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05-Nov-2019 02:49

Although we are in the so-called ‘Information Age’ and the internet provides a surplus of it – some of it accurate, much of it misleading – there is nowhere near enough information on vintage bicycles. Sometimes, folks with no experience of the vintage hobby who may have recently unearthed an old bicycle contact me and demand that I immediately tell them what it is, how old it is and what it’s worth.I try to explain as politely as possible that such a service does not exist, and they are often abusive as a result.The records of the majority of the smaller companies no longer exist: you’d be surprised how fast the entire history of a company disappears once the factory closes.There were also a lot of ‘dodgy practices’ within the bicycle trade, with companies regularly liquidating and starting up again and spurious production claims often made for advertising purposes and to inflate a company’s worth. It’s a nightmare trying to make sense of it a hundred years later.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 thirty years or so.

Consult the list below to help remember when these companies were still ‘original’ before being taken over by Raleigh: Humber 1932 Triumph 1932 Rudge-Whitworth 1943 Three Spires 1954 BSA , New Hudson, Sunbeam 1957 Phillips 1960 Hercules 1960 Norman 19 Carlton 1960 RUDGE-WHITWORTH FRAME NUMBER DATING Production has been attributed as follows, with frame numbers as at 31 July each year: 1898, 70,000; 1900, 118,200; 1901, 140,754; 1902, 169,739; 1903, 210,950; 1904, 223,672; 1905, 272,991; 1906, 350,235; 1907, 427,114; 1908, 488,139; 1909, 538,390; 1910, 585,010; 1911, 626,400; 1912, 663,066; 1913, 697,524; 1914, 726,731; 1915, 740,862; 1916, 745,621; 1917, 749,192; 1918, 751,213; 1919, 755,622.It’s still not a service I actually offer – but at least they are less abusive. ’ Also, ‘I have a bicycle that looks like one of yours; if I send you pictures please can you identify it for me? The Veteran Cycle Club (V-CC) has a system of ‘marque enthusiasts’ – volunteers who compile what information they can about particular manufacturers.By joining the V-CC you can access whatever information is available.Sometimes the date sold does not reflect when a bicycle was actually manufactured (for example, Dursley Pedersens were very expensive, badly marketed and often took a long time to sell).

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Only certain manufacturers’ frame number sequencing is known. Many manufacturers used ‘bought-in’ bikes at different times, ie made by a different company.

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.