Inside the Collection

The Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar – respectable transport

Motor cycle and sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd, Oldham, England, 1914
B1174 – Motor cycle and sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd, Oldham, England, 1914.

Motorcycles or motorbikes can have unsavoury connotations in current times with the phrase ‘outlaw motorcycle gang’ rarely out the headlines but in 1914 when the Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar were built they were the height of middle class respectability.

The motorcycle developed from the bicycle in about 1895-1901. It was smaller and cheaper than the smallest available cars but still gave people a taste for the open road with speeds and distances travelled greater than possible by horse or bicycle.

In the 1890s and early 1900s it was considered ‘unseemly’ for women to ride astride. But riding side-saddle, as performed on horseback, was not practical on motorcycles where balance is all important and the sidecar was developed.

Detail of sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd.
B1174 – Motor cycle and sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd, Oldham, England, 1914.

The museums Bradbury is an early sidecar model. The sidecar meant that the family man could transport his wife and children and was the recognised holiday transport for thousands of prosperous working people.

Family on the motorcycle and sidecar

The sidecar declined in use after the 1920s when it became socially acceptable for women to ride astride on the main seat.

The Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar is on display in the Museums Transport Exhibition.

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