Saturday, 22 November 2014

Restoration of a Quadrant Tricycle?

If this topic interests you, please read to the very end: there you will find vital information, sent to me long after I wrote the original post a few years ago.
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Do you fancy a restoration project? How about this one?

'Vintage Victorian tricycle. One careless owner. Would suit elderly lady. Oil lamp missing.'

I can’t make much sense of it. It’s a jigsaw. Does the small wheel go at the front, or at the rear? Is the tricycle ridden by one person or by two? (It appears there's only one seat but two handlebars.) Where’s the pedalling mechanism? Lost, I presume. And what’s the function of that tiny wheel we can see through the large wheel on the left? Could that have been the chainwheel?

Fortunately for me, it's not my problem. But I bet it is giving the Coventry Transport Museum a headache or two. That's where I spotted it.

I wonder whether it might turn out to be a tricycle made by the Birmingham-based Quadrant Tricycle Company in the mid-1880s?
I also wonder whether it might be some kind of 'Sovereign' Tandem from around 1893.
Perhaps somebody could identify it for me?

The Museum seemed to be making some small progress.


By the way, you MUST visit Coventry Transport Museum if you are at all interested in bicycles and if you are ever in the region. It is superb. There are about two hundred vintage bicycles on show (not to mention dozens of cars, motorcycles, buses, and toy miniatures). Admission if free. There is a good cafeteria. There is a fine souvenir shop. And in recent months there have even been considerable improvements in the labelling and arrangement of the bicycles, so they can be examined more easily, and with a good deal of historical information provided.
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Now here's what I have received from DAVID CUNDY:

Just come across your blog. Yes, it is a Quadrant (the linkage for steering the front wheel gives it away), and it is a tandem. My late father-in-law rescued it in Inverness many years ago, and hoped to restore it, but never got round to doing it. In any case, he hadn't managed to collect all the bits - and it stayed in bits in a garden shed. After his death in 2008 we gave it to the Coventry Museum.

You can see our quick assembly of the main structure, and some of the parts (including some of the pedalling mechanism) on the attached photos. The tiny wheel at the back is, I think, to prevent it tipping over backwards.

The Museum has an 1889 catalogue from Quadrant which includes an illustration of a very similar tandem tricycle.

David Cundy


Friday, 21 November 2014

Cycling on Disused Railway Tracks

I grew up in an era when this was my local railway station. These sights gave me pleasure.
However, here's how that same station looks today.
Of course I feel nostalgia when I think of those trains, and I feel sadness when I contemplate the thousands of man-hours that were spent on the great engineering that produced the railway lines.

But they will not return.
In our leisure as walkers and cyclists, we must at least be thankful for the providence that has bequeathed some easy, peaceful nature trails for pleasant recreation.
The Avenue Verte in France where at its northern end a bit of track has been preserved as a record of its origins.
The Tissington Trail - featuring my brother on tour.

The famous Monsal Viaduct over which my brother and I cycled.

My brother passing through a former station in Derbyshire.

Me on a former railway track near my home in Nottingham.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Great Leisure Cycling Around Nottingham

There is some lovely leisure riding to be enjoyed around Nottingham, where I live.

One of my summer pleasure rides was alongside the waterways just to the South-West of Nottingham. My route was mainly in Nottinghamshire but I also trespassed briefly into both Leicestershire and Derbyshire. I went on my 44-year-old Claud Butler Torino.

Naturally, I had to call in for lunch at Tony’s wonderful Beeston Marina Cafeteria.
How relaxing it was to sit there, looking out over the River Trent.

I pedalled on to another favourite spot – the Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Sand and gravel left over from the Ice Age have been extracted around here since 1929. The resulting pits filled with water and attracted wildlife. Today this area of lakes, reedbeds and wet woodland is carefully conserved and has achieved the status of Site of Special Scientific Interest. 250 species of birds have been recorded here.

The remarkable Attenborough Nature Reserve Visitors’ Centre (photographed above) skilfully uses environmentally sustainable techniques both in its structure and energy consumption. And its cafeteria is first-class!
I continued to Sawley Marina for my second lunch. There I admired the narrowboats.

An hour later I reached the Kegworth Shallow Flood Lock - well known to boatmen - where I enjoyed my third lunch.
I then returned home through the village of Gotham.

As a child in London in the 1930s, I was taught the nursery rhyme about The Wise Men of Gotham. It meant nothing to me.

Three wise men of Gotham
Went to sea in a bowl:
And if the bowl had been stronger
My song would have been longer.

I had no idea where Gotham was or what was ‘wise’ about these foolish men.

Apparently they managed to avoid paying taxes to King John by pretending to be insane. Little did I know I would find Gotham 66 years later!

Another great place for cycling is pictured above - the National Water Sports Centre. There's a very pleasant circuit of about two and a half miles round the Main Course.
It's attractive at any time of day.

The River Trent - close to the City Centre.
Above - a view of Beeston Canal and my Claud Butler Torino. I had the frame made in 1966. The cost at the time was £18 and it was constructed from Reynolds 531 double-butted tubing. I built it up with parts of my choice and have ridden it ever since. I fitted it recently with straight handlebars for more leisurely riding in my old age.
The photo above was taken in April.

Living on the south side of Nottingham, I like to cycle along the towpath of the River Trent or the Beeston Canal, or to visit the National Water Sports Centre, or the Attenborough Nature Reserve. I can reach any of these beauty spots in less than an hour.

I have lived in Nottingham for only seven years, so I discovered these pleasures late in life. I hope my photos will give you some idea of how peaceful and picturesque the rides are. I usually take my camera and a flask of coffee, thereby having several pretexts for stops.


On one occasion, riding my Dawes Galaxy, I had a very pleasant day of fresh air and exercise, starting by pedalling alongside the Canal for a few miles.
Then I rode beside the River Trent. Here's the famous Trent Bridge.
I crossed the river by the Wilford Bridge.
I called in at the Mighty Tollerton Airport, which was exceptionally busy at the time.
I passed such scenes as this. The City of Nottingham is in the distance.
I rode through the Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham, where you can see the sculpture called Aspire. These buildings are on the site of the once-great Raleigh Bicycle Factory; and the sculpture (using motifs of wheels and spokes) partly commemorates the fact.
My principal destination was Wollaton Park, entered through its Lime Tree Avenue.
Further on, I found barricades across my favourite trails. Construction and security workers were everywhere. A 'temporary' road was being laid.
Then I saw a lorry delivering fake (polystyrene) balustrades. I guessed that perhaps some filming was to take place. I asked one of the security men. It turned out that he was foreign and could hardly speak a word of English; but he was able to make me understand that Batman 3 was to be filmed here.  So that's what all the fuss was about. It's amazing how many dozens of people were working on the film even before the cameras and actors arrived.

I paused in front of Wollaton Hall (it's easy to imagine what a good film set it will make).
And then I headed to the Cafeteria in the former stable block for an excellent, welcome lunch.
That was of course the highlight and main goal of my ride.

Apart from all this self-indulgence, I also did something useful: I dropped off my empties at the bottle bank. Here in the U.K. during the last decade we have become very conscious of the need to re-cycle  and I'm pleased to say the local authorities provide us with plenty of opportunities for doing so.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Fisherman's Bicycle in Montenegro

There I was, on a touring holiday in Montenegro, when I came across this bicycle parked in a layby.
It was next to the beautiful inland sea or fiord at Denovici and it belonged to the fisherman whom you can just see through the frame.
There he is. What a setting for a spot of fishing!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Elswick and Elswick-Hopper: All You Need To Know

In which year do you think this bicycle was manufactured? A clue might be its single front-wheel rubber-block brake. I'll give you the answer later.

You could buy this elegant Elswick Ladies' Bicycle for less than £30.

Note the unusual frame, with crossing down-tubes.

Model 15 (above) was specifically for tall ladies. It had a 23½ inch frame.

The company justifiably claimed 'strength, lightness and beauty' of design, with excellent finish. Almost the entire bicycle was built by the company, though the tyres were from Dunlop.

The year of manufacture? 1899. Those were the days.
And here's a splendid Elswick-Hopper bicycle built for a lady probably in the 1930s. I photographed it recently in the Coventry Transport Museum. What simple, well-made reliable machines they were!

Although you may still see one around (very rarely), the days are long gone when you could buy a new Elswick-Hopper from your local cycle shop.

The company was still doing well after the Second World War, but – like so many other British-based bicycle manufacturers – it soon found it hard to compete with new businesses producing cheap machines in the Far East.

So in the late 1950s, Elswick-Hopper tried new Italian designs and sponsored a racing team. Next they tried diversifying – selling mopeds, for example – and then they tried importing cheaper parts for their bicycles.

They tried down-sizing – allowing rivals Falcon Cycles (formerly Coventry Eagle) to occupy some of their premises.

Elswick Hopper bought a modern assembly plant in Alverley, Shropshire, and later acquired its ‘tenant’ – Falcon Cycles, which had by then moved to Brigg in Lincolnshire. But still Elswick-Hopper sales fell. So the management finally chose to drop the Elswick-Hopper brand (this must have been about 1980) and continue as Falcon. As the British cycle industry continued to shrink, the company went on to acquire Claud Butler and Dawes.

But how did it all begin? Where did the name Elswick-Hopper come from?

Fred Hopper, born in 1859, having been an apprentice engineer, switched his interest to bicycles – first repairing them and very soon selling and building them.

His first workshop was at Brigg Road, Barton on Humber. Soon afterwards, he set up (in Butts Road) the bigger Hull and Barton Cycle Manufacturing Company.

From 1898, Fred traded as F. Hopper & Co.

Fred was a good engineer and innovator, with a strong sales team. Early in the 1900s he was using stove enamelling and liquid brazing. Exports did well.

Fred quickly also moved into motor-cycle and motor car development. By 1912 he had 800 employees and a new state-of-the-art factory complex - St Mary’s Works, Marsh Lane.

The ‘Elswick’ part of the name dates from 1910, when Fred bought up the bankrupt Elswick Cycle Company of Newcastle. This proved at first to be a financially disastrous move but the company weathered the storm and the corner was turned after the formation of the new Elswick Hopper Cycle and Motor Company Ltd. in 1913. And contracts were secured from the government during the First World War.

Fred died in 1925 but his brand lived on for a further 55 years, succeeding mainly because its robust durable bicycles sold well in third-world countries.

This page from the Company's 1913 catalogue shows what fine bicycles they were building as long as a hundred years ago. This is an Elswick lady's bicycle.

Note again the robust Elswick patent truss frame, enamelled in 'non-rusting' paint. The bicycle had a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub gear, Renold's chain, Dunlop tyres, Brooks saddle, Elswick's own mudguards and chaincase with oil-bath. Tools (including oil and an oil can) were integrated under the saddle). There was a sensible dress-guard too. The whole bicycle was well thought-out and very British.
And above is a page from the 1932 catalogue. The 'Roadster' was very reasonably priced. It was made largely of the company's own components, plus those of Dunlop. There was a fair amount of chrome. The bicycle even came complete with tools and toolbag.

It is hard to think of anywhere more typically English than Lincolnshire. And it must be a pride of that county that Fred's company was renowned all over the world for good quality throughout four decades and that its successor is still in the county now.