Starley Brothers ‘Psycho’ Road Racer 1893/4

I bought this bicycle from a French collection, as an anonymous French road racer, being attracted by the light and very fine construction. When I started to clean it I noticed the word ‘Starley’s’ in raised lettering on the brake rubber, and ‘Starley’s Patent’ on the pedals as well! This engaged me in research on this particular make and it was not long after that I identified the machine as a Starley Brothers ‘Psycho’ Road Racer.

According to Ray Miller’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers’, Starley Brothers was formed as early as 1870. They used the model name of ‘Psycho’ for their 1886 tricycle, and later revived the name for their range of safety bicycles.

Since Starley’s advertised regularly in ‘Cycling’ magazine an illustration of the machine was found in an 1893 issue. Further proof came from the unique wheel rims fitted to the machine to take Starley’s own brand of tyres, also described in periodicals of the period. The Starley tyres had a two piece wire bead on each side, the ends of which passed through the rim and were locked in place by a metal and rubber clip (see detail below of hole in rim) preventing the tyre coming off the rim.

Later I found an illustration of this machine in Starley Brothers 1894 French catalogue, together with a detail of the unique wheel rims. Catalogue images are courtesy of the Veteran-Cycle Club’s excellent library.

The bicycle is remarkably original and unspoilt, with quite a bit of original enamel and nickel remaining, and even tantalising vestiges of a gold head transfer. There are a number of very nice and fine features which one might expect from such a prestigious maker. The pedals are beautifully made, and the cranks are of very fine round section. The bearing cases are unusual and fine, extending into the head tube, and all the radial spokes are butted – The rear spokes are very heavily double butted, whilst the front spokes are finer and single butted. There is a particularly nice wire lamp bracket.

Coming with extensive French provenance it’s clear that it was originally supplied to one of Starley’s French agencies, which would also explain the presence of the French made ‘Brown’ saddle. Surviving lightweight road racer’s such as this are rare, I think partly because they often had 30 inch front rims, the tyres for which soon became obsolete. This one has 28 inch rims. When I bought the machine I noticed the unusual rims and thought that I would never be able to make the bike usable, but remarkably the now rare size of 28 x 1 3/4 inch tyres fitted snugly on the rims, making it usable again and a delight to ride. Unfortunately these tyres have an ugly modern tread pattern, and I am looking for an old pair with more a suitable appearance.

Click on photo’s for large scale detailed images

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