1890 Peugeot Crossframe ‘Bicyclette Populaire’

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1890 Peugeot Crossframe ‘Bicyclette Populaire’ Cushion-Tyre Safety Bicycle

Frame number 11333

30″ Wheels

Left-side Chainwheel

Chain Adjustment Mechanism

(Now sold)



When it was introduced in 1888 this was a very modern bicycle with the latest technology. It was still in the Peugeot catalogue in 1894, as Peugeot’s cheapest model. By this time it was very old-fashioned …but still very popular, particularly in rural France.

This wonderful old Peugeot has many interesting features from the earliest years of safety bicycles:

First is its left-side chainwheel: although most companies used right-side chainwheels by the 1890s, dozens of companies initially put the chainwheel on the left, and it was quite common in the 1880s. By 1892 this model had a right-hand chainwheel. The left-hand chainwheel and its frame number denote this machine as an early model.

Centre steering – an externally pivoting steering head – was common on most bicycles between 1888 and 1890.

Cushion tyres – were larger, softer solid tyres on wide rims, rather than thin  narrow hard tyres on narrow rims. Pneumatic tyres were an option by 1890, but they were very expensive, and could even double the purchase price of a bicycle.

30″ wheels – this was the common size at the time. These rims and hubs are the originals; the front wheel has its original spokes, while the rear wheel has been respoked. These wheels and tyres are in excellent condition and ready to ride.

A front brake was optional on safety bicycles, and was often removed to make a bike lighter: remember that with these fixed wheel bicycles it was often necessary to dismount on hills and push, so lightness was a virtue. Peugeot was popular in France because, despite strong competition from British machines, the company was extremely innovative, and its bicycles were very well-built. Peugeot even introduced an optional rod-operated rear brake, one of the first companies to do so.

Note (ie see photos further down the page) that while most front brakes had a solid ‘paddle’ to push against the tyre, the one on the Peugeot pivots.

Chain-tensioner: bottom bracket mounted chain adjusters were fashionable on bicycles between 1887 and 1889. They were derived from tricycle design. This is the type of feature that attracts fellow vintage cycle enthusiasts as soon as they spot it …everyone enjoys examining how it works.

This bicycle is nearly ready for the road: it requires handlebar grips, the Middlemore leather saddle-top securing to the saddle frame, and a general service. One pedal requires replacement rubbers.

The catalogues illustrate this model fitted with mudguards, although, again, the metal mudguards were often removed to make the bike lighter for pushing uphill.





The three catalogue illustrations below are from 1886, 1889 and 1892 respectively.

Observe that the first two have left-side chainwheels like the bicycle featured here.

The first two also have only a lower stay fitted to the crossbar while, by 1892, the crossframe was fitted with an upper stay too.

The 1886 model has a simple steering head like an ordinary (penny farthing).

The 1889 model has centre steering like the bicycle featured here, but its chain adjustment mechanism is different. (It uses the same mechanism fitted to New Rapid Safety Bicycles in 1887 and 1888).

The chain adjustment system fitted to this 1890 Peugeot was retained for the 1892 model too.

By 1893 this crossframe style was outdated. But, as it was still a popular machine, Peugeot reduced its price and continued to market it. They also provided this model to the French Army, renaming it the ‘Militaire’ instead of the ‘Populaire.’

























 This Peugeot crossframe was one of the last bicycles to feature centre steering, ie an external pivoting system.

By 1890, the steering on most bicycles was with ball bearings inside the headstock.

One advantage of the centre steering system is that the bicycle is very easy to dismantle: loosening the top bolt in the centre steering allows the front forks/ handlebar/ front wheel to be removed in one piece. (Note the locking nut to prevent this happening while riding).