One hundred years ago: Cycles and motors

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 31 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:h

The twenty-first annual exhibition of cycles and cycle accessories is now being held at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington. In spite of the great increase in the use of cycles during the last few years, it cannot be said that any advance in principle, either of material or construction, has been made. Of alloys–mostly of aluminium– a number are now on trial, but none appear to compare with steel in point of intrinsic strength; and of methods of propulsion to replace the chain there is an abundant supply, but the chain works with an economy very nearly approaching the theoretical, and most of the proposed substitutes involve joints or gearing in which the loss from friction is far greater. We had hoped to find some advance in motor cars sufficient to render them fit for rough use in country practice. But as at present made they will, we fear, be apt to prove either too expensive or too complicated for the rough work of general practitioners in country districts. But although we have no intrinsic advance to record, a visit to the show is well worth making. Few people have any idea of the amount of really fine work a modern bicycle requires. Built as it is with the smallest possible margin of safety, it gives an even smaller margin for poor work. As an example of the skill and power required to turn out even such a small part of a machine as the hub, the American Hub machine is perhaps typical. This machine turns and drills from the solid bar, hubs at the rate of fifteen an hour, each one perfect in every detail. To those whose interest in cycling matters is not simply a matter of record breaking, the machinery shown at the Stanley show will be the most interesting feature.

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