While featherweight 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 Mésíček’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.
Mésíček 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.
Mésíček’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 craftsmen 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 Mésíček’s bicycles in person contact College Park Bicycles in Maryland.
Click on the pictures below to enlarge them