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A cycling history


05/10/2011



Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world; working at the Science Museum feels more like a privilege that an occupation. Not only is it a great building crammed with the most amazing objects but it is an amazing encyclopaedia of British invention and ingenuity spanning hundreds of years recorded not just through the exhibits (of which only about 4% are ever on display) but also through an enormous archive of photographs and documents.

 

Since becoming a Bike Hero I’ve taken an even keener interest in our bicycle related collections. We have such a vast resource it’s hard to know where to start. As you’d expect there are several examples of early ‘bone-shakers’ and penny farthings, but I was intrigued by the first modern-looking bike, which was built in 1885 and was called a ‘safety bike’ and is on display at South Kensington.

 

The Safety Bike

 

There are so many other amazing stories to tell.  There’s the fascinating ‘Duad’ bike made for 4 riders.  The chap at the front on this picture is Charles Rolls who was a keen cyclist and together with Henry Royce went on to found Rolls Royce.

 

The Duad bike


 

There is a great book in the archive called ‘Fancy cycling: trick riding for amateurs’ by Isabel Marks, published in 1901.

 

Fancy Cycling


 

I may need to get some practice in before I try out some of these tricks along Exhibition Road.

 

As you’d expect we also have some examples of bike design classics, such as the Brompton and an early Moulton (no Electra’s that I’ve been able to find yet I’m afraid).

 

Brompton on show


 

An early Moulton


 

At our storage facility in at Wroughton in Wiltshire we have hundreds more examples of bikes through the ages.

 

As I cycle to the Museum every day and as I walk through the galleries and exhibitions it’s great to know that I’m connecting to a real heritage of British bicycling.

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