I recently purchased two editions of The Bicycle, a U.K. publication. Both date to 1951. The May 30th publication, pictured above is the “Northern Edition”, and features cycling tours of Exmoor in Somerset, as well as racing results from the myriad competitions occurring at that time in Northern England. The cover page above shows two riders on their Phillips Reynolds 531 bikes with Dunlop tires and “racing” hubs.
In perusing both editions I discovered that this photography column was a regular feature. Written by Frank Newbold, these columns discuss a variety of basic but perplexing concepts for the film photographer of the day. Using exposure meters correctly is covered in the 5/30/51 edition, and depth of focus is covered in the 4/11/51 column. The concepts presented here still hold today, even with our digital cameras, and I found the discussions a helpful review.
The advertisements are also especially interesting. The page above features a Reynolds 531 Elswick step through frame, as well as the stunningly beautiful lugs from Hetchins. These are the “Magnum Opus” lugs used for the highest quality machine that would be offered at the time. In addition, there’s an ad for a “lightweight” camping stove called The Monitor which was fueled by paraffin and weighed under 2 lbs.
The April 11, 1951 edition’s front page shows a rider on a Reynolds 531 BSA model. Clearly Reynolds 531 was the gold standard of the day, as it is now.
This Sturmey Archer ad is for an FM 4 speed model. This was a close ratio model used by racers. It’s interesting to note that the AW model, which is considered the most useful for all-around cycling, is not even mentioned in the above advertisement.
Here are some advert pages from the April 1951 edition. The Jack Taylor ad features a step through frame. I’ve noted from these ads that the drive train was not specified. Instead, you would select whether you wanted an internal hub, fixed/free, or a derailleur gear model. This practice continued well into the 1970’s, but is not an option today for new bicycles. You’ll also see the advert for the gorgeous Resilion cantilevers – probably the most elegant brake design I’ve seen. These cantilevers were clamped to the stays, so it didn’t matter whether you had braze-ons or not. You could use them on any bike.
I’ve found great pleasure and knowledge in vintage cycling publications. I am continually amazed to see that cycling lore from days gone by still holds today. The above back page advert shows a Miller dynamo system. While dynamos have now migrated to hubs, the concepts remain unchanged. And that’s true for much of the cycling industry.
Wonderful find, thanks so much for posting.
Re: “FM 4 speed model. This was a close ratio model used by racers”
Well, I’m kinda nit-picking but the FC was the close ratio. FM (medium ratio) was more popular with club riders.
Multiple World Professional Champion Reg Harris was said to use an FM, but not for racing, only for training.
Thanks for the clarification.
Thanks for sharing this. It’s always instructive to see (arguably) “state of the art” at a particular time in history. – 1950 Sports rider
Wow ! This is great ! Amazing how things were so somewhat simple mechanical-wise back then, Today, in my opinion, seems to be a nightmare of 11/12 speed etc. My Dad owned a bike shop for 27 years and I do remember selling Miller generator lights, Lucas cyclometers and speedometers, etc. Those were the bygone days
It is more than nostalgic to look at these industry publications. They really are instructive. Certainly incompatibility and built obsolescence hadn’t yet made their way into the marketplace. Thanks for sharing the memories of your Dads bike shop.
The illustrations in these ads are lovely! Thanks for sharing.
Neat! I love old bicycle magazines, especially British ones. The camera stuff is cool too. Exposure was a big deal then, as in-camera meters would not be common until the 1960s.
As for dynamo lighting, Sturmey-Archer’s first Dynohub was introduced in 1936, so in-hub dynamos were a thing at that point.
I inherited my Dad’s Leica when very young and learning to use that camera and light meter was a joy.
I think that the most interesting parts of old cycling mags are the advertisements. Speaking of which — this is a very long shot, I know — if anyone knows where to find proprietary 12-spline Sturmey Archer cogs for some of these club-oriented hubs (in particular, for the TF wide range 2 speed fixed gear and the TC 2 med ratio 2-speed fixed) I’m very interested in finding 15 t cogs. The splines don’t match anything else, unfortunately, and for some of these you can’t swap out the drivers to take the modern 3-spline cogs.
Also, per another respondent’s remark: in fact, modern indexed drivetrains, at least up to 10 speeds, are pretty bulletproof; better than 6 and 7 speed systems, IME. The greatest defect is that they lock you into proprietary systems, but they work well and last long. Whether anyone needs 10 or 11 or 12 cogs in back is another question.
Hi Patrick, I hope you find those unusual cogs. It’s amazing how many different models were made by SA. I haven’t tried 10 speed systems so am glad to hear that you find they are pretty bullet proof. I’m a friction shifter myself and have used up to 8 cogs at the back. Number of gears is not so important to me as the gear range.