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 enjoy a pause at the Kegworth Shallow Flood Lock.
And so to East Leake.
Perhaps I should mention that I am at present the only member of CONDAS.

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.)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Miniature Bicycles

The two photographs above and below were taken at the National Bicycle Museum at Llandrindod Wells when I visited it. As you can see, they show some of the miniature bicycles to be enjoyed at the Museum.
Although I do not collect such miniatures myself, I know many of my readers are interested in them. So let me tell you about others I have come across.

These four belong to a collector of my acquaintance:

I spotted this next ornament on a shelf in the Cafeteria of a famous garden centre on the south side of Nottingham.
What about this little beauty? A lady's shopping bicycle, complete with basket, pannier rack, skirt guard and chain guard. 

And now for the surprise: the whole bicycle is just 13 inches long! It all works well: the wheels revolve and the pedals drive the chain and back wheel. This lovely ornament (it was not new) was sold for just £13 (that's about 18 euros).

And here's a superbly-crafted miniature tricycle. I spotted it on a window ledge in a restaurant at Bourton-on-the-Water during a holiday in the English Cotswolds.

Isn't it a little masterpiece? I think it depicts a fishmonger from Edwardian times. Great care seems to have been taken over the details of both the gentleman and his delivery tricycle. I like the real chain and the (apparently) old-style sprung suspension at the front, not to mention such touches as the saddle springs and the valves to pump the tyres.

And now a lady has sent me this picture of a similar tricycle she bought at an antiques fair:

Notice that it is not quite identical to the other. It clearly comes from the same manufacturer and the bicycles are the same, but the pose of the fishmonger is different. So the company must have produced variants within the same 'tradesman'. Another reader has told me she bought another 'tradesman' in what appears to be the same series.

My guess is that these models were made almost 100 years ago. It was a lucky chance and a privilege that I was able to view one.

And I noticed this working brass model on sale for £40 (about 60 US dollars or 52 euros). It was about 40 centimetres long.

And I spotted these at a country fair:

But have you noticed how few miniature bicycles there are to be found these days? I went to a trade fair recently and admired this table:
As you can see, there are dozens of cars, lorries and buses - but not a single bicycle anywhere.
When I was a child, we collected 'Dinky' and 'Corgi' cars. It was exciting, saving pocket money to buy them and then owning exact models of the cars we admired.

I am not a collector now and I doubt whether I could find more than a dozen of these miniatures if I turned out all my cupboards.

Those photographed above are in the collection of the Coventry Transport Museum - a great Museum that I have visited several times.

If you ever make it to Coventry, I can recommend a visit.

And if you can't make it - well, I hope my pictures will give you some pleasure in letting you see a few examples from the thousands of exquisite little models in this particular Gallery.

All the miniatures are behind glass, obviously to protect them, though this makes photographing them more difficult.

Even at Coventry, I am surprised at the relatively small number of model bicycles in the large 'Miniatures' Gallery.

There's not much - apart from a Tour de France case.

Elsewhere in the Coventry Museum, I came across a case of these delightful models of vintage bicycles and tricycles.

I know there is a considerable trade in these finger-size models. Some of them are specifically made to go with dolls. Others are simply fun toys for adults, to be used as ornaments around the home.

The most realistic seem to be die cast: with some, you can make the rear wheel revolve by turning the pedals; and you can apply the brakes to make the wheels stop. There is plenty of information about them on the Internet - including the sites of specialist makers. Just type in 'Miniature Bicycles' and you can have as much fun as I have just had looking at them.

I was surprised though when I checked out the stores Modelzone both here in Nottingham and also in Derby. I saw many boys and even more boyish dads admiring and buying the toy vehicles. There were hundreds of first-class models of trains, planes, cars, buses, vans and motor cycles, etc. But not a pedal bicycle among them as far as I could see!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Gundle Bicycles and Tricycles

I was delighted in 2013 to receive this photo in an email from John Judson, who had completed this Gundle tricycle restoration. John said this Gundle was built in 1938 and was used during World War II as first response to extinguish incendiary bombs at Ulverston Mill. The machine is rideable. I'm pleased to see he has found suitable accessories too!

And above is a Gundle Model T delivery bicycle. It is a familiar sight in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

A useful website about Gundle is:

Here is the bicycle in an old brochure.

So who was Mr. Gundle? There is surprisingly little information available about him.

Leonard Frederick Gundle lived from 11 May 1901 until 11 December 1974. His parents came from the town of Gundelfinger in Bavaria.

Leonard married a lady named Thelma and they had two daughters. The younger of these daughters was Pamela and I am greatly indebted to her for much of the following information.

Leonard had grown up in London but he settled in Birmingham and started his business there. He began with a factory in Smith Street. This was taken over by the Government during the War.

He had started out in the late 1920s making motorcycles, using Villiers and JAP engines. (The Model T delivery cycle uses a Villiers freewheel.) There are photographs of Mr. Gundle riding the motorcycles himself in competitions, probably to aid publicity. Pamela writes: 'In the 1920s, my father made and raced motorbikes - he loved it and entered and won some races. I have a picture of him racing on Porlock Hill in Somerset.... My children have the odd medal etc. from these events.'

By the early 1930s, Leonard seems to have switched to making delivery bicycles at this factory at 99 Hockley Street, Birmingham, England.
After the War, he briefly had both the Smith Street and the Hockley Street factories. There were at least seven different models of delivery bicycle, as well as tricycles and motorised bikes.

The Model T, like all Gundle’s bikes, was very robust. It used 18 gauge steel tubing, strengthening trusses, a butted steering column, and heavy-duty bearings and hubs. Dunlop supplied the rims, tyres and saddle. Even the mudguards were ‘the finest carrier guards procurable’.
The boom years for those delivery bikes were the 1950s. The bike in Stamford probably dates from that decade. Gundle may well have made hundreds of bikes, if not thousands. But manufacturing in the name of Gundle seems to have ended at or soon after his death.

Pamela tells this tale: 'My father would never ever change the colour of his bikes - always black. Once I tried to get him to produce some ice cream trikes in red, following a visit by me to New York with my husband. My father had asked me to go to see a customer with a view to selling them some goods. They wanted a regular 3-monthly supply of ice cream bikes but in red!'

Pamela also told me: 'I have some catalogues plus Christmas gifts he gave out to customers (handbag mirrors, pencils, bridge scorers - all with his motifs on). One other thing: if you knew grocery stores in the Midlands called Wrensons and George Masons - they mostly used the bicycle Model T for delivering all groceries for years on end.'

It is not surprising that plenty of Gundle bikes have survived and – to judge from such internet sites as Flickr – there seem to be many enthusiasts caring for and restoring them.
Above is the Gundle TB from the 1936 catalogue.

A similar company was Pashley, which did not die out but still goes on. According to Wikipedia, Pashley bought up Gundle’s parts in 1974 and made a few more Gundles.

Pashley secured the contract to produce bicycles for the use of postmen in British Royal Mail deliveries.

My Claud Butler Torino (1966 model)

On 24 February 1966 I had the great pleasure of collecting my brand-new Claud Butler Torino frame from Dave Davey's shop in North London and carrying it home over my shoulder. It had been built to order and the next few days were spent enjoyably building it up into a complete bike.

Originally I fitted it with GB Maes Drop handlebars. GB components were very popular at the time. Here you can see the Maes (top left amongst the handlebars) in an extract from GB's 1966 catalogue.

In more recent years, I have switched to the straight bars you see.

Here is its 44th birthday photo - taken on 24 February 2010.
I still think it is a beautiful frame, with its long spearpoint Italian lugs, narrow, wrap-over seat stays, Campagnolo drop-outs and front ends, and sweetly-tapered fork-blades. And it was built from Reynolds 531 butted tubing throughout. I chose black with red contrast for the frame; and it has never been resprayed.

Here's the 1966 leaflet that advertised it:
As well as the handlebars, several of my bicycle's parts have been changed over the years. Perhaps the most interesting change was the fitting of a Gian Robert Campione Second Style derailleur system in about 1975.
I doubt whether many of these are in existence today. Gian Robert made bicycle parts in Legnaro, about ten miles west of Venice. It is believed the company operated from about 1960 and that it folded in about 1985.

I think these gears were not held in very high regard; and they obviously lost out in competition with the big names. But mine is still operating well 40 years after being installed.