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A roadster, aka English roadster, is a type of utility bicycle once common in Britain and still very common in Asia, Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Design and variantsEdit

A classic English roadster has a lugged brazed steel frame, rod-actuated brakes, upright handlebars, a single gear ratio or Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub gears, a chaincase, steel mudguards, cottered steel cranks, 28 inch (635 mm) Westwood style rims, and often a Sturmey-Archer Dynohub hub dynamo. Roadsters were built for durability above all else and no serious attempt was made to save weight in their design or construction, roadsters weighed upwards of 45-50 pounds (20-23 kg). Interestingly, a derivative of the roadster, the ladies' model, is seldom called a roadster.

The roadster, also called an "English roadster", is very similar in design and intended use as the European city bike, a model still used in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The primary differences are that the continental bicycles tend to have a higher handlebar position for a more upright riding posture, and are more likely to have rod-actuated drum brakes.

Another type of roadster bicycle, the sports roadster, used lighter frame tubing and hand-operated rim brakes, 26 inch (590 mm) rims and weighed around 35-40 pounds (16 - 18 kg).[1]

HistoryEdit

From the early 20th century until after World War II, the roadster constituted most adult bicycles sold in the United Kingdom and in many parts of the British Empire. For many years after the advent of the motorcycle and automobile, they remained a primary means of adult transport. Major manufacturers in Britain were Raleigh and BSA, though Carlton, Phillips, Triumph, Hercules, and Elswick Hopper also made them.

In the United States, the sports roadster was imported after World War II, and was known as the English racer. It quickly became popular with adult cyclists seeking an alternative to the traditional youth-oriented cruiser bicycle.[2][3] While the English racer was no racing bike, it was faster and better for climbing hills than the cruiser, thanks to its lighter weight, tall wheels, narrow tires, and three-speed gearing.[4] In the late 1950s, U.S. manufacturers began producing their own "middleweight" version of the English racer.[5]

In Britain, the utility roadster declined noticeably in popularity during the early 1970s, as a boom in recreational cycling caused manufacturers to concentrate on lightweight (23-30 lb.), affordable derailleur sport bikes, actually slightly-modified versions of the racing bicycle of the era.[6]

In the 1980s, U.K. cyclists began to shift from road-only bicycles to all-terrain models such as the mountain bike.[7] The mountain bike's sturdy frame and load-carrying ability gave it additional versatility as a utility bike, usurping the role previously filled by the roadster. By 1990, the roadster was almost dead; while annual U.K. bicycle sales reached an all-time record of 2.8 million, almost all of them were mountain and road/sport models.[8]

Contemporary useEdit

In many parts of the world, the roadster bicycle is still the standard bicycle used for daily transportation. Mass-produced in Asia (especially India, China, and Taiwan), it has also been exported in huge numbers to African and several Latin American countries. Because of its relative affordability, ability to carry heavy payloads, and durability in harsh climates, it is generally the most common bicycle in use in those countries, particularly in rural areas. In East Africa, the roadster is called the Black Mamba, where it is used as a taxi by enterprising cyclist/drivers, called boda-boda. A Chinese version, the single-speed Flying Pigeon, was reportedly the single most popular mechanized vehicle in worldwide use.[9]

In Britain, a few German and Dutch utility bikes are still imported, where they are most popular as student transport at university, especially at Cambridge and Oxford. Today, the closest modern equivalent is probably the hybrid bicycle and its subvariants, the cross bike and city bike. In the United Kingdom, Pashley Cycles still manufactures significant numbers of roadster and roadster-type bicycles.

NotesEdit

  1. Weaver, Susan, A Woman's Guide to Cycling, Ten Speed Press, rev. ed. (1998), ISBN 0898159822, 9780898159820, p. 58
  2. Weaver, Susan, A Woman's Guide to Cycling, Ten Speed Press, rev. ed. (1998), ISBN 0898159822, 9780898159820, p. 58
  3. Ballantine, Richard, The 21st Century Bicycle Book, New York: Overlook Press (2001), p. 22
  4. Weaver, Susan, A Woman's Guide to Cycling, Ten Speed Press, rev. ed. (1998), ISBN 0898159822, 9780898159820, p. 58
  5. Weaver, Susan, A Woman's Guide to Cycling, Ten Speed Press, rev. ed. (1998), ISBN 0898159822, 9780898159820, p. 58
  6. Ballantine, Richard, The 21st Century Bicycle Book, New York: Overlook Press (2001), p. 23: Sales of sport and road racing bikes constituted the major part of new bike sales from 1972, when annual U.K. sales went from just 700,000 per year to 1.6 million per year in 1980.
  7. Ballantine, Richard, The 21st Century Bicycle Book, New York: Overlook Press (2001), p. 23
  8. Ballantine, Richard, The 21st Century Bicycle Book, New York: Overlook Press (2001), p. 23
  9. Koeppel, Dan, Flight of the Pigeon, Bicycling.com, Article

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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