It was too damn stormy to cycle to work this morning, so instead of regaling you with tales of my normal Monday commute, let me tell you about my recent visit to the British Cycling Museum.
The museum is in north Cornwall — one mile north of Camelford on the B3266 Boscastle Road, to be precise. It’s basically an old railway station that’s been covered over and converted into one rather large building. From the outside it doesn’t look like much…
But step inside and it’s like a magical Aladdin’s Cave!
I have to be honest and confess that my first reaction was to laugh. There were hundreds of bikes covering every possible surface. They were lined up against the walls, stacked up on the floor and hanging from the ceiling. I have never seen anything quite like it.
It was a rather wild and woolly afternoon when we visited and most
normal people weren’t out and about doing touristy things like us, so we had the entire museum to ourselves. In fact, it had to be opened especially for us, by a lovely lady who warned us that "this is what happens when a collection turns into an obsession". Of whose obsession, I’m not sure, but I can only imagine it was her husband’s.
According to the leaflet I picked up the collection contains: more than 400 examples of cycles; more than 1,000 cycling medals, fobs and badges from 1881; an extensive library of books; the first cycle oil lamp and window displays of gas, candle, battery and oil lighting; a gallery of framed cycling pictures; displays of ceramic cycling items and models of cycling; and a history of cycling from 1818.
But that’s really just the half of it. Wherever you looked there was a bike or something associated with a bike or some object adorned with a picture of a bike or something that belonged to people who rode bikes or some… well, you get the idea.
There was no attempt to put anything into a historical context, although the various bikes had signs attached to them detailing the date of construction and other details that self-confessed bike nuts might appreciate.
My personal favourite was this rather jazzy bike with its odd windmill-like wheels. But it was a tough choice: there were absolutely loads and loads of weird and wacky bicycles that caught the eye. Still, after a good hour or so of looking and laughing and asking each other, mouths agape, "have you seen this bike?" it was time to bade farewell to one of the most interesting, intriguing and jaw-dropping collections I have ever seen. It’s certainly a visit I won’t forget in a hurry.
* The museum is open Sundays to Thursdays, 10am to 5pm, all year. You can camp on-site. To find out more, tel: 01840 212811.