I recently found myself in Willimantic for the first time, and had an opportunity to check out a couple of places that countless people have recommended to me over the years. Both the Food Co-op and Scott's Cyclery were well worth the trip, and gave me a bit of envy, as I would love to have such establishments in my immediate area. This can be a great time of year to visit a bike shop, as the owners can have a bit more time to spare. In the case of my visit to Scott's Cyclery, that meant plenty of time to find a few parts for an unusual bike frame I have and more time to talk about old bicycles. Scott has a ton of vintage bikes, but I was especially keen on two that were made by The Pope Manufacturing Company in my own neighborhood.
The oldest is a Columbia high wheeler from the 1880's. The solid rubber tires are new reproductions, but I think this boneshaker is otherwise original. I have never ridden a high-wheeler, but would jump at the opportunity to do so. I might be rationalizing here, but it seems that all the inherent dangers of riding such a contraption in modern traffic should be offset by a marked increase in visibility. All the same, maybe the first try should be on a bike path...
This more modern Columbia safety bicycle dates from 1893. It combines such advances as pneumatic tires with throwbacks like the vestigial bike-mounting step from the older-school days. It's mostly rusty, but the nickel-plated rear sprocket looks good as new, thanks to a century of greasy protective coverage. I love the oil lantern. While modern LEDs are the brighter and more efficient way to light your way at night, there is an unmistakable allure to having part of your bike actually on fire while you are riding it. Come to think of it, I'm going to see if I can fit a propane cylinder in a water bottle cage and rig up a pair of gas lanterns (front and rear, for safety) as soon as I finish this post- what could possibly go wrong? That massive sprung seat frame looks like it would require a square yard of animal hide to restore.
One of my dreams is to someday own, or at least ride a locally-manufactured Columbia or Hartford brand bike, especially a shaft-driven Columbia Chainless. Scott had a vintage chainless bike in the house, but it wasn't a Columbia (it might have been a Pierce, but don't quote me on that). It's more than very likely that bicycle-building factory workers once lived in my circa-1900 home, so some sort of historical society should help me obtain one. I'll agree to wear period clothing while riding it if that helps my case.
This early 1950's vintage Phillips was not made in Hartford, but I wish it lived here with me. I love me some British roadster, especially in green. Gorgeous!