Restoration of the Irwell

22 04 2010

Irwell rear cog.

Restoration of the 1890-1896 Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Irwell has begun! Story to come.

Irwell chain showing the connecting pin.

Irwell front and rear wheels.

Irwell tire.

Irwell tire showing soldered inner wire.

Irwell radial laced spokes thread in at the hub.

Irwell hygenic saddle.

Irwell left pedal.

Irwell right pedal.





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.