1919 Columbia Model 912 Roadster
28″ x 1 1/2 metal wheels with coaster brake
Most of the ‘Great War’ was fought without America’s official involvement. Declaring war on Germany was not politically expedient for the American government, although secretly the country supported the Allies. When the United States did enter the War, in April 1917, Columbia was appointed by the government to supply bicycles for the American troops. The War ended in 1918, so Columbia had only exported their bicycles to France for a short period of time. As they had put so much effort into adapting one of their models into a ‘Military Model’ the company decided to capitalize on nationalistic feelings and offer this bicycle to the American public. You can see the cover of the 1919 Columbia catalogue further down the page: the Military Model is predominantly featured; it was included in their catalogues until 1921.
I do not have a complete catalogue for 1919, but the 1910 Columbia Roadster Model 012 is very similar to the bicycle featured here, so I have included details from that catalogue.
Like all American bicycles of the era, this would have originally had wooden wheels and single-tube tyres. The American cycle industry failed in the early years of the twentieth century for precisely this reason. With ever-increasing competition and prices of new bicycles going down year by year, the manufacturers made little money selling bicycles. So they made their money from the expensive wooden wheels and single tube tyres that could not be repaired. It meant that it was not economical for customers to repair bicycles once a new tyre or wheel was required. No other country of the world would import American bicycles for this reason, and the American government levied very high tariffs on bicycles imported from Europe so that American people did not have the choice of cheap metal wheels and cheap replaceable pneumatic tyres.
One hundred years down the road, the problem obviously still exists: a bicycle with wooden wheels and single tube tyres is a ‘display bike’ rather than a practical machine to ride. American vintage cycle enthusiasts who wish to use their bikes usually replace the wheels with new Italian wheels that use 27″ tyres. I fit 28″ westwood rims with coaster hubs, so that I can fit the attractive (and well-made) 28″ cream Schwalbe tyres you see here.
So this bicycle is the best of both worlds – a fabulous 93-year-old bicycle that is a collector’s item …but mechanically restored with practical wheels and tyres.
This machine was repainted by the previous owner. The seat base was repainted silver and the leather saddle was recovered. You can see the handlebar options for 1918 further down the page: these is the Motorbike Junior H Bar fitted using a Gooseneck extension stem. The handlebar grips have the Columbia logo on them. The pedals are Supreme, and it’s fitted with a skip-tooth (inch pitch) chain. There are a few scratches here and there on the frame, so this is by no means a concours bicycle. Spares are easily available if ever needed …a major advantage for a bicycle this old. It is ready to ride.
So if you fancy a vintage machine that is both attractive and practical, and definitely stands out from the crowd, might this be the bike for you?
Below, you can see the 1918 CCM catalogue, which illustrates the choice of handlebar: the roadsters in the catalogue above are fitted with the No 997 style, while this particular bicycle is fitted with the No 986 Motorbike Junior H Bar and Gooseneck extension stem. This was a popular option for impressive looks.
1919 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE
Stanmer has a working farm at its centre. Near the church is an unusual survival, a donkey-wheel, i.e. a treadmill formerly operated by a donkey. There are 18th-century lodge-houses at the upper and lower ends of the park. The village was incorporated into Brighton in 1928, and the park passed into the hands of the county council in 1947. It is now a major public space.