Early Bicycles 1791-1907

The text beside each of the bicycles shown below was written by Philip Sumner exactly 50 years ago (in 1968). Some readers may be surprised at the extremely complimentary way he describes some of these bicycles, but once you realise the date he is writing you may understand. The explosion in cycle popularity in the past 20 years has been phenomenal to the point that there are now probably more cyclists on the road than at any time since the Second World War – and most cyclists today are cycling for pleasure rather than necessity. The development of advanced materials has led to the greatest advance in cycle design and efficiency and this in turn has led to the possibility for people to enjoy cycling as a sport or recreation rather than as a means to get to work or to the local shop.

The prints measure 38 cm wide x 25 cm high (15″ x 10″). Minor variation in size is possible based on the actual guillotine cut made by the printer over 50 years ago. Shown here are photographs which have been carefully corrected to remove most distortion. Published in 1966 by © Hugh Evelyn Limited, London; drawn by Alan Osbahr.

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