Yesterday I visited Kipling Gardens in Rottingdean with this 1899 Quadrant Chainless Light Roadster. The sun was shining, birds chattering and The Flowers were already being summoned by Rudyard: “Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again” was a well-known line in 1899.
Kipling was a keen cyclist. He wrote ‘Captains Courageous’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ while living in Vermont, USA. After his brother-in-law Beatty Balestier forced Kipling’s bicycle off the road with his carriage, Kipling returned to England in 1896 to avoid the embarrassment of a high-profile trial. He moved to Rottingdean the following year.
Because vehicles and machinery featured strongly in his early writings, at a time when they were still considered novelties, Kipling became an unofficial ‘poet laureate of engineers.’ His story entitled ‘.007’ was about railway trains that had personalities and spoke. Not everyone liked this new idea: according to a contemporary reviewer in MacMillan magazine:
“Here all Mr. Kipling’s mania break loose all at once—there is the madness of American slang, the madness of technical jargon, and the madness of believing that silly talk, mostly consisting of moral truisms, is amusing because you put it into the mouths of machines…. It is no doubt true that machines have their idiosyncrasies, their personalities even; a bicycle can be nearly as annoying as a horse. For once in a way it may be good fun to push the fancy a little farther and attribute to them sentient life, but Mr. Kipling has overdone the thing.”
Lloyd’s Cross Roller was the only chainless (shaft-drive) gear made in Britain. Such marvels of engineering were popular in the late Victorian era and would have been particularly appreciated by Mr Kipling. Poets and writers were the celebrities of the day and though their commentaries on issues of the era may appear outdated 120 years later, they provide a valuable insight into the time when our bicycles were first ridden.
1899 Quadrant Chainless Light Roadster
Lloyds Cross Roller Gear
Bowden front rim brake
Quadrant Patent Back-Pedalling Brake
A.E Wilby saddle
Frame No 63870
This rare British-made chainless bicycle is in excellent condition all round, and ready to ride.
Founded in 1883, the Quadrant Cycle Co was renowned for the quality of their workmanship and was one of the world’s leading manufacturer of tricycles. They introduced many patents for new innovations in both tricycles and bicycles.
Lloyd’s cross roller gear was patented by W and J Lloyd and W Priest in 1897. Unlike the bevel gear system used in France (Acatene) and America (Columbia), the Lloyd Cross Roller uses spin rollers throughout the drive system. Although Quadrant promoted the Chainless bicycle in Great Britain, it failed to catch on here, and very few Quadrant Chainless machines survive.
They have become an essential exhibit for the country’s top museums: the Science Museum, Coventry Transport Museum, Hull Street Life Museum and Oxford Bus Museum each have an example on display. It is not known how many others are in private collections.
LLOYD’S CROSS ROLLER GEAR
BOWDEN FRONT RIM BRAKE & QUADRANT BACK-PEDALLING BAND BRAKE
As you can see above, a free wheel hub was also mentioned in the catalogue illustration caption – freewheels had only just been introduced (1898) so for the following few years it was an additional selling point.
Sunbeam, Humber, Triumph, Eadie (Royal Enfield) and Quadrant introduced their own patent band brake designs from 1898 onwards. Band brakes are very efficient, though a minor disadvantage is that you can not roll the bicycle backwards because the rear wheel locks up.
With the introduction of freewheel hubs, brakes became more important, and there was added incentive to devlop efficient braking systems after the turn of the century as ‘motor bicycles’ started to hit the road. Bowden cable came onto the market in 1899, greatly accelerating the evolution of brakes. Over the next few years the rim brake became the industry standard, with coaster brakes the second most popular option.
1901 QUADRANT CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
[‘The Flowers’ by Rudyard Kipling was first published in the London ‘Daily Chronicle’ on 16 June, 1896]