Thursday, 26 July 2012


The observant reader will notice that this blog hasn't been updated for some time now. Indeed, the facile factory grew cold and dusty as I took my family on an extended tour of European museums containing old bicycles. My lovely wife, bless her, thought we were going on a perfectly normal family holiday where we might pop into the occasional museum. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle although I did seem to spend an awful lot of time on my own. Later, I was forced to accompany her with my credit card as she toured the boutique shops along the entire length of the Champs-Élysées. A small sacrifice to make for purposes of marital harmony as I'm sure you'll agree. Obviously, we also spent lots of time with family and old friends. We may have done some non bicycle related activities but I can't remember those.

Highlights would have to include:

Bletchley Park. Home to the WWII code breakers and the birthplace of the computer. Fascinating.

An Enigma machine.

My Dad's workshop, counting his vintage motorbikes to make sure he hasn't sold any. He's just finishing off a post war cammy Velo that unfortunately wasn't yet ridable. I've never ridden one before.

The Shuttleworth collection. Even though the Edwardian flying evening was cancelled due to the unbelievably poor weather (it rained for 35 of the 40 days we were in England), I love this collection and always make a point of visiting when I happen to be in the area. The collection has several old bicycles.

The Avro Triplane, one of my favourites.

The Coventry Transport Museum. Coventry was the cradle of the fledgling bicycle industry, Sammy Bartleet donated his amazing collection of cycles to Coventry and they formed the inspiration to start the museum. Unusually, it is possible to get close to all the bicycles on display. I've lost count of the number of times I've been. The museum has many old bicycles including the record breaking Percy Nix geared facile.

The Tower of London - The collection of armour including suits made for Henry VIII was amazing. He clearly wasn't getting enough cycling in towards the end of his life. The kids loved the medieval torture devices.

Henry VIII's codpiece.

V&A. Always a humbling experience. the workmanship and design of items on display seeks to remind me just how crap recent generations have become at actually making anything.

The Benson Ride. Imagine an extended pub crawl over the course of a day with 200+ riders on pre 1928 bicycles. This ride is one of my favourites although for some reason this year there were fewer really old machines out to play. The accompanying cycle jumble was also able to provide a few vintage items that are unavailable here in NZ.

The Pitt Rivers Museum  - A wonderful, genuine Victorian museum, complete with crammed cases of artifacts with long handwritten explanations. The museum makes no apology about this and there are no plans to dumb down the displays. The case containing the shrunken human heads is easy to find as it is perpetually surrounded by giggling schoolchildren.

The National Museum of Scotland. There are a few real treasures here, for example the actual pneumatic wheel that Mr. Dunlop invented and put on his son's cycle and Graeme Obree's 'Old Faithful' hour record bike.

The famous picture of John Boyd Dunlop's son Johnny on his new fangled pneumatic wheels.

The actual front wheel from the photo above, the first pneumatic bicycle tyre.

Old faithful. 
Graeme Obree has long been a hero of mine.

The famous washing machine bearing.

My friend Dave's shed. Dave specialises in making wooden wheels for boneshakers, I spent a lovely afternoon being instructed in how to do it. Sadly, I visited Dave after I'd been to the Edinburgh museum - he knows the curator and could have arranged a trip to the store rooms...

The Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland's museum of transport. Claims to have the oldest bicycle in the world, an ambitious claim asking you to ignore the surviving machines from the hobby horse craze of 1819. Having recently ridden a hobby horse I have no problem calling them bicycles. Regardless it is a fascinating exhibit.

The world's oldest bicycle? c1845.

Ironbridge. All of it. The birthplace of the industrial revolution. I could have stayed there for days.

A bridge made of iron. In the rain.

Plus many, many others. I have spent countless happy hours photographing, measuring and recording details for future projects.

In other news, I'll get back into the shed just as soon as the jet lag has gone and I trust myself with machinery again.


  1. Coventry Transport Museum, I know it well!


    1. Hi Stephen, yes one of my all time favourite museums. Hard to visit as often as I'd like these days though...