carbon flyers and super-travel all-mountain suspension bikes dominate
Interbike, the largest industry bicycle show I attend each year, the showstoppers
for me are rare and unusual things, such as Mesicek’s
spectacular reproduction of a turn-of-the-century safety bicycle called
the Kangaroo. After the show this year, they were kind enough to send
me photos so that I can display this stunning machine here.
Mesicek is a small family firm in the Czech Republic that builds and restores
vintage bicycles. “History for the future,” they say on their
site. Not to take anything away from modern bicycle designers and manufacturers,
yet the craftsmanship that must have gone into making every single part
required to build such an unusual and rare treasure, from every chain
pin and sideplate, to the massive tire, to the hand-tooled leather seat,
to the embossed pedal treads and cherry grips, to the gracefully arching
backbone (frame) and flowing fork, is hard to fathom, and delightfully
refreshing in an age of mass production and off-the-shelf components.
Mesicek’s Kangaroo is a limited-edition handcrafted masterpiece
based on a bicycle that was invented to be a safe alternative to the highwheel
(also called the ordinary). In Bicycle,
David Herlihy explains, “By the mid-1880s the future of the
once dominant ordinary
was increasingly less secure. The public was beginning to suspect that
the high mount was far more dangerous than the trade had initially let
on. Even Bicycling World magazine acknowledged that 'many a hardy and
skillful bicyclist has been seriously and permanently injured by a forward
fall off a high mount.' ”
The result was safety bicycles, such as the Kangaroo. In his classic book
King of the Road, Andrew Ritchie gives this history:“The
third of a trio of strange modified Ordinary bicycles was called the 'Kangaroo.'
It was designed by William Hillman, who had worked with James Starley
on the Ariel in the early seventies and was one of the oldest craftsman
in the business. It was first introduced commercially by the firm of Hillman,
Herbert & Cooper at the beginning of 1884. The Kangaroo enjoyed a
short and popular life during the two years before the Rover safety bicycle
and the other rear-driven safeties took the cycling world by storm.”
Indeed, not long after its introduction, the Kangaroo broke the current
highwheel century record completing the 100 miles in 7 hours and 11 minutes.
The future had arrived.
Enjoy the photos! To see Mesicek’s bicycles in person contact College
Park Bicycles in Maryland.
the pictures below to enlarge them
to the RIDE page