In Search of Le Petit Bi (updated 2015-05-26)

An article by Tony Hadland from The Boneshaker, Winter 1988

In 1980 I published the first edition of my book The Moulton Bicycle. As a result I received many letters about Moultons and related subjects. One of the most interesting came from a Mr John A. Twelves.

He referred me to an article in Signal!, a wartime pictorial magazine published in occupied Europe by the Third Reich. (Mr Twelves had found the article in Signal!; Hitler’s Wartime Picture Magazine, edited by S.L. Mayer, Bison Books, 1976). The article, entitled ‘Paris on Wheels’, contained a photograph of a bespectacled gentleman wearing a hat and smoking a pipe; in the background was the hazy outline of what appeared to be the Arc de Triomphe. Nothing too special about that, except that the gentleman was riding an extraordinarily modern looking small-wheeled bicycle.

Le Petit Bi being ridden by Sartre
The cycling professor, who turned out to be no less a personage than the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. This is a superior copy of the same photo that appeared in Signal!

The caption read:

“A cycling professor. This practical construction is easier to propel than an ordinary cycle but one needs a certain amount of nonchalance in order to appear with it on the street.”

The bicycle had very small wheels of about 16″ diameter, hub brakes, a rim dynamo on the front fork (complete with ‘curly’ telephone-type cable to the headlamp) and derailleur gears. The chainwheel was a Williams pattern (or similar), closely resembling the type used on the mass-produced Moultons of the 1960s and made at various times by Nicklin, T.D. Cross and Raleigh. The frame was fully triangulated but very low slung, with the seat tube near vertical, its base being about 9″ behind the bottom bracket. The seat pillar was very long and cantilevered, similar in length to that used on the present-day Bickerton. The handlebars were also somewhat reminiscent of the Bickerton, but more closely resembled those of the 1970 Raleigh Chopper ‘fun’ cycle. The front fork was considerably offset, the ‘rake’ being about 3″. The ensemble was completed by a pannier carrier, complete with bags.

Tony Hadland on Le Petit Bi at a Benson rally in the 1980s
Tony Hadland on Le Petit Bi at a Benson rally in the 1980s

Was this strangely elegant French machine the first small-wheeled bicycle?  It certainly pre-dated the Moulton by some 20 years.

Alex Moulton does not claim to have been the first bicycle designer ever to use small wheels.  However, his technically advanced design, launched in 1963, inadvertently created the small-wheeler boom of the mid 1960s. The tail-end of that boom lingers on today in the form of the technically inferior but cheaply produced 20″ wheel shopping and folding bicycles. This has been a cause of some dismay to Moulton, who set out to build bicycles that were better to ride, not cheaper to make.

Quite apart from the mysterious Parisian machine, there were small-wheeled bicycles long before the Moulton – although none had anything like the same impact on the world of cycling. If one defines a small-wheeler as a bicycle with both wheels smaller than 26″, some of the last of the front drivers were in this class. For example, one of the Bantams of the mid 1890s had equal-sized 24″ wheels.

The Boneshaker Volume 11, No. 99 (Spring 1982) contained a photograph of the Sharrow C.C., apparently taken about 1900, one of whose members was astride a bicycle with ballon-tyred disc wheels of about 16″ diameter. The machine looked like nothing more than a conventional safety bicycle built to take wheelbarrow wheels!

Bartleet’s Bicycle Book (first published in 1931) contained a photograph of an open-framed small-wheeler with “cow horn” handlebars, which Bartleet contemptuously referred to as ‘The Freak’. It weighed 27 lb and had 20 x 1 ¾” wheels. It was given to Bartleet by the widow of Mr P.M. Browne of Chater Lea Limited but the date of manufacture, identity of the designer and maker’s name are unknown. However, it may have been influenced by developments on the Continent during the 1920s.

Readers of the then Southern Veteran-Cycle Club’s News & Views No. 204 (April/May 1988) will have seen the note on Paul de Vivie (‘Velocio’), the ‘father’ of French cycle touring. A photograph was reproduced from his Obituary in the April 1930 CTC Gazette which showed him with what N&V’s editor described as “a remarkably modern looking small-wheeled bicycle”. The machine in question certainly had small wheels (of about the same format as Bartleet’s ‘Freak’) but otherwise merely resembled a conventional ladies bicycle with derailleur gears.

Before and during World War 2, the letters pages of the cycling press occasionally raised the possibility of using smaller wheels. Henry L.G. Heath of Reading, in Cycling, 18th February 1942, pleaded for more research into 24″ wheels with “light and lively” 1 7/8″ to 2″ wide tyres. He added:

“Small wheels and bulgy tyres have been tried by the late ‘Kuklos’, who rode them in Sweden, I believe, and he praised their behaviour. A Mr Clutterbuck, who was the CTC Consul for Sussex, I believe, had several bicycles and a tandem fitted with this ‘attire’, and in the cycling Press a few years ago he grew almost lyrical over the speed, comfort and handiness of his machines …”

So, it can be said with certainty that the mysterious French bicycle was by no means the first small-wheeler. Nonetheless, I was keen to find out more about the machine. Consequently I made an appeal via N&V for more information. Surely someone in the then Southern Veteran-Cycle Club had further information?  Alas, I did not receive a single reply.

A chance discovery

However, a year or two later, whilst entering Herne Hill Stadium for the Club’s annual Family Fun Day, I had a pleasant surprise. There was the mysterious French small-wheeler being ridden around by a young boy. It transpired that the machine belonged to Bill Whyte, who is a V-CC member living in Harrow. He had bought the machine after seeing it advertised in N&V.

The vendor, who was not a member of the Club, lived in the Wembley area.  It appears that a relative of the vendor had worked in France for many years. The bicycle, which folded for easy storage, was kept in the office as emergency transport. On the death of the relative, the bicycle was brought to England, along with his other personal effects.

Subsequently, at a Benson Rally, I again met Bill Whyte and his rare French small-wheeler.  My brother-in-law, Roger Jeffree, was with me and took the photographs which illustrate this article.

Unfortunately, Bill knew nothing about the design history of the bicycle, nor even its brand name. However, it was a delight to be able to inspect the machine, which still had what appeared to be its original, though well worn, 400A Dunlop ‘Cord Ballon’ tyres. The apparently lugless frame construction was beautifully executed and the bike was complete, apart from a missing front mudguard. It had a Pelissier three speed derailleur but, unlike the bicycle in the Signal! photograph, side-pull calliper brakes and a radially spoked front wheel.

Bill Whyte demonstrated how the seat tube slid through the frame, and the handlebars folded down, to make a neat package which would stand on end; the back of the integral pannier carrier being fitted with rubber buffers for this purpose.

Bill Whyte folding le Petit Bi
Bill Whyte folding le Petit Bi

A wartime test report

Some time later, John Pinkerton found a reference to the elusive machine in a wartime copy of Cycling. In due course loan of the requisite volume was arranged with V-CC librarian, Bob French. The 4th February 1942 edition of Cycling revealed all – or so it seemed at the time.

The editorial commenced thus:

“Those pioneers of the lightweight era in cycle construction who, 15 or 20 years ago, had for their slogan, ‘As little bicycle as possible’, will perhaps see something of their ideal in ‘Le Petit Bi,’ which the Assistant Editor of Cycling test-reports in this issue.”

Although expressing certain reservations, he felt that, if such machines became popular after the war, it could benefit cycling. He concluded:

“This way, perhaps, more utility cyclists will graduate to the comfort and efficiency of the orthodox lightweight than was the case from the lifeless lumps of steel that gave the label of ‘hard work’ to cycle transport after the last war.”

(Interestingly, this is what did happen to some extent after the small-wheel boom of the mid 1960s.)

The test report of Assistant Editor Alex A. Josey occupied a two page spread. It revealed that ‘Le Petit Bi’ (The Little Bike) was first produced towards the end of 1938 by a Frenchman, “now in this country”.  He was named as L.S. Armandias and his full address was also printed. It was in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire.

The machine Alex Josey tested was similar to that shown in the Signal! photograph, except that it was fitted with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub gear. He listed the claimed advantages of Le Petit Bi:

“1. The Petit Bi stands upright on its carrier with the saddle retracted and handlebars folded. It can thus be stored in a cupboard or wardrobe and carried about as one’s personal luggage. A cloth cover with zipp fastener is supplied which turns the machine into a suitcase.
2. It is suitable for adults of both sexes and children as well, because the saddle pillar can be easily adjusted.
3. The Petit Bi is lighter than the ordinary bicycle.
4. The small wheels are an advantage. They resist buckling better. They are easier to rotate.
5. The machine is less cumbersome than an ordinary bicycle.
6. The peace-time price of this machine was £9. Tandems cost £14 5s.”

Alex Josey reported that the machine was easy to ride, balance and steer. However, he did not think that the steel-framed example he rode was significantly lighter than a conventional machine, nor much easier to carry. He pointed out, though, that a significantly lighter alloy version had gone into production shortly before the war broke out.

Josey criticised the lack of handlebar adjustment and was certain that Le Petit Bi was “not a serious challenger to the ordinary bicycle for normal sporting purposes”. But he thought that, for utility riders, the machine might have considerable appeal, especially as it “had the added attraction of being suitable for every member of the family to use”.

Le Petit Bi seems to have captured the imagination of some Cycling readers, as the letters pages of the 18th February and 25th February both carried correspondence on the subject.

Folding handlebars of Le Petit Bi
Folding handlebars of Le Petit Bi

Tracing the inventor

Several years passed without me getting any further down the trail of Le Petit Bi. Writing The Sturmey-Archer Story editing the quarterly Moultoneer and other commitments meant that there just were not enough hours in the day.

Recently, however, I decided to try to trace Mr Armandias, the Frenchman described by Cycling 46 years previously as the inventor of Le Petit Bi. It was just possible that he had stayed in England after the war, although, if still alive, he would be quite old by now.

A bit of detective work revealed that Louis S.M. Armandias was indeed alive, aged 81, and living very close to his wartime address in Buckinghamshire. However, when we finally got to speak on the telephone he expressed himselt quite mystified. He had, he told me, lived an unusually full and active life, and considered that he had a good memory; but he had no recollection whatsoever of Le Petit Bi, let alone inventing it!

I sent him photocopies of Cycling’s wartime test-report and he sent me some fascinating papers on his life and career. It transpired that his family has lived on both sides of the English Channel for decades. He has dual nationality and is completely bilingual. During the war he worked on the development and manufacture of the undercarriage for the Halifax bomber. He it was who introduced from France the high pressure (4000 psi) Messier hydraulic system which it used.

In the early part of the war Louis Armandias started Rubery Owen Messier Limited as its Technical Director. Later he had two completely separate identities: one as a flying course instructor for The Bristol Aeroplane Company Limited (where he met Alex Moulton, personal assistant to the Chief Engineer); the other as a Captain in Army Intelligence where, no doubt, his dual national background and perfect French were put to good effect. In 1944 he became involved with the early military use of helicopters; he was granted helicopter licence no. 5 in Britain and no. 3 in France.

After the war he returned to undercarriage design and manufacture, becoming co-founder of British Messier Limited. Thereafter he was involved in many different managerial and consultancy roles, mostly concerned with aeronautical and other military engineering. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 1953 was awarded the Medaille de L’Aeronautique by the French Government for his achievements in aeronautics.

Having seen the photocopies of the wartime article in Cycling which I sent him, Louis Armandias vaguely recalled bringing two Petits Bis into England on his father’s behalf. He thought this might have been about 1935. But one thing he was certain about; he was not the inventor of the machine. Plainly, Cycling had got the wrong end of the stick!

Later he discussed the matter with his son, now 62, who recalled the two sample bicycles quite well.  Originally, they had been kept at Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, and presumably it was one of these that was tested by Alex Josey.  They then moved with Louis Armandias to Battledown Manor, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham. Later they were moved again, this time to Ellingham House, Cheltenham. It was about this time that he was operating under two identities and folding bicycles were distinctly low on his list of priorities. When he finished at Ellingham House his secretary cleared everything out including, he presumes, Les Petits Bis. That seems to have been the last he saw or heard of the mysterious bicycle until I contacted him in 1988.

Le Petit Bi folded and stowed on its tail
Le Petit Bi folded and stowed on its tail

Tracing the patent

Having established that Louis Armandias was not the inventor, I carried out a search at the Holborn Reading Room of the Science Reference and Information Service of the British Library (formerly the Science Reference Library).  Searching the Patent Abridgements in Group XXXI (Class 136), which includes bicycles, I eventually found British Patent 526,773. The side elevational drawing included with the abridgement clearly showed that it was, indeed, Le Petit Bi – although the trade name was not mentioned.

The abridged patent gave the inventor’s name as A.J. Marcelin and the application number as 10184, dated 31st March 1939. That fits in fairly well with the date of introduction in France given in Cycling – late 1938 – bearing in mind that the British Patent probably lagged a little behind the original French one. (It is a fair assumption that there is a French patent, although I have not checked this.) However, it seems probable that Louis Armandias’s vague recollection of 1935, as the year he brought the sample pair to England, is three or four years too early.

Was Marcelin a professional inventor? A brief search of patents revealed no others under the name A.J. Marcelin for the period from the mid 1930s to the end of the 1940s.

In order to find out a little more about ‘the little bike’, I requested that the full patent be brought up from the vaults. This revealed the inventor’s full name and address: Andre Jules Marcelin, French citizen, 174 Rue de l’Université, Paris (Seine), France. With an address like that, perhaps Signal’s description of “A Cycling professor” takes on a new significance. Was the rider shown in their photograph Marcelin? Did he feed them the line “easier to propel than an ordinary cycle”.

The full patent was accepted on 25th September 1940. Nine diagrams accompanied it:

Figure 1 is the side elevation included in the abridgement.
Figure 2 is a plan detail showing the relationship of the seat tube base to the bottom bracket and chain stays.
Figure 3 is a side elevation of the bike folded and stowed on end.
Figure 4 shows a tandem version in side elevation.
Figure 5 is another side elevation, this time of a motor cycle or autocycle version. (This had the engine and gearbox in the back wheel and a steamlined fuel tank astride the low top tube.)
Figures 6 to 9 depict details of the folding handlebars, including alternatives to the serrated mechanism used in the production machine.

Patent drawing
Patent drawing

The Unanswered Questions

The trail of Le Petit Bi has been long, somewhat indirect but rewarding. However, a number of questions remained unanswered when this article was written in 1988. For example:

  • What happened to Marcelin? (It transpires he was a serial inventor of many things, as a patent search will reveal.)
  • Is he still alive? (No, he died in 1978.)
  • Was he the man in the Signal! photograph? (No, in June 2000 I discovered that the cyclist was, in fact, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre!)
  • What did the French cycling magazines of the time say about Le Petit Bi?
  • How many were made?
  • Which company made them, and where?
  • Did the motor cycle version go into production?
  • Does anybody have an alloy framed Petit Bi, or the tandem version?
  • What happened to the two samples apparently disposed of in Cheltenham during the 1940s?

Designed 50 years ago, Le Petit Bi was no Alex Moulton high technology machine; it was not suitable for serious touring or racing. Nonetheless, it was a competently designed, well-engineered, easily stored and elegant short range, unisex machine, superior in many respects to the majority of contemporary small-wheelers and folding bicycles. As a final question, one is tempted to ask why no one is producing it today.

[Please bear in mind that these closing comments were part of the original article and reflected the situation in 1988. It’s interesting to note that Michael Embacher’s famous bicycle collection included both versions of Le Petit Bi. They were sold at auction in Vienna in May 2015.]

Post-war advert
Post-war advert for the later version, incorporating frame hinge
Picabia on Le Petit Bi
The French surrealist artist Francis Picabia on Le Petit Bi with what appears to be a gremlin on the rear carrier – surreal indeed!

Small Wheels for Adult Bicycles

This article was written in 1997 at the request of the US journal Cycling Science. It discusses the use of small wheels in cycles for adults. The term “small wheels” here means those with a nominal diameter less than 26″ (660mm). They can be as small as 6″ (150mm) or as large as 24″ (600mm), but today are generally in the range 16-20″ (400-500mm). All dimensions quoted are approximate.

The safety bicycle’s influence on wheel size

The key design elements of the familiar diamond frame ‘safety bicycle’ evolved a century ago. Wheel diameters commonly adopted for adult bicycles have changed little since then, being generally in the order of 26 to 28″ (650-700mm). It is easy to see why the Victorians adopted the 28″ (700mm) pneumatic tyre. It worked well because it was the biggest that could conveniently be accommodated in the robust, uncomplicated and easy-to-manufacture diamond frame.

For a given tyre construction, cross-section, tyre pressure, load and road surface a bigger diameter wheel rolls more easily than a smaller one. In an unsprung frame the bigger wheel also gives a more comfortable ride. This is because it falls less deeply into small depressions in the road surface and, on hitting bumps, rises and falls more slowly. Quite simply, the 28″ (700mm) wheel gave the best balance of comfort and rolling resistance that the diamond frame could accommodate. Anything bigger would have compromised the ease of mounting and dismounting that gave the ‘safety bicycle’ its name.

Specialised uses for small wheels

Despite the enduring dominance of the larger wheel formats, Sutherland’s tyre and rim listings include substantially more small formats than large.1 Many are rare or used mostly for non-cycling purposes, such as wheelchairs, barrows and handcarts. However, established cycling uses include:

  • children’s bicycles, for obvious reasons of scale,
  • the front wheels of carrier cycles, leaving extra space above for cargo,
  • portable cycles, to reduce the space needed to stow the machine when folded or separated,
  • unisex ‘one size fits all’ family shopper cycles, to allow good luggage carrying capacity over the wheels, and to allow extra height adjustment of saddle and handlebars,
  • BMX, for fast acceleration and quick steering,
  • front wheels of pursuit and motor-paced track cycles, to enable closer drafting of the vehicle ahead,
  • front wheels of time-trial cycles, to facilitate a lower, more aerodynamic riding position,
  • the front wheels of recumbents, to facilitate convenient location of the cranks and drive train without impeding steering, and for aerodynamic reasons, including easier incorporation of fairings.

Most of these uses are for special purpose machines and capitalise on one or more advantages of the smaller wheel (most often simply its smaller size) in a trade-off for certain disadvantages.  The advantages and disadvantages of small wheels are listed in Table 1 ]

However, over the years some powerful advocates have argued for smaller wheels for regular bicycles. Surprisingly, it is nearly a century since balloon tyres of 12 to 16″ diameter (300-400mm) were tried for club cycling in England.2 A Mr. Edmunds who rode a machine with wheels about 12″ (300mm) diameter and 5″ (125 mm) wide around Birmingham was “a racer of some ability” whose youthful challengers “sometimes received quite a surprise.”3

Subsequently the two principal advocates of smaller wheels have been the eminent French cycle tourist Paul de Vivie (in the 1920s) and the distinguished English engineer Alex Moulton (since the early 1960s).

The Vélocio approach – medium diameter balloon tyres

Paul de Vivie, alias ‘Vélocio’, was the ‘father’ of French cycle touring. In the 1920s he advocated balloon tyres of up to 2.25″ (57mm) cross-section on 20″ (500mm) rims, giving an overall diameter of about 24″ (600mm).4 He reached his conclusions during a lifetime in which he cycled the equivalent of 15 times round the world ‘all of it as careful experimental touring work with a view to improving machine design and method of riding’.5

As early as 1911 he wrote:

“My own experience has gone no further than to 50 centimetre wheels furnished with 50 millimetre tyres, but I can guarantee that in an experiment extending as far as 15,000 kilometres covered, they will not have the smallest disadvantage from the point of view of their running. It simply seems to me they are more prone to skidding, but this is perhaps due to the fact that their tyres have no tread and that the bicycle is very short.”6

Vélocio died in 1930 and his obituary in the CTC Gazette7 included a photograph of him with an open-framed small-wheeler. Over the next ten years several British cycle tourists emulated his use of smaller wheels. They included A.C. Davison, Cycling magazine’s technical expert, and Medwin Clutterbuck, the CTC Consul for Sussex. Both riders used tyres of about 24″ x 1 5/8″ (600mm x 40mm). [Clutterbuck used 22″ x 1 3/8″ rims (560mm x 35mm).] Davison covered some 5,000 miles (8,100 km) on his ‘Little Wheels’ and declared it “a quite satisfactory bicycle”.8

Medwin Clutterbuck had two small-wheeled cycles built by F.W. Evans of London. On the first of these he toured the Alps, Dolomites and Norway, often on poorly paved roads. In England he covered up to 200 miles (320 km) in a day. Half a century later he still considered his second Evans-built small-wheeler “the epitome of what a touring machine should be”.9

The idea of a reduction of tyre diameter being matched by a corresponding increase in cross-sectional area certainly has merit. The volume of air and pressure remains the same as in the conventional tyre, while the wider cross-section compensates for (and can even improve on) the otherwise harsher ride of the small wheel.

As for rolling resistance, a reasonable prima facie indicator is the length of the tyre print (under a known weight) divided by the inflated tyre radius.10 For a given tyre pressure and load, the contact patch area is approximately constant, regardless of tyre diameter. (For example, a tyre inflated to 50 psi and carrying a load of 100 lbs has a contact patch with an area of approximately 100/50 square inches, ie. 2 square inches, whatever format the tyre may be.11) However, with the Vélocio approach to small wheels the patch is wider but shorter. Thus compensation is obtained for the otherwise higher rolling resistance.

However, this compensation depends on superior lightweight tyre carcass construction. This is difficult to achieve because, the larger the cross-section, the stronger the carcass must be to hold a given pressure. For economy of manufacture, the strength of wide section tyres often comes from thicker, heavier and less flexible materials, and results in a higher rolling resistance13.

Vélocio therefore advocated canvas-backed, thin, flexible carcasses produced by Edwardian English tyre manufacturers. In 1911 he bemoaned the fact that, for fear of warranty claims, such tyres were not made in France.

Apart from the warranty issues, stronger materials that enable thinner, lighter and more flexible construction cost more and there may be little demand. It is significant that Medwin Clutterbuck abandoned his small-wheelers after World War 2 because it was no longer possible to have his tyres custom made by the Constrictor company.

Vélocio with his 'Carrosse de Gala' small-wheeler in 1907
Vélocio with his ‘Carrosse de Gala’ small-wheeler in 1907
Vélocio with his 'Carrosse de Gala' at the foot of Les Alpilles, Provence, in 1905
Vélocio with his ‘Carrosse de Gala’ at the foot of Les Alpilles, Provence, in 1905



Vélocio and companions at Les Baux
Vélocio and companions at Les Baux

The above three pictures are reproduced courtesy of Raymond Henry from whose collection they come. They appear in Raymond’s excellent book in the French language entitled Vélocio and edited by The Museum of Art and Industry of Saint-Étienne.

The Moulton approach – small diameter high pressure tyres and suspension

Alex Moulton (b.1920) is an engineer with a background in steam power, aeronautical engineering, automotive suspension and rubber technology. His great-grandfather introduced Goodyear’s rubber vulcanising process to the UK and the Moulton family has been involved with the material ever since. Alex Moulton’s rubber and fluid-interlinked suspension systems have been used on millions of cars, from the Mini to the MGF. Yet he is probably best known for his small-wheeled bicycle concept, to which he has devoted much of the last 40 years. The story is recounted in two books by the author.14

Moulton noted the lack of development of the diamond-frame bicycle since the 1890s. He decided “to take the evolution of that most remarkable device beyond its classical form … to produce a bicycle which was more pleasing to have and to use.”

He argued that, apart from those for use on soft ground:

  • wheel sizes for virtually all vehicles have decreased as design has evolved,
  • this reduction of the encumbrance of large wheels is always sensible.

Moulton’s background in rubber technology enabled him to demonstrate that 16″ x 1 3/8″ (400mm x 35mm) tyres inflated to 50 psi (3.4 atm) could match the rolling resistance of the then standard lower pressure roadster tyres.15It is important to note that Moulton did not use standard juvenile tyres but small diameter versions of the Dunlop Sprite, a good touring tyre of the time. Most series-produced Moulton bicycles of the 1960s and 1970s used tyres of this type.

To eliminate the rough ride given by a high pressure small diameter tyre, Moulton added suspension. This not only gave a generally smoother ride than a conventional bicycle, but also reduced momentum losses. Recent tests of the Primo high pressure 16″ x 1 3/8″ tyre indicated that on a real road a fully sprung 1960s Moulton rolled significantly better than a semi-sprung Brompton using the same tyres.16 A notable feature of the Moulton bicycle has been its sporting success. Moultons have performed well in time trials, solo and four man pursuit, criterium, ultra-marathon, triathlon, Audax and HPV races. The flying 200 metres normal riding position solo record has been held by a Moulton-based HPV for more than a decade.

Early racing Moultons, such as that used to break the Cardiff-London record in 1962, used sew-ups (tubulars) of 18″ (450mm) nominal size, with an actual diameter nearer 16″ (400mm). In 1964 Moulton, again working with Dunlop, produced a clincher (wired-on) replacement. This matched the performance of the sew-up but was considerably more robust. To enable riders to switch between sew-ups and clinchers, rims for the latter had the same brake radius, hence the birth of the unique Moulton 17″ x 1 1/4″ format (430 x 31mm, ISO 32-369).

This tyre, made available from 1983 until circa 2000 in a version by Wolber, is noted for its high performance. Tests have shown it to have a rolling resistance on smooth surfaces that matches a high quality 27″ (700mm) clincher touring tyre or a cotton road sew-up.17An even faster slick version is also available. This was evolved as part of the General Motors Sunraycer solar-powered car project. The slicks were used in 1990 on Miles Kingsbury’s fully-faired recumbent Bean. This broke the world HPV record for the greatest distance covered in an hour by a solo rider.

In 2009, 17″ tyres for Moultons are made by Bridgestone and Schwalbe. They have also been made in the recent past by Continental.

With the availability of high quality, high pressure, narrow section tyres in the widely available 406 format (nominally 20″ but often nearer 18.3″ in reality), some Moultons now use this tyre format. The four machines below are all current models in 2009: the first two use the 369 (17″) tyre, whereas the last two use the 406 (20″ nominal) format.

Bridgestone Moulton
Bridgestone Moulton
Moulton AM Esprit
Moulton AM Esprit
Double Pylon
Double Pylon
Pashley Moulton TSR30
Pashley Moulton TSR30


Both the Vélocio approach and that of Alex Moulton demonstrate the potential that smaller wheels offer mainstream cyclists and cycle designers. They need not merely be a fallback for special purposes, such as folding bicycles.

For a given tyre construction, cross-section, inflation pressure, load, road surface and unsprung vehicle mass, a bigger wheel will roll more easily. However, this parity of conditions is not necessarily met. Furthermore, it can often be influenced in favour of the smaller wheel.

Small wheels are stronger, lighter, stiffer, more compact, have lower wind resistance and offer more design options. They facilitate faster acceleration and more responsive handling. Used in conjunction with suspension and supple high pressure tyres, they can be particularly effective.

As Vélocio put it:

“That universal agreement has fixed on 70 centimetres as the proper size for wheels does not in any way prove that this diameter is best; it simply proves that cyclists follow each other like sheep…. Make no mistake, uniformity is leading us directly towards boredom and towards routine, whilst diversity, even though it distracts us, holds our attention, our interest and the spirit of enquiry always on the watch. To change is not always to perfect, and I know that better than any others newly come to cyclo-technology. But to stand still, to sink into a rut, that is the worst of things for industries and for men.”

References and notes

1. Sutherland, H. et al, Sutherland’s Handbook for Bicycle Mechanics, Sixth Edition, Sutherland Publications, Berkeley, CA, 1995.
2. Barrett, R., Photograph of Sharrow CC, The Boneshaker, Vol.11, No.99, p.15, Southern Veteran-Cycle Club, UK, Spring 1982. This shows a club rider using approximately 16″ diameter balloon tyres.
3. Davison, A.C., ‘Actual Experiences with Some Freak Bicycles’, Cycling, UK, June 31, 1939. This briefly describes Edmunds’ machine.
4. Clutterbuck, M., Unpublished letter to the author, December 30, 1988.
5. Bowerman, L., ‘Paul de Vivie (“Vélocio”), News & Views, Veteran-Cycle Club, UK, April/May 1988, p.24.
6. De Vivie, P. (writing as ‘Vélocio’), Le Cycliste, France, 1911. (French original provided by Raymond Henry. English translation commissioned by Tony Hadland.)
7. The CTC is the UK’s Cyclists’ Touring Club.
8. Davison, A.C., ‘Actual Experiences with Some Freak Bicycles’, Cycling, UK, June 21, 1939.
9. Clutterbuck, M., Unpublished letter to the author, December 30, 1988. Medwin Clutterbuck was then 84 years old.
10. Whitt, R.R., ‘Tyre and Road Contact’, Cycletouring, CTC, UK, February/March 1977.
11. The word approximately is used here because, in addition to the air pressure in the tyre, a very small measure of support is provided by the stiffness of the tyre sidewalls. The fact that the contact patch area for a given load and given tyre pressure is approximately constant regardless of tyre format comes as a surprise to many experienced cyclists. It is, however, a matter of simple physics and is confirmed by leading cycle design engineers Mike Burrows and Alex Moulton whom the author consulted when preparing this text.
12. On some rough surfaces the wider tyre will roll slightly better. This is because it absorbs more of the road roughness, saving a greater proportion of forward momentum from being dissipated in repeatedly lifting the whole bike and rider over the bumps.
13. Van der Plas, ‘Rolling Resistance’, Bicycle, UK, February 1984.
14. Hadland, T., The Moulton Bicycle, Pinkerton/Hadland, UK, 1982 and Hadland, T., The Spaceframe Moultons, Pinkerton/Hadland, UK, 1994.
15. The recommended pressure for 26″ x 1 3/8″ tyres (650 x 35mm) was about 30 psi (2 atm). See Camm, F.J., Every Cyclist’s Pocket Book, Newnes, UK, 1950.
16. Henshaw, D. (writing as ‘Professor Pivot’), ‘Pivot Points’, The Folder, The Folding Society, UK, August/September 1996. This test was not conducted under strict scientific conditions but was on real roads, rather than linoleum or steel.The rider was David Henshaw, who wore the same clothing on both machines. Saddle and handlebar height were approximately the same on both. However, the more stretched riding position of the Moulton will have given it a slight aerodynamic advantage. So too will the combined weight of Moulton and rider, which was about 3% higher. However, with both machines on Primo tyres running at 70 psi (4.76 atm) the Moulton, at 15.6 mph  (25 kph) was almost 2 mph (3.3 kph) faster. The testers considered this to be significantly more than could be attributed to the slight differences in weight and aerodynamics.
17. Kyle, Chester, Unpublished letter to Alex Moulton, December 7, 1984. See also Moulton, Alex, The Moulton Bicycle, Friday Evening Discourse transcript, The Royal Institution, London, February 23, 1973.
18. De Vivie, P. (writing as ‘Vélocio’), Le Cycliste, France, 1911. (French original provided by Raymond Henry. English translation commissioned by Tony Hadland.)
19. This is why Moulton pioneered 9 tooth sprockets, which he made available on his machines in 1983. In 21st century, Shimano make the Capreo groupset for performance small-wheelers, which includes sprockets as small as 9 tooth.

The author

Tony Hadland has been riding adult small-wheeled bicycles of various types since 1964. He was the first editor of The Moultoneer and has written books on the Moulton, Sturmey-Archer and (with John Pinkerton) portable cycles. His articles have appeared in a number of British cycling magazines.


The author thanks Alex Moulton and Mike Burrows for reviewing and commenting on the draft of this paper. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of the reviewers.

© Copyright Tony Hadland, May 1997, additional illustrations added and minor amendments made July 2009.


Raleigh Twenty (R20)

The Raleigh Twenty or R20 series was launched in 1968 without much fuss. It was, after all, Raleigh’s third string as far as adult-size small-wheelers went. They already had the Mk2 version of their answer to the Moulton, the RSW16. And since late summer 1967, Raleigh owned their former nemesis Moulton Bicycles Limited, as well. So at first, their new, 20-inch-wheel, H-frame, unisex, ‘one-size-fits-all’, urban bike was not aggressively marketed and was something of a Nottingham Cinderella. It was, however, a much better bike than the RSW; and although less sophisticated than the Moulton, it was more profitable to manufacture.

In May 1970, about 18 months after the R20 was launched, a major sales effort went into promoting the Mk3 versions of the RSW16 and the Moulton. They were launched simultaneously with the children’s hi-rise pseudo motorcycle, the Chopper, which was already on sale in the USA. It soon became apparent that, although the Chopper was selling very well indeed, sales of the RSW and Moulton were extremely disappointing. So Raleigh started to advertise the R20 more heavily. The picture below shows the burgeoning R20 range, as promoted to the UK cycle trade via advertising in the retail magazine Motor Cycle & Cycle Trader in October 1970.

A folding version of the Twenty, using the old Moulton model name ‘Stowaway’, was introduced to the home market in 1971 (it seems it was available in Canada in 1969). However, the vast majority of R20s were non-folding models. Unlike the parallel and largely simultaneous Continental small-wheeler boom, which was dominated by mediocre folding bicycles, the British small-wheeler boom saw folding and separable bikes taking only a small share of the small-wheeler market.

In 1974, Raleigh phased out the RSW and the Moulton, concentrating all adult small-wheeler production on the R20. The following year, the Twenty series was Raleigh’s biggest selling model – 140,000 R20s were made in the UK alone. This almost matched the entire UK production of Moultons from 1963 to 1974. The R20 was still Raleigh’s biggest seller in 1977. Although sales gradually tailed off after this, the Twenty was to remain in production well into the 1980s. In the early 21st century, there are still many R20s in use in the UK and around the world.

The Consumers’ Association magazine ‘Which?’ rated the Raleigh 20 the best of the small-wheelers it tested in the mid 1970s. They considered that it rode more like a conventional roadster than other small-wheelers and that it had a stronger frame than its principal rival, the Dawes Kingpin. Part of the R20s roadster feel was due to the use of a solid nylon top steering bearing, which damped the comparatively light steering of a 20-inch wheel.

R20s built for the UK market had 20 x 1 3/8 inch (451) tyres on adult versions of the traditional British format E5J rim. The code E5J stood for Endrick (the rim profile) British size 5 (=20-inch) Juvenile. The wheels were therefore slimmer and easier rolling (at least, on the average British road surface) than the semi-balloon tyres used on most other 20-inch wheel bikes sold in the UK. Many export R20s, however, had wider section 20 x 1.75 inch American format (406) tyres, which in those pre-BMX days were virtually unknown in the UK.

New Zealander Michael Toohey reports that Twenties were made in New Zealand for Raleigh by Morrison Industries. This was because of a law requiring 40% local content. Tyres were 20 x 1 3/8 (451), made in NZ and branded Riedrubber or Feltex. The bracing struts from the underside of the main beam to the bottom bracket were omitted in NZ production. This can be seen in the picture below, supplied by Michael Toohey, and taken from a Master Cycle Traders catalogue of about 1981.

The history of the Raleigh Twenty series has been largely ignored by British cycle historians. They tend to have a dismissive attitude towards the bikes. Raleigh Twenties epitomise the much despised British ‘shopper’, a generic term derived from a well-equipped and popular model in the 1970 R20 range. Some historians tend to forget that history is about what actually happened and not what they might have liked to have happened. The reality was that relatively few of the British public in the 1970s were buying the exotic lightweights that many historians favour. A significant number were buying very average quality 10-speed lightweight lookalikes, sometimes badged with the name of a genuine lightweight maker, such as Carlton – – by then part of Raleigh. But even more were buying, and riding, Raleigh Twenties and similar machines. Some of those bikes, despite minimal maintenance over a period of some 30 years, are still in daily use – as a mid-week, mid-morning visit to any English suburban shopping centre will reveal. They provide convenient, reliable, easy-to-adjust, easy-to-mount, short-range urban transport for people wearing ordinary clothes who want a bicycle that can easily and safely carry a reasonable amount of shopping.

In the USA, the potential virtues of the R20 frame-set are appreciated by some of the most knowledgeable bicycle experts. Hence, devotees include John S Allen and the late Sheldon Brown.

Following in their footsteps, Chris Slydel, a British ex-pat who lives in the USA, has built a high performance Raleigh Twenty from what was once a single-speed folding version. He started by taking off every part off the Twenty that was not needed, including grinding off the kickstand support, the mudguard attachment point and swapping the folding handle for an Allen bolt. The rear triangle was gently spread to allow a 5-speed freewheel on high flange hubs. New wheels were built with Araya rims and high pressure tyres. The gear change is now mounted on the seat post for simplicity when the bike is folded and there is only one brake. Chris re-threaded the bottom bracket shell, which allowed him to fit a standard thread titanium BB. He also threaded the top section of the fork at the top, to allow the fitting of a standard headset, and not the solid nylon top bearing that Raleigh initially put on the machines. A Ritchey stem was fitted, which allows Chris enough rise to make the bike rideable.

The finished machine, shown in Chris’s pictures below, now weighs about 24 lb. This is some 8 to 10 lb less than it did originally. A non-folding version could be even lighter.

The next picture shows another Raleigh Twenty with tri-bars. I took this at the 1992 Tin Can Ten, an annual fun race in the English Midlands for riders on any bike equipped with a hub gear (‘tin can’). I don’t know the name of the rider but he did quite a respectable time, despite riding with the hub dynamo switched on!

From Ottawa, Canada, Alvin Burnard wrote:

I hit on your website while looking for anything on my favourite bike, the Raleigh Twenty. I now own 5 of these wonderful bikes including one all original with about 50 miles at most on it.

You mention: “A folding version of the Twenty, using the old Moulton model name ‘Stowaway’, was introduced in 1971.” My daily rider is a 1969 Raleigh Twenty folding bike. I’m confident it is original judging by the non adjustable handlebar style which I suspect was a carryover from the RSW and much better than the adjustable style that came latter. In all my searching here in Canada & the US, it appears only the folding version was imported here and the few non-folding models made it here as luggage or stowaways (thus the name?). I’ve never actually seen a non-folding Twenty.  It also appears the other brand names used on the Twenty never made it to our shores. The exception is a version of the Twenty marketed by Canadian Tire under the Supercycle brand of which I own a 1973 model. You are also correct that the models we received all had 20×1.75 tyres although I’ve seen a couple of 20×1 3/8 models on eBay.

Anyhow… above is a pic of my 1969 Twenty and below my all original 1972 Twenty…

SM Kingpin MkIV

Steve Morton is a keen cyclist who uses his bikes as everyday transport. For some time, he has been developing his ideal utility machine, based on the once-popular Dawes Kingpin open-frame small-wheeler of the 1960s-80s but with a top-tube added for additional rigidity. The following extracts from a 2002 letter show how Steve’s MkIV version of the SM-Kingpin has evolved.

SM Kingpin MkIV
SM Kingpin MkIV

The main improvements over the MkIII centre around the front forks. The bike now has a pair of Pashley 20″ forks, the same as those on our Two’s Company Tandem and presumably the same as those on the Fold-It. This has allowed the fitting of a front drum brake (90mm, and recycled), and more importantly enabled the fixing of a second Esge/Pletscher type alloy carrier on the forged drop outs which have two threaded fixing points. This arrangement is a significant improvement to the previous axle fixing, and has the obvious advantage that the front wheel may be removed from the machine without affecting the support of the carrier and top box in any way, very useful if the top box is full. (However it is important to note that the third fixing point of the carrier has to be behind the fork crown to enable the carrier to sit level. Unfortunately I did not realise this until after I had fitted the forks – annoying mistake.) The Pashley forks do shorten the wheelbase by about half an inch but any difference to the handling is unnoticeable.

Other changes are:

  • the use of 36 hole, 451, chromed steel rims and 37- 451 tyres,
  • narrow front and rear mudguards,
  • the use of a Weinmann Vanqueur 750 centre pull rear brake,
  • a Brooks Champion Flyer S leather saddle, and
  • front as well as rear led lighting, with supplementary front lighting from a Smart 10 watt lighting system with a rechargeable acid battery.

Otherwise the bike is as MkIII with:

  • brazed in top tube,
  • the dreaded Hammerite paint job on the frame,
  • Sturmey Archer S5/2 gears with a 17 tooth sprocket, operated by two Sturmey Archer twistgrips,
  • drop handlebars on a swan neck stem. (The stem is actually a forced change from MkIII because the alloy clamp on the long stump neck stem cracked. This was a little disappointing as the swan neck stem is not quite as long. The length is important if drop handlebars are used and unfortunately I have not been able to find a replacement stem.)
  • GB brake levers,
  • cables to rear routed along top tube, with gear cables continuing to the gearbox down the seat stays, two white top boxes for conspicuity, security, and weather protection,
  • a 40 tooth chainwheel with 150mm cranks. I find the short cranks are perfect, allowing me to spin the pedals easily, and finally the pedals – my one real extravagance -the MkIV has blue alloy mountain bike type pedals. They do make the bike look stylish though!

I find the bike a real pleasure to ride, and it, or certainly the embryonic MkV would be my ‘bike for life’ – I’m sure you will have come across Gary Lovell’s AtoB article recently (issue 25, August/September 2001).

The bike seems to cut through the air very well even though it might be assumed that the front box would present a considerable drag. Could it be that having the matching top boxes on the same level somehow has a streamlining effect on the machine, reducing the turbulence I create by pedalling? I am reminded of a picture in the very interesting book you published – Human Power: the forgotten energy. The lower picture on page 66 of the Mochet plywood boxes obviously illustrates ‘real’ streamlining but could it be that, even though the front and rear faces of the boxes are flat, there might be something unexplained going on? I like to think so though it’s probably just my imagination. At some future date it could be that I might even shape the front and rear boxes to give an improved streamlining effect without compromising their utility of course.

Just getting back to brakes – on my ideal bike I would have the opposite system to that on my MkIV, i.e. centre-pulls on the front therefore allowing the use of a hub dynamo, and a drum brake on the rear to provide the effective braking. The Kingpin rear dropouts however do not allow the use of 5 or 7 speed hub braked gearboxes. I like the S5/2 so I forego the advantages of the hub brake, and will rely on the front brake in emergencies. It’s not ideal but it’s the best I can come up with at present. MkV is in my mind but it will require wider rear dropouts.

Steve Morton
Hereford, England
June 2002

Steve wrote to me again in December 2006 with news of further Kingpin developments. The photo below shows him competing in a local ‘open’ 10 mile race organised by the local wheelers as part of National Bike Week. He went round in 30 minutes 42 seconds and was pleased to come 12th in a field of 69 entrants. Obviously a lot of people were there just for the fun of it but Steve did beat quite a few serious cyclists. Here’s Steve’s description of his latest hot Kingpin, which I think must be his MkV: 

The Kingpin has a top tube brazed on and 20″ unicrown forks from Pashley. Onto that basic frame I added :

  • a Shimano cartridge bottom bracket,
  • Shimano 600 single key release cranks,
  • a 48T Stronglight chainring,
  • Shimano 600 pedals with toestraps,
  • a 3/32″ SRAM chain,
  • a Sturmey Archer S5/2 gearbox with a 15T sprocket,
  • a stumpneck handlebar stem,
  • a stem fitting S/A dual lever changer,
  • alloy drop handlebars,
  • cut down and turned upside down,
  • Shimano Exage aero brake levers,
  • tribars,
  • a Brooks Champion S Flyer single rail sprung saddle,
  • a 451 36H rear wheel and Schwalbe Stelvio 28-451 tyre,
  • a 406 36H front wheel and Schwalbe Stelvio 28-406 tyre,
  • a Sturmey Archer XFD front hub brake,
  • an Alhonga dual pivot rear brake and a single leg bike stand (essential even for a ‘racing bike’).

Since doing the 10, I have a couple of changes in mind to make it a little faster to ride. Under 30 minutes is obviously the target, but those 42 seconds may take some shaving off. Incidentally, the aero levers were used simply because the rear entry at the top of the lever minimised and simplified the cable routing. The cables were not taped onto the bars in any way. The aero brake levers, the tribars and the small section matching tyres with unequal wheel size also added to the image of the bike as a serious machine!

Steve Morton
Hereford, England
December 2006

SM Kingpin MkV
SM Kingpin MkV

Steve makes it clear that making the Kingpin ‘lightweight’ was only half the story. He decided it was little use trying to shave off grams here and there if the rider was overweight, so he resolved to lose weight himself and succeeded in shedding about a stone, i.e. 14 lb (6.4 kg). This obviously made a great difference too. Steve feels better for it, so the race had other lasting benefits.

He also makes the point that the work he does on his Kingpins is largely a solo effort. It is done without reference to the Sheldon Brown website, for example. To describe Steve’s work as original is difficult, because it must be a synthesis of other bikes he has seen and learned about, but he has not deliberately or directly copied anyone else’s ideas.

Did Chairman Mao ride a Moulton?

Flying Phoenix on head tube
1. Flying Phoenix on head tube

The Phoenix pirated Moulton

In the mid 1980s, a strange small-wheeled bicycle was bought second-hand very cheaply in London. The machine turned out to be an unauthorised copy of the Moulton bicycle and was probably produced in the mid 1960s. Whilst clearly based in general on a Series 1 Moulton, the detailing and dimensions differ considerably. The rear suspension seems to be inspired more by the 14″-wheel Moulton, launched in 1966. The graphics on the machine reveal that it was produced by the Phoenix bicycle works in Shanghai, one of the biggest cycle factories in China. It begs the question, were the Communist Chinese intending to mass-produce copies of an English icon of the swinging sixties?

Soon after the machine’s discovery, Tony Hadland wrote to the factory for further information but received nothing more than a current catalogue and a polite covering letter in reply. The catalogue did not show the Moulton copy. Alex Moulton, inventor of the machine, had never heard of the Chinese copy. Years later, in November 2011, Kevin Kinsella recalled regularly seeing two of these machines in Regents Park, London, from 1975 onwards. They were being ridden by ladies from the nearby Chinese legation. Later, probably about 1977-8, he saw two Chinese children riding what were probably the same bikes. It seems likely that the bike shown below was one of these. Also in November 2011, Gonçalvo Silva reported a similar machine for sale in Portugal.

Does any reader have any further information on this enigmatic machine? Can any Chinese reader recall seeing one of these Phoenix Moultons or reading about it? Did you work in the Shanghai bicycle works in the 1960s? If so, can you shed any light? If you can, please reply to Tony Hadland.

The Phoenix Moulton’s purchaser, a Moulton enthusiast from the West Midlands who wishes to remain anonymous, carefully disassembled the machine. What follows is an edited version of the notes he made about what he found.

Comparison of front fork assemblies
2. Comparison of front fork assemblies

Photo 2 shows the unexpected difference in lengths between the front fork assemblies of (left to right): a Moulton Super 4 (14″-wheel), the Phoenix and a 1966 Kirkby-built Moulton Deluxe (16″-wheel). For this photo, all forks were pushed in to the limit of their travel and the tops of the steering columns were all accurately in line, so the displacements at the dropouts are real. That is, the Phoenix front fork assembly, although for a 16″-wheel, is actually shorter than the one used in 14″-wheel Moultons!

Going from top to bottom of the Phoenix’s front fork assembly, there are about 30 turns of thread for the locking ring (a Moulton one fits); a section of steering column of 27.2mm overall diameter (OD); a wider section of 30.2mm OD; the crown race; bottom nylon bearing with retaining ring (having about six turns of thread) and the retaining cup for the gaiter (the 16″ Moulton variety fits). Where the steering column widens out, there is a small indentation. There are four of these at 90° intervals and they apparently hold something in place, inside the column (probably the stool). The front suspension has a total travel of about 48mm.

Up inside the assembly there is a brake abutment with brake bush, surmounted by the usual rubber column/coil spring. The rubber column is 215mm long and 14.7mm diameter. The spring is made from 2.5mm diameter steel and has 30 turns, i.e. it is about the same size as that used in the 16″-wheel Moultons, and the two seem interchangeable. I am still trying to get the rest of the assembly apart but it does not seem to have a rebound spring. This is probably the reason why the fork assembly is shorter than on a genuine Moulton.

Front suspension detail
3. Front suspension detail

Photo 3 is a close-up of the front suspension, with the bearing pulled half-way down. This bearing, which is made of very transparent material, is 11.4mm high, 29.0mm diameter, and the four raised sections that hold it in place are 33.0mm OD.

Lower end of main beam
4. Lower end of main beam

Photo 4 shows the underside of the rear end of the main beam of the frame. The two holes for the pivot bolt are visible. The hole in the end of the main beam is where a concealed brake cable emerges. The interesting thing is the protruding curved bolt. This is about 94mm in length, threaded for about 30mm at the end nearest to the camera, and is 9.4mm in diameter. (There is a good deal of foreshortening in the photo and the bend is actually about two-thirds of the way down the bolt, away from the camera.) The bolt is brazed into the frame.

Rubber suspension block
5. Rubber suspension block

Photo 5 shows the astonishing piece of very hard, black rubber that is impaled on the aforementioned curved bolt before fitting the rear fork. As can be seen, it has a hole through its longest dimension, and this hole is curved and roughly concentric with the longer of the two curved surfaces. In the photo, the hole is ‘up’ as you ride the bike and the short concave surface faces towards the front. Hence the broad face is on the right-hand side of the bike as ridden. The block is asymmetrical, in spite of what the photo might suggest. The two curved surfaces are not concentric. If we assume them to be spherical (although they may not be), then their radii seem to be in the order of 25mm and 80mm. All the corners and edges of the block are rounded off, so the only accurate measurements that we can easily take are 14.5mm for the diameter of the hole and 33.2mm for the thickness of the block side to side. The density of the rubber comprising the block works out at 2.3gm/cc. It weighs 126gm.

Top view of rear fork
6. Top view of rear fork

Photo 6 shows a top view of the rear forks. The shallow ‘tray’ near the pivot takes the bottom of the rubber block. In the photo you can see the outline of where the block has been. The threaded end of the curved bolt mentioned above passes through the slot in the bottom of this tray.

The pivot bolt assembly is a wonderful piece of Meccano-style work. There is a hex-headed pivot bolt which has a diameter of 8.9mm across the bearing surface. Overall length is 79.8mm. The bearing surface is just under 60mm in length. A steel right-hand bush slides onto the pivot bolt, snugging up against the hex-head. Either side of each outside wall of the ‘tray’ in which the rubber block sits, there is a two-ply washer, approximately 2mm thick and about 30mm diameter. (Four in all.) These washers are made of a hard but pliable reddish material which is neither metal nor wood nor plastic, but which could be a very tough fibreboard. Evidence suggests that they may originally have been oil-impregnated. These washers are made of a hard but pliable reddish material which is neither metal nor wood nor plastic, but which could be a very tough fibreboard. Evidence suggests that they may originally have been oil-impregnated.

Ralf Grosser writes:  This description to me suggests that it is a material called Pertinax. ( Pertinax is yellowish to reddish brown in colour and can sometimes be mistaken for lacquered wood. Pertinax is one of the classics of man made materials. It is made of paper impregnated with a Phenol based glue  and then  moulded into shape under pressure. It predates Bakelite, and is not a real plastic as such. Pertinax was and still is mostly used as an insulator in electronics. If you look into very early German wireless sets, the circuit boards were made if it. It has in the past also been used as self-securing washers. The sleeve for the pivot bolt is about the same length as the distance between the outside of the walls of the ‘tray’ in which the rubber block sits. (In the photo you can see where the block has been.) Finally, there is a spring washer, a pair of different sized metal washers and a hex nut, to tighten up the whole pivot assembly.

Exploded view of rear suspension
7. Exploded view of rear suspension

Photo 7 is an exploded view of the rear suspension, showing how it all fits together. The rubber block is pushed onto the curved bolt and the pivot bolt assembly fitted. When the top and bottom faces of the rubber block are seated properly in their ‘trays’, the whole is secured by a thick rubber washer (pliable and slightly spongy, which acts as a rebound stop), a metal washer, two slim lock nuts and a split pin that passes through a hole in the end of the curved bolt.

Actually, the ‘curved’ bolt referred to hitherto, is more accurately described as a ‘bent’ bolt. That is, it comprises two straight sections separated by a short bent section. It is interesting to speculate whether this is deliberate or simply a shoddy piece of manufacturing. The hole through the rubber block is certainly curved and its profile does not match that of the bolt. It will not simply slide on and has to be pushed in order to fit properly.

Decal on side of frame
8. Decal on side of frame

In photo 8 you can see the transfer (decal) on the side of the main beam of the bicycle frame. Unfortunately, the lighting conditions at the time the photo was taken have bleached out the colour. The Chinese characters before the English word Phoenix also translate as ‘Phoenix’. (Thank you to Ryouta Shibata of Japan for clarifying this.) These characters and the word Phoenix are all in metallic gold with white edging – very nice! [In December 2011, Charles Chan of Hong Kong pointed out that the words FENG SHUAN in the chainwheel are the Putonghua transliteration for “phoenix”. ]

The flying Phoenix, seen in the intricate seat tube transfer at the beginning of this article, is also depicted in the head badge and is also very crudely stamped into the rear of both brake calipers. The shield-shaped design at the top of the seat tube contains two rows of Chinese characters. The top row says ‘Made in China’, the bottom ‘Shanghai Bicycle’, plus something unreadable due to damage to the transfer.

Dismantling the Phoenix was quite easy (apart from a seized front suspension spring) and not much different to dismantling a Moulton. A number 14 and a number 9 (or upside down 6) were stamped in the bottom end of the handlebar stem. The bottom bracket appeared to be British threaded.

Despite being smaller than a 16″-wheel Moulton’s frame, the Phoenix frame is noticeably heavier. When tapped, it also seems to ring more and vibrate longer. The complete single-speed machine weighs 34lb 12½oz (15.77kg).

Now see our slideshow below. Note that the chainguard and front suspension rubber bellows are missing. Particularly interesting are the rear lamp built into the tail beam, the traditional Raleigh-style front fork crown and the narrow rear carrier with parcel-clip. None of these features occurs in the genuine Moulton on which the Phoenix is based.

© All photographs accompanying this article are copyright.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tyres made specifically for Moultons

This is a list of wired-on (clincher) tyres produced specifically for Moulton-brand bicycles. All except the recent Schwalbe 17-inch tyres were commissioned by Alex Moulton or Raleigh. Many other tyres have been made that will fit certain rim types used on Moultons but they are not included here.


    • 14 x 1 3/8″ (37-298) Dunlop, based on the Dunlop Sprite touring tyre. Used for 7/8th scale (Mini series) Moultons


  • 16 x 1 3/8″ (37-349) Dunlop, based on the Dunlop Sprite touring tyre, with amber walls. Used on early full-size F-frame Moultons, apart from racing versions.
  • 16 x 1 3/8″ (37-349) Dunlop, based on the Dunlop Sprite touring tyre, plain walls, no dynamo track. Used on full-size utility F-frame Moultons and standard Safari.
  • 16 x 1 3/8″ (37-349) Dunlop, based on the Dunlop Sprite touring tyre, plain walls, with dynamo track. Used on full-size utility F-frame Moultons and standard Safari.
  • 16 x 1 3/8″ (37-349) Dunlop, based on the Dunlop Sprite touring tyre but with slightly modified tread and Nylon cording, plain walls, no dynamo track. Used on later full-size utility F-frame Moultons and standard Safari.
  • 16 x 1 3/8″ (37-349) Raleigh SW, copy of the above but apparently slightly heavier and with dynamo track. Believed to be made in Poland for Moulton MkIII, marked 55 psi, 3.8 atm.


  • 16 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Dunlop, with silver walls. Very rare and the earliest example of Moulton’s specially-developed HP tyre. Apart from the silver walls (reportedly abandoned when the ‘silver’ was found to be explosive), the appearance resembles a finer version of the Dunlop Sprite. The rim for this tyre was designed with the same braking flange diameter as the 18″ (or in Moulton/Dunlop terms, 16″) sprint rim for the tubular tyres (sew-ups) hitherto used on racing Moultons. The idea was that users could easily switch between HPs and the much less durable tubs.
  • 16 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Dunlop, with amber walls. Early and short-lived successor to the above specially-developed HP tyre. Used on early S-range and Speedsix.
  • 16 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Dunlop, with plain walls. Commonest 1960s version of the Moulton HP tyre. Used on S-range and Speedsix.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Wolber, introduced to replace the Dunlop 16 x 1 ¼” for the AM series in the early 1980s, marked 70 psi, 4.6 atm.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Wolber C3 slick, introduced in 1989 for the AM SPEED, designed to run at 140 psi, 9.5 atm.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Bridgestone, introduced September 2000 to replace the standard Wolber 17″. New tread pattern, revised carcase design and marked 700 kPa, 7.0 kgf/, 100 psi.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Continental, introduced March 2001 as high performance replacement for the standard Wolber 17″. Same tread pattern as Wolber, revised carcase design with 60 threads per inch 3-ply casing and black skin side-walls. 120 psi.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Schwalbe Dual Compound Stelvio, introduced in UK early 2004 at Schwalbe’s own initiative. Marked Min. 6.0 Bar (85 psi), Max. 8.0 Bar (115 psi).
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) IRC Super Slick, replacement for the Wolber C3.
  • 17 x 1 ¼” (32-369) Schwalbe Kojak foldable slick.

Mistral De-mystified – the AM 17-inch rim

Doug Milliken writes:
This discussion strand started when a number of people in the bicycle industry were asked to comment on an undergraduate thesis on tire-rim design & the possibility of run flat tires for bicycles. The thesis was done in Spring 2002 by Rory Pheiffer at MIT, for Prof. David Gordon Wilson, well known as the co-author of Bicycling Science, MIT Press.

Out of the original discussion, CTC Technical Officer Chris Juden and I had some additional correspondence on the origins of hooked edge rims and the AM rim design – which, due to good design and controlled tire-rim fit, does have good run-flat characteristics. While the rim is mentioned briefly in The Spaceframe Moultons, there should be enough detail below to satisfy just about anyone – short of an actual rim designer!

Doug wrote about the AM rim:
I don’t know why this small hook is there. It’s clear when mounting an AM Moulton tire that the “bead seat” (“bead shoulder”) keeps things concentric.

Chris replied:
I can tell you, because I designed that rim! I’m assuming that you’re talking about the newer, more rounded profile Moulton use, which is the Mistral 217. The older 117 I did not design, but both are Raleigh cum Sturmey cum Mistral designed extrusion, squirted by SAPA at Tibshelf, then and perhaps to this day. Both are “straight sided” designs, since at that time folding tyres didn’t come in wide enough sizes for a 17mm rim and the theory that you need a hook (sorry Mr Michelin, a “crotchet”) to retain high pressures even with a steel bead, had not been born.

Another respondent questions whether the industry has even used the term crotchet. I can tell you that the Michelin company certainly did draw a distinction between crotchets and hooks. They were very keen to have the English term crotchet used for the special kind of hooked rim edge they deemed necessary to retain the unprecendentedly narrow and high-pressure wired-on racing/training tyres they’d invented in the 1970s. I well remember Ken Shufflebotham (who could forget a name like that) expousing on this at BSI meetings in the 80s. His firm especially liked the way the English language could distinguish this kind of hook from the hooks on mountain-bike rims, by using an alternative word for hook that was borrowed from French and hence the same word as Michelin used in France. French being French, has only one word for hook, like it uses “resistance” for everything from stiffness to electrical properties of a metal. That lack of words didn’t matter then, because the mountain-bike hadn’t arrived yet in France. (And whilst we’re talking about how useful it is to have different words for subtly different things, can you Americans and Australians do anything to correct your countrymen from using the term “bicycle” to include cycles that have other numbers of wheels than two?)

The hooks on mountain-bike rims are vestiges of the real hooks that retained the beads of clincher tires. Americans should know more about this (we never had these in UK) but they had a flap of rubber that interlocked with a definite groove in the edge of the rim. All the tire sizes that go N x something-with-a-decimal-point are wired-on sizes derived from clinchers. However that’s all water under the bridge. The genuine hook-edged rim is extinct and the little hooks on mountain-bike and road rims, though of different origin, are similar or not almost at random. And it doesn’t seem to make a jot of difference!

I’ve never liked these hooks however, since they produce a sharper radius of curvature on the rim edge at the point where the tyre is flexing as it comes into the contact zone and transferring road-load to the rim by friction at the rim edge. (It is useful at this point to visualise the mechanism by which a tyre actually carries your weight.) Since rims sprouted hooks we have observed an entirely new kind of tire failure, where the casing chafes at the rim edge. The problem is greatest on heavily laden bicycles (e.g. tandems) where the internal tire pressure is perhaps not high enough to produce enough static frictional force to stop the tyre shifting up and down as it flexes through the contact patch. However we didn’t ever get this problem in the past and so I believe that this very sharp radius of curvature is largely to blame.

So I designed the Mistral 217 with a compound curve on the rim edge, having a large radius of curvature where the tyre rolls on and off the cross-section as it flexes under load, and a sharper radius away from where it touches. And although they are not hooked, I deemed it desirable to thicken the rim edges for several reasons. The rim edge is vulnerable to denting when you run over a rock in the road or pothole with an inadequately inflated tire, and a thicker edge may resist that better. Also a rim is a beam and that beam is stiffer with material distributed to it’s upper and lower chords. The spokeface is thick enough already, so my objective was to make the tops of the flanges as thick as possible without making a hook edged rim, or the rim any heavier, or any other part too thin.

The resulting rim had a higher radial stiffness per unit weight than any other of its day. Some modern rims are stiffer and just as light, but have thinner sides that give only half to two-thirds the braking life. The nasty way that hooked rims explode without warning at the end of that life is another story.

In response to a question about Mistral, Chris Juden wrote:
After one of Raleighs earlier downsizing and outsourcing phases, myself and a couple of other redundant engineers bought and ran Raleigh’s in-house rim manufacture briefly as Mistral Rims, then the ex Raleigh Technical Director (who’d put all the money in) sold it all to Sun Metal of Warsaw Indiana. Although I’d rather be designing bits and bikes, there didn’t seem much demand for such talents and so I now make a safer sort of living from merely writing about them.

And finally, something on the difference between the 117 and 217:
Probably that other rim is the original Raleigh rim section that we subsequently called 117. It was only marginally lighter – by no more than 5% – because another design restraint upon my 217 design was that it must not cost more. (It’s true, weight-obsessed cyclists will pay a premium for stuff it costs less to make – a fool and his money are easily parted!)

The 117 had sharper corners between the spokeface and brake tracks and a marked transition from curve to flat at the edges of the spokeface, a few mm from those corners. It was pinned with 3mm instead of 4mm pins. A great many AMs were made with Raleigh 117 material, and Moulton did not change over to the 217 until a year or two after its introduction. I kept weight down on the stiffer 217 by reducing the inner thickness of the pinning hollows, keeping the outer thick. This also caused the pins to make a visible bulge on the inside of the rim, so you could see at a glance that they were there and centered, but with no effect on the outside. By virtue of the larger pin I maintained the same pullout force.

Chris Juden
CTC Technical Officer

Moulton Mopeds

Nearly 30 years ago, in my book The Moulton Bicycle (aka the ‘Blue Book’), I mentioned a Moulton moped. (See pages 97  and 116.) Now, you can read more about this – and see pictures, in colour! The first episode of a two-part article appears in the latest issue of Buzzing (Volume 29, Number 2, Issue 158, April 2010).

Buzzing is the journal of the National Autocycle & Cyclemotor Club and very good it is, too. In the popular and pocketable A5 format, Issue 158 is 48 pages long and makes extensive use of colour. The Moulton moped article, by editor David Beare, is four pages long and includes six photos and two line drawings.

For further information about how to lay your hands on a copy, email David at


Royal Enfield Revelation

Revealing the least known but arguably best 1960s 20″ wheel shopper

The original Royal Enfield Revelation LHD Mk1

In the mid 1960s, in response to the unexpected success of the Moulton bicycle, most UK cycle manufacturers launched unsprung unisex small-wheelers. Although Raleigh and a few others initially adopted 16″ diameter wheels, it was the 20″ wheel open-frame ‘shopper’ that was to be most successful commercially. Dawes, with its Newpin/Kingpin range was perhaps the first major maker to adopt the 20″ wheel, using both the British 20 x 1 3/8″ (ISO 451) and the French 500A (ISO 440) formats. The Raleigh 20 range was ultimately the best seller. But perhaps the best of the 20″ wheel open frame machines was the least well known – the Royal Enfield Revelation.

Royal Enfield came into being in the 1890s. The Eadie Manufacturing Company of Redditch, Worcestershire [about 12 miles south of central Birmingham] obtained a contract for supplying precision rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms factory in Enfield, Middlesex. Eadie’s product range included bicycles. They renamed these ‘Royal Enfield’ to capitalise on the firearms association and adopted the slogan ‘Built Like A Gun.’ An international rally to celebrate a hundred years of Enfield cycles was held at Redditch in August 1992.

The Royal Enfield Revelation was the last machine designed and built at Redditch. The designer was the late Vic Bott, who was born c.1900 and lived until the 1990s. He joined Royal Enfield in 1920 and remained with them until the final shutdown in 1968. In 1946 he was presented with the Long Service Certificate shown below.

Vic Bott certificate
Vic Bott’s long service certificate

Thanks to Anne Bradford, author of ‘The Royal Enfield Story,’ we have Vic’s reminiscences of the Revelation’s genesis. To these have been added dates [in square brackets thus] supplied by Malcolm Barrett, Royal Enfield marque enthusiast of the Veteran-Cycle Club:

‘When Mr Davenport, Mr Cassey and Mr Roberts arrived from E & H P Smith to take over the running of the company [1962], I had a surprise because I knew Leo Davenport. I had met him way back in the early days of Royal Enfield, not long after the First World War, when he was a representative for Lodge Plugs and riding in the TT for AJS – his father was a manager there. We heard that E & H P Smith were amalgamating with Royal Enfield and we thought that we would be the senior partners but it soon became clear that E & H P Smith were in charge. Leo Davenport took over Vic Mountford’s splendid office and Vic was moved to a more humble abode down the corridor.”I was due for retirement but when the time came, E & H P Smith offered us an increase in salary and so I decided to continue to work. A couple of years later [1964], Leo Davenport sent for me. He said that he wanted to put a cycle on the market with a 20″ wheel and asked me if I could design it. He wanted to know how soon I could have a prototype ready. Jokingly, I said, “Two weeks!” and he jumped at that. I knew I had landed myself with a problem. It usually took years to develop a new bicycle. It was clear that I couldn’t go through the customary design channels so what I did, was that I laid an enormous piece of paper on the floor, drew a profile of the bike to size and gave it to the Design Department to build. Within a week, a girl was trying out the cycle by riding it to Stratford. [Stratford-upon-Avon, about 11 miles away.] After that, of course, all kinds of tests had to be made to make sure that the bike was safe but within twelve months [1965] it was on sale in the shops. The bicycle was called “The Revelation”.’

Dave Wilson worked in the toolroom and tooled up the unusual gussets that reinforce the junctions between the top tube and the head and seat tubes. He recalls seeing rows and rows of Revelations in the despatch department before he left the company early in 1965.

It is unclear how many Revelations were made: Vic Bott told Anne Bradford that they sold ‘thousands’ but Arthur Beckingham, the works foreman (and allegedly ‘last to leave the factory’ when it closed) told Tony Hadland in 1991 that they made only between 30 and 100, which seems improbably low. The lowest and highest serial numbers traced as at 2020 (136,483-156,651) are 20,168 apart. However, it is unclear whether Royal Enfield used a single numbering sequence for all their models or a separate series for the Revelation.

(One of the highest numbered machines was bought shop-soiled from the factory on 30 June 1967. It was said to have been used for an abortive sponsored ride from the factory to Australia, which got no further than Dover. The purchaser was an aunt of Veteran-Cycle Club member Paul Kimberley. )

Arthur Beckingham was born c.1920, joined Enfield at the age of 14 and, apart from military service and illness, spent the whole of his working life with the company. He told Tony that Enfield had previously prototyped a small-wheeler with a single main beam of about 2″ diameter. However, it seems this was not mass-produced and no other reference to this earlier prototype has been found.

The Revelation was claimed by its makers to have ‘the same wheelbase as the normal cycle’ and to be ‘20% lighter than the normal machine.’ The recommended prices, c.1966, including purchase tax, were: £24 11s 2d (£24.56) for the single-speed version, £27 4s 6d (£27.23) for the version with Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed, and £30 5s 4d (£30.27) for the version with the 3-speed and a Sturmey-Archer GH6 Dynohub lighting set. This latter version competed for sales head-to-head with Raleigh’s RSW16 and was virtually the same price.

All Revelations were supplied with a Moulton-style holdall for the well integrated but removable rear carrier. A frame-fixed front carrier, which again showed strong Moulton influence, was an optional extra: this had a recommended retail price £1 10s 4d (£1.52) including purchase tax. The unisex frame covered the range 18″ to 23″ and was catalogued as being available in ‘flamboyant burgundy’ or ‘flamboyant blue.’ It was also supplied in green, although no catalogue reference to this colour has yet been found. Tyres were all-white Dunlops in the British 20 x 1 3/8″ (ISO 451) format.

The bicycle came with a short white plastic pump, tools, reflector on the rear mudguard, propstand and ‘top run’ (‘hockey stick’) chain-guard. Components were typical of British 1960s light roadsters, mostly in steel: see the exploded drawing and parts list below, which come from the spare parts leaflet.

Exploded view of the Royal Enfield Revelation LHD Mk1
Parts list
Parts list

The full model name was the ‘Revelation LHD Mark 1.’ LHD stood for Leo H Davenport, a fact confirmed to Malcolm Barrett by Rex Wearing, formerly company accountant for E & H P Smith and who worked closely with Davenport.

In 1967, the Enfield Cycle Company ceased trading, the Redditch workforce being made redundant on 31st January. The Royal Enfield bicycle brand name was sold and the model name Revelation was subsequently applied to a less interesting small-wheeler sold elsewhere as a Vindec. (Vindec was a brand name used by Brown Brothers.)

The pictures below show the designer, various surviving machines, advertising material and photographs of the Revelation being built at Redditch. We hope you enjoy it. If you have further information about this bicycle, please contact Tony Hadland via this blog.

Below are two technical drawings by Vic Bott of what appears to be a prototype child’s small-wheeler. These, and the certificate above, were kindly provided to Malcom Barrett by a nephew of Vic Bott.

The late Vic Bott, designer of the Royal Enfield Revelation, with his creation. This one is in the Burgundy finish.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Malcolm Barrett is the Veteran-Cycle Club’s Royal Enfield marque specialist. This is his green-finished Revelation, frame number 156693, said to be the last made.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Arthur Beckingham was foreman at the Enfield works in Redditch, Worcestershire. This machine was built by Arthur for his wife’s use and is another said to be the last made. However, it has a lower serial number (151644) than Malcolm Barrett’s machine. It is finished in Enfield’s ‘flamboyant blue’.
Picture by Tony Hadland.
Frontal view of the same machine. Restored by Tony Hadland, it is now in the Pinkerton collection.
Picture by Tony Hadland.
Rearward view. Note the Moulton circular chainwheel guard that has been fitted in place of the standard Enfield ‘hockey-stick’ chain guard.
Picture by Tony Hadland.
Part of a catalogue for the entire range of Royal Enfield bicycles. Among the twelve models listed, the Revelation is given pride of place.
Catalogue courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
A 1966 brochure shows Enfield’s idea of cycling in the ‘swinging sixties’.
Brochure courtesy of John Pinkerton.
In 1966 the UK’s small-wheeler sales war was raging. Enfield needed to compete with Moulton, Raleigh, Dawes and others. This advert appeared in ‘Meccano Magazine’ in November 1966.
Cutting from Tony Hadland.
Another advert, this time from ‘Cycling’, 12th November 1966
Cutting from Tony Hadland.
Part of another advert, extolling the virtues of the Revelation.
Cutting courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
The remainder of the pictures in this sequence take you into the Enfield factory at Redditch to see the Revelation being made. The pictures were taken by Associated Iliffe Press in 1966. Here a chainguard is being fitted during final assembly.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Welding the frame in a jig. Note the gussets at the junctions of the main beam with the head and seat tubes.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Checking frame alignment.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Building a 20″ rim onto a Sturmey-Archer AW three-speed hub.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Spraying a frame in a paint booth.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
Another view of the paint booth.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
A fast-moving worker hangs a frame on a moving rack ready for stoving.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.
After stoving, transfers are applied to the frame.
Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrett.

Article first published in 2001. Last updated 17th January 2020. Tony Hadland thanks John Ivins, John Pinkerton, Anne Bradford, Barry Smith, David Vann, Paul Kimberley, Arthur Beckingham and particularly Malcolm Barrett for information contributed to this article.

Herbert Kuner read the above article and wrote:

I’m researching the history of the Dutch bicycle industry, and so I discovered that the model ‘New Fashion’ made by Batavus in the ’60s is a virtually complete copy of the Revelation.

In November 1965 the Dutch bicycle dealer’s trade magazine F4 announced a bicycle with a ‘completely new design for Holland’: the 18″, 20″ or 24″ wheeled Batavus New Fashion. On my website, there is a non-official page where you can find pictures of a 1967 New Fashion: In the same magazine in February 1966, there is even a new, foldable version of the New Fashion mentioned. I enquired at Batavus about who designed the New Fashion. Some older Batavus employees, the son of the old Batavus director Gerrit Gaastra, Andries Gaastra (who himself was commercial director of Batavus between 1967-73 and later founded the brand Koga Miyata) and the former financial director of Batavus all said that – as far as they remember – the New Fashion was designed by Gerrit Gaastra (who died in 1997). Reading your article on the Royal Enfield Revelation which seems to be marketed at least a few months earlier, I think this is impossible.

Moreover, I discovered the RE Revelation in the 1966 catalogue of Simplex, another well-know Dutch bicycle manufacturer. This was the true Royal Enfield model, imported to Holland. The Amsterdam bicycle wholesaler Westor originally imported Royal Enfield bicycles, but was taken over by Simplex by 1 November 1965. That is how the Revelation could appear in the Simplex catalogue.

I collected a lot of data about old Dutch bicycles (mainly from the ’50s and ’60s) to compile a bicycle database with approximately 5,000 bicycles. Not one is a RE Revelation, and there are only 5 Batavus New Fashions, all of them with 24″ wheels and not foldable. Even Andries Gaastra doesn’t know anything about the claimed foldable version. So my conclusion is that the 24″ non-foldable New Fashion was the only version sold in relevant numbers, and the RE Revelation was offered only for a short period and sold in very little numbers.

Kind regards,

Herbert Kuner
Utrecht, Holland

Demonchaux’s Revelation copy
In February 2011, James Thomson kindly pointed out that Demonchaux have been making a machine plainly inspired by the Revelation. The main differences seem to be in wheel format and front fork design. There are many more pictures of variants of the Demonchaux version here:

Demonchaux's Revelation-inspired small-wheeler
Demonchaux’s Revelation-inspired small-wheeler