Monday, May 21, 2012

How A Bicycle Is Made

I came across this gem last week and knew it had to be shared. It's a 1945 documentary entitled, "How a Bicycle is Made." As described by the British Council Film website, the video depicts the design and manufacture of Raleigh bicycles in the UK.

It's a little over 17 minutes long, but it's worth every second. Take a look:


A few quick observations about the window into the past this film gives us. First of all, this is a labor intensive operation, and skilled labor at that (decidedly male too...). It takes a lot of elbow grease and know-how to successfully complete the many stages of producing a bicycle, from drawing the concepts, to welding, smelting, strengthening and purifying the metal, and assembling of all of the intricate parts into a complete model. Sidenote: Extra points if you can find the mechanic smelting in a sweater vest. I am sure modern day bicycle manufacture needs a lot fewer employees and uses a more mechanized approach. Secondly, I think operations like these birthed agencies like OSHA. I can't imagine the health risks these workers assumed by inhaling fumes and dealing with open baths of chemicals strong enough to rust-proof steel. But thankfully these are hazards of a bygone era. 

As dated as the video may seem, some of it is startlingly relevant to the discussion today concerning the role bicycles play in our everyday lives. As the narrator concludes (starting at the 16:47 mark), "A bicycle is a comfortable and cheap way of getting about. A great boon to man [and woman]. Ideal for shopping, easy to park, handy for work. A faithful friend, ever ready to take tired workers back home, and after work to bring relaxation, health, and happiness."

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