1893 Solid-Tyre Safety Bicycle (Reproduction) with Left-hand Chain
Many of the rarer 19th century bicycles still in existence are not original. This reproduction 1893 machine is a logical creation.
Where are you going to find an original bicycle of this age with a left-hand chain? Even if you did, it would obviously cost well into five figures…
So you can see why an enthusiast has built one.
‘Reproduction’ essentially means that the actual frame is not original, even if original components are used on the machine.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between genuine and repro machines of this era: they were hand-built 117 years ago and, when made subsequently, the same manufacturing techniques were used.
Despite its ‘repro’ status, this is obviously an interesting machine which has been well manufactured.
Its diamond frame has a braced saddle support; it features dropped handlebars; and the wheels are 30″ with solid tyres. The saddle is a Wrights.
Previously, bicycles had been the preserve of fit men who could afford the outlay. But, by 1893, bicycle design and engineering methods had developed sufficiently for machines to be manufactured cheaply and well enough for the public to easily use. Companies were starting to gear up for mass-manufacturing processes, and there was a national show (above). The bicycle boom was now in full swing.
This style of solid-tyre safety was in existence for only a short time, from 1892 to 1895. Its sales success enabled the manufacturers to invest heavily in the industry. By 1896, pneumatic tyres were fitted to bicycles, and brakes and mudguards were standard. After just a few years, bicycle design had evolved from these large safeties into the more familiar lightweight diamond frame machine whose style continued throughout the twentieth century. These safeties were the ‘bridge’ between the ordinary (penny farthing) and the bicycle of today. They were truly the last of the bicycle ‘dinosaurs.’
Early safeties featured either left-hand or right-hand chains. There was no particular advantage to mounting it on either side. But, with the 1890s boom in bicycle sales, the industry had to standardize cycle components. By 1895, right-hand chains had become the standard.
I’ve ridden this machine. Like all solid-tyred safeties, it’s not a particularly gentle ride! But it’s fascinating to experience this type of large fixed-wheel bicycle with no brakes. Of course, this would have been the ultimate in personal transportation before cars and motorcycles were on the road.