Museum piece in my shed!

Not strictly true - it’s in my mum’s shed at the moment, but…

I went to Devon for a few days, and on a trip to a beach near Tintagel, I came across a cycle museum. They had about 150 old bicycles including penny farthings (ordinary bicycles), an early hobby horse, and a fully enclosed low profile recumbent speed record machine.

And they had 3 unicycles on display.

One was a Pashley UMX remarkably similar to my first unicyle. It has a lugged frame, and lollipop bearing holders held I place with 4 self tapping screws instead of nuts and bolts. Interestingly, the seat was very different from the one fitted to mine when I bought it in (about) 1987. Mine had a slightly curved metal plate about 10 inches by 2 inches, with a thin oblong sponge held on top with glue and a cloth cover. Ouch! The one on display had something more similar to a Viscount style seat, but about twice as wide at the back!

There was also a 1980 Pashley which was pretty similar, but had proper main cap style bearing holders - which suggests to me that Pashley unicycles got worse in specification in the early 1980s! I’d certaily rather have the 1980 model (main caps and good seat) than the 1987 model (lollipops and appalling seat).

There was also an unlabelled model on display. It looked like about a 12 inch wheel, and I’d say from the way the frame was made that it was a fair bit older. I couldn’t get close enough to get a good look at it, but something about the curves in the frame made me think it looked 50s or 60s. I could be wrong.

Also, they had a skate bike - as mentioned on another thread in this forum. It’s a bit like a unicycle, but with additional stability provided by a skateboard truck. The lady who owns the museaum told me that the skatebike used to be ridden by a child with no arms. He couldn’t ride a bicycle, or mount a unicycle, but he could scoot about the place on the skatebike.

And talking of stabilisers… they also had a ‘hen and chickens’ pentacycle! Only 20 or so were made, and they weren’t a success. They were designed for mail delivery. It has one large central wheel, about the size of a penny farthing wheel. This is surrounded by 4 (count 'em) small wheels. The rider sits up there like he’s on a big wheeled unicycle, but doesn’t have to worry about balance because of the four stabilisers. It is steered with handle bars though.

Anyway, I now know I own a museum piece! Bidding for this 1987 Pashley UMX starts at £1,000… do I hear £1,100?

Hmm…I’ll pass on the bidding for now, Mikefule! :wink:

When I was staying with family in Trebarwith Strand last January, the British Cycling Museum was sadly closed everytime we passed by. On our last day, the “Open” sign miraculously went up, the music in the display room changed from standard radio fare to an old recording of “Bicycle Built for Two,” the lights came on, and we were off. What a neat collection of old human-powered wheeled transport! According to the front desk, the little museum housed in an old train station is originally one person’s passion for old bike bits gone out of control (possibly the state of my apartment in 20 years).

The ‘one person’s passion’ story isn’t quite that simple. I got talking to the lady who runs the museum…

In 1983, my grandmother died of cancer. In 1984, I wanted to do a sponsored event for cancer research. I considered doing a ride on a penny farthing. I managed to get in touch with a group of enthusiasts known as Desford Lane Pedallers from Ratby in Leicestershire.

I never did the sponsored ride, but I did have a day out with the DLP and did about 12 miles round trip on a reproduction penny farthing (about 50 - 52 inch wheel?) before having a short ride on a genuine late Victorian penny farthing, and on a smaller wheeled penny farthing known as a Crypto Bantam.

Riding a penny farthing is very similar to riding a Coker. Once you get up to speed, the back wheel hovers, or bears very little weight at all, so it’s like being on a huge unicycle. There is the danger of a very nasty ‘face plant’ if you hit a pothole. The leverage from the pedals is massive, and stopping from speed takes several wheel revolutions.

And the Crypto Bantam? It’s just like a penny farthing, but with a smaller wheel, geared up with a single speed ‘sun and planet’ gear system - not unlike the one used by Greg harper, I imagine.

And the relevance? Well, the lady who runs the bicycle museum in Devon is the sister of the bloke who lent me the reproduction penny farthing 19 years ago… and this just came out in the conversation.

So it seems to be a family’s passion for collecting old bicycle memorabilia and old bicycles. The museum is well worth a visit, although if you don’t already know a bit about old bikes, you won’t learn much as the labelling and positioning of exhibits leaves a bit to be desired.

Incidentally, there is (or was) an excellent cycling museum in Lincoln.)