The Saulkrasti Cycling Museum contains some amazing vintage bicycles (see recent post) but, perhaps more interestingly, contains some fascinating accessories and bits n’bobs for bikes.
What struck me was the attention to detail and focus on design which used to be such a feature of the bicycle manufacturing process. Take, for example, the collection of vintage front chainrings displayed on one of the museum’s wall (see photo above). Each unique, containing intricate, almost abstract designs, that made me recall Arab tilework. The artwork on the wall would not have looked out of place in turkish bath.
Many of the chainrings incorporated letters into the design, where today you have a simple spider layout. I think the letters refer to the manufacturer but imagine how desirable it would be to have your name was spelt out on the big ring.
Another design feature which has slipped out of usage today was a fabric wheel guard which hang over rear wheels so that ladies’ (in those days they were ladies!) skirts did not get caught up (see photo below). Not only does this strike me as a practical solution to a difficult problem (you can’t wear trouser clips on a skirt) but in each case they were beautifully detailed and crafted in different colours and delightful designs. In fact they were so ornate they seemed, at first glance, to be peacock feathers rather than strands of thread.
Whilst keeping skirts out of wheels is not such a big issue in an era when women aren’t forced to wear long flowing skirts, being seen in the dark is clearly a major issue for modern day cyclists. A good set of lamps is always imporant and I doubt anyone would feel too safe cycling down the Strand with one of the lamps I spotted on display in the museum. One candle in a lantern-like box, attached to the front of the bike wouldn’t do much good on busy streets today.
The cycle museum was a proper hidden gem and a really interesting place to visit. If you’re in the neighbourhood I would recommend it over going for a dip in the sea. Baltic by name, baltic by nature.