One of Columbia’s main rivals, the Overman Wheel Co, had cornered the market in spring fork models with their Victor Spring Fork introduced in 1888. Though Columbia brought out their own spring fork design, offered as an option in the 1890s, it was nowhere near as dynamic as the Victor. Overman went out of business in 1900, and in 1903 Columbia re-introduced a spring fork for their Men’s Model 108 and Women’s Model 109. Columbia’s catalogue stated:
“The front fork is especially designed to eliminate jars and jolts and is an invention that will receive a hearty welcome among women cyclists, and by men of considerable avoirdupois * as well as by the general class of riders.”
1903 Columbia Spring Fork Chainless
Model 108 with Nickel Frame
Tall 28″ Frame
Front tyre: Leicester Rubber Co Lands End War Grade
Rear tyre: Dunlop Magnum Cord
What I like most about this state-of-the-art machine from 1903 is how understated it is: the innovative features blend in so as to be almost unnoticeable. Yet it flowed along “eliminating jolts and jars” in its stride to provide what was one of America’s most luxurious bicycle rides of the day.
In December, 1903, Orville Wright made the first successful aircraft flight and motorcycles and automobiles were already appearing on the roads. Within just a few years, they would make the bicycle obsolete as a primary form of independent transportation, and in America such luxury would become unnecessary in a vehicle without an engine.
1903 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
As you can see from Columbia’s declaration below, the company was conscious that the US cycle industry’s reliance on wooden rims and tubeless tyres hampered their export markets. As a result, Columbias sold abroad were fitted with metal westwood rims and normal pneumatic tyres.
LEICESTER RUBBER CO
LAND’S END TYRE
REAR TYRE: DUNLOP MAGNUM CORD
* AVOIRDUPOIS: The avoirdupois system is a measurement system of weights that uses pounds and ounces as units. It was first commonly used in the 13th century AD and was updated in 1959. It became a polite way of suggesting someone was overweight.