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.