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The World’s First Ever Bike!  | Weird & Wonderful Retro Bikes From The UK Cycle Exhibition Part. 1

The World’s First Ever Bike! | Weird & Wonderful Retro Bikes From The UK Cycle Exhibition Part. 1

– Fancy going for a bike ride
but not leaving your bed? Well, with this bedstead
bike you can do just that. Quite why, and what it was for, I don’t know, but either way it’s cool to see it. And it’s even got a
bed pan down there too. Won’t be going near that though. (swooshing) (piano music) (drums snaring) On my never-ending quest to try and show you as
much bike tech as possible, today I found myself at the
UK’s National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod Wells, which
is in the middle of Wales. And well, if the entrance
is anything to go by, there’s going to be some
absolute gems behind me. Because straightaway
there’s a Sinclair C5, there’s a rickshaw, there’s even an old post
office trailer there. Let’s go inside and see
what beauties I can uncover. Come on. The Itera, a bike which was made, I’m pretty sure, in conjunction or in some kind
of collaboration with Volvo, but if not, I apologize for that factually
incorrect bit of information. But why not then do away
with steel frame shapes and replace it all with plastic? Yeah, there’s a very good reason. These bikes were very
flexible, very wobbly, and had the nickname of
blancmange on wheels. The reason being, the
color and also the fact they rode just like a blancmange. Nothing more really to say about them, other than a plastic monstrosity. Apparently there were a
whopping 30,000 of these made, but very few actually sold. But don’t worry, they
didn’t all go into landfill, instead they went out to the Caribbean, where rust apparently is a major problem for bicycles out there, so at least they did
go to some good homes. In 1818, this was what the dandy boys of the time were parading
around the streets on, if you like. That’s probably all they did, because it certainly wouldn’t
have been that comfortable, it was rather to just go out and hang out with their friends, although I doubt they hang out, it was probably something
a lot more regal than that. But yes, this, the hobby
horse, the draisine. This one a modern remake
by Johnsons of London, a wooden frame, we’ve
got iron tires on there, and well, the forearm rest here, this was used exactly for that. You could just rest and
catch up on current affairs with your other Industrial
Revolution friends. So I guess it’s easiest explained as the hobby horse, a balance bike, but for adults, just
like this one for kids. Fancy a motorbike, but
more bike than motor? Well, this could have
been the thing for you. This is an old rally bike, I’m not sure exactly what year it’s from, but we’ve got a Mini
motor here stored away just behind the saddle where you’d normally have a
pannier rack or something. So I guess it’s probably
a two-stroke engine, I’m not sure how many CC, but there’s a little wheel which is underneath the actual motor here and it presses down onto the tire and that spins and propels you along. Not the most subtle thing,
I imagine fairly noisy too, and importantly it’s got a
registration plate on the back. And here, this controls
the actual throttle, this little lever here
mounted on the top tube. If the hobby horse
wasn’t very comfortable, then the velocipede, also
known as the bone shaker, it lived up to its name. Largely built from iron, as you can see, with the exception of the wooden wheels. This thing would certainly
have rattled the bones as you cycled along. Importantly, we now have
pedals integrated here into the front wheel drive system. And this one here, the
Pierre Michaux from Paris, is said to be the kind of
Rolls Royce of bone shakers. I’ll take their word for it, I don’t want to even give it a go. But something I’m just going to point out, you do have a little
bit of suspension here in the sort of top tube
I guess you could say, where the saddle is fitted. And the brake, well, it was done merely
through a bit of cord system which used some pulley wheels and then a kind of a spoon if you like touched down on the rear iron tire. That’s right iron, no rubber. The extension that comes out
of the head tube or fork, crane, I guess it’s the head tube, this isn’t to hang your
bags of shopping on, instead it’s right here you rest your feet if you are going down a hill for instance. Remember, it is essentially a fixed wheel. What’s a look down there? Yeah, those are brass pedals. I so fancy. The Sinclair C5 then. Not a bike, not a car, but instead an e-powered trike. Now these were launched back in 1985 when the government here in the UK actually relaxed its laws around electronically-propelled bicycles, because they weren’t then
classed as a motorbike. However, it wasn’t a success, the main reason being, the range on it was just 20 miles, so not really that far. And also the position of it too; riders were very low to the ground so they didn’t feel necessarily
that safe in traffic. Now that range of 20 miles, it was powered by a 250 watt motor, but the motor, it didn’t work that well because the weight of this
is about 50 kilos in total. So in comparison to modern day bikes, when you’ve got an e-bike
which is more than capable for running for a couple of hours or more, even on full power, this thing, yeah, it didn’t go very far whatsoever. Had a top speed of 15 miles per hour, if you could get up to it. It was an absolute failure of Sinclair, but it was actually great to
see this sort of thing happen. If this had never been tested, I wonder if we’d be where
we are today with e-bikes. I wouldn’t like to use it, just look where the handlebars are. Underneath your thighs. Yeah, I’m glad this one, they’re not going to let me use today. The penny-farthing then, yep, a pretty popular
bike, it has to be said. Way back in 1885, there
were over 400,000 cyclists using them in Britain alone. It’s absolutely mind blowing, I reckon. I don’t know very much about them, instead I leave the
penny-farthing exploits, also known as the ordinary,
for James and Chris, because they go around trying to break world records on them and stuff. But something here which is really cool, and I’m just going to show you, are these lady’s tricycles that we used because back in the 1880s and such, women weren’t really
encouraged to ride bicycles. In fact, it was quite often frowned upon, especially if they even attempted to ride a penny-farthing. So that’s why we have something like this, and I guess you could say that
they maintain their modesty, I think I’m allowed to say that, because by doing so, they wouldn’t be revealing anything due to the seating position. Now something really cool about it has to be the hand brake
here, much like a vehicle, and also the steering was controlled by this sort of single handed lever. I wouldn’t mind a go on this, though. Looks pretty cool. Reverse penny-farthing anyone? Mmmm, nah, not for me. It looks like a hot-rod. Stick to the traditions, come on, people. Picture yourself, it’s the 1930s, you and your partner,
you’ve just got married, you don’t have enough money for a car. Not to worry, go out and
get yourself a tandem. Then comes along the little one. Well, you can’t leave
them at home, can you? So instead, why not get
yourself one of these? A sidecar, but for a bike. I’ve never ever seen one of these, ever. It’s a Watsonian in its brand, and they actually made
some for motorbikes. This one has a quick release coupling, you don’t require any
special tools or anything, it’s just got some
little wingnuts on there. So provided you’ve got a good, firm grip, your loved one is going
to stay nice and safe inside of that sidecar. And if that’s not enough
to tickle your fancy and take the little one out
on a bike ride with you, well, they’re not going to scream,
they’re not going to get wet because there’s a cover
that goes over the top and you won’t even hear them
if they do start screaming. Old advertising paraphernalia
is in abundance here, and I absolutely love it, the different styles and
designs and everything. And this one here really caught my eye, the reason being, I still
use Velox tubular tape on my own tubers when I
tape them onto my wheels because quite often I can’t be bothered with the hassle of glue. I might even ask as well if I can maybe buy this one off them ’cause I really do like it. Can I? No, I don’t reckon you’ll let me. Here’s one then I’ve never seen before, the Simpson Lever Chain from 1895. Something which is
different, let’s face it, from a standard chain out there, and one of the reasons behind its design is that the brand
themselves actually thought that it would allow a
better power transfer when laying down those wattage
bazookas through the pedals. And sales did flourish
for a number of years, in fact three, I’ll get
onto that shortly though. Now, the reason they flourished was largely down to the
riders that were using it. The riders using them
were actually taking part in paced events on a velodrome, so you can imagine a triplet or a quadrant and a five-man or five-person bicycle were pacing a rider around the track, and essentially it was like a Derny race, if that makes sense. However, the company was short-lived. In 1898, it did in fact go bust, largely due to the fact
that other transmissions were being introduced into the market, and the fact that each bike had to built around this rather funky
arrangement of chain. The Dursley Pedersen then, the brainwave of Danish
engineer Mikael Pedersen and were built by a company in Dursley, near Gloucester in the UK
from between 1896 and 1914. And well, right about this time actually, bicycles became to look a lot more normal, and traditional if you like. But this was so different, just
look at the style of frame, it resembles what the Moulton foldup bikes look like these days, kind of a very thin tubing and lots of different joins and you don’t really know what’s going on. But the standout bit about it has to be the hammock-like
saddles that are on them, and you still see people
riding around on them. I think there’s a few makers
out there on the Continent too who will also produce them. I’m really keen to ride one, I saw a guy riding on one
a couple of years ago, and he did say to me,
would I like a go on it, but I didn’t, I just don’t like
riding other peoples’ bikes. But this is one design I just
want to have a go on one day. Here is one for you then,
the Eiffel Tower bike, designed purely for advertising reasons and not just because you
would look, quite simply, pretty much ridiculous riding around on it because of the height of it, it’s about 12 ft high up there, so you are going to need a
little bit of assistance. But on this actual frame of the bike, that would be complete with
some advertising placard, so you could ride around
advertising a brand to your heart’s content. I guess you could even call yourself a professional cyclist for that matter. For those of you who are
into your bamboo bikes, you may well be thinking that you’re on the
upward curve if you like. Well, that curve actually
started way back in the 1890s, check out this one! An early attempt at a very
lightweight bicycle I guess, because there’s none
of that heavy old iron that would have been used previously. We even got some bamboo
mud guards on there, not to mention these little pump pegs. I like the look of it, and that looks to me like
a little oil-filling cap down there for the bottom bracket. I like the look of this one, just not the brakes. No. Recumbent bikes were pretty popular in mainland Europe during
the 1930s and 1920s. Something of a bit of a
fashionable, cool item to have. And the 1932 Triumph
Muller that I’ve got here took some inspiration from it. We have a laid back approach to it, just check out that saddle with a little bit of lumbar
support there as well, so nice easy-going ride but the standout feature on it
has to be the steering wheel. That’s right, a steering wheel instead of a traditional handlebar setup. And the brake’s on there sort of, all bikes, they fill me with
fear to be perfectly honest, with the braking systems on them. It’s just the way they look so fragile and not ideal in an emergency. But well, the Triumph Muller, it didn’t really take off, let’s face it. But it’s good to see it, and I’ve even seen some
hacksaw bodies on the GCN show that utilize a steering wheel too, and well I guess you could even pretend you were driving a car. John Boyd Dunlop, the man who patented the pneumatic tire way back in 1888. We can thank him really,
for what we’re using today, although I guess someone along the way would have still made the tire, but still, someone has to start the revolution. We’ve got a replica here
of that original tire, and also an example from the
Dunlop News Magazine of 1898 of customer service letters
of people thanking him for such great tires, how cool is that? He even got their addresses too. Bikes aren’t always about
racing on though, are they? Let’s face it. Instead, this one here was designed to sell ice creams from it, so it’s been restored by the staff here, it’s pre-WWII a little bit of kit. Now it is going to weigh an
awful lot, let’s face it, when it’s weighed up with all your different
favorite ice creams and everything inside of it, so we’ve got a pair of drum brakes that are rodded up to the lever on the kind of handlebar-style setup. Now, interesting, the
handlebar is going to be quite difficult to maneuver around too. I wouldn’t like to ride around
on this too much myself. Rear brake is controlled via this lever. We’ve got single speed gearing, which is a pretty low setup too, ’cause remember, once that’s fully loaded, it’s not going to be
easy to ride around with. Aged pretty well. Just above, you got an RAC bicycle. The RAC, or the Royal Automobile Club, is a breakdown service here in the UK, and their mechanics used to
actually patrol the streets aboard bikes that had a small pouch with the necessary tools in there to repair many common motoring incidents. Imagine that these days. No, it wouldn’t happen,
cars are so complicated. Yeah, they used to ride around on those. That would be a cool thing. Who remembers those? If anyone does, please
leave a comment down below. There we are, the National Cycle Museum in Llandrindod Wells in Wales. I’ve absolutely loved it, I feel like I’ve barely
even scratched the surface ’cause there was so much in there. Everywhere I looked, I looked
up and down, side to side, though it was absolutely
packed to the rafters with bits and pieces. So a huge thanks to them
for letting me come and get these grubby little hands
all over bits of a kit. Let me know what your
favorite bit was down there in the comment section below, and as ever, remember to
like and share this video with your friends too. Don’t forget to check out the GCN shop at and now for two more great videos, how about clicking just down
here and just down here? Can I go back?

58 comments on “The World’s First Ever Bike! | Weird & Wonderful Retro Bikes From The UK Cycle Exhibition Part. 1

  1. Fascinating place to visit but such a shame the visitor numbers are barely enough to keep it going.
    Desperately needs to be found a new location to let the collection expand.
    Well worth a visit if you end up in the middle of Wales.

  2. We’ve gone from solid tyres to pneumatic tyres, then we pump them up until they are rock hard again.

  3. The uniform at 2:50 looks lot like an Italian Bersaglieri officer uniform from the ww2, cap taken apart. It does even have the crimson lapels. By the way, I'm an History buff too!

  4. There is an annual sportive event celebrating the World's first modern bicycle that was designed and produced in Coventry – the Rover safety bicycle designed by John Kemp Starley and made by Starley & Sutton Co. More information on the event next February and the history of the bike at: – And yes, I am a proud Coventrian 🙂

  5. Jeezzz those bikes bring back memories of our old collection at home 😍😍😍
    Rode practically all of 'em, beautiful machines – every last one 👍👍

  6. Favorite tech has to be the Dunlop tyres, other than the invention of the bicycle itself. And it never ceases to amaze me that we have had safety bikes for just a century and a half and that some early automobiles were powered by electric motors at the wheels. And that e-trike was interesting and certainly a harbinger of what we have today with e-bikes.

  7. Watching this, why don't GCN do a book review for cyclist tech geeks, and have a vid about bicycle design? I recommend "Bicycles and Tricycles: A Classic Treatise on Their Design and Construction" by Archibald Sharp, old book, 1896, but almost all the bike design is there, compared to the modern era where bike design is mosty UCI and ITU confined.

  8. 9:28 – your reference to Moulton. They are not 'fold-up' bicycles!

    (Really, you ought to address yourself to the factory in Bradford on Avon, they might give you a tour of the works and educate you about their astonishing machines)

  9. i think, just change to 1900's bike from those be like getting a fresh air, and it would be a gentle breeze for a today's bikes

  10. While I appreciated the look at these historical bikes, I would have preferred to have Mike from American Pickers narrate the tour. He's much more educated on old bikes and surely could have provided more insight.

  11. Really highlights Jon's bike knowledge and enthusiasm – infectious. Saved this place on my google 'to visit' list. I think easily in the top 3 of his best vids. Keep it up please.

  12. so much history but not a single pair of bike shoes you can put on, dip in hot water and get them shrinked to your feet.. where are those!?!?? :DDD

  13. If you are ever in Paris, the Musee des Arts et Metiers has a great collection of bikes, arranged in historical order.

  14. Just for fun: Itera actually did a "sporty" version of their plastic bicycle, with drop bars and a full Campagnolo Nuovo Record group set. In Sweden that bike is a true collectors item these days. Apparently, one important reason why Itera failed was that they hadn't properly researched the bicycle market, so they just assumed that bike shops would gladly start selling bikes from a company they had never heard of. Since this wasn't the case, there weren't actually that many places where you could buy them.

    Also, the wheels were a lot better than the bikes. Light and nearly indestructible, they apparently found a market long after the bikes were gone, but that market wasn't bicycles.

  15. Like the history tour of bikes!! Jon – We see you are sporting a new GNC Jacket any details on what it is and are they available?

  16. I worked on a Pederson (?) replica once at a shop I worked for. It was super cool and the customer loved riding it, said it was very comfortable. I didn't have time to try though.

  17. I was actually there that day!! Very lucky enough for myself and my son to shake the man's hand….well worth the 3 hour drive just for that, many thanks again you made my son's day ✌

  18. I think the reverse Penny Farthing came about because of the issue with riders pulling off an OTB and face planting, fracturing bones in their faces or broken jaws.
    As far as the bike with a steering wheel, I remember as a kid in the 70's it was a trend to put hotrod style steering wheels on Schwinn Crates with banana seats. Very awkward to ride and control.

  19. I passed that about a few weeks back on a break in that part of Wales…tho it was shut when i was gonna go in..glad you visited so I could see whats its about, appreciated 😉

  20. I'm so sad I didn't go there when I was in northen Wales in August 😦… Btw. After you showed that bike with motor I thought of my father's friend, who owns a castle in Nové Hrady (Litomyšl district, Czech Republic) and he had there bicycle museum, which he has converted into motor-bicycle museum and it's very unique. If you find yourself nearby, you should come and visit it 😉.

  21. You know there is a Itera bike that was built for races? With Campagnolo stuff. I want too see you guys master that thing!

  22. Talk about sturdy delivery bicycles, I remember back in 65-66 sitting on the rear fender of the local grocer delivering on the bike. He made deliveries to the local schools and dropped me off at mine after going down a couple of steep hills.

  23. Wonderful piece Jon! with just a couple of mods that hobby horse could make for a good TT bike 😉 Are those wooden tires on the bamboo bici?

  24. I have been to the Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio and loved it. Now I have to visit Wales to see the UK Cycle Exhibition. The video was great but first hand is always better!

  25. @3:00 that's a K-model gear shifter for the rear hub (ca. pre 1932 I believe). That wouldn't be a throttle for the rear wheel assist. I say it's a 1932 machine with a 70's bell and wheel assist.

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