The life of the bicycle launch

It’s been a long time since my last post and many cycling related things have happened, including me taking part in my first road race, in which I didn’t finish very high, but I didn’t fall off, or crash and I did finish, so moving swiftly on…

This post is about the launch of The life of the bicycle film made by Clapham Film Unit with Herne Hill Velodrome and The Science Museum, funded by the Heritage lottery’s All Our Stories programme

The launch was at The Science Museum, most of the cyclists involved cycled to the screening from the velodrome. I had a morning meeting so missed cycling through a torrential downpour, I did however arrive just in time for the post ride flapjack…

I was also able to see the Bicycle tour exhibition, including many of the bikes I was able to study for the project.

Find out more about the exhibition here;


Anyway on to the film!

It’s a really interesting film, I love they way its cuts between the vastly different stories all linked by cycling. I was very lucky to have three largeish bits in it which I will now share with you (although you should try and see whole the film!)

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The first part was filmed at the end of the day, but works really well as the start of my story, it shows me enjoying my own private velodrome, huffing and puffing and gushing about how much I love cycling.

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I am wearing my modern cycling clothing, summer kit, and it was COLD (We filmed in April this year)

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You can see the two problems I suffered with throughout filming here, cold hands and near blindness, do too a lack of sunglasses on a very sunny day. I always wear sunglasses, on and off the bike as my eyes are super light sensitive, and big attracting grit etc, but sunglasses didn’t work for the film and you can tell I can’t really see, plus my eyes were watering all day. Thank goodness for my cycling cap!

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You can see I pulled my arm warmers right down and rolled my fingers under the palms of my hands sandwiching them between me and my cork (conducts heat) handle bars, all without realising what I was doing and thinking about how strange it would look on film.

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A couple of people still came up to me after the screening to ask way I wasn’t wearing gloves. The truth is at this stage I didn’t own cycling gloves and the fluffy woolly pink gloves I had with me did not really look the part. I had no idea what I was doing till I watched the film, it must have been towards the end of a take! Charlotte was quick to wrap me up as soon as we stopped cycling, but I am a cold blooded person and thus cold all of the time.

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The second part of the film is me in my 1940s kit, I want to show you the way the film cuts to it

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It starts with race footage like this…FAST

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And then cuts to me, not quite as blurry, but you try cycling in original 1940s sandals, bits kept falling off and I had to keep stitching them back together.

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We filmed this first, I was pleased it was a sunny day, I had a hand knitted 1940s cardie, but I was clearly feeling brave as I took that off before we started filming.

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I had to get used to cycling on the slopes of the velodrome wearing this, which was quite good fun…

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This footage was filmed on a old camera, with old film, sorry, I forget the technical terms, But this give the lovely old school colour.

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this was the one time I looked at the camera you can see how much I am suffering from the sun, as I have pirate face.

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Being a costume designer as well as wearing original shoes I also have original 1940s silk stockings, the dress which is cut in line with war time guidance on fabric wastage is not very full and not perhaps not fully suited to cycling.

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The dress kept slowly riding up my legs, not wanting to spoil the flow I waited to readjusting my dress in-between takes, some of which were quite long.

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This meant, yes I was a proper old school Cambridge cyclist, showed my stocking tops. This description is based on my past interviews with women who cycled in Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s. I was not wolf whistled (as my interviewees often were) but my stocking tops might have inspired my streaker?

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The footage of me creaking and wobbling round the track with my legs out cuts to this…

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Again FAST and skillful!

My third part in the film starts with a tease…whatever is she wearing now?

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before slowly giving away my final costume

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Why I’m wearing my full Edwardian cycling costume of course! (apart from that hat which I picked up from M&S on route, but sssshhh don’t tell anyone!)

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This is how the vintage black and white film footage came out…

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Bear in mind I have the full costume on, including the corset which needed to be laced up to enable me to do the jacket up, was made for a model smaller than me and on top of it all I had to cycle round the velodrome, at least I wasn’t cold!

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Also you will remember from my post about filming this, this was the part of the shoot in which I got streaked, just imagine a nude dude running behind my right shoulder…I think I did quite a good job of keeping a straight face really, and I didn’t pass out, even when I was in stitches laughing.

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Thank you so much to everyone involved, especially Charlotte who talked me in front of the camera. I loved every moment of it!

Find out more about The life of the bicycle here;

see more of my stills from the film here;


Curiouser and curiouser: Lindsey in bicycleland


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


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


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


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!


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.


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

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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…


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


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


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


no idea what is this, but its pretty cool


This picture has a Charlotte filming in it for scale 🙂


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


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


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


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


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:

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



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


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.


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.


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!


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”


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.


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.


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!


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.


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

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check out these beautiful lugs…


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:

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


Swifter and yet more swift


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.


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.


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


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!


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!


‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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:


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

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

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You can’t look where your going if you don’t know where your going


It is no longer my birthday, I am now older and all my presents 
are open, boo

The husband is up north ensuring the wall keeps the wildlings 
and white walkers out, so I have the house to myself and a 
studio day is the plan of action

Some nasty admin tasks do not help to lift my mood and as I 
have a rather special dress to get ready for a fitting this 
evening I decide drastic action is in order
Cola (with a slice of lemon and even more importantly a straw) 
chocolate buttons and the labyrinth DVD on the imac...
mmmh that's better

While sewing and watching I reflect on how the film never fails 
to lift my mood and start planning my autobiography, told through
the structure of the film*


Dress done, I head of on frank to my evening fittings which 
include opening another card and present ( I'm a very lucky girl) 
before heading back to the rowing club to admire Ella's newly 
uncast leg and talk about the cycle ride she has roped me into 
on Sunday, well when I say "roped" what i mean is I bit her hand off.

It's quite hard to find girls to cycle with, you see, 
they keep breaking
Ella is perhaps the only person I know who comes close to being as 
accident prone as me...only I fall and bounce she falls and shatters, 
however, having raced in a four with her I can also confirm she is 
one of the most competitive people I know which should make this 
interesting...dont you think Ella? ;) 

* i know every word of this film by heart, and have on many 
occasions recited some or all of it, as a one women impromptu 
show and sometimes with other wakkos, am happy to do so on 
request, but trust me, its a very weird thing to witness

Skins, Pimms and fixing things

Race day!

I was a little worried, as I had to be off at early o’clock and expected to be broken post race, how I was going to squish a ride in today? But as we planned to meet at the rowing club I didn’t need to worry as frank-n-fixie had the opportunity to see me off and help me limp home.

It has been a wonderfully sunny Sunday; it felt more like a regatta then a headrace. As I had dressed for winter this meant lots of de-layering at the start to ensure I did not melt mid race, I would even go so far as to say it was “skins” weather (onesie only, not nude rowing) Just to make that clear to non-rowers/the dirty minded.

We managed a respectable 8.29 minutes over 2k, which didn’t win us anything, but was not embarrassing either. I was just pleased I didn’t mess up or run out of steam. And we managed not to be overtaken much to my surprise.

Much as I was happy to while away the rest of the day watching others huff and puff up and down the river, with a drink in one hand and a cake in the other, I chose to go back home early to do work stuff, so I am ready for more work stuff tomorrow, (scratch’s head) that really sucks when you see it in print…

Anyway it is such a lovely day I dug out some summer clothes to try and encourage the sun to stay and Frank-n-Fixie and I cycled to the post box in a skirt and sandals, mostly for kicks but also for practice (summer IS coming)


Lots of other people were out making the most of the sunshine and many of them were on bikes, most of the other cyclists were children or teenagers, and all of the adults I spotted were men. What is it that stops us, especially us women, from cycling past a certain age? I’m guessing a lot of people stop when they learn to drive, It’s such a shame.

I did have the joy of playing one of my favorite games. It stems from my discovery that many men dislike being overtaken by a girl, imagine the horror of the mountain biker I flew past today, on Frank, with his two different sizes wheels and rusty frame, and me dressed much like an old lady. Try as he might with all the gears at his disposal he was fighting a losing battle. 

The evening was spent with me trying to warm up to fixing the Pashleys puncture, with a jug of pimms, on reflection, not a great idea. I need to get back into the swing of fixing stuff myself. I’m sure I used to be able to do this without being such a total girl about it, sigh; I’ve been spoilt by him-indoors. Pass me another Pimms.


One “breakfast” fudge bar and a lifejacket later

Saturday or day 13 of my 30 days of bicycling pledge

I was expecting a lovely lie in and no rowing, but it was not to be, the husbands cox, the lovely but eternally broken Ella was nursing her phantom wisdom teeth/ gapping great holes in her gums and I was dragged out of my bed as a poor substitute. But I didn’t really mind Ella, honest, as I have had my wisdom teeth out and it bloody hurts.

One “breakfast” fudge bar and a lifejacket later Frank–n-fixie had got me to the club I’m back on the water, I was quite proud of my steering on a day when the lake was packed, I hardly, nearly killed anyone.

Then it was time to pack up the boat for tomorrows race, much silliness ensued as it always does on a sunny Saturday afternoon. And my chalk supply was stolen and used to create some wonderfully creative but hopelessly rude drawings the ancient Greeks would be proud of

My only other cycling was back home, with a massive head wind, giving me a temporary face-lift and my legs a little work out.

The afternoon was spend inside catching up on work stuff and eating (carb loading for tomorrows race…any excuse)

Once this race is over I’m going to do more cycling…on my new bike, when it gets here 🙂

But first I have a race to race!

In this super sexy outfit…BOOM!