Happy Birthday RSA

Ridley Scott Associates was 40 years old last week. It was founded by Geordie Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner, Alien and Gladiator and currently working on ‘Nottingham’, a Robin Hood remake.

Scott’s break into the big time came in 1973 with what became one of the all-time classic TV adverts, a delivery boy freewheeling down a cobbled northern hill.

However, the director’s first film was ‘Boy and Bicycle’ (1965), starring Scott’s father and Tony Scott, his brother. This was shot on a budget of £65 using a 16mm cine-camera, borrowed from the Royal College of Art in London, where Scott was a student.

The film follows a boy as he decides to play truant and visits various locations around a northern seaside town on his bicycle. The film was on YouTube last year but was taken down. However, a short snippet has reappeared:

The full short can be found on the DVD of Scott’s first commercial movie, The Duellists.

The Hovis ad featured the cycling talents of Carl Barlow, then 13, now a 48-year-old fireman.

He said: “It was pure fate that I got the part as the Hovis boy. I was down to the last three, and it turned out that one of the two boys couldn’t ride a bike, and the other wouldn’t cut his hair into the pudding bowl style – it was the Seventies after all. As the only boy who could ride a bike and would cut his hair, I got the part.”

The ad is also famous for its soundtrack. In Britain at least, Dvorak’s ‘New World’ symphony – rearranged for brass – says ‘Hovis’ and ‘good, old, plain Northern values.’

Be warmed by these vintage bike posters

T’other day’s mention of ancient bicycle posters elicited an email from Alan Clarke of Sunrace-Sturmey Archer in the Netherlands. I’ve known Alan for yonks. He was a useful background source during the 2000-1 research into the Sturmey Archer vs Lenark saga.

He reminded me about the utterly fantastic heritage website created by Sunrace-Sturmey Archer.

And Alan also pointed me in the direction of an archive of cycle history posters and pamphlets stored electronically by Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. There are 145 images on there, all clickable to make bigger. The copyright restrictions are tight so I’ll just link to my fave images.

This is an advert for a modern-sounding bicycle brand, Psycho Cycles.

The Triumph Cycles ad from 1934 is for couples. It’s cute.

For the life of me I can’t figure why the Constra saddle of 1898 is no longer commercially available because “Persons who have condemned every other saddle are loud in its praise.”

I know it’s not yet December but here are two festive images. In 1897 the English Illustrated Magazine put a flying cycling female Santa on the cover.

And there’s this cracking Christmas card featuring a middle class Edwardian family going to visit friends on their bikes. You’ve got to love the two fighting boys. The card is entitled ‘A Jovial Christmas’, and there’s a ditty:

No more good old Christmas by the fire
But mount the “bike” with india rubber tyre
Speed swift away our loving friends to greet
And wish them joy and happiness complete

Much better heron v ravenous beastie graphic

When I did this story on an Indian cyclist beating off a ravenous tiger with his trusty bicycle I used a Googled pic from a 1930s ad campaign by Raleigh Africa. This featured a smiling African guy outpacing a lion.

I love these old bike ads. They’re so evocative of why cycling is so great. Well, perhaps besting a chasing predator is not exactly why most people get into cycling but many of the 19th and early 20th Century bicycle ad posters were classics.

In fact, many are genuine ‘works of art’ as they were produced by masters such as the much parodied midget artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. If there’s a demand for such imagery (get commenting below!) I’ll do some scans of the great cycling posters.

In the meantime here’s a poster from Raleigh India which, had I realised I had it last week, would have been a better illustration on the ‘man fights off tiger’ story:

I’ve got tons of archive stuff from the early days of cycling. I’m not a collector as such, it’s just that I’ve been the editor of UK bike trade mags for nigh on twenty years and I’ve acquired bike history bits and bobs along the way. The tiger pic is from a Raleigh Centenary calendar produced in 1987. I’ve also got bound copies of bike trade mags going way back when and daft stuff like Sturmey Archer tankards.

When the famous British company went pop in 2000 I was in at the death throes, reporting on the American business guru who sold the company down the river. These stories – 37 of them! – were carried on a primitive version of BikeBiz.com, often almost in real-time. I vividly remember attending a stormy creditors meeting and then reporting on it seconds afterwards by dictating to a colleague over the phone.

At the time, this sorry saga looked like a typical British industry disaster. As it turned out, Sturmey was bought by Sun-Race of Taiwan and now the product line-up is immensely strong and – shock, horror – the quality control has never been better.

Outpacing a predator on a hub-geared bike would now be so much easier thanks to superior Taiwanese engineering tolerances.

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“Hi mum, I’m at Interbike”

The US trade show has announced the ‘Return of The Media Center’ so those not able to get into the show – the public – will be able to watch footage on a variety of bike industry websites.

The 30-x 40-foot Interbike Media Center with TV studio and working news room is designed to help journalists cover news of the show, which runs from September 24-28 in Las Vegas.

It includes a TV studio interview area for media companies or exhibiting manufacturers interested in conducting, recording or broadcasting news about new products, celebrities, panel discussions, advocacy and so on. Quickrelease.tv will pop up now and again, as will members of The Spokesmen podcast. There will be an Interbike-special recording of the Spokesmen podcast which will Continue reading ““Hi mum, I’m at Interbike””

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