Circa dating system
Usually they want me to identify it so they can sell it on ebay.
Luckily, I remembered an old Sufi saying, ‘Only explain things to people in a language they understand.’ So now I answer that such a service, which will obviously increase the value of their unidentified machine, will cost them £50 VAT.
The records of the majority of the smaller companies no longer exist: you’d be surprised how fast the entire history of a company disappears once the factory closes.
There were also a lot of ‘dodgy practices’ within the bicycle trade, with companies regularly liquidating and starting up again and spurious production claims often made for advertising purposes and to inflate a company’s worth. It’s a nightmare trying to make sense of it a hundred years later.
Sometimes the date sold does not reflect when a bicycle was actually manufactured (for example, Dursley Pedersens were very expensive, badly marketed and often took a long time to sell).
Only certain manufacturers’ frame number sequencing is known. Many manufacturers used ‘bought-in’ bikes at different times, ie made by a different company.
The key point here is that the elders who were around while our favourite vintage machines were still on the road are no longer with us, the last of them having passed on in the past thirty years or so.
Now we must depend on those who gleaned that first-hand knowledge from them; these chaps were the ‘youngsters’ then, but now they’re getting older themselves, most in their seventies and eighties.
By joining the V-CC you can access whatever information is available.
My contemporaries and I are in a younger age group – forties to sixties – and we’re busy learning and recording what we can before it’s lost forever.
We study 100-year-old magazines to see when certain new innovations were first reviewed (it helps us date bicycles with similar features), read correspondence of the time to try to understand contemporary views and opinions, research old catalogues, meet fellow enthusiasts, help each other with restorations, ride our old bikes as much as possible, and work with our elders to pick up tips and wisdom.
Thus, for example, an apprentice mechanic was handed down an invaluable unwritten guide to repairing vehicles that could not be learned at college nor from books, because, as well as specific information about various models, it helped a youngster understand the way they were designed and built.
Similarly, to learn about vintage bicycles, we ask questions of our elders in the hobby.