Wright Brothers’ St. Clair Bicycle Shows How Little Has Changed

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

One of only five original Wright Brothers bicycles known to still exist, the St. Clair shown here is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The pics here don’t do it justice, I was bending my way around a tour group and shooting with a camera phone through glass and in the dark, but they show just how little things have changed since this bike was built in 1898. Click on through for detail photos…

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

Adjusting for inflation, this bike would cost $1,098.79 today.

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

OSBB? Kidding…more likely about the same type of cranks still used on kids’ bikes today. Chainstays were definitely pre-Genesis Geometry.

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

Threaded adjustable dropouts.

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

I wonder if a Brooks saddle would look as good after 113 years.

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

Note how the stem clamps the handlebar by being compressed on the steerer tube.

Wright Brothers St Clair bicycle is one of only five known to exist and is found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washinton DC

The NASM is a blast to visit and totally worth the trip if you’re in or near D.C.

Comments

uglyyeti - 11/15/11 - 11:08am

So is that a “tri-wing glider” fork crown since it predates airplanes?

I was up there a few months ago and it’s funny how a bicycle can be my favorite exhibit in the Air and Space museum.

Gillis - 11/15/11 - 11:36am

so i’m guessing the other four are in private collections and will never see the light of day. Robin Williams probably has one.

Speedy - 11/15/11 - 8:58pm

Brake-less Fixie! The Wright Brothers were OG hipsters!

Ghost Rider - 11/15/11 - 9:31pm

Gillis,

one of the bikes is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH (home of the Wright Bros.), 2 are at Carillon Park (also in Dayton) and the fourth is at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit.

You may also be interested in this article about one of the original Wright Bros. bike shops:
http://www.bikecommuters.com/2011/08/11/a-visit-to-the-wright-cycle-company/

Torkerman - 11/15/11 - 10:07pm

I believe it has a coaster brake…

ShopMechanic - 11/15/11 - 11:29pm

@ Gillis: The other bikes are actually available for anyone to view. A women’s bike is in the Air Force museum in Dayton, OH. Another 2 models are at Carillon Park in Dayton. The last one can be found at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI.

I wrote my history master’s thesis on the Wright Brothers and how intertwined their knowledge of bicycle and aeronautical engineering were. I argue that Wright historians do not attribute enough of the Wright brothers’ engineering acumen to their experience in the bike business. My thesis can be downloaded and read here if you are interested: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/554/

Orville Epo - 11/16/11 - 9:44am

When I was there, I spent a great deal of time looking at that bike. I don’t think that bike’s components are era correct, especially the wheels.

Anyone know its history?

walter - 11/16/11 - 2:53pm

If the Wright Brothers had been car builders, they would never have made it into the air.

phlat albert - 11/16/11 - 5:26pm

looks like a nahmbs replica waitin to happen @ 8K. steel, stainless steel, ti and carbon. oh and rack accs to match ofcourse!

ShopMechanic - 11/16/11 - 5:35pm

@Walter: Orville actually dabbled in cars but Wilbur thought it was a waste of time.

@Orville: I do not know the history of this specific bike but the wheels are likely not built by the Wrights. They only made coaster brake hubs for a limited time. With respect to the rims, there seems to be no consensus on what specific rims they built with although they did offer both wood and steel options. This bike is the only one of the five that I have not seen in person. Wish I could be of more help.

madpixl - 11/18/11 - 12:41pm

I took some pix of this earlier this year. Love the skip-tooth front chain ring.

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