The principal objects of this invention are to provide a bicycle of an unusual novel and attractive appearance which will have a distinct appeal to the eye in conformance with the line adopted in the streamlining of vehicles and further, to utilize the streamline effect of design to accomplish a very distinct improvement in the riding qualities of the bicycle to effect the absorbing of road shocks and further, to provide a very desirable form of bicycle having a distinctly novel appeal.
– Canadian Patent Application #358849, 23rd October, 1935
The Canada Cycle & Motor Co Ltd had been Canada’s leading cycle manufacturer and retailer for most of the the twentieth century, with a successful export market in the commonwealth countries. But one thing they lacked was a modern ‘flagship’ model.
By the thirties, design styles had entered the ‘streamlined’ era, and the flowing styles of American streamlined trains, cars and refrigerators had entered the public consciousness. America led the new revolution in aerodynamic styling and, drawing on influences from European art and fashion and the new ‘Art Deco’ style, designers like Raymond Loewy were busy creating icons that were to last for decades to come.
Railway companies could afford the best designers for their new locomotives and American automobile companies were not far behind. Cycle manufacturers wanted a piece of the action too, so major companies hired some of the best stylists and inventors of the day to create new bicycle masterpieces. Schwinn, Elgin, Murray and Monark brought out superb top-of-the-range models that were too expensive for most customers to buy …but were superb exhibition and shop window display models that helped sell their normal ranges of bicycles.
As Canada’s national cycle manufacturer, CCM naturally felt a need to compete with America’s top companies in the ‘superbike’ stakes. Silver King’s 1936 Flocycle (above, and in a full feature on the previous page) appears to have been a major influence on the design of the CCM Flyte. However, the Flyte’s designer Harvey W. Pearce added a further excellent innovation that took the CCM one step further …by adding a curved front fork similar in appearance to the Victor Springfork of the late 1880s. The CCM was not designed as a spring-frame like the Victor, instead it had what was described as a ‘shock-absorbing frame.’ The Flyte’s unique design created the only bicycle in history to feature a curved front fork to mirror its curved rear stays.
As with all the top-of-the-range ‘exhibition’ cycle models, the Flyte was obviously not built with sales figures in mind. It was a design exercise that put CCM into the same league as the top American manufacturers, and so helped boost its overall sales at home and abroad. Despite this, it’s a very functional bicycle that’s easy to ride and it even does the job it claims to have been invented for, ie it provides a smooth ride that absorbs road bumps.
Surprisingly, the CCM Flyte is not very well known 75 years later. Most American enthusiasts have little knowledge or interest in bicycles made outside the USA. (That blinkered view can even preclude anything not over-restored or made by Schwinn). But, despite a general lack of acknowledgement, this bicycle, in my opinion, features one of the most iconic bicycle designs in the entire history of cycling and I am proud to have one in this museum collection.
1936 CCM ‘Flyte Streamlined’
with the New Design Shock Absorbing Frame & Fork
Manufactured by the Canada Cycle & Motor Co Ltd
My friend Daniel in Illinois introduced me to the CCM Flyte. We pondered for over a year about exchanging his Flyte for my Royal Enfield Girder and eventually a few weeks ago we both bit the bullet and went for it. This morning his email greeted me when I turned on the computer:
‘The hour is late for this teacher but I had to write to tell you that the Enfield arrived this evening. I am well pleased. I just spent the last few hours in my cabin putting the bike together, and I don’t remember ever having quite so much grease on my hands…but it was worth it. The bike arrived in fine shape, save for a couple of minor tears in the front fender (one can barely make out the beginning of one in your photograph…I assume the trip from England caused them to spread a bit)…but no dents in the tubes, and this was my main concern. The Royal Enfield is a beautiful bike, and I am grateful for our trade. By the way, the wire-mesh rear carrier you sent with the Enfield is a killer…it looks as though it has been on the Girder all its life.’
CCM FLYTE PATENT ILLUSTRATION
TROXEL SADDLE & CCM TOOLBAG
CANADA CYCLE & MOTOR CO LTD (CCM)
The formation of CCM – Canada Cycle & Motor Co Ltd – is interesting because it came into being because of over-production and unsustainable competition within the American bicycle industry in the late 1890s.
The 1890s were boom years for bicycle manufacture. There was a lot of money to be made out of making frames, adding components and turning the finished result into a ridable machine with a name.
But, by the end of the century, so many companies had started making bicycles to cash in on the great profit margins that sale prices were forced down and many of the top companies became unprofitable. As well as fair competition, ie good bicycles at lower prices, the problem was compounded by small companies making poor-quality copies of the ‘name’ brands which they sold at cheap prices. The main manufacturers had managed to ask high prices since the beginning of the cycle industry, and the crash in cycle sales forced buy-outs, liquidations and mergers.
British, French and German companies, faced with the same problems, turned their attention to developing the new-fangled ‘motor bicycles.’ The fact that motorised bicycles took off so fast within just a few years of their introduction around 1902 is no doubt due to the need by the manufacturers to create an immediate market to recoup their investments. American cycle manufacturers were less interested in motorcycles, because automobiles were much more suitable for their country. Colonel Alexander Pope had created a ‘Good Roads’ movement ten years before; as well as helping bicycle sales by getting the government to build new roads, he had been paving the way for the new automobile.
The leading American cycle companies of the 1890s were Pope, manufacturer of the Columbia; G&J, whose flagship was the Rambler; and Overman, makers of the Victor and Victoria. Overman went bust as a result. Colonel Pope was the largest cycle manufacturer, and therefore had the most to lose. He was also a prolific ‘acquirer’ of patents and other cycle companies. So he proposed a radical idea, which he managed to steamroll through any obstacle, in his usual style, with lots of horse-trading between companies no doubt going on behind the scenes. As a result, in 1899, forty-ywo American cycle manufacturers merged to form the American Bicycle Company (ABC).
One of the businesses in this merger was H.A Lozier & Co, who had opened a cycle manufacturing plant in 1895 in Toronto Junction (as the city was then known). Massey-Harris, at that time the leading Canadian cycle maker, used part of Lozier’s Toronto factory. Lozier’s ‘Cleveland’ bicycles were a respected American brand, and Lozier offered his business to Pope in exchange for a buy-out, as he wanted to stop making bicycles and start making automobiles. He received a record sum of $4 million.
The acquisition of Lozier’s Canadian factory and business was a major bonus for the American cycle companies. It meant that, even if sales in America had taken a nosedive, the new company could build up a large new market for their bicycles in Canada. So the new conglomerate ABC created a company in Canada called the NCC (National Cycle Co). There was a further amalgamation between Lozier, Massey-Harris, Goold and Welland Vale Mfg, to form CCM. The new company accounted for 85% of Canada’s cycle business and within a few years had completely taken it over. CCM survived the recessive economic climate despite strong competition from the USA, and exported bicycles to Australia and South Africa.
1936 CCM FLYTE v 1950 MALVERN STAR ‘STREAMLYNE’
Photos and info with thanks to – http://www.ccmflyte.com/