VotW – British Transport Films Bicycle Special

So, our video escapist short this week is from 1955 and follows a British bicycle club on an excursion from London through Rugby and on to Warwick. “Wait a second!” you say. Is that “cyclist” in the title? Like “bicycle”?  Well yes. Yes, it is.  For our video of the week this go ’round I wanted something different. Different and fun. Not only does the video feature bicycles, of course, but over the course of the fifteen-minutes you see lots of cars and steam trains. Steam locomotives were used in Britain far later than they were in the states.

If you can skip over some of the trolls in the comments, and a few bits of foul language, there are some interesting observations on the bikes and on the excursion itself.

Since so many British car companies originally began life as bicycle or motorcycle companies, I think it would be great to see some of the bikes at our British car shows. Not only would they make a nice display, but they would provide a convenient way to get around some of the larger shows.

Rover safety bicycle of 1885
Rover safety bicycle of 1885

How many folks know that Rover, the firm that gave birth to the Land Rover, actually started off as a bicycle company?  To quote Wikipedia (which I love to do) …

The first Rover was a tricycle manufactured by Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry, England, in 1883. The company was founded by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton in 1878. Starley had previously worked with his uncle, James Starley (father of the cycle trade), who began by manufacturing sewing machines and switched to bicycles in 1869.

In the early 1880s, the cycles available were the relatively dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J.K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle—a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high-wheel designs. Cycling Magazine said the Rover had “set the pattern to the world”; the phrase was used in their advertising for many years. Starley’s Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognizably modern bicycle.

The words for “bicycle” in Polish (Rower) and Belarusian (Rovar, Ро́вар) are derived from the name of the company. The word ровер is also used in many parts of Western Ukraine.

In 1889, the company became J.K. Starley & Co. Ltd., and in the late 1890s, the Rover Cycle Company Ltd.



  1. Love those English bikes! Some had Sturmey-Archer hubs, but some had derailleur gears. Anybody else notice the beautiful chromed lugs on that one blue bike (after leaving the pub). Could be a hand made Hetchins, just about the most beautiful (and expensive) bike ever made!

  2. The video is most interesting in a historic sense and certainly appropriate to all things British!

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