Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited

19 03 2010

The Irwell safety bicycle made by the Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited, Manchester, U.K.

Irwell - Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited headbadge.

This is an Irwell safety bicycle made by the Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company, Limited in Manchester U.K. I have been able to find out very little about this manufacturer. They appear to have made bicycles starting in the mid to late 1880s and by 1901 they were out of business. I found an 1887 advertisement from a Luxembourg newspaper advertising a three wheel safety/high wheel. And, there is another safety bicycle from Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Co., Ltd. called a claviger in the Pinkerton Collection that resides at the Manchester Velodrome.

The bicycle itself is in excellent condition for it’s age. It’s present owner purchased it as a 13 year old boy from a bicycle shop in Greenwich, Connecticut. He had been eyeing it for a few years and knew it had been hanging over the door in the shop for a long time. He convinced the shop owner to sell it to him for $4. That was a lot of money for a boy . . . in 1948. He rode the bike frequently for the next 10 years. He regularly rode it from Greenwich to Norwalk, a trip of about 17 miles. Each way! He has kept it lovingly for the past 62 years and, it has recently come down from it’s place in his barn for the first time in 40 years. Before he stored it he lubricated the entire bicycle utilizing the numerous lubrication fittings installed by the manufacturer. It must have worked, everything on the bicycle is in working order. The cranks spin freely. The pedals spin freely. The wheels spin freely. It is almost ride-able, almost. The chain needs to be inspected. The rear wheel is missing two of it’s straight pull spokes that thread at the hub. They need to be custom manufactured exclusively for the bicycle. And, the seat needs new leather.

As best as I can guess the bicycle is from the 1890s. It is an amazing example for it’s age. The straight pull, radial laced wheels are marvelous. The adjustable bottom bracket, to tension the massive chain, features a set of cranks with an 1874 french patent. The rear dropouts are cast pieces with vertical dropouts. The left dropout is cast to include a foot peg for mounting the bicycle, a holdover in design from the high wheel era of the decade earlier. The solid rubber tires are slowed through the hooded front tire scrubber. The headset is tensioned through a combination of springs mounted both above and below the headtube. The saddle features the cutout design that has become popular again called a hygenic saddle. Other than the obviously poor early frame geometry the quality of the external lugwork is amazing.

Claviger Safety c1887 – 1890
The Claviger (meaning “one who carries a club”) was added to the at the Velodrome later than the rest of the colection and little is known other than it was designed by William Golding and produced at New Bridge Street, Strangeways in Manchester by the Manchester cycle Manufacturing Company Ltd.
The machine was lever driven (as against chain) and was considered better than a pedal driven machine in many ways.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited bottom bracket.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited bottom bracket.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited brake.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited cog and chain.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited rear dropout and footpeg.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited crank.





People for Bikes

17 03 2010

Here’s an interesting video from a bicycle advocacy group called People for Bikes that aims to improve bicycling in America. They are asking cyclists to take their pledge. They are aiming for 1 million cyclists. Check out their site by clicking here.





Budget Transportation: Zebrakenko 5 speed.

15 03 2010

1980's Zebrakenko 5 speed fully accessorized for the Elm City.

When I was a little kid the bicycle shop down the street sold Zebrakenkos. Later as a teenager, when I began working at that same bike shop, The brand was long gone and the shop used barrels of old Zebrakenko t-shirts as shop rags. They lasted for years. I wish I had saved just one! Anyway, Zebras are definitely not one of the more popular Japanese brands from it’s era but it is certainly of similar high-quality. When I saw this commuter I just had to make it one of my ‘Budget Transportation” posts.

This Zebrakenko 5-speed is from the early 1980’s and has a beautiful lugged Japanese-steel frame. It sports a nicely worn Brooks saddle, factory red fenders, comfortable upright seating position, original Pletscher rack, and a single gear lever to change the gears. The bicycle is in immaculate condition for it’s age and was likely ridden very little. The owner purchased it for $225.00 in fully restored and tuned-up condition. It has been accessorized with a front basket, folding rear baskets, cork grips, MKS rubber pedals (smooth!), and a Planet Bike Superflash taillight. The cost of the accessories added was around $125 including installation. Not bad! $350.00 for a fully decked out around town commuter with lots of style to match. This is a seriously classy looking bike.

Zebrakenko 5 speed ready for the city.

The front basket is perfect for carrying your lunch, or maybe a small dog? Woof!

Rear baskets fold down for carrying larger items, like grocery bags. The Planet Bike Superflash keeps everything safe in traffic.





A Trip Through Cycling’s Past.

14 03 2010

1936 Landon and Knox predsidential election campaign bicycle placard.

Today, I had the distinct honor of ending up in one of ‘those’ places. You know, ‘those’ places that you only hear about but never get to go yourself. That dark back room; that dusty attic; that old barn. ‘Those’ places loaded with treasures that took a generation or more to assemble. ‘Those’ places with artifacts from eras past stacked so deep you can’t even see it all. Today, I visited a little piece of bicycle heaven. And, I cannot thank my host enough for the experience. I am a confessed bike geek. I love bicycles most for their technology and engineering. The form of the bicycle has been expressed in so many weird and wonderful ways over the past 130 years. But, the most interesting thing about bicycles is the abundance of early patents that cover virtually every ‘innovation’ still being introduced by various manufacturers today. Seeing the past reveals a lot about the present and, great ideas persist throughout time.

1899 Eagle headbadge from the Eagle Bicycle Manufaturing Company in Torrington, Connecticut.

The Eagle Bicycle Manufacturing Company was based in Torrington, Connecticut and built bicycles from 1888 – 1900.

At one time Eagle had a capacity to manufacture 20,000 to 30,000 bicycles annually. Eagle promoted features on their bicycle like aluminum rims and pneumatic tires with inner tubes. The inner tubes could be easily removed and repaired in the event of a puncture. Eagle was one of the earliest bicycle manufacturers to manipulate the diameter of the frame tube at the joints to produce a more precise fit, a process called cold swagging. Eagle built high wheelers including a 48″, 50″ and 52″ inch high wheel in 1880’s. They weighed from 35 to 50 pounds and cost from $40 to $150.

Eagle’s use of aluminum rims with inner tubes and clincher tires is a prime example of a technology developed and patented early in the history of the bicycle.

Dayton Bicycles track racer.

Dayton skip tooth chainring.

1935 Ingo Bike.

At first called the Exercycle, the Ingo-Bike was invented by the Huyssen brothers and manufactured by the Ingersoll-Rand Corporation from 1934 to 1937. The inspiration for the Ingo-bike was the limber platform of some homemade scooters that induced an up-and-down motion to the rider. It is powered by the rider making a bouncing motion on the platform to turn the eccentric hub rear wheel and give forward motion. A team of Ingo-Bike riders made an incredible trek from Chicago to Miami, FL on the odd machines in just over 30 days.

BSA British paratrooper bicycle.

British paratrooper BSA bicycle jumping instructions.

BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Co.) made airborne bicycles for the British paratroopers. Between 1939 and 1942 they made around 70,000 of these folding bikes. By the time the big invasions in 1944 Britain had bigger aircraft than the Hotspur to fly in Jeeps, etc. Soldiers disliked the paratrooper bicycle so much they discarded them within a few miles of the beach.





The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop – Commuter of the Month

10 03 2010

Each month The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop names a lucky individual (or family) as their ‘Commuter of the Month.’ It’s a great idea to honor those who are making an effort to commute to work without the use of an automobile. And, I am very honored to be named the Commuter of the Month for March! Thank You Devil’s Gear!

If you or someone you know wants to be considered for The Commuter of the Month send the following information to The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop through their Contact Us page here.

Do you commute to work or school by bike?
Do you know some one who does ?
Send us contact info for how to get in touch with them.
And you or they will be commuter of the month !!

1. Name?
2. What is our nickname?
3. What do you ride? Make? Model?
4. What is your rides nick name?
5. What is your commute?
6. Funny Anecdote
7. Favorite bike tip

Click here to view The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop’s Commuter of the Month page.





Rinky-Dink Roof Retro-Fitted with Righteously Recycled Rack

10 03 2010

Yakima rack securing the wheel for journey to pending adventure.

Since the demise of my automobile my options for transporting bicycles to places afar has been impeded. So, in order to alleviate this problem I donated one of my old Yakima racks to my best riding buddy’s car . . . The Lemon. The Lemon is a 2001 Hyundai Tiburon that doesn’t have much room inside for bicycles and gear. The Lemon also has limited possibilities available for attaching a bike rack. The spoiler on the back negated virtually every single rear carrier made. The car sits too low to allow for a receiver hitch mounting. And there really isn’t much roof available for a roof rack. Fortunately Yakima’s specs do allow for carrying two bicycles with the setup shown in the photographs. Aside from the donation of the rack (Yakima Q-towers and bars) The Lemon had two Yakima Copperhead bicycle racks, two pairs of Yakima Q46 clips, and a 6 pack of lock cores purchased for it. Roof racks aren’t cheap investments and the total for everything purchased was about $350.00. But, if the Q-towers and bars had to be purchased new, the cost would have been closer to $500.00. It is a good idea if you are in the market for a roof rack to check the want ads for one. They last forever (I have accessories I have been using for 20years), and you can really save some loot buying what you can get used and augmenting that with the purchase of new accessories. I love roof racks. They hold the bicycle very securely. You can access the insides of the car with the bikes loaded. And, the do the best job of protecting the painted finish of your bicycle.

Yakima rack installed, loaded and ready to go.

The Lemon ready for adventure.





Review: Quinnipiac River Linear Trail – Wallingford, Connecticut

10 03 2010

Entrance to the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail in Wallingford, Connecticut.

I will get this right out there to start. This is probably not a destination for cyclists . . . yet. One of the plans for reviews this year is to do an assesment of the ‘rail trails’, ‘linear trails, and ‘bike paths’ around the northeast. Today, we decided to venture out on the linear trail that is closest to where I live. The Quinnipiac River Linear Trail is a relatively new multi use trail that parallels the Quinnipiac River in Wallingford. While currently only about 1.25 miles long it does represent an important first step in establishing a longer trail. Like most trails of this type, just getting them to the groundbreaking stage can take several years of effort. Then, after groundbreaking, it can take several years to accomplish the first phase of the trail. These first two sections of the Quinnipiac trail have crossed those hurdles as well as the tremendous challenges of crossing both over the Quinnipiac River and under the Merritt Parkway (Route 15). The current trail terminous sits at the precipice of some beautiful woodlands along the banks of the river. It is not difficult to envision the scenery the trail will offer as it continues to follow the path of the river through the woods.

The long term plans for the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail are:

The Quinnipiac River Linear Trail is a multiple-town project. The cross- town Wallingford portion of the trail will cover 6.7 miles from north to south. The park offers recreational access to all citizens – young and old, by foot, bike, skates, canoes, strollers, and wheelchairs. Historically, native Indian tribes living along the Quinnipiac River used its banks to guide its travel from village to vil- lage. The Quinnipiac Linear Trail reinstates this important community linkage and travel way.

Additionally, the trail is planned to connect with 6.5 miles of trails in Meriden to the North and 4 plus miles of trail in North Haven to the south. And, those trails will eventually connect to trails in Cheshire to the North and Hamden to the south. This should tie the entire network into the greater northeast greenway trail, The Farmington Valley Canal Trail. Imagine 10 or so years from now being able to ride from town to town on linear trails within your area or travel as far away as Northampton or further on these tranquil greenways.

The Quinnipiac River Linear Trail meanders through the woods along the banks of the river.

A new bridge crosses the Quinnipiac River.

Crossing the bridge on the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail in Wallingford, Connecticut.