May 14, 2012

How a Bicycle is Made (1945)

Obviously not a “true” documentary about how bikes are made, the British Council still presents an interesting advertorial film on the process of making bikes in 1945. While more modern bicycles use standardized parts manufactured in factories all around the world, in 1945 this British factory made all their parts in-house – except for maybe a few of the parts, including the tires and the saddle (which appears to be from Brooks).

Some interesting points to note on this bicycle’s design: a separate rear stay (modern bikes have an integrated rear stay), the crank uses a cotter pin, and fenders and tool bags are included (unlike modern bikes which apparently are never ridden in the rain). Also interesting: seeing some of the design drawings including one for a delivery bike with a large box in the front and reinforced frame (i.e., extra top tube). And all too briefly, we see some beautiful road bikes. Too bad they didn’t take a moment to show us some close ups of the other styles they mention. I need my fix of bike porn.

In the factory, look for the hand dipping in enamel – and I do mean hand! It seems strange they wouldn’t wear gloves to dip the bikes in paint. I suppose those factory workers would have one permanently stained hand! In general, most people weren’t wearing any sort of glove for any stage of the process, except for the obvious: parts put in the furnaces! The men and women of the factory must have had thick, leathery-skinned hands. I wonder if the footage is pre-war or staged for film during the war. Makes sense that there are women in the factories but with so many young men working, it’s hard to believe this is 1945… and that they’re building steel bikes! I’d love to have a bit of context for this film.

I also wish a modern government agency would come out and say what this film says at the end (aside from “…British bicycles, second to none!”): There are bicycles for all purposes, they’re comfortable and cheap, a great boon to man, ideal for shopping, easy to park, handy for work, a faithful friend ever ready to take tired workers back home, and after work bring relaxation, health and happiness. Indeed.

video via Kottke


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