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  • Writer's pictureVictorian Cycles

Why 1890s-Style Bikes?

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Obviously, I love the design and technology of 1890s-era bicycles and cycling clothing. The first cycling boom led to a golden age of technological creativity and left us a legacy of amazing designs to choose from. However, besides the simple aesthetic attraction of all the natural materials (wood, leather, cork, and steel) and the beautiful look of the bikes, they really are incredibly practical, versatile and comfortable – even 120+ years later. I build bikes that mimic the designs of this era because they represent the origin story of modern cycling, and because they provide a unique riding experience that every cyclist can appreciate. No one else was building bikes that incorporated all the features and materials that characterized the 1890s, so I decided to build the bikes I like to ride and offer to make them for others, too.

They were the first gravel-bikes. Because of the low quality of the roads at the time they were designed, they incorporate many of the features that have been imitated (and marketed as new) in modern gravel bikes. Wide tires? Check. Compliant frames? Check. More upright riding position? Check. Simplified gearing? Definitely. Fun to ride both on- and off-road? Certainly.

Bikepacking was also the order of the day in the 1890s. Early cycle tourists simply strapped packs and rolls of gear to their frames and handlebars, exactly like modern bikepackers. The stability of the frame and handlebar geometries common in the 1890s makes this easy and comfortable.

Tweed rides? Every ride was a tweed ride in the 1890s! We are coming full circle on cycling clothing as well, with knickers, wool, and stylish bikewear that looks good off the bike, too, coming back into vogue. You hear that everything old is new again – this is definitely true when it comes to bikes and cycling culture!

I build my bikes as 1890s-style bicycles rather than strict replicas of individual historical designs so that I can address each rider’s needs and requirements for their bicycle. I’ll often start from the geometry of a particular era (designs varied widely during the 1890s!) or even an individual bike, and then make modifications depending on what the customer wants. Sometimes people want a particular look, or a particular feature, and I design the rest of the bike around that. The real historic designs are the starting point for my builds, but I’m open-minded and flexible about the interpretation. I’m building real bikes for people to ride and enjoy today, that happen to draw heavily on designs from the 1890s. Each bike I build is a one-off: handbuilt and individually designed for a particular rider.

I get questions about whether I’ll integrate modern features into 1890s-style bikes, and the answer is yes, up to a point. Internally geared hubs are a natural option, and I’m happy to build a bike around one. Derailleur drivetrains are also an option, though they don’t fit with the aesthetic. Disc brakes? Well, if you really want them, I’d certainly consider it. Essentially, tell me about your dream bicycle, and especially if it involves 1890s design and style I’ll see if I can make it come true.

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