Wednesday, 17 August 2011

An accidental collector

I'm still not entirely sure how it happened. I used to be a normal cyclist and then somebody offered me an old bike. That much I do remember, I still have the bike and I still ride it. You know how it goes, a few years pass by and before you know it you're dressing in Victorian cycling clothes and embarrassing your children.

My collecting habits are simple, red Italian racing bikes with Campagnolo equipment, red English racing bicycles with Sturmey Archer gears and anything nickel plated. The red thing is also accidental. After a period of time I discovered that I had mostly red bikes. I seem to like red bicycles. As an added bonus I realised that to the layman (my wife) a red racing bicycle looks much like any other red racing bicycle. This made future acquisitions much easier. Also, I do that thing that she does with new shoes. She buys them and hides them in the wardrobe for a few weeks. She wears them and I (sometimes) spot them and ask if they are new. "Oh no, I've had them some time now". It's relatively easy to hide a red bicycle amongst others of it's kind, I just can't ride it for a while.

The geared facile is a happy marriage of epicyclic gearing and Victorian engineering at it's very best, it is a complex machine and in it's day (1887-1892) was rated very highly. I've been keen on getting one for a long time but with very few surviving, availability becomes an issue. During our 2007 penny farthing tour, I mentioned this interest to a friend of mine, a well known collector from Ireland. He let me rabbit on for ages before telling me that he had one. Prior to this I only knew of  7 examples and had personally seen 3 of them. I've since found out about quite a few more but I still suspect that the worldwide sum total is less than 30. I found myself in Dublin in 2008 and spent 2 whole days dismantling, photographing and measuring the geared facile. It is a complete and unrestored example from about 1890. The unrestored bit is important, since copying a restoration is problematic as you don't know what is and isn't original spec. Over the years I've also collected a lot of literature and specs about these wonderful little machines.

Now, if your shed is anything like mine it will house an increasingly large collection of 'future projects'. Stuff that you may or may not ever get around to doing anything about. The facile project has always been on the back burner and it wasn't until I finished my wife's 1904 Royal Enfield that I was able to start, That was about  a month ago. She actually rides it too, I often come home and find it down from the hook.

My wife's 1904 Royal Enfield about a month ago

So I'm about a month into the project and have been badgered into doing a blog about it by Mr. Middleton. I suffer from an acute lack of time, so updates will be as and when I do stuff. Actual cycling trumps everything of course which further reduces the time available.

Right, I'm off to count my wife's shoes...

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