Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

1899 Cycle Shows (Stanley and National)

From Graces Guide
November 1899. Fig. 1.
November 1899. Fig. 2.
November 1899. Fig. 3.
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November 1899. Fig. 8.


For the second time the annual exhibitions of cycles, machine tools, and motor carriages, known as the Stanley and the National Shows, are being held concurrently, the former at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, and the latter at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham.

The Agricultural Hall has probably never contained a better collection of machines than the present, although the numbers may have been greater. The falling off in this direction is due no doubt to the depression through which the cycle trade has for some time been passing. Most of the larger firms are still represented, but the smaller makers — or, perhaps, they should be called assemblers of parts - are noticeable largely by their absence. Nevertheless, we learn from the catalogue that there are nearly 300 exhibitors and about 1,500 machines.

The junior exhibition at the Crystal Palace has also suffered as regards the number of exhibits, but the more extended display of motor carriages compensates to a large extent for the reduced number of cycles. Some difficulty was experienced in obtaining the whole of the available space in the Palace for the Cycle Show, owing to a misunderstanding with the promoters of a previous exhibition, which, however, was satisfactorily surmounted eventually.

The feature of this year's show is, of course, the "free wheel," which, whatever its advantages or disadvantages, has the appearance of becoming at one bound almost as universal as the pneumatic tire, and will give a much-needed fillip to the cycle manufacturing industry.

In the general design of the frames there is not much to call for comment. The modified diamond frame still remains supreme, but there are to be seen a few alternatives.

Of pneumatic tires the number still increases, the object of inventors being apparently to devise some means of securing the covers which shall not be held as an infringement of the Dunlop patents - an extremely difficult and delicate undertaking.

In constructive materials steel still holds the field, the high expectations of aluminium and its alloys formed a few years ago have so far not been entirely realised. It is satisfactory to note that the excessive competition among cycle makers has at last resulted in the production of moderate priced machines, as an instance of which one well-known English firm is now showing a bicycle which the public can purchase for eight guineas.

Turning to the construction of the frames, perhaps the most remarkable departure from prevailing custom is that of the "Little John" Cycle Company, which is particularly applicable to racing machines. Instead of the usual steering head and overhanging handle bars, this company make a triangular front, the apex of the triangle being at the front wheel centre, and the forks forming two sides of the triangle extend upwards, to form the handles for steering. It is claimed that this design gives a somewhat lighter frame, better steering, and there is less "whip" than with the ordinary indirect steering. The main frame of the machine is of true diamond shape.

The Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company also exhibits a new form of frame, called the Harnett-Palmer, the object of which is to provide a vibration insulator. It is not a spring frame in the usual acceptance of the word, but has an additional limb over the two wheels, in which are provided springs, by compressing which the wheels can rise — when passing over an obstacle such as a brick — without communicating the motion to the frame and rider. The alteration does not improve the appearance of the bicycle, and it is questionable whether such an innovation was a necessity.

Vibration is chiefly felt in the arms and hands, and to avoid this the Metallic Anti-vibration Handlebar Syndicate have replaced the horizontal plain tube by a coiled tube of smaller diameter.

Another departure in frames has been devised by the Excelsior Pneumatic Ball Tyre Company of Hull. In this case two lever arms extend along the front and bottom forks, and take the place of the fork ends of a bicycle frame; the hubs of the wheels are attached to the ends of the levers instead of the fork ends of the bicycle, and springs provided at the other ends of the levers absorb the jolting due to unevenness of the roads.

In tires probably the most interesting new invention is the Radax, a double tube tire, the essential feature of which is the mode of attaching the cover. This is made to fit any of the well-known standard makes of rim, and is entirely devoid of wires, bands, and thickened edges. Instead of these it has a larger amount of flap on the edges, and the fabric is woven in a peculiar manner, giving it a curvilinear form. This cover is remarkably easy to attach and detach. The makers are the Radax Pneumatic Tire Company, Manchester. Apart from this there is little to attract attention in connection with tires.

"Free wheel" cycles are this year to be seen on almost every stand at both shows. It is remarkable how suddenly the public taste for this machine has been developed. Tricycles having free pedals — which amount to the same thing — have been in use for some years. In these a pawl and ratchet wheel have sufficed for releasing the pedal.

Then there came the Protean gear, to which is probably due the present free wheel movement. This was first shown at the Stanley Show in 1894, and it was then predicted that in the near future all bicycles would be fitted with a free wheel. Disinterested expert riders appear to look upon the free wheel somewhat sceptically, for not only does its adoption in nearly all cases add materially to the complexity of the bicycle, but the clutches generally also introduce an amount of extra friction. One may here be tempted to ask, What are the advantages claimed for the free, wheel machine? They are two:— First, the saving of human energy by being able to keep the legs stationary when no effort is required, such as in coasting; and secondly, a motionless pedal when dismounting.

Against these there is to be set off the introduction of two somewhat delicate clutches and an additional brake. Although a large number of cycle makers have tried their hands at producing an original free-wheel clutch mechanism in most cases, the products evolved bear remarkable similarity to one another. Generally speaking, they are devised upon one or two well-known mechanical methods, i.e., the friction clutch and the pawl and ratchet wheel. The latter being objectionable on account of the "clicking" noise produced by the passage of the pawl over the serrated wheel, friction has been largely resorted to.

Amongst the devices of this pattern, probably the Morrow clutch commands the largest amount of public favour. In this clutch there are two rings – an inner and an outer. The inner ring is secured to the hub, and has cut in its periphery a number of taper grooves, in each of which is a roller, block, and spring. The outer ring carries the chain teeth. When forward pressure is applied to the pedals each roller tends to move towards the narrow end of the cavity, and the chain wheel is thereby jammed tight on the central disc, which is secured to the hub. If, however, the hub tends to move faster than the chain wheel each roller moves towards the wide end of its cavity and the frictional connection is interrupted. The blocks and springs are provided in order that the clutch shall become effective immediately a forward driving effort is exerted.

The provision of a device of this nature, it need scarcely be observed, deprives the rider of his retarding power — back pedalling - and it therefore necessary to supply an extra brake to take its place. This is done in several ways. In some cases another clutch is provided on the crank shaft, which, with a backward pressure on the pedals, operates a cam, which in turn exerts a pull on a brake working either on the rim, tire, or hub of the back wheel.

Starley and Co have adapted the Morrow clutch to a hub brake of ingenious design whereby with an extra back pressure on the pedal the brake is applied. This has the additional advantage that the machine can be wheeled backwards, which is feasible with scarcely any other back-pedalling device. Many of the rear-wheel clutches are based largely on the design of the Morrow, but the Otto clutch is entirely different, and appears to be based on the action of a chain pipe cutter, the expanding ring being built up of links. We hope to illustrate the construction of this device in an early issue. Garrards, of Birmingham, have also designed a combined free-wheel clutch and brake, of which we shall be able to give particulars later.

The Whippet Cycle Syndicate, Limited, the originators of the Protean gear, have embodied in the Whippet bicycle a free wheel, back-pedalling brake, and a new variable speed gear, the combination of which is of considerable interest. The ratchet clutch drives from four points simultaneously, and when running freely it revolves in ball bearings, so that there is, in all conditions, a minimum of friction. The back-pedalling rim brake is actuated by a projection on the chain wheel engaging with a lever underneath the main bearing at only one point in the revolution of the pedals. The change of gear while running is effected by the following means:— On the rear hub are placed two chain wheels secured together and mounted on the free wheel. The side of the larger hub-chain wheel at the point marked A has a projection or step. A fork embraces the chain to determine its position without touching it, except when the alteration is being made. This fork is capable of sliding sideways; that is to say, it can guide the chain on to either the large or small wheel, and is operated by a lever in a convenient position to the rider. When the chain is on the smaller wheel, giving the high gear and the rider desires the low gear, he moves the lever whilst he is riding, which guides the chain towards the large wheel. When the step A comes into the opening of the chain it engages the part of the chain that is coining on to the wheel, and lifts it up without jerk or of noise on to the larger diameter, and there it remains until the rider wishes to change again to the high gear. When the change is made from the low to the high gear the fork is moved in the opposite direction, guiding the chain towards the small chain wheel. The front chain wheel is of double width, so as to allow the chain to find its own position and maintain true alignment. The chain, it will be observed, is of special construction as regards the side links.

The interest in the brake question has been considerably revived by the free-wheel craze. A decided novelty in this connection is the rim band brake invented by Mr. Lamplugh. The principle of the brake consists primarily in utilising the whole of the periphery of the rim as the braking surface. To do this a band of thin metal of the shape shown is employed, being held to the ordinary rim by inflation of the tire. Around this is placed a strong vulcanised hempen cord, fixed at one end, and passing round the channel through a roller to a small lever on the handle bar. By this weans is obtained a braking power that can be applied to any desired degree without damaging either the rim, tire, or machine. The small pressure on the operating lever by tightening the band round the whole rim simultaneously gives a remarkable degree of retarding force. This system can be applied equally well to either the front or back wheel and can be operated in any known manner. It is wade by the Barford Manufacturing Co, Birmingham.


Any illustrations referred to have been moved to the entry for the relevant company

See Also


Sources of Information

The Engineer of 24th November 1899