Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Fongers




One day, with the Keyworth U3A Cycling Group, I enjoyed a 30-mile bicycle ride through the villages of Wysall, Wymeswold, Burton-on-the-Wolds, Seagrave, Thrussington, Hoby, Ragdale, Six Hills, Willoughby-on-the-Wolds and Widmerpool. I know my readers in the USA think I am making these names up. But I promise you I am not.

Here are some of our members during our pub break in The Blue Bell at Hoby.


I took the opportunity to photograph Adriana’s impressive bicycle.

It is a Fongers Majestic and she has owned it from new since 1971. She gave it a 40th birthday party last year. As far as I can tell, little has changed about the bicycle since she bought it.

Note how Adriana’s Fongers Majestic has the full works: bottle dynamo, hub brakes, integral pannier rack, prop stand, Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gearing, and plenty of protection for the clothing, including a full chain-guard, rear-wheel cover and a chunky mud flap on the front mudguard.

It is a well-built machine and it is heavy. But it is the only bicycle Adriana possesses and the only bicycle she wants.

The ride was not an easy one: we had plenty of hills along the way, but Adriana had no problem. Incidentally, it was the Koninginnedag (Queen’s birthday) in Holland, so Adriana was wearing her patriotic socks.

Albert Fongers, born in 1841, started as a blacksmith in Groningen. Like so many of his trade, he turned his attention to bicycle manufacture in the 1880s. He aimed to produce top-quality machines and his business rapidly boomed.

Here is a famous photo of a Fongers lady's bicycle built in 1895. You can see how robust and state-of-the-art it was, even at such an early date.
Albert Fongers' son Ties Fongers took control in the Twentieth Century.
The company then declined over many years, mainly because of cheap competition from mass-produced bicycles.

Despite attempts through mergers to save the company, it eventually ceased production in the 1970s. So Adriana has one of the last bicycles the firm produced. The story of the company's decline is paralleled by that of many bicycle manufacturers in the U.K.

One of the company’s claims to fame was that it was amongst the first to make a folding bicycle – and that was in the 1890s. The bike was intended for the military.

Adriana and I have been contacted by Michael Appleby in Australia, who has acquired and refurbished a Fongers similar to hers. Michael has kindly sent us these pictures of his Fongers. As you can see, it has a great deal in common with Adriana's bicycle.
My friend Heri in Indonesia also has a fine Fongers and he has kindly sent me these photographs.

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