Among the noticeable features, we confine ourselves to mentioning one – the adjustment of the chain from the rear, by means of a new, very simple, and admirable contrivance, which during the winter we have subjected to a prolonged and searching test, and it has been found to fulfil all the requirements of a chain adjustment.
– 1890 Metropolitan Machinists’ Co Catalogue
In common with other top manufacturers of the day, Metropolitan Machinists’ Co offered a wide variety of machines to the public. Their 1890 catalogue included eleven tricycles, eighteen safety bicycles and eight penny farthings. As well as one ladies’ (single tube) model, and older style cross frames, there were eight safety models which featured the latest diamond frame design.
The ‘Juno’ diamond frame safety was introduced to the public in the 23 March edition of Cycling magazine, and they described this new style – which, of course, would subsequently prevail as the dominant design for bicycles – as a ‘double triangle, very compact, of great strength, and of elegant design.’
Of the eighteen safety bicycles illustrated in the company’s 1890 catalogue, the majority utilised the conventional method of adjusting the chain, which involved a nut and bolt in front of the pedals. Only the ‘No 7’ featured their revolutionary new device mentioned above, tested through the winter of 1889. Over the following year, rear chain adjustment would be adopted by every manufacturer to become an industry standard.
1889 Metropolitan Machinists’ ‘Juno’ Diamond-frame Safety
Lightweight Path Racer Model
30″ Wheels with Solid Tyres
Metropolitan Machinists’ Co Saddle
The frame design of the Juno featured here is the same as the horizontal top tube model illustrated above, suggesting that it is an 1889 model.
In the 1890 catalogue, the ‘No 7’ Juno – illustrated below – is the model that features rear chain adjustment. We take rear chain adjustment for granted these days, so it’s interesting to see a bicycle on which this feature made its debut.
The ‘No 7’ is what I call an ‘upsloper’ (not a term used at the time) – the top tube slopes upwards towards the steering head, a style that became fashionable from 1890 until 1895 when the horizontal top tube once again prevailed. My opinion, therefore, is that unsold 1889 diamond frame models such as this example were rebranded the following year and upgraded with rear chain adjustment.
This Juno is a fast lightweight machine. It would have been a state-of-the-art bicycle in its day. I bought it from my friend Ray, who has campaigned it often over the eleven years that he owned it. It’s an older restoration; the nickel has faded in part on the handlebar and the paint is scratched in places – it has been a machine to use rather than to display – but it is still in very good all-round condition. Ray used it a lot for long-distance cycling: it’s geared in the mid-60s and weighs 38lbs, light for a machine of its era. It has been well-maintained, and I’ve found it an excellent machine to ride. The narrow wheels hold the road well and it’s very responsive round corners. It’s undoubtedly one of the best early fixed wheel safeties I’ve ridden and, being an 1889 model, I feel it could be considered one of the first racing safety bicycles.
METROPOLITAN MACHINISTS’ Co LTD
75-6 Bishopgate Street Without, London, E.C
The original partners were Thomas Fuller Toovey and William Harland Hebb. The company was established in 1862 and based at 75 & 76 Bishopsgate Street Without, London. They produced bicycles and tricycles under the ‘Juno’ trade name, and ‘King of the Road’ and ‘Mazeppa’ high-wheelers from c.1883-90. There was a ‘Black Bess’ tricycle produced in 1884. In 1887 the ‘Gnat’ tricycle, which had been made from at least 1884, became the ‘Juno’ folder – able to pass through a 28 in. doorway. There were 39 models listed in their 1890 catalogue. New pattern diamond-frame and double diamond-frame ‘Juno’ safeties were introduced for 1890 as well as a ladies ‘Juno’ spring-frame. In 1894-5 racers were advertised as weighing 22lb and roadsters at 28lb. The company was still listed in business at the above address in 1902 and also at 3 Shaftesbury Avenue in 1903. In 1924 their road racers were £6 and £7 10s. In 1929 they were selling machines from £3 15s. It seems to have faded out about 1938. *
The two partners also owned another company, the ‘London Cycle Supply Association.’ Cycle makers often had a variety of outlets for their goods: over the years, different districts of London became central points for cycle businesses, so it was important for each maker to be represented in those areas if their main firm was established elsewhere. The partnership was dissolved in 1883, with William Harland Hebb carrying on in the two companies.
1890 METROPOLITAN MACHINISTS’ Co CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
* Company info with thanks to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia, 3rd Edition