect my new found mood. 
Who needs Prozac when you have ink and rollers, oh baby...

By the time I've had a bit of fun with lasers and a very productive 
snow queen** project meeting. I'm in an amazing mood and the 
sunshine after the mornings hail reflects this improvement suitably 

Returning to the boro by train with a small brown leather suitcase 
off of the 40's*** full of samples and an over-sized portfolio of 
card I am looking forward to joint birthday meal with Cuddles 
(that's a person not a activity) dispute the total lack of an 
opportunity to change or draw on my face.

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I haven't really had a proper cycle today, just getting Jake to 
the car, but it's starting to look like that's about all I'll 
fit in.

So to the meal I go, it's a great evening, I spend a lot of time 
banging on about how I have to be at the rowing club at 8:30 in 
the morning while  simultaneously descending into an ever growing 
cloud of rum.

Here's a bad idea, take a group of rowers, add lashings of rum, 
what do you have? Pirates, lots of them, with no captain.

The plan was to walk home, him-indoors brought frank, so we could 
try a beer-backie, but that's not going to end well, I think I might 
have missed the boat somewhat on backies****, in the end Chris takes 
pity on us and drops us home, leaving poor frank alone in town, so 
that's tomorrow's rescue mission planned then, free the fixie-one

Is it just me or is the floor moving (holds on the the edge of the 
bed) damn fenland earthquakes 

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*when the day cracks, it is now dawn, not to be mistaken for the 
cracken, which is very bad news for water dwellers or shot drinkers 
as it turns out (burp)

** a project for The Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, yes my job 
rocks, i know right? 

*** which always makes me want to run away and join the circus or 
something equally reckless  

**** a short history of backies and me: I didn't know what one was 
till i met my husband, a couple of times when we have been short 
on bike and long on tired legs we have tried this, but  I scream 
the whole time, which might explain why him-indoors is so deaf, 
ANYWAY i think the reason this gives me the fear is because you 
have to learn to do it while you are still a teenage and thus 
immortal, and why did i not do this as a teen, growing up in 
Cambridge aka the land of the bike? well Where i grew up every 
child had their own bike, so there was no need for such things. 
Silly!

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Thursday is coconuts day or moose day or my day working at 
Cambridge united football club.
 
todays cycling menu consists of a trip to and from the train 
station on frank-n-fixie.
 
It's is very muggy and I keep having to stop enroute to the 
train station to remove layers, it's a proper mormon strip 
tease* as I have far more clothes on that today requires, but 
then I'm quite British like that. I nearly always have, a 
selection of cardigans, an umbrella, sunglasses, tissues,
wet wipes etc etc

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The bit in the middle between biking involves the normal amounts 
of talking about football, tidying up, making tea, washing up, 
scanning stuff in, numbering stuff sticking stuff back down,
settling arguments watching  other people do the bleep test 
while eating my own body weight in birthday (week) cake, 
getting locked out while photographing scrapbooks on the pitch,
and having to cut through the showers while hoping they are not
in use...just another standard day really**

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The cycle home is blissful as the day is really rather perfect 
weather wise and for the first time today I have the right 
amount of clothing on, go me!
 
The evening is spent in my studio, up to my neck in fabric and 
thread, making samples, which is a surefire way of ensuring 
I am a happy bunny
 
I should sew more and manage less, I should also cycle more and 
work less

*take off clothes, not revealing any more flesh, normally meaning 
you started with too many layers

** if footballs your thing try my other blog 
www.2footballgirls.wordpress.com the other football girl is 
really quite funny and can actually write

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