1890 Crossframe with Front Suspension and Integral Steering
By 1890, the original style of crossframe, which had been the first design of ‘safety bicycle,’ was facing serious challenges from other cycle designs. It was all about frame strength: each year after Premier’s original 1886 crossframe, which had a steering head the same as ordinaries (penny farthings), designers added additional stays to support the frames. As the frames were heavy, the steering head was the weakest point and they were prone to snap.
Rover’s frame design, which was much stronger, had proven very durable. Several other companies employed this style of frame, and this provided major competition to the crossframe. Diamond frames were now making an appearance too; they, of course, were to become the dominant style, causing the obsolescence of the crossframe within a few more years.
This crossframe is interesting because of several innovations. The spring suspension on the front fork became popular around 1890; it’s an interesting idea, although it does not add much extra suspension to a bike. But the most interesting point is that it does not have the old type of steering head. Tower Cycle Co, in the advert above, describe it as ‘neck steering.’ The steering is integral, with the forks inside the headstock …the design that remains to this day. This would have been one of the first bicycles to incorporate this major advance in cycle engineering. It allowed for more lightweight tubing to be used in the frame – remember that old safety bicycles were pushed uphill, and lighter machines were at a premium. The wheels are also of narrow diameter, making them lightweight too, allowing extra speed.
While other companies were simply using up their old, unsold, obsolete stock of crossframes by the final decade of the nineteenth century, this manufacturer was incorporating exciting new features into their machine. Within a year, diamond frames totally predominated the market. So it’s unlikely that many of this model were made, which makes it rare today: it’s the most up-to-date of all the early crossframe designs I have seen. It has been totally restored, and is in good order and ready to ride.