Bicycles

Although each of bicycles, motorcycles and cars are grouped in separate sections, as subjects they are so interlinked that they must be considered together, as most of the major car makers of the 1930’s had started by making bicycles and motor cycles.

Wheeled vehicles had been in existence for centuries but it was not until the early 19th century, in France, that the first two-wheeled machine was made which enabled a rider to propel himself along using his feet on the ground. This Hobby horse developed into the Boneshaker by the 1850’s this machine having pedals on the front wheels. At this time in Coventry the sewing machine industry that had taken on many of the starving ribbon and silk workers, put out of employment by cheap French imports was itself in crisis due to the import of American sewing machines. In 1868 the Coventry Sewing Machine Company was asked by its agent in Paris to help with an order for Boneshakers for sale in France and was happy to oblige. Before long the works foreman James Starley incorporated many improvements. Eventually the Safety Cycle evolved basically to the design still in existence today. This meant that individuals could travel far greater distances under their own power than they could ever have achieved on foot. To enable even greater distances and more speed to be achieved with less physical effort, a petrol engine was soon added and later the vehicle was increased in size with four wheels to give full weather protection for two or more people. So from a very humble beginning a whole new industry came to Coventry.