By the turn of the century, the ‘novelty’ of the bicycle had ended and increasing competition forced down prices. The machine was now becoming an essential form of transportation rather than just a plaything for those who could afford it. In order to appeal to a wider market, manufacturers invested increasing amounts of money to find new aids to safer cycling. With death and injury common – to riders and pedestrians alike – when cyclists coasted down hills without brakes, the invention of an efficient braking system became a priority.
The freewheel hub, introduced in 1898, provided a boon to the creation of better brakes and, in the following four years, many different types of front and rear brake were invented and fitted to bicycles. The majority were only in production for a short time as, by around 1904, the rim brake was becoming the industry standard. So it is interesting 110 years later, with the benefit of hindsight, to examine various braking systems from the early years that were subsequently superseded. Along with the other now obscure systems such as the band brake favoured by companies such as Humber, Sunbeam and Triumph, and Sunbeam’s own patent back pedal brake introduced in 1900, BSA’s patent Back-Pedalling Brake was supplied to thousands of machines when customers bought a bicycle built with BSA fittings.
1900 High Frame Machine with Double Top Tube built entirely of BSA Fittings
with BSA patent back-pedal brake
This bike was ‘restored’ by a chap who did it in ‘1970s – 1980s style’ ie without attention to period detail, ie it has a 1950s BSA badge, Hercules lamp bracket and plastic mudguards. In due course I’ll re-do it to a higher standard. Nevertheless, it’s a very rare machine and there are very few other survivors of this model.
I spotted the article below in an old News & Views, which appears to illustrate the same bike.
SHORT VIDEO OF BSA 1900 BACKPEDAL BRAKE
BSA BACKPEDAL BRAKE
BSA FITTINGS CHAINWHEEL CHART 1899-1908
Each ‘BSA Fittings’ bicycle is unique, though, due to the consistent standard of its components, its parts would be interchangeable with other ‘BSA Fittings’ machines.
As there are no records of machines built by the many small cycle companies who used BSA fittings, it is impossible to know the exact age of such a bicycle. However, we are able to date such a machine from its chainwheel.
This 1900 High Frame BSA Fittings Machine has the inch pitch second pattern chainwheel identified in the chart below as current between 1899 and 1903.
If you also examine the Eadie Fittings Double Top Tube bicycle in the photos above, you can see it has an inch pitch 8-bar version of the first pattern chainwheel, current for BSA Fittings machines pre-1899. From this we can see that the pre-1899 BSA Fittings chainwheel was actually an Eadie product.