The 1920s is commonly known as ‘The Jazz Age.’ Young folks rebelled against the the conservatism of the WW1 era, danced to modern music and aspired to lives of greater personal freedom. In America, they were known as ‘flappers’ who wore short dresses with silk stockings rolled just above the knee. They smoked cigarettes in public and – with the popularity of ‘the bob’ – had their hair cut at male barbers.
Their mother’s generation had eventually won hard-earned voting rights as a result of the suffragette movement – and also during WW1 by working at jobs traditionally done by men, both at home and in the war zone. After WW1, the ‘Representation of the People Act 1918’ was passed, enfranchising women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. But it was not until 1928 that the ‘Representation of the People Act 1928’ extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21.
In the 1920s, popular music was freely available for the first time, and youngsters eagerly anticipated the latest releases from the stars of the time. The crooner Gene Austin had a huge hit with ‘My Blue Heaven’ which was released in September 1927, becoming the best selling single of all time (until displaced by Bing Crosby – who credited Astin with creating the crooner genre – with ‘White Christmas’).
In many towns around Great Britain, bicycle shops took advantage of their high street locations to sell gramophone records too.
As ‘My Blue Heaven’ was rolling off the presses and onto the turntables, this green Ariel Tourist Lady’s Bicycle was likewise leaving the factory gates ready to be purchased by a young lady eager to enjoy the new freedoms represented by cycling. Like gramophone records, bicycles were now much more affordable for the ordinary person. Rather than being chaperoned by an older aunt, as required in the previous decade, young ladies could now venture off on cycling adventures with friends, belong to cycling clubs, and express their own opinions.
The Ariel Cycle Co was an upmarket manufacturer, with various distinctive features on their machines, such as biflex front forks, below. It was claimed in the company’s literature that ‘in addition to improving the appearance, this tubing gives the bicycle additional strength and rigidity where it is specially required.’ Although Ariel was a very innovative cycle manufacture in the earlier years of the industry, introducing many such individual ideas to their machines, by the late 1920s the company was focussing much more on their motorcycle division and, by the early 1930s, they stopped making bicycles. Ariel bicycles are not easy to find now.
1927 Ariel Tourist Lady’s Bicycle
Brooks B67S Saddle
Accessory Basket, Rear Carrier & Bell
This 86-year-old Ariel was restored by an enthusiast in the 1990s and has hardly been used since. Their are a scuffs and scratches in the paintwork, but the overall impression is excellent. Although you would certainly be proud of it at a show or display, it is not a concours bike, rather a bicycle to be ridden and enjoyed for its superb quality of workmanship at a time when Great Britain led the world in engineering skills.
The Brooks B67S saddle is brand new. Although the saddle has a chrome base, and chrome was not introduced into bicycles until 1930, I’ve left it on the bicycle because it matches the rest of the bicycle and is more comfortable to ride than a scruffy one of the earlier era.
I fitted new cream Schwalbe tyres and inner tubes and the bicycle has recently been serviced. It’s ready to ride and enjoy.
We now take for granted the freedoms that our grandparents or great grandparents worked hard to achieve. Riding a bicycle is obviously no longer an expression of freedom, just a means of getting from A to B …and keeping fit at the same time. The vintage bicycle hobby is a wonderful way to explore our social history: sitting on the same saddle (well, OK, in this case a newer one), steering your 1927 Ariel Tourist Lady’s Bicycle with Biflex forks through the countryside, you can see similar green fields, with the same gorgeous summer flowers around you as the lady making her maiden voyage on this machine in 1927. That year was also the first time that a spoken voice was heard in the movies (Al Jolson in ‘The Jazz Singer’ released on 6th October 1927). Enjoy riding your Ariel Tourist Lady’s Bicycle and also enjoy a spot of ‘time travel’ to see what was happening when this bicycle was new…