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.


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.