1891 Columbia Light Roadster Safety
IT’S A COLUMBIA. When all the world’s on wheels, there’ll be no sorrow here below – for all the world’ll be happy, and there’ll be health and good digestion everywhere – and the best part of the world will ride Columbias, for Columbias are sound, one priced, beautiful to look upon, of lasting durability.
1891 Columbia Light Roadster Safety
30″ Wheels with Cushion Tyres
This Columbia was a state-of-the-art machine for 1891. Despite the ever-changing evolution in bicycle design in the early 1890s, the combination of unique features on this bicycle made it at least four years ahead of its time.
SET-UP: This Columbia is set up for distance riding and is cosmetically unrestored. With this bicycle, I focussed purely on its mechanical restoration, to make myself a bicycle that has all the features I find useful when I ride a fixed-wheel safety bike on a regular basis. It took a long time and a lot of work to turn it into a practical long-distance bike, so there was no point painting it and worrying about scratching it every time I lean it against a tree.
The pedals and saddle are reproduction items. It does not have a lamp holder, and the rear section of the rear mudguard is missing. The chainguard was optional. Except for the items mentioned, everything is original and intact.
REAR BRAKE: The brake is effective, being a rod-operated linkage activated by the front lever and pressing on the rear wheel to stop it. This was very innovative for its time, when few safety bikes had brakes. Of course, Colonel Pope bought up all the patents available for braking systems so his machines were way ahead of most of his competitors. Other Columbia safety bikes of this year had a brake, but this economy model did not; so we used some original parts and manufactured other parts (using an original Columbia brake as a pattern) so that I could have a brake on it – similar to the one on the Light Roadster in the catalogue illustration below.
NEW CUSHION TYRES: I had modern ‘Green tyres’ fitted to the Columbia and I find them excellent to use, reproducing the ‘cushion tyre’ of the original and providing a comfortable ride. They were fitted very carefully, cut from sections and fitted together, by a manufacturer of modern ordinaries (‘penny farthings’) who uses the same process for his own machines. (I believe he rode an ordinary fitted with these tyres around the world). Green tyres, which are made in England, are a solid cushion type; they are sold to owners of modern bicycles (who can afford them) who want a puncture-proof tyre. We have to grind off the square section lip on the inside to be able to fit them to an old wheel rim.
FRAME CONSTRUCTION: This Light Roadster model features a combination of double top tube and lack of seat tube, ie it’s an open frame with the front part of the rear mudguard as part of its frame construction.
UNIQUE SADDLE POST & REPRO SADDLE TOP: The unique frame construction necessitated a unique saddle post fitting that straddles both top tubes. It did not have a Kirkpatrick saddle when i bought it, and I’m using a reproduction ‘Empire De Luxe’ saddle top on a traditional seat post because I find this comfortable and practical for riding. This repro saddle top (made by England’s top saddle repairer, Tony Colegrave) is much more robust than an original saddle top (which would be delicate and therefore more suitable for displays than riding).
COLUMBIA LIGHT ROADSTER
There were three ‘Columbia Light Roadsters’ for the 1891 season, each with important differences.
The first was an Ordinary.
The second two were safeties with identical names – the Columbia Light Roadster Safety.
But the upmarket one had sprung front forks, while this one, which I’ll call the ‘economy model,’ did not.
Another curious point is that although it is called a ‘light roadster’ it is not light! My first Columbia was the 1893 model (you can see it on another page). I was amazed how light the frame is …very useful when I had to dismount to push it up hills. After I sold that bicycle, I was delighted to find this one to replace it, but shocked when i realized what a difference there was in frame weight. However, I do like the different style of frame on this model: whereas the 1892 and 1893 Coilumbias have a vertical seat tube, this model has no seat tube; in fact, the front part of the rear mudguard is part of the frame. You can see the two frame styles illustrated below: the gentleman in the foreground is on the 1892/1893 Columbia, while the chap doffing his hat behind is on a Columbia Light Roadster Safety (with sprung front forks).
SHORT VIDEO OF 1891 COLUMBIA
FIRST PHOTO OF THE COLUMBIA
The photo above shows the Columbia soon after its purchase, before its new tyres were fitted.
BOTTOM BRACKET, REAR BRAKE MECHANISM, WHEELS & TYRES
REPRODUCTION ‘EMPIRE DE LUXE’ SADDLE
1891 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE
LOCATION: Stanmer Park, near Brighton, East Sussex