The Columbia Exposition previewed in 1892 and opened fully in 1893. Also known as the 1893 World’s Fair, the Exposition, in Chicago, celebrated Columbus’s landfall in 1492, where he discovered America.
Colonel Pope also celebrated the occasion. His 1893 range of bicycles had various changes in frame design: whereas the seat tube previously had a curve toward the bottom, the seat tube on this year’s Columbias was straight. One of the new bicycles – the ‘Model 32’ – made its debut with a very strange innovation – an ‘elliptical gear’ (chainwheel).
1893 Columbia ‘Century’ Model 32 Road Racer
Colonel Pope made a big splash at the 1893 World’s Fair with the state-of-the-art innovations on his latest Columbia ‘Century’ – the Model 32 – which featured an elliptical chainwheel and an optional band brake. This example, stripped down as a road racer, has a rear hub that can be converted into to a band brake, though not the fittings.
This machine was more of a design showpiece than a serious move on the bicycle market, and it was current for this year only. The ‘elliptical gear,’ as it was described, was supposed to provide extra impetus in the chainwheel’s motion due to its oval shape. The theory was not proven, but it certainly makes an excellent topic of conversation.
This example is in unrestored cosmetic condition. Though the rest of the machine is in sound condition, after the Model 32 came out of decades of storage, the wheels were too rusted to use. My solution has been to replace the rusty rims with late 1890s beaded edge metal wheel rims. We rebuilt the original rear hub into one of the beaded edge rims. The front is the beaded edge wheel and matching hub. I’ve used new red beaded edge tyres. Apart from these changes, everything else is original 1893, including Road Racer handlebars, matching rat trap pedals and Columbia saddle. The Road Racer does not have a brake and it is missing its grips.
1893 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
1893 COLUMBIA MODEL 32 ROAD RACER v 1892 CENTURY COLUMBIA