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Usually they want me to identify it so they can sell it on ebay.
Luckily, I remembered an old Sufi saying, ‘Only explain things to people in a language they understand.’ So now I answer that such a service, which will obviously increase the value of their unidentified machine, will cost them £50 VAT.
Although we are in the so-called ‘Information Age’ and the internet provides a surplus of it – some of it accurate, much of it misleading – there is nowhere near enough information on vintage bicycles. Sometimes, folks with no experience of the vintage hobby who may have recently unearthed an old bicycle contact me and demand that I immediately tell them what it is, how old it is and what it’s worth.
I try to explain as politely as possible that such a service does not exist, and they are often abusive as a result.
The records of the majority of the smaller companies no longer exist: you’d be surprised how fast the entire history of a company disappears once the factory closes.
There were also a lot of ‘dodgy practices’ within the bicycle trade, with companies regularly liquidating and starting up again and spurious production claims often made for advertising purposes and to inflate a company’s worth. It’s a nightmare trying to make sense of it a hundred years later.
Not only do I have a full-time job (I run my own business restoring and selling vintage vehicles) and am a hands-on parent of a young child, but I spend a minimum 30 hours every week building, updating and maintaining these free websites to help you . Insomnia is my saving grace, otherwise there would be no time for any of this. In the ‘old days’ (a time which seems to have ended in the past twenty five years or so), a youngster became an apprentice in a chosen field and learned its history from the older employees.Thus, for example, an apprentice mechanic was handed down an invaluable unwritten guide to repairing vehicles that could not be learned at college nor from books, because, as well as specific information about various models, it helped a youngster understand the way they were designed and built.Similarly, to learn about vintage bicycles, we ask questions of our elders in the hobby.The ‘R’ bracket was easy to copy, so they introduced this more complex lamp bracket instead.Consult the list below to help remember when these companies were still ‘original’ before being taken over by Raleigh: Humber 1932 Triumph 1932 Rudge-Whitworth 1943 Three Spires 1954 BSA , New Hudson, Sunbeam 1957 Phillips 1960 Hercules 1960 Norman 19 Carlton 1960 RUDGE-WHITWORTH FRAME NUMBER DATING Production has been attributed as follows, with frame numbers as at 31 July each year: 1898, 70,000; 1900, 118,200; 1901, 140,754; 1902, 169,739; 1903, 210,950; 1904, 223,672; 1905, 272,991; 1906, 350,235; 1907, 427,114; 1908, 488,139; 1909, 538,390; 1910, 585,010; 1911, 626,400; 1912, 663,066; 1913, 697,524; 1914, 726,731; 1915, 740,862; 1916, 745,621; 1917, 749,192; 1918, 751,213; 1919, 755,622.