The Crypto Bantam is a gloriously eccentric Victorian machine, built to fill a niche market during the decade when independent wheeled transport first became an essential part of society. Its ‘niche’ was as an easily mountable and usable machine for gentlemen who had by now become too old to ride the Ordinary (‘penny farthing’) bicycle that had been prevalent in the previous decade.
The Ordinary’s place was now usurped by the more practical safety bicycle. The final models of Ordinary were manufactured in 1891, though they continued to be sold for a few years after. The Crypto F.D Safety was introduced in 1893, becoming the Crypto Bantam as the result of a final sales push in 1895 and 1896.
Although enthusiasts still ride Ordinaries – and, with increasing popularity two centuries on, updated replica models are still being manufactured – the Crypto Bantam was the last front-driver to be made in the Victorian era before the original full-size Ordinary became extinct.
1895 Crypto ‘Bantam’ F.D Safety No 2
22″ Front Wheel
18″ Rear Wheel
29″ from Top of Seat Post to the Ground
Brooks ’95 404 Patent Saddle & Spring
|This fabulous 121-year-old machine was manufactured at a time when the British cycle industry led the world. Coventry firms had started the bicycle business 26 years earlier. When this Crypto left the factory to be ridden by its first owner, motorised vehicles had not yet been generally introduced to the roads. But 1895 was an important year for cars: the first automobile race took place on 13th June, 1895, in France, with 45 entries: first over the line was a Panhard et Lavassor with Daimler Phoenix engine which completed the 732-mile course at an average speed of 15mph. America’s first race was between six cars in November that year; the winner over the 94-miles course was a Duryea (with a Benz engine) at an average speed of 7.3mph. Great Britain’s ‘Emancipation Run’ took place the following year after the 4mph speed limit had been replaced by a 14mph maximum speed. 33 cars started from London and 17 finished, with an American Duryea Motor Wagon the first to reach Brighton. At the start of the run – London’s Metropole Hotel – the cars were accompanied by a witness’s estimate of around 10,000 cyclists. It would be another decade before new-fangled horseless carriages would start to dominate British roads. In 1895 the bicycle ruled.
With its original transfer (decal) still proudly proclaiming the name ‘Crypto Bantam’ and solid tyres providing a less than cushioned ride, this machine is a glorious reminder of an age now passed. It is is fitted with a Brooks ’95 404 Patent saddle, a rare item in its own right and much too valuable to use for riding in case the leather is damaged. So a different saddle should be fitted for riding. Otherwise this wonderful Crypto is ready to ride.
The Crypto company dates from 1883 so far as the gear is concerned. The company produced the two-speed epicyclic gear designed by William Thomas Shaw and William Sydenham in 1882 (patent 1882/3230) and called it the ‘Crypto Dynamic’. The hub was also used on the ‘Xtraordinary’ by Singer & Co in 1886.
In 1887 the company started making several single and tandem tricycles of the ‘Olympia’ pattern as produced for Marriott & Cooper. The Crypto models were called ‘Agilis’, the ‘Preceps’, and the ‘Corona’. The ‘Preceps’ was convertible into the ‘Agilis’. The ‘Corona’ did not appear until 1890. It was designed for ladies and could be converted into a lady’s ‘Agilis’. Many considered the Crypto machines superior to the ‘Olympia’ as they had more weight on the driving wheel, larger wheels, a Crypto two- speed gear and increased brake power (a foot lever for the front rider and a hand lever for the steerer, although both acted on a rear wheel spoon brake). The ‘Presto’ and ‘Princess’ were also made before 1892.
In March 1888 the company was located at 73a Chiswell Street, Finsbury Square, London, but by September of that year it had works and branch showroom at 64 City Road. Subsequently it moved to 47 Farringdon Road and 29 Clerkenwell Road, London. In July 1889 the Crypto No.1 Safety with diamond frame retailed at £15 15s. From September 1891 the company was reconstructed and amalgamated with Ellis & Co. Ltd by mutual consent with the business being carried on from 131 Charing Cross Road, London, by I. W. Boothroyd (d.1938) and Arthur Sydenham, works manager. A ‘Facile’ (then pronounced to rhyme with wheel) 32in front wheel safety had been introduced at the 1891 Stanley Show as well as a ‘Farringdon’ model. There was now an improved driving gear (patent 1891/20612).
The company introduced a small wheeled geared front driver at the Stanley Show in November 1893 called the ‘Crypto F.D. Safety No.3’. The name ‘Bantam’ was given to the machine in February 1894 to promote the fact that it could be mounted without using a step. It was available with two 24in wheels geared to 66in; two 23in wheels geared to 63in; or two 22in wheels geared to 60in. A roadster with brake and mudguards weighed 28 lbs.113 The cranks drove an axle which carried a pinion. On the inner circumference of the hub was a ring of teeth. Between these teeth and the pinion was a set of three small pinions revolving on studs and fixed to the hub flange. With the pinion in use a lower gear was obtained from the otherwise direct drive.
The 1895 model reverted to the original F. D. Safety style frame. There was the ‘Bantamette’ for ladies in 1896. In that year the company name changed to Crypto Works Co. Ltd.
The ‘Alpha Bantam’ was the final attempt, introduced in the Autumn of 1897, to maintain the popularity of the front-driver against the advance of the chain-driven rear wheeled safety. It appears there were two or possibly three variations of the ‘Alpha Bantam’. At the 1900 Stanley Show a wide selection of machines were shown varying in price from £10 10s. to £21 10s. for bicyles plus Racer and Roadster tandems at £23 and £24 10s. respectively. Also in 1900 it produced rear drivers with ‘Collier’ two-speed gear and ‘Gardner-Hearson’ brake and a ‘Flexor’ spring frame. The 1907 catalogue offered six bicycles, from £6 15s to £8 15s., two tandems, two tricycles and a tandem tricycle. The company was then trading from 14 Mortimer Street, London. The company became the Crypto Car and Cycle Co. and there was a brief flirtation with motor cycles and even a car, then motor car components under the leadership of W. G. James. Having started in 1898 to make an electric food mincing machine, and then a food mixing machine, using the epicyclic gear, eventually the company became Crypto Peerless, part of the Electrolux group.
Some other companies purchased licenses to use the Crypto geared drive in their machines, including Singer, who made the carrier tricycle illustrated in their catalogue below.
BROOKS ’95 404 PATENT ‘RELEASE’ SADDLE & SPRING
As its name implies, the chief feature of this saddle is that it can readily be released from its frame-work, and that without the use of any tool.
Springs give a most elastic and easy seat.
And the leather has our registered cutting, a preventative to all perineal pressure.
– from the 1890 Brooks Saddle Catalogue
This very rare Brooks ’95 404 Patent Release Saddle and Spring, introduced in 1895, was an option for the Crypto Bantam.
No Brooks catalogues are known to exist for this year; nevertheless this style is described in their 1890 catalogue, which illustrates an earlier version of the ‘Release Saddle and Spring’ (below).
BROOKS 1894 PATENT CYCLE- SADDLE ATTACHMENT-BOSS
Be it known that I, John Boultbee Brooks, manufacturer, trading as J.B. Brooks & Co, a subject of the Queen of Great Britain, residing at Criterion Works, Great Charles St, in the city of Birmingham, England, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Cycle-Saddle Attachment-Bosses, of which the following is a specification, and for which I have obtained Letters Patent of Great Britain bearing the date of the 24th September 1894, and numbered 18,090.
This invention relates to the attachment-bosses of cycle-saddles, and has for its object more efficient means of securing the saddle-framing to the boss and the boss to the L-pin or seat-pillar of a machine by one operation.
The saddle clamp or boss, attaching the saddle spring to the seat post, is an important feature of early saddles.
Prior to 1895, there was a variety of styles, invariably fastening the saddle spring to the seat post by tightening a nut onto a flattened area of the saddle spring. You can see an example on the 1889/1890 saddle above. The disadvantage of this design was that the nut and bolt was underneath the saddle spring, and the nut and bolt was therefore in a vertical position. Any loosening of the nut allowed the saddle to slip sideways.
There was a revolution in saddle clamp design in 1895, when a universal style was introduced by all the manufacturers. As you can see in the photo below, this provided two nuts onto a central bolt, positioned horizontally. This design was so successful that it is still in use today.
J.B Brooks patented their new design in England in 1894 and in the USA in 1897. You can see the patent drawings below.
History of Crypto Bantam text with thanks to: An Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers: The Early Years up to 1918 (Second Edition), Compiled by Ray Miller