Sunday, 19 April 2015

Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer, Do!


As someone who is interested in both old-time popular music and bicycles, I enjoy the 120-year-old song Daisy Daisy because the lady is offered a chance to ride on a tandem (‘a bicycle built for two’).

By the way, do you know why tandems are called tandems? 'Tandem' is a Latin word meaning 'eventually, at length' and some Latin scholar in the Nineteenth Century jokingly called a double bicycle a tandem. The word caught on and in more recent times, its usage had been extended in many ways beyond bicycles (e.g. doing things in tandem).

You probably know how the song starts: 

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do! 
I'm half crazy all for the love of you. 
It won't be a stylish marriage: 
I can't afford a carriage.
But you'd look sweet upon the seat 
Of a bicycle built for two. 

The song, actually called Daisy Bell, was written (both words and music) by Harry Dacre – the pen name of Frank Dean.

                         Harry Dacre and his own bicycle.
He posed for this photograph that appeared on the cover of his later song.
Harry was English but he visited the United States, complete with his bicycle, in about 1891. Apparently at immigration he was charged import duty on the bicycle and a friend told him he was lucky it was not a bicycle built for two, because he would then have had to pay double duty. Those words gave Harry the idea for the song.

It was composed in America and published in London by the company Francis, Day and Hunter in 1892.
Very shortly afterwards it was published by their partners Harms and Co in New York.
The English music hall singer Katie Lawrence was then working in America. She liked the song, brought it back to England, and made it so famous that it has become one the best-known songs of all time.

It is possible that Harry Dacre used the name ‘Daisy’ as the lady of his song in tribute to the lovely 'Daisy' Greville, Countess of Warwick. She was an early advocate of women’s rights and she also cycled – in ‘modern’ clothes. (She was involved in many scandals in later life – but that’s another story.) 
                            'Daisy' Greville.
Harry tried writing a sequel - Fare You Well, Daisy Bell, but it did not achieve success. However, he hit the jackpot again when he wrote I’ll Be Your Sweetheart. - another beautiful and deceptively simple melody in 3/4 time, like Daisy Bell.

Harry died in 1922.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Most Expensive Pre-Owned Bicycle in the World?

This bicycle was sold in 2012 for £46,000. That's about 68,600 US dollars or 62,500 euros. It was bought by a French museum.
The machine was built in 1869 by the Birmingham company Peyton and Peyton (Richard and Edward) at their Bordesley Works. The company also had an office in London. Like so many other early bicycle companies, Peyton and Peyton went into bicycle-making as a form of diversification: their main product for several years had been bedsteads!

Note that this machine does not have conventional pedals: it is propelled by treadle action. Peyton and Peyton marketed this velocipede as their 'improved bicycle'. It was also described as 'Bourne's Patent'. For its time, it was visionary in moving attention away from front-wheel drive and spotting that it made better sense to send the power to the rear wheel.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The World's First Bicycle Race!

It is widely accepted that the first bicycle race anywhere in the world was held on 31st May, 1868 in the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris, and that it was won by an English gentleman - James Moore. It was a short race - just 1200 metres. Here is an engraving made at the time: it probably gives a pretty accurate impression of the event.
Note that this was all of thirty-five years before the first Tour de France.

Mr. Moore rode a bicycle made essentially of wood, though it had iron tyres! Here's his machine.
But Moore really was a  fine athlete. He went on in the following year to win the first-ever great long-distance bicycle race - from Paris to Rouen on 7 November 1869. For that event, he rode an improved machine: his was the only bicycle in the race that was equipped in the pedal axle with ball bearings, manufactured (i.e. manually ground out) by Jules Pierre Suriray, who had patented these ball bearings earlier in the year.

Moore got to Rouen - a distance of 77 miles - in ten hours and forty minutes. 120 competitors took part in the race. What I find very pleasing, amazing and impressive is that two of them were women.

The man who finished second - fifteen minutes behind James Moore - was André Castera. Here are the two heroes (Moore on the right) posing after the race.
Among Moore's later achievements, he was an early holder of the one-hour record, which he set at Wolverhampton; and in the 1870s he became World Champion.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Daffodils Of Nottingham

March 29 is an important day in the calendar of CONDAS (The Cyclists Of Nottingham Daffodil Appreciation Society). Why? Because it is the date of the Society's annual Big Ride.

On that date in past years I wheeled out my Dawes Galaxy and pedalled very gently for five hours, punctuated with stops for refreshments and photographs. I took a vaguely circular route.

I was not disappointed.
I had a picnic beside the lovely Beeston Canal.
Daffodils or not, I always enjoyed a pause at the Kegworth Shallow Flood Lock.
And so to East Leake.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Very Special Raleighs

Here are some great bicycles from the days of classic Raleighs.
This first (photographed at the National Cycle Museum, Llandrindod Wells, when I visited in 2012) is a special 'Centenary' model that Raleigh built in 1987, to mark the first 100 years of the company. It was made (naturally) of Reynolds tubing; and other equipment is Shimano.

The next - also in the National Museum and probably supplied originally for police use - is notable for its robust double-top-tube frame.
The next (which I photographed at the Coventry Transport Museum - and an obvious relation of the machine above) is a Raleigh Sports with hub dynamo from about sixty-five years ago. (By the way, note the rare Bromwich bicycle in the background.)