Matthew Mansfield is a frequent visitor to Hungerford Arcade and is a very keen collector of bicycles. In fact, he purchased and old bicycle from Arcade co-owner Adrian Gilmour, which you will see below. I asked Matthew, if he would write an article for us which he kindly agreed to do and also gave us some wonderful photographs. I hope you enjoy reading about these lovely old machines.
My fascination with bicycles began in 1975 when my parents gave me a Raleigh Chopper for my 8th Birthday. Freedom at last to travel with no constraints. I remember that I used to ride along a track beside the seafront at Hamble and watched the QE2 as she left Southampton waters. The beach was only a ten minute bike ride away, but an hour on foot.
Fast forward 36 years to 2011 when I visited my first Early Cycling Auction, the Michael Radford collection at Reading. My passion for cycling was reignited as I viewed the bikes and tricycles from the mid-Victorian time right up to the 1950's - spanning a whole century. At the time, I wanted to buy at least 10 bikes and trikes, but due to constraints on storage space, I settled on a pair of tricycles. A 1920's Abingdon King Dick and a 1950's James Fothergill touring tricycle with cyclo three speed deurralier.
Since then, I have amassed almost 30 bikes and trikes including three butchers bikes, a Japanese racing bike, Hercules Balmoral, Elswick, the inevitale Raleigh "all steel", an RAF base bicycle, BSA's and Raleigh 20's - the ubiquitous shopping bike. The wonderful thing is, they are all usable and practical - in fact, an 80 year old three speed BSA is probably better to ride than most modern bikes. It is more comfortable and easier to ride up hills than your average Mountain Bike or more expensive light weight road bike.
In the two World Wars, bicycles were an important form of transport for all the armies around the world. Even now, the Swiss Army use the "Swiss Army bike" as well as the Swiss Army knife. They are also used by the Police, Paramedics (especially in built-up areas like London), Couriers and even Taxi firms - again, especially in London.
To sum up, the bicycle is the link between the horse and cart and the car. It was here before the motorcycle and has provided cheap and reliable transport for the masses since its invention. In its heyday, the bike was a feat of engineering and design, many being used as advertising gimmicks and fashion statements to this day. Take the Pashley Guvnor - modern take on the 1930's Path Racer. A work of art in its own right, made by a British firm and a lovely bike to ride. What more could you ask for? All this and they keep you fit, are cheap (free) to run and can last forever!