Paul Brodie and the Starley Giraffe via/ CycleExif
For the past couple of years, we’ve had the honour of watching Paul Brodie manufacture a highly complicated frame to be exhibited at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. In 2012, he walked us through each step in re-building an 1888 Whippet bicycle. In 2013 we were witness to theeBee, a trellis-framed electronically-assisted bike. The 2014 NAHBS is happening this weekend in Charlotte, NC and Paul, a forefather of modern mountain biking, will unveil his latest project: a reproduction of a Starley Giraffe from 1894. We’re lucky enough to grab a sneak peak before the doors open to the public. But first, Paul is going to share each stage of the fabrication process with us.
“The Giraffe Bicycle was invented by an Irishman named S. McCormack in 1893. It was manufactured by J.K. Starley and Co. in Coventry, England, probably starting about 1894. In London at that time, it was fashionable to have a hedge for privacy. Riding a Giraffe Bicycle enabled you to look over your neighbours’ hedge.
“It weighed 35 pounds and it was stated to “have a very rigid bracket, to be exceptionally free from side slip, and a clean mount in muddy weather”. I have been told this is a very rare bicycle. I decided to build one for NAHBS 2014. This drawing is from the book by Archibald Sharp: Bicycles and Tricycles, published in 1896.
“For this project, I decided I would try to temper my previously recognised Financial Recklessness (where I spend months on a project that I will probably never get paid for) by borrowing parts from other bicycles and projects to save myself some time and money. From the 1888 Whippet I sourced the wheels, cranks, pedals, chain, sprockets, and seat:
“In 2007 I was commissioned to build an 1894 Roper Steam Bike. Since I was building one, I thought, why not build a few more? It all made so much sense at the time, so that’s what I did.
“I did finish the first one (below), but the other 2 or 3 definitely got stalled out. So, from those boxes of parts, I took the handlebars, brake lever, head tube parts, steerer tube, and the fork crown:
“Here is most of the 4130 tubing I had gathered, plus various lugs and the BB shell. I didn’t end up using the antique motorcycle fork blades pictured below, they just weren’t right:
“I still needed fork blades and wasn’t sure what to do about that. One day, I was driving in my van, and the City Workers were just about to haul away a load of garbage that someone had dumped beside the road.
“And that’s when I saw it: a red, 12 Speed, Free Spirit Bicycle sold by Sears. A truly inexpensive bicycle to say the least. I stopped, asked, and it was quickly mine. I had temporarily saved the frame from the dumpster:
“Back in my shop, the fork blades were removed, and cleaned. The ovalized upper blades soon became round, and the rake much smoother:
“All the lugs were machined from solid steel. Here the bottom bracket shell is being held in an improvised jig prior to Tig-tacking:
“Unlike the 1888 Whippet, where I found a lot of information, I found almost nothing about the 1894 Starley Giraffe Bicycle. No frame details, nothing. So, I decided to use Artistic Licence, and make it up as I went along. The theme would be ‘bullet’ shaped pieces, and they would be used at the ends of the seat stays.
“For example, below are parts of the fork crown being produced. A piece of solid steel is bored out to fit the fork blades, and the outside is turned to size, with a very slight taper. A hole saw is being used to make the end more ‘lug-like’:
“This ‘lug’ is cut off and lightly pushed onto a steel spigot:
“The ‘lug’ is Tig-tacked to the spigot before the end is rounded in the lathe:
“In all, the Giraffe Bicycle has eleven ‘bullet’ shaped frame pieces:
“The fork has been Tig-tacked in a jig. Here, I’m just checking to see that all is well before starting the fillet brazing:
“More ‘bullet’ shapes down on the dropout end:
“The Giraffe Bicycle is finished, in its raw state. Here it’s resting out at the Framebuilding 101 Shop:
“The antique Belgium acetylene lamp was sourced from eBay, and was shipped from Estonia:
“Details of the spoon brake. The wooden fenders are dark walnut, made by Cody in Oregon, USA:
On behalf of the readers of Cycle EXIF, I’d like to thank Paul for his time and effort to share with us the process that resulted in this incredible example of engineering. If you’re lucky enough to make it along to Charlotte and the 2014 NAHBS, be sure to drop by Booth #303 and say hi to Paul, the Giraffe and the team from the University of the Fraser Valley’s Framebuilding 101 School, at which Paul is a tutor. And yes, he will be in costume.
Special thanks to Karen Massier for the photography.