The cycle trade in Coventry grew out of the Coventry Sewing Machine Company, founded in 1863, which was finding it difficult to expand and decided to diversify. In 1868, their Paris agent obtained an order for 400 velocipedes to be exported to France, but the Franco-Prussian War forced the company to build up a home market instead; the name was changed to Coventry Machinists’ Company in 1869.
At this time James Starley was foreman of the company and was instrumental in helping to bring about several improvements to the basic velocipede; however, in 1870 he left to set up in business with William Hillman. The first important bicycle they produced was the Ariel, an attempt at making a lightweight all metal machine.
As Britain’s first cycle manufacturer and leading velocipede maker, the Coventry Machinists Co had a serious reputation to uphold, so their ordinaries were state-of-the-art machines. The Special Club was introduced in 1882. The front wheel used Starley’s patent tangent spoking. Innovations included patented hollow oval backbone, hollow forks and front wheel rim, and a cushioned saddle mounting to provide a degree of suspension for a more comfortable ride.
The rear of the saddle support features a cartouche showing the company and model name (below). CMC had always had plenty of imitators, and the company was aware of a thriving second-hand market for their machines. Indeed, used CMC bicycles held their value extremely well, which was a good selling point for the company. The cartouche allowed their customers to confirm they were buying the genuine article.
1882 Coventry Machinists Co
‘Special Club’ Ordinary
Frame No 33961
This excellent 50″ CMC Special Club is owned by my friend Phil. I’m selling three of his ordinaries as he’s moving house. He has owned this machine for many years and has ridden it regularly. The brake lever was remanufactured to the original pattern; the seat has a new leather top; and the tyres and pedal rubbers have been replaced. Otherwise the machine is original. This CMC has been mechanically restored and is absolutely ready to ride.
CMC PATENT SADDLE SPRING