Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,368 pages of information and 233,846 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bamboo Cycle Co

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1894. Bamboo Frame. From 'Bartleet's Bicycle Book'. No. 30

Bamboo Cycle Co, London Depot, of 59 Holborn Viaduct, London; works in Petit Street, off Pountney Street, Wolverhampton.

These machines initially had frames made of bamboo because it was very strong, lightweight and free from corrosion. In practice steel proved to be a much better material for the purpose and so only a few real bamboo bikes were made[1]

1893 No. 30. 'Bamboo' frame. Purchased in Holloway, N. London. Weight 8.5 lbs. Made by the Bamboo Cycle Co., Ltd., 59 Holborn Viaduct, London, E.C. Introduced at the Stanley Cycle Show, Agricultural Hall, November, 1893, this machine remained on the market till 1898, but was not taken up by the public, only very few being sold.

It was advertised as "The most elegant machine upon the market, and up to date in every respect," while the advantages claimed for it included strength, lightness, and comfort; the bicycle was also stated (by its makers!) to be "stronger than the best steel machines made."

George Lacy Hillier, editor of Bicycling News, and a very prominent personality in the cycling world, tells an amusing story which — after the lapse of such a long period — it is permissible to repeat. It appears that a deputation from the syndicate which was financially interested in the exploitation of the ‘Bamboo’ bicycle waited upon Hillier, and offered him £1,000 to allow his name to appear on the prospectus as a director of the Company which it was proposed to float. Hillier declined, but volunteered — in a very confidential tone — to give his visitors some advice on how materially to improve their product. Thanking him profusely, they listened intently to the following suggestion from the great expert, famous rider, and distinguished journalist: “Go away, gentlemen, and put a thin gauge steel tube inside each bamboo constituent of your frame; then take away the Bamboo!” Telling me the story many years later, G.L.H. remarked, dryly, "Bartleet, you have no idea how cross they were."

I am frequently asked, by visitors to the Museum, if the 'Bamboo' construction was taken seriously by the misguided enthusiasts who put it on the market, or whether it was just a freak like the "pre-historic" cycles with thick discs of wood for wheels which one occasionally sees in fancy dress parades. Believe me, they were seriously minded commercial men, lacking only that very essential qualification — a practical knowledge of cycling. [2]

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