1896 Crypto Bantamette

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“…In 1895 it was THE BANTAMETTE: An English adaptation of a front driver for womans use”

– Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, USA, 1895

Despite the demise of the Ordinary (penny farthing) by the early 1890s, in favour of safety bicycles that were so much easier to use, one model of ‘front driver’ remained, the Crypto Bantam. Its unique hub gear allowed a smaller driving wheel to be used, so it could also be considered a ‘safety’ bicycle.

However, the freewheel hub was introduced in 1898, with coaster brakes, rim brakes and rear hub gears following soon after. By 1900, the bicycle had evolved to the stage of refinement we recognize today. The front driver could not compete with a lightweight freewheel bicycle with half inch pitch chain and rim brakes and it became obsolete overnight. Crypto Works Co Ltd gave up on front drivers and advertised safety bicycles instead.


1896 Crypto Bantamette

The Ladies’ model of Crypto Bantam …one of only two surviving examples!

Front wheel 20″

Rear wheel 18″

Frame No 7512

(Now sold)

There is only one other surviving Bantamette known to the Veteran Cycle Club. As well as being a very rare bicycle, I think you’d agree that it’s also rather charming …a Crypto Bantam bicycle that was made for ladies.

‘Women’ or ‘Ladies’? The term ‘Ladies’ was always used in British bicycle catalogues in Victorian terms, as was ‘Gentlemen’ or ‘Gents’ for males’ bicycles. At first, bicycles were not considered a gentlemanly pursuit, and it took even longer for conservative society to get used to women riding bicycles. (Even when they did, there was debate for several decades regarding female riding costume).

So cycle manufacturers conferred these titles on their bicycles to make them more prestigious. The ‘Golden Sunbeam for Ladies’, for example, gives it extra cachet.

Of course, it also reflects the fact that only the aristocracy could afford to buy a bicycle from the quality manufacturers. British bicycles were the most expensive in the world. The basic model of Bantamette cost £19 in 1896, which is the equivalent of £2,584 in 2021.

This example is in lovely condition all round. The upswept nickel handlebars are very attractive, and this is the first time I’ve seen skirtguards on both the front and rear mudguard on a bicycle. It’s a dinky little thing …to fully appreciate its size you can see it parked facing the Gents’ Crypto Bantam (towards the bottom of the page). The previous owner campaigned it regularly in various locations around the world and it’s now ready for a new owner to cherish and ride.







































1895 CRYPTO FD No 3