The Columbia Exposition previewed in 1892 and opened fully in 1893.
Also known as the 1893 World’s Fair, the Exposition, in Chicago, celebrated Columbus’s landfall in 1492 (above), where he discovered America …and also Columbia bicycles.
Colonel Pope also celebrated the occasion. Having recently purchased some interesting new patents, the 1893 range of Columbia bicycles made their debut with two particular innovations that seem incredible for their age …an elliptical gear (chainwheel) and a band brake.
1893 Columbia ‘Century’ Model 32
28″ Equal Wheels with Pneumatic Tyres
(Original spec was 28″ rear wheel; 30″ front wheel)
Colonel Pope made a big splash at the 1893 World’s Fair with the state-of-the-art innovations on his latest Columbia ‘Century’ – the Model 32 – which featured both an elliptical chainwheel and a band brake.
This machine was more of a design showpiece than a serious move on the bicycle market, and it was current for this year only.
The ‘elliptical gear,’ as it was described, was supposed to provide extra impetus in the chainwheel’s motion due to its oval shape. The theory was not proven, but it certainly makes an excellent topic of conversation.
This machine is fitted with normal pneumatic tyres, so it’s very easy and comfortable to ride. The original Columbia 28-hole hubs are retained, built into early 1900′s metal 32-hole rims. Original safety bicycle 30″ wheels present so many problems for enthusiasts that using later rims with normal tyres is becoming a more popular option.
This is a 121-year-old fixed-wheel machine that is definitely meant to be ridden.
I like original spec bikes as much as the next man, but I got fed up with having to repair wheels and solid tyres when I use them regularly; I find solid tyres slip too much on a bad surface and cushion tyres are too heavy. And I wanted a low-maintenance ‘jump-on-and-ride’ machine.
So we treated this project as an engineering exercise, upgraded the band brake components to rival modern bike brakes, and designed it specifically for off-road work and long rides.
It rides superbly, you can really throw it around as it is so solidly built (and lightweight for its age) and the band brake is the most efficient I’ve ever used on a pre-1900 bicycle.
This machine is fitted with normal pneumatic tyres, so it’s very easy and comfortable to ride. The original Columbia 28-hole hubs are retained, and we built them into early 1900’s metal 32-hole rims.
Safety bicycle 30″ wheels present so many problems for enthusiasts that using later rims with normal tyres is a very viable option. This was the first time I’d done it, and I’m very pleased with the results.
The other issue we had to solve was the brake. When I got the bike, the only parts of the brake that existed were the handlebar lever and brake drum. It was a surprisingly challenging exercise to make a working band brake from scratch. We created a new linkage using bowden cable rather than rods. The band brake works a lot better than it did in 1893. It feels quite odd riding a 120-year-old bicycle with such good brakes, particularly as the brake is activated by using the unique original brazed-on lever and fitting on the handlebar.
Road racers were traditionally stripped of all extras to make the lightest weight. This machine is thus designed with the exception of its band brake.