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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • JAMAICA: THE GEM OF THE TROPICS

Birthday Bike: 1959

Birthday Bike: 1959

This is my husband Peter and his Rollfast Deluxe bike in about 1959 - I'm assuming he's about 10 in this photo. It was taken in his backyard in Chenango Bridge, New York, outside of Binghamton. His father was a chemist for Ansco, and this is taken from an Anscochrome slide. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Oh, that seat

The seat on that bike looks just like the one on my Dunelt in the early 1960s. It was a piece of steel covered by the thinnest vinyl and man did it hurt. I soon got a padded cover and added some kitchen sponges for good measure but the calluses didn't go away for months.

The Dunelt was a 3-speed bargain version of the Raleigh, also with Sturmey Archer gears. I rode it for ten years or more and it passed through the family.

The flatness of Windsor made for lots of easy cycling at great speed. It was absolute heaven after the single speed monster my dad got me at Dominion Tire on Tecumseh Road.

Kick-shift

I worked in a bike shop in the late '60s. The two speed coaster brakes referenced by Born40YearsTooLate were made by Bendix. We called 'em kick shifts. They were popular with paperboys at the time, who had them installed in heavy duty Schwinn models with springer forks.

Same colors

As my J.C.Higgins bike I bought from Sears with my own money backing 1954 as a 12 year old. In fact, my Dad's new '54 Chevrolet Bel-Air was also that green & cream combo.

Three speeds? Luxury!

I grew up the late '60s and early '70s riding single-speed hi-rise bikes from Penney's. The first, a birthday present when I turned nine, was stolen after two years from the bike rack at school; I still miss that beautiful magenta bike. A year later I found a $20 bill while walking home from school, and that helped pay for my next ride, an orange Penney's Scrambler I, which cost $34.95. Of course both bikes had modifications and tire replacements courtesy of parts and tools from the nearby Western Auto store.

I did know a couple of kids that owned two-speed coaster brake bikes (very unusual, and I assume made by Sturmey-Archer), and I got to ride them a few times. Changing gears up or down was accomplished by reversing the pedals just enough to change speeds without braking. I always wanted one of those, since the design was simple, you got more than one speed without having to worry about maintaining or replacing derailleurs, cables, levers and brake shoes.

Too complicated

I had a bike (Schwinn? don't remember) with the S-A 3-speed hub with coaster brake (plus a front caliper brake). I had a lot of trouble with it - I kept stripping some internal part or other, and it spent a lot of time in the shop. I came to the conclusion that the two functions (brake and transmission) was one too many.

Sturmy-Archer transmission

I had a S-A transmission in my first new bike, about 1969. It wasn't very good and the local bike shop sold me a Shimano replacement. I still have it and it works fine. By the way, when everyone else was riding stingrays I was the first in town to have a big bike with skinny tires. I had a light powered by an generator that rubbed the tire and a speedometer. Had it up to 50 mph down a big hill. Really thought I was doing something!

3 on the Tree

As noted already this bike had a multi speed rear hub. My first bike, (a 1966 Sears version of a Sting Ray) had the same setup, the brake worked fine, the transmission not so much.

The first time it falls over or scrapes a curb, the elbow for the cable gets broken off, leaving you stuck in high gear, i.e. stranded.

Coaster Brakes 101

There may be younger viewers of Shorpy that never rode a bicycle with coaster brakes. As mentioned by others, the brake is on the rear hub only, and was activated by reversing the pedals into a locked position which applied the brakes. You could apply pressure gradually, or do a panic stop that often locked up the rear wheel into a skid. This was especially fun on gravel roads or grass. This shortened the life of the rear tire considerably. While Windsor is very flat, we later lived in a hilly city, and coaster brakes had limited effect on steep hills.

Here is a photo of me with my sister taken in Riverside, (now Windsor) Ontario in 1958 when I was ten years old. While my earlier bikes were second hand, my parents finally gave me a new CCM (Canada Cycle & Motor Co.) single speed bicycle with coaster brakes. It had a headlight, carrier and an electric horn. By comparison, my present bike has 21 speeds.

That Sturmey-Archer hub

is a very complicated gear system, worth a look at an exploded view internally.

Is it a Schwinn?

I had a Schwinn very similar to this bike, the lever on the handlebar changed gears (it had two), is not a brake. It had a coaster brake.

[Going by the caption, it's a Rollfast Deluxe. -tterrace]

Gearshift

That shift cable is for a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub with coaster brake.

The hub came in two versions. The more common one had only the three-speed function with no coaster brake. Bikes with this version had hand brakes on both wheels. The much-less-common version had the three speeds and also a coaster brake! I had a secondhand Dunelt bike with this hub. This Rollfast apparently has this second type.

The S-A coaster brake was not nearly as effective as the single-speed New Departure coaster brake hub.

Beautiful bike!

And a wonderful image. But I'd much prefer a good, reliable coaster brake!

Emergency stop not an option

Love the photo, and my first bike was very similar (albeit used)! As anyone like me with a modern dual hydraulic disk brake equipped bike will attest, by comparison the function of this cable actuated rear-only internal drum brake is only to slightly slow the bike down. You'd always need a Plan B with these monstrosities - either feet-to-pavement Fred Flintstone style, or just bail out.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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