The machine Nicholson rode 100 miles inn 7 hours 1 minute 35 seconds on the Bath Road was one of Tacagni’s Safeties, geared to 60 inches. Consiering it only weighed 27lbs, and was ridden over a lot of rough road at top speed, it proves itself to be one of the fastest and best machines in the market. In the West Road 25 miles ride it did the fifth fastest time, after ‘cropping’ and remounting; so for all-round work and speed there are few to compare tight it.
– Bicycling News, 1887
The company name was Tacagni, Holt & Co, and they built ‘Tac’ high-wheelers and ‘Tac’ safeties at 86 Gresham Road, Brixton, London, described as the ‘Tac Cycle Works.’ By 1889, they had moved to a more prominent location around the corner, at 313 Coldharbour Lane. Their range now included the ‘Tac’ Diamond Safety and ‘Tac’ tricycle.
From 1891, A. Breese joined J. C. P. Tacagni and they offered a wide range of machines, including the ‘Red Cross’ and ‘Tacross.’ The ‘Red Cross’ had an open bottom bracket. They had now relocated to 33 & 34 Great Arthur Street, London. These premises, which they called the ‘Tacross Cycle Works,’ were closer to central London. At the bottom of their catalogue pages, they proclaimed:
REMOVED FROM BRIXTON.
1889 TAC Cross frame Safety Roadster
30″ Wheels with John Bull Tyres
At first I assumed that the design of this cross frame meant it was from the first few years of safety bicycle manufacture. The significant points are that the main tube is unsupported by stays above or below, and it has open steering. By 1888, companies responded to concerns about the weakness of these machines at the front end – hitting even a minor obstacle could result in the bike cracking at or behind the steering head, so they started fitting a stay from the head to the bottom bracket to provide extra rigidity. Later, a top stay was also added, from the head to the top of the seat tube. If you check the 1891 Tac catalogue reproduced below you can see that, by then, this company had introduced these structural remedies, in their Model B and Model A Roadster.
However, after more research, I now believe it to be from 1889 because it has rear dropouts: that method of chain adjustment does not seem to have been used by more than a few companies until 1889 or 1890.
SHORT VIDEO: RIDING THE 1886 TAC CROSS FRAME SAFETY BICYCLE
NEWSPAPER EXTRACTS: 1883 & 1890
I found two references to Tacagni in newspaper archives. Above, is a reference to J.C.P Tacagni in the 1883 Amateur Bicycle Championship. The article below refers to F. Holt leaving the board of the company in 1890.
BATES FARM BLUEBELL WALK
Arlington, E Sussex
We dream of The Bluebell Walk all through the winter. This is one of our ‘serene’ places, though it’s only open for a month or so each year. This year, due to the weather, the bluebells were more than two weeks late, though there was a wonderful display of wood anemones. We returned to enjoy our annual bluebell experience, and I took the Tac Crossframe for a bluebell photoshoot.