Antique Fetish

image from collectvelo

For those who like vintage bicycles, just how far back do you go? For me, bicycles from the 1900s to the 1930s (like the 1900s Elvish above) are absolute eye candy, and while I would not use them as commuters, I can spend hours sighing over their beauty. So I wanted to share some of my favourite photos of antique bicycle components. With their gorgeous forms and elaborate engravings, these seem especially appropriate during the holiday season.

image from radlmax

Antique bicycle lights. These are candle lights! I understand that oil lamps were also used. Say what you will about modern LEDs and dynamo lighting, but these antique lamps were works of art.

image from Corey K.

Wooden (?) grip with etched silver detailing and matching bell from a 1897 bicycle. I have always wondered about wooden grips, and these are the nicest I have seen by far.

image from the Bicycle Bell Museum

A Dutch bicycle bell from the early 1900s, manufacturer unknown. I am not certin, but this looks like sterling silver? So gorgeous I want to cry!

from the collection of radlmax

Probably the most beautiful fork crown and brake combo I have seen. This is from a 1925 Styriarad, made in Graz, Austria.

from the collection of rebalrid

Could this 1900 Gough & Co. saddle be one of the earliest predecessors to my Brooks B18 "Lady"?

These early Soviet crochet dressguards must have been breath-taking in their original state. This would be my ideal dressguard, if only I had the time and skill to replicate it.

from the collection of adl2k

Gorgeous chain case on a Hawthorne Flyer bicycle.

image from huubvanhughten

And of course, the beautiful vintage Gazelle chainwheel, featuring actual leaping gazelles. This has got to be the cutest chainwheel ever made - just look at the little tail and antlers! With its resemblance to a reindeer, this could even double as a holiday ornament. Anybody using bicycle components to decorate their home for the holidays?


  1. I agree, Gazelle made the best chainrings. Older Raleigh chainrings were pretty nice as well. I love that bell too.

    I think as time has moved on, aesthetic appreciation for manufactured objects in general has gone way down, and this is one of the major reasons I prefer to have older furniture, books, kitchen utensils and pots and pans, bicycles, etc. They were just made with an entirely different appreciation for the aesthetic value of an object. These days it seems like the highest "value" placed on an object is its price, and therefore the lower the better. That means we get the simplest, most utilitarian, plainest, most boring objects that are simply made to do their job to the minimum capacity necessary.

    I would personally rather pay much more for something that does its job well, and that shows that the person who made it cared about it, because it is clearly made to be enjoyed, not just used.

  2. Portlandize - I agree, plus there is a "quantity over quality" bias in today's society. For instance: women are pressured into buying 5 cheap acrylic sweaters in different colours rather than 1 high-quality cashmere sweater in a classic colour, because it is unacceptable to wear the same sweater to work more than once a week. It is similarly unacceptable in many social circles to not re-decorate or update your house with new furniture, trinkets, upholstery, etc., every year or two. Therefore people buy what is cheaper, as they know they will need replacements anyway even if the objects do last more than a couple of years. What is the point of seeking quality bespoke items, when variety and newness have greater value?

  3. I may be mirroring things I have said in the past; but, though I do certainly buy "new" items, I am certainly a proponent of quality over quantity. I am not really concerned with price -- because whether I spend a lot or a little on an item, I want it to be well constructed/built/fabricated (whatever!) and the fact that the current step of technology has pretty much eliminated the concept of user-serviceability in favor of disposability is really sad in my eyes.

    So many clothes are made with such inferior cloth it makes mending near worthless, TVs and phones (as well as most, if not all, consumer electronics) have been relegated to the realm of the ultimately disposable... A good camera, TV, or even car could last decades or longer, and actually be worth repairing if it were to break or need repair; nowadays it's rampant planned obsolescence... and don't get me started on most (though not all) new bikes... as much as I love my new MTB, it is sort of sad that it's "mass-produced".

    I have a stereo from 1976 which sounds at least as good as any modern stereo, "vintage" or hand-built furniture, and when I buy clothing I like to spend a little more and get a quality item in a classic and lasting style... I hate just throwing things away~ AND I've avoided being a pack-rat, surprisingly ;)

  4. What is even wierder is that custom-made stuff is "worth" less than factory stuff. Get this: because people are used to trading out and selling off every few years, a factory named item has more trade in value, because of the known name, than a higher quality custom-made item by an unknown name. This is exactly the case with custom guitars.

  5. The less stitches the more riches. Take your Soma, shut up and be grateful.

  6. "shut up and be grateful"

    That's the spirit!
    (Are you getting one of us a Soma? I must have missed something.)

  7. Soma annoys me. They keep making very nearly the bike I want and then throwing in some "feature" I refuse to have.

  8. the lack of lugs on the Buena Vista mixte.

  9. About your last remark:

    It's not a holiday decoration, but my better half built me a clock for my birthday made from an old chainring. I enjoy analogue clocks and this one's most interesting feature is that it divides the hour into 5 12-minute intervals (the five bolts of the chainring) rather than the usual 12 or 4 divisions.

  10. I don't think kfg is talking about bicycles.

    From Wikipedia:

    "In Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, soma is a popular dream-inducing drug. It provides an easy escape from the hassles of daily life and is employed by the government as a method of control through pleasure."

  11. Anon. - Oh man, I missed that one! I guess I only have one thing on my mind.

    Nick - That sounds very cool!

  12. When the TV version staring Peter Gallagher was broadcast it was sponsored by - Zoloft.

    I almost had a coniption fit induced by irony overdose.

  13. "This is exactly the case with custom guitars."

    Another custom guitar-maker just raised his head and nodded in agreement...

    Really beautiful stuff, Filigree. Did I ever link to the pics I have of an 1897 US loop frame bike? One of the folks on the Classic & Antique Bicycle Exchange owns it, and rides it on nice summer days. Talk about stunning attention to detail.


  14. wow - breathtakingly beautiful! thanks for finding & sharing there. i think the bell may be my favorite, but it is so hard to chose...

  15. I would do *anything* to "spend any evening" with that bike.

  16. Absolutely lovely components there Filigree, and so close to Christmas the inclusion of the "Elvish" is so appropriate! That bicycle bell is simply beautiful, and that fork crown is sublime. I do love the concept of an entire museum devoted to bicycle bells! Especially if they are as delightfully designed as that one.

    I'm into quality over quantity too. I'm rather tired of our 'disposable' society, and the consumerism that's now rampant all year and not just at Christmas. If something works well and fulfils your need, do you need to replace it just because there's a newer model out? Viz, televisions, cameras, phones etc. It's annoying that it's cheaper in many cases to buy a new one, and consign the old to landfill, rather than get it fixed.

    I'm so glad there are people out there who see the value of quality, and have hung on to some beautiful old bikes and components. Thanks Filigree for hunting them down and sharing them!

  17. I've really enjoyed spending an hour or so reading through this excellent and interesting blog. Thanks for sharing and please keep posting.

    Also have returned to cycling after many years; the last few months spent restoring a BSA roadster have finally paid off as I'm now on the road

  18. I was at a fashion show with a more-dollars-than-sense attorney friend and she explained to me in all seriousness that she has to buy clothes with "good" labels because otherwise she can't know that a garment is "quality". This seamstress almost fell off her chair, but managed to smile and nod and agree with her.


  19. Corey K - Wow, thank you for linking those photos!- I reposted one here linking it back to your photo site. The wooden grips with etched silver detailing are amazing, and of course the bell and the crochet dressguards. Beautiful, just beautiful - and I am happy to hear that somebody actually rides it! My experience with guitars is very limited and very far from custom; In high school I had a Gibson Epiphone acoustic, but never did learn how to play properly.

    Carinthia - Oh funny, the "elvish" connexion did not occur to me either. Between that and the Huxley reference, I must be really off my game these days!

    Thanks Chas, and that's a very nice BSA roadster!

  20. Hi're welcome for the link. I think this particular bike is prettier than even the red Tiffany bicycle I've also found on the 'net.
    I am not sure if those grips are a tight burl- wood, or very fine cork that has been varnished. The fenders , chainguard, and rims(!) are wood, though.
    The silver (or nickel-silver, not sure which) is just lovely, too. I have a design & illustration degree, and the decorative work of the 1890s-1920s has always been a particular favorite.
    If anyone ever discovers bicycle components designed by Alphonse Mucha, I'm lost.

    Another cool thing about that bike is that the chain guard, fenders, and rims are all wood.

    Corey K

  21. I particularly like these old chainwheels. Simple gorgeous.
    Btw, I still see people in Austria riding these old Waffenrad bikes with the stamp brakes (that's probably not the proper English word for it -- just the ones pressing from top onto the tire, I mean). So cool!

  22. anna - You've seen people in Vienna riding those? Wow, I never saw any. Please take a photo next time if you see one parked! BTW, speaking of Waffenrad, have you seen this website?

  23. Nostalgia is not what is was,but it soon will be.Found this fantastic blog whilst riding round the net.Well how else would a cyclist travel.

  24. So, you like chainrings, eh? You probably need to look over here: Scroll way down for the really good stuff. Val

  25. Hi Filigree and everyone else!Great blog-I really love it!I´m from germany so my english is probably not the best but I thing in some way you can understand me;-)
    I just found a very interesting homepage:
    There is this guy from Berlin who is not only collecting and restaurating very old and special bikes-he also sells them and original old equipment.You can also rent a beautiful bike or swop it if you have one:-)
    I think this site is unique and fantastic because only someone who loves old bicycles from the heart will take that much affort for it.
    I just wanted to show you-if you ever come to Europe you probably should stop by in Berlin if you love antique bikes!I´m going to visit this shop as soon as possible!
    Greetings from germany:-)


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