1954 Phillips Gents Cyclemaster 32c
Cyclemasters were sold as a wheel-with-engine that was easy to fit to the customers own bicycle. In early fifties Britain, few new vehicles were available for the home market as most were exported to help the country’s need for foreign exchange. Most folks had to rely on their trusty bicycles for transport and a cheap cycle-attachment engine was a viable option to add a few more miles per hour to the daily commute.
Several cycle manufacturers also supplied Cyclemaster Ltd with bicycle frames. So a customer could also buy a motorized bicycle ready to jump on and ride away. Mercury, Norman and Phillips were suppliers, and the Phillips frame you see here was the most funky of all the motorized frames available on the British market.
The reason for its ‘funkiness?’ – Phillips had copied American styling and added, to the front of its bicycle, a cosmetic fork brace that made its bicycle look more like a motorbike.
Phillips Cycle Co
In the 1950s, several cycle makers produced special cycles for ‘cyclemotorization.’ They would be supplied as a complete bike, or missing the rear wheel if a Cyclemaster was to be fitted. Phillips produced a range of such machines. Common features were:
- Strengthened frame
- Lower saddle position (more comfortable for powered riding but less suited to pedalling)
- No rear brake on the Cyclemaster models; rear brake on the others was often a coaster hub
- Braced (or sprung) front fork
- Number plates
- Lighting set designed to run off the engine
- Lower than normal gearing – since pedals were mainly used for starting and assisting on hills.
FUNKY FRONT FORKS
The effect of the braces on the front fork must have been minimal, but at least they made it look stronger.
The mudguards were also upgraded, and are bigger and stronger than on a normal pedal cycle. Although extra mud protection might make an extra selling point, the most likely reason for them was that normal mudguards would not be reliable in supporting the weight of the number plates. You can compare this Gents Phillips (above) with a similar Ladies Phillips Cyclemaster I owned until a few years ago (below).
As described above, this front fork brace was actually a copy of American styling of the time. You might wonder why more British manufacturers didn’t copy it. American bicycles featured all sorts of over-the-top front fork arrangements, simply to make them look more like motorcycles. For example, the 1950 Huffman Dial-Your-Ride featured most over-the-top front fork ever made. I’m restoring the one below. To see more of it PLEASE CLICK HERE
Bear in mind though that, in 1950s America, the main market for bicycles was teenagers. By age sixteen or so, most drove cars. In contrast, in Great Britain at this time, petrol rationing was still in force. Bicycles were the mainstay of adult transport. With price the main selling point, we didn’t need fancy front forks on our cycles: the ones on this Phillips are as funky as it got.
As a footnote to the ‘American connection’ I wonder if Phillips was influenced by American styling because they exported their bicycles to the USA between 1948 and 1952 to be re-badged as the Indian Scout?
You could also compare the Phillips Motorised Bicycle. Phillips sold this as a complete machine (though the cycle parts are the same as used on their ordinary bicycle). The frame is the same as that made for the Cyclemaster.
Compare it to the ordinary Phillips cycle…
Phillips also sold this type of cycle with a factory-fitted Vincent Firefly engine; it was called the Vincent Power Cycle (see below)
According to the Moped Archive (the greatest source of information on postwar cyclemotors) the rear carrier was offset on these Phillips cycles:
‘The carrier is offset to the left so that the carrier stay keeps clear of the Cyclemaster’s fuel tank. This was a cunning re-use of tooling by Phillips. The offset carrier was originally produced for military cycles; the offset made room for slinging a rifle alongside the bike frame.’
In due course, I’ll get round to restoring this Cyclemaster. In the meantime, I’m just sharing its pictures and history with you.
It sports heavy duty Phillips pedals.