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I AM FASCINATED by the two-wheelers displayed by Sotheby’s in its Motorcycles and Bicycles Auction on September 16, 2000, in Chicago.
Here are tidbits on several of my favorites.
Dursley Pedersen, 1902. This very advanced bicycle, manufactured in Dursely, England, featured a lightweight small-diameter tube space frame in a reinforcing triangular design with bracing wires.
The Dursley Pedersen was among the earliest bicycles with a three-speed hub. Also noteworthy is its hammock-style saddle suspended by leather straps and a coil spring.
I love its classic wicker basket contrasting with these other advanced features.
Evinrude Streamflow Deluxe, 1937. “Instead of suspending its wheels,” Sotheby’s notes, “this bike features a cast aluminum frame and fork with suspended saddle and pedals. The deluxe version features a Clipper speedometer/odometer built into the handlebar mount. This feature proved to be the bike’s downfall.”
Sotheby’s continues, “The cable drive for the speedometer ran through a hole in the cast aluminum front fork and proved to be the machine’s weakness. Evinrude, the same company known for outboard motors, quickly withdrew from the bicycle market as this problem became apparent.” i
I admire the bike’s Thirties Streamline style.
Excelsior “Welbike” Paratrooper Motorcycle, 1943. The Welbike, developed at a Welwyn, Hertfordshire, military test center, was in reaction to German paratrooper mobility gained through similar motorbikes.
“Powered by an 98cc Villiers engine,” Sotheby’s says, “approximately 4000 were manufactured by the Excelsior Motor Co.”
I’m reminded of the Austin Mini Moke designed in the 1960s for similar parachute missions. The British military ridiculed the Moke, but Sixties style-conscious Brits took to it as a cult car.
BSA Folding Paratrooper Bike, 1944. This British bike, paradropped in six-pack, “provided silent transportation for airborne commandoes at the front lines,” says Sotheby’s.
Schwinn built a similar folding prototype during World War II, but the U.S. military failed to adopt the concept.
J.C. Higgins, 1946. This post-war design was sold by Sears under its J.C. Higgins nameplate. The frame’s dropped center section identifies it as a lady’s model.
The bike’s deluxe features include dual headlights, a built-in horn, taillights in the rear rack, and Sears brand Allstate whitewalls.
I suspect Wife Dottie would have ridden such a bike during her ditchbank cowgirl days.
Bowden Spacelander, 1960. “Built by automotive designer Benjamin Bowden,” Sotheby’s describes, “this red molded fiberglass bicycle was innovative and ahead of its time. In effect a monocoque design in which the outer skin carries all the stresses, the bicycle preceded the use of molded carbon fiber bicycles by nearly thirty years.”
Offered in “Off White,” “Fire Engine Red,” or “Outer Space Blue,” 522 Spacelanders were manufactured in 1960. One was included in the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition titled “Designs of the Future.”
I’m undecided about which future I’d lust for: the red 1902 Dursley Pedersen or an Outer Space Blue 1960 Spacelander. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022