1953 Cyclemaster Comrade All-Chrome Superbe ‘Boss Bike’
This unique Cyclemaster was built by a good friend of mine. I could not resist buying it as it is undoubtedly the most splendid Cyclemaster in the world.
The bicycle is a Comrade All-Chrome Superbe, a copy of the Raleigh’s All-Chrome Superbe model. Both Raleigh and Comrade used these as showroom display bikes in Africa, where the model was known as the ‘Boss-Bike.’
No expense was spared in the preparation of the bicycle or its engine. Cyclemaster engines normally come with 26 inch wheels, though Cyclemaster did produce a small number of them with a 28 inch wheel.
The recommissioned and fully chromed engine complements the bicycle perfectly.
This Comrade All-Chrome bicycle was actually part of a consignment due to be shipped to the Middle East. But the Arab state concerned cancelled the order …luckily for us, I suppose, as otherwise we’d be unlikely to see this wonderful work of art.
COMRADE CYCLE CO
Alma Works, Darlaston, W. Mids, England
The following information about the Comrade Cycle Co is from the localhistory website [link below] –
Simeon Taylor had a shop at 76 Pinfold Street, where he sold sports goods, and repaired bicycles at the back. He suffered from hearing difficulties and so his wife helped in the business. The Taylor family lived upstairs above the shop and had several children. Simeon built a workshop and started to assemble bicycles. Sometime later Simeon purchased an old nut and bolt factory on The Leys, in between Alma Street and Stafford Road, in which to manufacture bicycles and tricycles. The factory was previously occupied by David Harper & Sons.
It became a family business. Simeon’s daughter Florence, sons Jack and Richard, grandsons John and Philip*, and granddaughter Lynda also worked at the factory. They became well known for their high standard of craftsmanship.
Simeon died in 1960 after a long illness. By this time half of the company’s products were exported, and many competitors had ceased to trade because of cheap foreign competition. Comrade went on to become the largest independent cycle manufacturer in the country. The company was hit by the recession in the late 1970s and 1980s, and moved to new premises near the Bull Stake. Unfortunately it all came to an end in 1987 because of the continuing recession, and the large number of cheap foreign imports that flooded the market.
Above text with thanks to –
* Philip Taylor is now the president of The Bicycle Association of Great Britain.
COMRADE CYCLE COMPANY (NIG) LTD
20, Ibrahim. Makama Road, P.O. Box 1013, Zaria, Nigeria
Comrade was once the largest independent bicycle manufacturer, and the second biggest bicycle manufacturer in Great Britain. However, the company is not very well known in this country, and the reason for this is that most of their bicycles were either supplied to Brown Brothers to be re-badged as Vindec, or were exported. Raleigh/ TI was the biggest British manufacturer, with around 40% of the market share. Despite being the second biggest manufacturer, Comrade’s share was less than 5%. To quote a 1980 trade report examining the previous 12 years:
‘It is normal for United Kingdom manufacturers to distribute their bicycles directly to the retail trade and imports are handled either by United Kingdom subsidiaries or by independent importers/distributors who again tend to deal directly with the retail trade. There are, however, some 15-20 wholesalers in the United Kingdom of which Brown Brothers is the largest with around 30 branches selling bicycles. Wholesalers are generally the source of supply for the very small specialist dealers, but some sell to the multiple stores as well.’ The trade report continues:
‘There are eight main manufacturers of bicycles in the United Kingdom (T I Raleigh, Comrade Cycle Co, Dawes Cycles, Trusty Viscount, Elswick Hopper Cycles, Halmanco, Holdsworthy Co and Viking Manufacturing Co). The largest by far is T I Raleigh, which in 1980 had some 40 per cent of the market (about 29 per cent under the trade name Raleigh). Each of the other bicycle manufacturers accounts for less than 5 per cent of the market.’
British bicycle manufacturers have, throughout the lifetime of the bicycle, been a major part of the British export trade. In the late 1940s, the Government helped the bicycle industry with exports in order to generate much-needed foreign exchange. Along with the other bicycle manufacturers, Comrade sold their bicycles in the USA.
The bicycle pictured above and below is a 1948 Comrade Roadster. It was for sale in America, and the owner (Jim) kindly sent me an extra picture of the head-badge to add to this Comrade Cycle Co information page.
By the late 1960s, British bicycle exports were generally double that of manufacturers’ domestic market. Around this time, another important British export market was Nigeria. Both Raleigh and Comrade established factories there in order to assist with the supply and sales to the rest of Africa. An All-Chrome ‘Boss Bike’ model was used by both companies for promotion work.
Nigeria still has a love-hate relationship wit the bicycle as a source of transportation. To some, it represents the past, and therefore painful memories of colonial rule, and poorer times when a bicycle was the only affordable transport. But, despite poor roads and danger from motorized vehicles, the bicycle is an ideal form of cheap transport and it helps keep its rider fit. The Nigerian Transport Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, became as one of Africa’s most vocal proponents of cycling, despite being hit by a bus and forced into a ditch while cycling in 2001.
This top restoration is very much in the French tradition of cyclemotoring; from that I mean that rather than a cyclemotor being a cheap substitute for a ‘real’ motorcycle, as they were in Great Britain when they originally came out in the early fifties, this one is an upmarket product that has cost more to create than the average motorcycle (just like the French Cucciolo machines adopted by the top French bicycle ‘constructeurs.’ This machine is a design classic in its own right, and is part of Cyclemaster history.
To read about the Raleigh All-Chrome ‘Boss Bike’