’ The answer, in short, is that I do not have time to tell you either. With an estimated 15,000 bicycle manufacturers, the odds are stacked against me recognizing yours; in any case, I do not claim to be an expert, just an assiduous recorder of information.
’ is a question I get asked a lot, nearly as much as: ‘I have a bicycle that looks like one of yours; if I send you pictures please can you identify it for me?
Thus, for example, an apprentice mechanic was handed down an invaluable unwritten guide to repairing vehicles that could not be learned at college nor from books, because, as well as specific information about various models, it helped a youngster understand the way they were designed and built.
Similarly, to learn about vintage bicycles, we ask questions of our elders in the hobby.
The key point here is that the elders who were around while our favourite vintage machines were still on the road are no longer with us, the last of them having passed on in the past twenty years or so.
Now we must depend on those who gleaned that first-hand knowledge from them; these chaps were the ‘youngsters’ then, but now they’re getting older themselves, most in their late sixties and seventies.
They don’t usually use computers, so much of their knowledge is stored in their heads.
By the time we learn from them, it’s second-generation information.
My contemporaries and I are in a younger age group – forties to sixties – and we’re busy learning and recording what we can before it’s lost forever.
We study 100-year-old magazines to see when certain new innovations were first reviewed (it helps us date bicycles with similar features), read correspondence of the time to try to understand contemporary views and opinions, research old catalogues, meet fellow enthusiasts, help each other with restorations, ride our old bikes as much as possible, and work with our elders to pick up tips and wisdom.
If you can help in any way by contributing to this research, please get in touch. By recording and sharing this knowledge while it’s still as fresh as possible, our fabulous vintage hobbies will continue for centuries to come.