Some Explanations of Victorian Bicycle Terms
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
You'll see some general descriptions or categories of bikes here that may need some explanation or translation. I like to use the Victorian categories, especially since they fit the types of bikes I like to build so well.
Roadster: a full-featured touring bike with an upright riding position. Because they are built for touring in rough conditions, and with a load, these are on the heavier side. The ones I build usually have wider tires (up to 50mm wide), higher bottom bracket height for off-road abilities, and wider handlebars for stability. Features such as mounting pegs, coasting pegs, and linkage brakes are common on these bikes. Weight range for complete bikes range from 26 pounds to 32 pounds (roughly speaking). These varied in overall design widely over the course of the 1890s, so there is no shortage of models to pick from when starting to plan your bike.
Semi-Racer: a lighter-weight bike, but with some ability to load up for touring. A more aggressive riding position than the roadster, but less so than the racer. It's common for these bikes to have some features such as a mounting peg or coasting pegs, but not everything all on the same bike. Essentially, these are the compromise bikes that try to bridge a wide variety of riding needs. These bikes generally range in weight from 23 to 28 pounds, and can have tires between 35mm to 45mm in width.
Racer: this one doesn't need too much translation - it means a bike designed for the lightest weight possible, with an aggressive riding position but sometimes more adjustments for position than the other bikes. Tires can range from 28mm to 35mm, typically there are no brakes, mounting peg or coasting pegs, though toe clips were a popular option. Not intended to carry any load, these are designed for day rides (and record attempts). Weight can be between 19 and 23 pounds, roughly speaking.
All three models are available as either men's or ladies' frame styles, though the women's bikes will cost more because drop frames take more work. Want something in between these designs? That's what custom bikes are all about. Just ask! Of course, there are limits - if you weigh 250 pounds, and want a 20 pound bike for riding off-road with a full touring load, that's not going to happen. Or at least it would be a terrible idea! But if you would like a semi-racer with 50mm wide tires, or a racer with an upright riding position, these are definitely projects I would take on.