If you’re not expecting it Llandrindod Wells can come as a bit of a surprise as you drive along the A483 through Powys in mid-Wales. I don’t think I’m being unkind when I say Llandrindod is in the middle of nowhere, so to stumble on it’s grand Victorian-era hotels and villas when you’re expecting market towns and farmyards is a bit of shock.
Those hotels and the more-ornate-than-you’d-expect housing stock are due to Llandrindod’s glory days as a mecca for people wanting to sample the ‘healing waters’ of the town’s springs – hence the ‘Wells’ bit. Sadly, those days are long gone but there’s still a pretty compelling reason to stop off in Llandrindod Wells – the National Cycle Museum!
Rather ironically located in The Automobile Palace – an art deco former car showroom – the museum is wonderfully British. Forget virtual reality headsets and interactive displays to keep the kids amused, the National Cycle Museum – which is run entirely by volunteers – is simply packed with row upon row of historic bicycles (and some admittedly dodgy looking dummies). And it’s all the better for it if you’re a bike geek!
“We have up to 240 bikes on display at any one time and they range in age from 1817 to the modern day,” explained my guide for the day, trustee John Gill. “The collection includes early ‘hobby horses’, velocipedes – or boneshakers, Penny Farthings, early safety cycles, police bikes, ice cream vending bikes, classic lightweights, tandems and record breaking race bikes.”
Luckily bike tech has moved on…
It really is an impressive collection and there’s enough to satisfy your cycling curiosity whatever your tastes. Okay, if you’ve a deep love for the latest lightweight carbon fibre you’ll be disappointed, but that’s what the local bike shop is for. If you can’t make it to Wales just yet, then you’ll be able to get a taste of the museum in London this June.
“The museum is mounting a major display of historic cycles at World Cycling Revival at Herne Hill Velodrome,” explains John. “It’s a celebration of the the 200th anniversary of the birth of cycling and the re-opening of the historic track.”
Of course they’ve got a Raleigh Grifter!
I think it’s worth reiterating that the National Cycle Museum is run by unpaid volunteers – hence the limited opening hours –and costs around £25,000 a year to stay open. Sure, it isn’t a bells-and-whistles interactive experience space designed for Instagrammers… But it is charming, and interesting and well worth a visit. In fact, take your bike and book into one of the town’s hotels as the riding around Llandrindod Wells is pretty darned good too!
The National Cycle Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 4pm. Adult entry is £5.
World Cycling Revival runs from June 14th to 16th at Herne Hill Velodrome. Find out more here
Check out a few of our favourite exhibits from the national cycle museum
Bamboo bikes might seem like a very modern hipster thing but they’ve been around for over a century. This one was built in the 1890s. In Wolverhampton
There’s no point reinventing the wheel, but how about the chain? This is a lovely looking, but ultimately failed, Simpson Lever chain invented in 1895 by William Spears Simpson. It was promoted at races between differently chained machines and illustrated ads by Toulouse-Lautrec!
The Baines ‘Flying Gate’ – was launched in 1934. it’s unique rear-end gave it a shorter wheelbase than other racing bikes. If it tickles your fancy then check out www.tjcycles.co.uk
Think plastic is a new thing on bicycles? Think again! These heat-formed handlebars are on a Buckley racing tricycle from 1925…
…and then in the early 1980s Swedish firm Itera made complete bikes out of plastic. They were crap.
E-bikes are predicted to be the next big thing… It might surprise you that our very own Raleigh were way ahead of the curve and building electric bikes in the early 1980s. It might not surprise you to hear that it didn’t work out…
Eileen Sheridan is a British cycling legend. In the 1940s and 50s she broke every women’s road record going from 10-mile TTs to Land’s End to John O’Groats! This is her Hercules bike. But not her leg.
No bike museum worth its salt is complete without a Kirk Precision magnesium road bike…
As well as Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree, Britain had another record breaking cyclist in the 1990s -Bruce Bursford. Bursford designed and built his incredible Ultimate machines and reached a mind boggling 334.6kmh on a rolling road on one.
Is that Anthea Turner and Nick Berry advertising Raleigh?
CP Rob had a great time at the National Cycle Museum #instaglam
Find out more about the latest issue HERE. You can subscribe to Cycling Plus here and check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for all of the latest road cycling action.