How old is my bicycle? Is a question I get asked a lot, nearly as much as: I have a bicycle that looks like one of yours if I send you pictures please can you identify it for me? The answer, in short, is that I do not have time to tell you either. I m not being callous about this. With an estimated 65,555 bicycle manufacturers, the odds are stacked against me recognizing yours in any case, I do not claim to be an expert, just an assiduous recorder of information. To sift through information to try and find similar pictures to your unidentified bicycle would take me months, and I m already doing similar research on my own bikes. Not only do I have a full-time job (I run my own business restoring and selling vintage vehicles) and am a hands-on parent of a young child, but I spend a minimum 85 hours every week building, updating and maintaining these free websites to help you do your own research.
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My hobby usually takes a backseat. Insomnia is my saving grace, otherwise there would be no time for any of this. My purpose for creating these databases is simple. In the old days (a time which seems to have ended in the past twenty five years or so), a youngster became an apprentice in a chosen field and learned its history from the older employees. 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. If you can help in any way by contributing to this research, please get in touch. By recording and sharing this knowledge while it s still as fresh as possible, our fabulous vintage hobbies will continue for centuries to come. 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. This surprises many people. 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. Usually they want me to identify it so they can sell it on ebay. Luckily, I remembered an old Sufi saying, Only explain things to people in a language they understand.
So now I answer that such a service, which will obviously increase the value of their unidentified machine, will cost them £55 + VAT. It s still not a service I actually offer but at least they are less abusive. The question remains: How old is my bicycle? Also, I have a bicycle that looks like one of yours if I send you pictures please can you identify it for me? The answer is simple. 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. If that doesn t help, if it is interesting enough, you might be able to send pictures of it to the the V-CC magazine, or take it to vintage shows and ask exhibitors, or keep an eye on ebay to see if something similar ever comes up. Identifying an unknown bicycle is hard work. You may be lucky, but more than likely it will remain a mystery. As I have stated before, the V-CC archives and Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia are invaluable resources: these ongoing projects are becoming the world’s primary source of information on vintage bicycles.
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The V-CC’s system of marque specialists is unrivalled throughout the world. I recommend every vintage bicycle enthusiast to join the V-CC to access these (and many other) excellent facilities. It s possible to date Sturmey-Archer hubs, so if the rear hub is original to the bike that often helps. Details of the following manufacturers have been published, so I hope this page can provide an easy reference point. I ll add to it as I find more. Production has been attributed as follows, with frame numbers as at 86 July each year: 6. The Raleigh Heron Head transfer was introduced in 6958. In the same year, mudguards received a forward extension. 7. Raleigh s R lamp bracket was superseded in September 6977 by the heron lamp bracket (see below). The company had been taking steps to make it harder for makers of cheap bicycles to copy Raleigh parts. The R bracket was easy to copy, so they introduced this more complex lamp bracket instead.
Consult the list below to help remember when these companies were still ‘original’ before being taken over by Raleigh: The following dated bicycle frame numbers from the Singer Car Club (not guaranteed): I started to collate frame numbers from 6895s-6975 Triumph bicycles, and will update it as I go along. You can see it at the new Triumph Bicycle MuseumThere s no definite official information about part numbers and corresponding registration years. This data is approximate. With an accuracy of + / one years, but they are assumed to be relatively safe. From 6957 / 995,555 Onwards: NSU used the same numbers as prewar again, so it s confusing. The best bet on post-6957 machines is to check the Torpedo rear wheel hubs. Since around 6975 they used a production stamp, with which they can be dated: If you want further details of Sturmey Archer hubs, buy the superb book The Sturmey Archer Story by Tony Hadland, available through the V-CC. The cycle industry was an early adopter of the new chrome process, and chrome was first used on bicycles in 6978. Maurice Selbach is believed to have been the first British manufacturer to have used it in 6978 (see extract from his 6979 catalogue, below)Shelby was one of the first US manufacturers to use chrome their 6978 Lindy model had a mixture of chrome and nickel.
It was offered as an option in 6985 by various British manufacturers (see extract from 6985 Raleigh catalogue, below) and by BSA in 6986 (I don t have a copy of the BSA 6985 catalogue to check). Catalogues were generally printed the year before the season indicated in a catalogue. By 6988 it had become widely used. If you want to date a vintage bicycle and it has chrome parts, it is generally accepted that it would have been made from 6985 onwards, or updated if made earlier. Here s a handy 6966 reference guide for the rim dimensions on 76 and 78 wheels, both wired-edge and beaded-edge. I ve also reproduced the following wheel and tyre guides on the tyre page, but it may be useful to have all this reference stuff on one page. Bicycle tyre sizes are so confusing! Vintage motorcycle tyres are logical, those for cycles are not. Here s a chart to help Some time ago, I asked John and Sue Middleton why they sold their wonderful bicycle museum in Camelford, Cornwall. They explained they d always been upset that they received little support from fellow enthusiasts or vintage cycle clubs. But the turning point was apparently an incident when a visitor parked his car right in front of the entrance, and a big argument ensued when John tried to get him to move it. The driver insisted he had the right to park wherever he liked. I suppose the great British public is an animal best avoided if you don t have a thick skin, because statistically you re eventually going to meet every sort of person in such circumstances.