1890-1898 was the ‘bicycle boom’ era. So many British companies made bicycles that if a survivor has no obvious identification, it’s usually impossible to find its maker. Most cycle firms of this time went out of business, or were taken over. Illustrated catalogues or ads exist for less than 10% of them.
From its chainset, this unidentified safety bicycle with upsloping top tube looks to have been manufactured around 1893, but I think it’s later. Using my dating guide in the BICYCLE DETECTIVES Facebook group, I estimate it to be 1895:
1. It has a wider gauge seat post and saddle clamp (introduced in 1895), but slotted pedals (ended in 1895).
2. The chainwheel looks much earlier, c1893. It’s identical to that used by Coventry Machinists Co (Swift) – except the pattern is reversed. I can only assume the chainwheel was used in the cycle trade after Swift finished with it.
3. It has 28” Westwood rims and pneumatic tyres (28 x 1 3/4” – 37-622).
4. The fluted pedal cranks suggest it is a quality made bicycle, ie using well-made bought-in components. My conclusion is that those components were sold through the trade after the top companies had finished with them, and that this machine was old-fashioned by the time it went onto the market.
All of this is my ‘best guess’ but nothing is guaranteed. I could be wrong.
You can compare the chainwheel on this safety bicycle with that on the 1891 Coventry Machinists Co ‘Swift Model B’ on the right in the photo below.
To add to the mystery, I have now found an illustration from an 1891 German Swift catalogue that shows one of the models with a reversed Swift pattern chainwheel, the same as this machine.
c1895 Quality-made ‘Upsloper’ Safety Bicycle
with Coventry Machinists Co (Swift) chainwheel design
28” Westwood rims and pneumatic tyres (28 x 1 3/4” – 37-622)
Fluted Pedal Cranks & Rat-trap Pedals.
This machine a practical early safety bicycle, in good all-round condition and ready to ride.
1893 SWIFT MODEL E For Comparison
FALMER VILLAGE (1907 Postcard)
My photoshoot was in Falmer village, at the other end of the road. This road was blocked to make way for the A27 motorway, which divided the village in two.
However, to compare the postcard picture with modern day Falmer, I took one photo of the bicycle outside one of the houses in the postcard photo, and also added the bicycle to its identical location in the postcard.