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Tyres & Fittings: 1910

Tyres & Fittings: 1910

1910. "Cycle shop interior. Christchurch, New Zealand." B.S.A. stood for Birmingham Small Arms. Photo by Steffano Francis Webb. View full size.


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British Standard Whitworth

Papa Bear's mention of BSW wrenches reminded me of this piece on Joseph Whitworth.

Seat and handlebar tubes

mailman7etc. It would appear that the forward-facing tube under the seat is the mount for the saddle. The rear-facing tube under the handlebar allowed the handlebar to be slid closer or further away, held in place by a clamp.

Bike tube

The bike on the left, and a few others have a tube sticking out from under the seat, facing forward. There is another tube facing back from the handlebars. Anyone know what they were for?


Agree with Papa Bear, Brit bicycles, motorcycles and cars used a bolting system called "British Standard Whitworth". It differs from the US system in several ways, BSW wrenches are labeled for the size of the bolt instead of the US system of labeling the size of the the nut hex. And common bolt sizes 1/4" to 1/2" used the same 26 threads per inch, instead of the US system of varying the TPI with bolt size. The angle of the threads was unique as well, 55 deg. instead of 60 deg. (from memory).

In other words, almost nothing standard in the US fit Limey bikes!

The Brits eventually sold out to a metric way of life, thankfully!


Looks like lots of Brooks leather saddles on the bikes. Still available. I have one on my road bike. Kinda hard on the tush until they get a little broken in, but then they are the best!

Rod brakes

Vintagetvs is correct that all of the bikes here with front brakes use "rod brakes". When the brake lever is squeezed a rod and pivot system, instead of a Bowden cable, lifts the brake pads upward against the inside of the rim. These were once very common and are still widely used in various (mostly less developed) parts of the world. They are relatively rugged, and easy to maintain and repair with simple tools.

The coaster brake was only about 10 years old at the time of this picture. I don't know how long it took for the coaster brake to become commonly used, but since it would be very much more expensive to produce I suspect it remained an expensive option for quite a while. Epicyclic hub gear systems are a little older than coaster brakes, and truly functional derailleur systems are about 25 years later than this photo.

Carbide Lamps

There is a nice selection of carbide lamps (and bicycle bells) on the stand on top of the right side of the counter, and kerosene lamps on the floor stand to the left. Calcium carbide was placed in a lower chamber of the lamp, and above it was a reservoir of water. When a valve was opened it dripped water on the carbide, which produced acetylene gas. Some of these lights may also have operated on kerosene or gas. You can see other examples here.

I Wish

I could get "DREADNOUGHT TYRES" for my 4WD truck. With big white letters on the side.

Cars too!

BSA also made cars.

Brakes were a rarity

A few of these bikes have front caliper brakes; none of them have coaster brakes. They all appear to be fixed gear bikes. Curiously, this 100-year-old-style is all the rage these days.


Would they offer to 'buy back your National Cash Register checks'? For money or merchandise?

Bluemel parts

I took notice of the little card hanging on the wall just above and left of the cash register, holding what looks to be several horizontal pencils. The top says BLUEMEL with the "E" appearing to be a different color. Vintage bicycle experts are probably familiar with the brand name Bluemel Bros. Did a little searching and found it was a company in England that made bicycle and motorcycle accessories. One of the Bluemels came to the USA in 1906 and became a founding father of speech pathology on stuttering and stammering.
Found this website on the bicycle part of the family, started in 1860.

Interesting brake system.

It appears the brake pads pull upward against the inside of the rim, somewhat like a drum brake, rather than squeezing it disc brake style like modern bikes do.

BSA Lightning Rocket

I rode a 1965 BSA Lightning Rocket and BSA meant BSW wrenches for their fittings

Clip your pants leg

Pants leg clips were used to keep the pants leg out of the chain. These are still available, and cheap; Google "bicycle pants leg clips".

Wheels of Empire

Thank you for publishing these New Zealand images. This one is particularly fascinating. As a boy in 1970s Britain I rode a B.S.A. bicycle myself. The shop is also advertising Eadie brand bicycles, taken over by B.S.A. in 1907. These had originally been made by Royal Enfield: 'built like a gun, goes like a bullet'. The brand names are wonderful: Britannia Tyres, Dreadnought Tyres ... tyres were clearly a seriously patriotic business in the British Empire c.1910.

Other BSA products

BSA also made motorcycles, and as the name implies, was a major producer of the No.1 Mk III Enfield rifle, standard British Army rifle of World War 1.

No chain guards

Which makes it very hazardous to ride if wearing long pants since they often got caught between the chain and sprocket and when this happened your leg was pulled down as the sprocket turned. The usual result was falling off the bike. I hope they were sold separately.


I had no idea frame pumps were around so early.

I like the two bikes in the foreground that have the skirt nets. I'm happy that in the Twin Cities of MN area these are once again on bikes because more people are riding non-athletically, dressed to go out.


A National Cash Register from here in Ohio, even in New Zealand.

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