Rudge-Whitworth was a very innovative company. In 1926 they announced a new invention that was available as an option on all their bicycles – Coupled Brakes. It cost an extra 10/-
When you applied either brake, they both came on. As he company put it, rather more dramatically:
What the Pneumatic Tyre has done for the Comfort of Cyclists, this new system of braking does for their Safety.
1927 Rudge-Whitworth ‘No 5’ Aero-Special Speed Iron
with Coupled Brakes + Celluloid Handlebar & Pedal Cranks
Frame No 980627
It’s not often that a 91-year-old bicycle retains its original receipt. This Rudge also has its original guarantee, sales brochure, parts list, and the letter from Rudge-Whitworth posted on 25 November 1927 introducing Bill Shepherd to his local Rudge agent in Bristol. As you can see from the receipt, Bill bought this bicycle #980627 three days later.
“THE BICYCLE IS GUARANTEED AS LONG AS IT IS RIDDEN BACK”
Bill rode the machine as a ‘Speed Iron’ path racer, but in his later years decided to make it more suitable for road use. So mudguards were fitted, and during the war the tip of the rear mudguard was whitewashed. Bearing in mind the Rudge guarantee, in 1948 he took it back to the factory for upgrades and refurbishment, and it was fitted with a 4-speed gear. You can still see traces of the whitewash.
The down tube transfer has mostly disappeared and the nickel has surface tarnishing, but otherwise its unrestored cosmetic condition is excellent. The celluloid is like new. The machine is also excellent mechanically.
In the 21st century enthusiasts get a bit hung up on original specification. The two deviations from originality – mudguards and 4-speed – could easily be changed by buying a second wheelset to bring it back to ’Speed Iron’ spec. Though, given that #980627 has a superb history file, I’ve left it as is.
CELLULOID HANDLEBAR & CRANKS
ORIGINAL RECEIPT & HISTORY FILE
1928 RUDGE-WHITWORTH CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
BICYCLE SPARE PARTS: 1920-1928
THE BICYCLE IS GUARANTEED AS LONG AS IT IS RIDDEN BACK