From time immemorial in cycle lore the Rudge has held the premier position as a record breaker, and a winner of world’s championships. Its career in America has been exceptionally brilliant, the cream of the fast men having ever been its riders and this year with the great reduction in weight and the imporovements in model it will keep far ahead of competitors.
– 1893 Rudge sales catalogue: the ‘Rudge Racer’
It’s not often that a 125-year-old lightweight racing bicycle becomes available. The 1893 ‘Rudge Racer’ – also described by the company as the ‘Rudge Racing Safety’ – was a state-of-the-art machine for its year. As a result of public demand to buy a similar Rudge bicycle to those ridden by Charles Terront and other racing champions, the company designed it using features from its competitive racing models. According to the French version the Rudge catalogue, the ‘Model D’ designation appears to be a reference to ‘De course’ or ‘Demi course ou route.’
At 20lbs, it was one of the lightest bicycles on the market.
I weighed this one at 28lbs. I reckon the extra 8lbs weight was mostly in the cushion tyres I’ve used; it would originally have been fitted with pneumatics, but they are no longer available for a 30″ wheel. Also, the catalogue mentions 10 ounce rat trap pedals; however, the pedals shown in the poster and the catalogue illustrations are identical to the heavier rubber block pedals fitted to this Rudge. The catalogue describes a 15 ounce racing saddle too, whereas the 3-spring Wilby on this example weighs a bit more.
The chain tensioner was a new design and the bottom bracket had been redesigned for 1893 …but the defining feature of this lightweight racing bicycle is the 12″ Model D steering head. This open head is reminiscent of the first safety bicycles from 1886-88, and it’s strange that it reappeared in 1893; I assume it helps to reduce the overall weight. It was only used on this model and for this one year as, the following year, Rudge merged with Whitworth to become Rudge-Whitworth. By 1895, the horizontal top tube had become the dominant style, and upsloping top tube models such as this were considered obsolete. Most of these older style Rudges were sold off at discount prices in the Colonies and through Rudge-Whitworth’s Paris office.
This example has been repainted at some time in its life and, apart from a few scratches here and there, is still in good condition. It’s in good mechanical condition too and is ready to ride.
1893 Rudge Racing Safety
Upsloping Top Tube with 12″ Model D Steering Head
30″ Front Wheel. 28″ Rear Wheel
HISTORY of RUDGE CYCLE Co
Daniel Rudge was born in January 1841. After serving with the 38th Regiment of Foot he returned to Wolverhampton and opened a public house called the Tiger Inn in Church Street near to St John’s Church. At the same time an army colleague Henry Clarke started a wheel building business called the Temple Street Wheel Works.
Rudge was a skilled engineer who became interested in bicycles through his friend Walter Phillips who rode bicycles and Henry Clarke who in 1868 began the Cogent Cycle Company.
In 1869 Walter Phillips and George Price became interested in the new cycle industry. Price was primarily interested in the business end of cycle manufacture, whereas Phillips was interested in the actual making of cycles. The two realised that to successfully manufacture cycles they would need a skilled engineer to design and sort out any mechanical problems.
Daniel Rudge was approached about manufacturing a velocipede designed by Phillips. A deal was struck and Rudge was soon producing cycles in a small workshop located at the rear of the Tiger Inn, with Henry Clarke supplying the wheels.
By the end of 1874 Daniel Rudge had manufactured a small number of high bicycles. His first machines were nothing out of the ordinary as they ran on regular plain bearings.
Around this time a Frenchman who had met Henry Clarke during his army service called on him riding a French velocipede. Both Daniel Rudge and Henry Clarke were taken on how the French velocipede ran with ease. They determined to find out the mechanical advantage of the French machine. It is said that that they got the Frenchman drunk. Then dismantled his machine to find that it ran on ball bearings instead of the more traditional plain bearings common on the cycles of the day.
By 1878 Rudge was established as a manufacturer of High quality bicycles. Never satisfied with other makers’ designs and construction Rudge invented numerous innovations. In 1878 Rudge took out British Patent No 526 for his adjustable ball bearings.
Daniel Rudge visited the famous French cyclist Terront in his London hotel while on a visit to England. Rudge proceeded to demonstrate to Terront a set of his patent adjustable ball bearings. Terront was impressed enough to purchase a racing machine built by Rudge. Daniel Rudge also travelled to Paris and Lyons to observe the French cycling scene and to take part in some of the races.
By 1878, the company was based in Bishop Street with 100 employees. Unfortunately, increased company responsibility plus various other cycle activities had a detrimental effect on Rudge’s health. In the early summer of 1880 Daniel Rudge fell ill for the last time and died on 26th June 1880 of cancer at the age of 39.
Rudge cycle sales remained excellent for several months after his death, but there was nobody to run the company. So Walter Phillips helped Rudge’s widow Mary to sell the company to George Woodcock of Coventry. Woodcock thus acquired the famous adjustable ball bearing patent 526 and the services of some of Rudge’s former employees.
He merged the company with The Tangent & Coventry Tricycle Company and in 1885 formed D. Rudge & Co Ltd based in Coventry. It became the Rudge Cycle Co Ltd, Coventry, on 21 October, 1887, a public company with capital of £200,000. Walter Philips was the renowned works manager and Lawson, H. J., the sales manager. Stoddard & Lovering of Boston, Mass. were the US agents.
In May 1891 George Woodcock died. This coincided with a reduction in trade. The company was rescued by the Whitworth Cycle Co. in 1894 to form Rudge Whitworth Ltd.
[text with thanks to Derek Beddows and Ray Miller:http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/Museum/Transport/bicycles/Rudge.htm]