Saturday, August 29, 2015

A stayer bonanza

There's really not much out there has been written on the subject of stayers. Sadly I'm not about to enlighten all with an exhaustive history of bicycle pacers as I just don't know enough myself yet but there's knowledge can be gained from looking at old images so I've gathered together a selection broader than you are likely to find elsewhere on the web.

Personally I find bicycle pacers fascinating, both the bicycle and motorcycle are specialised machines built for just the one task. The early motorcycle pacers are incredible behemoths, huge engines and singular of purpose in their pursuit of speed.

In the very earliest days of pacing cars were used for the long distance races such as the Paris-Roubaix and Bordeaux-Paris. The Bordeaux-Paris was paced by cars from 1897 to 1899 but the dust and exhaust fumes were infernal and the danger posed to the cyclists great. As velodromes became popular so did the motorcycle pacers.

Early paced races were limited in speed by the motorcycles themselves rather than the cyclists but speeds rose quickly and by 1904 100kmh could be expected. As the speeds increased so did accidents, many of which were gruesome in nature. Bicycle tyres were flimsy, barely suitable for purpose and a blow out at 100kmh riding in close quarters to other bicycles and pacers could be disasterous. Though the bulk of injuries and deaths were born by the cyclists it was not unknown for the stayer pilots or indeed spectators to be the victims.

There is a fascinating history of bicycle pacing waiting to be uncovered, a look through these images reveals that the stayer pilots were every bit the celebrity the cyclists were and the spectacle of stub-piped monster-engined motorcycles with their bicycle familiars circulating at huge speeds in close formation must have been mind-blowing at the time.

This image shows the celebrity of the stayer pilot. I'm guessing
it dates from the 1900s.

A lot later image and once again it it the pacer rider who is
the focus. Looks like an Anzani v-twin engined monster and
probably from the thirties.

Dated 1905. This machine is a beast!

Cyclist and stayer together. Note the shopping trolley steering
angle on the bicycle and the small front wheel. The stayer has
a small shield at the rear and a roller to avoid incident if the
cyclist makes contact, though of course the game is to ride
as close as possible for maximum speed boost.

A pair of cycle pacers from the pre-WWI era.

An 'action' photograph. Note the pole propping the rider up!

Novelty card. The boy is riding the
stayer and is 8 years old and the 6
year old girl is the cyclist.

From Germany. The stayer is an absolute monster.

This particular image carries a Canadian stamp.

The cyclist and stayer pilot are portayed as a pair and
on an equal standing.

This German image could well be post WWII.

Another stayer and cyclist pairing.

Finally another novelty card. Pacing on the wall of death.


  1. I'm guessing the "small shield" at the back of the one stayer is not for safety but to increase the draft pulling the bicycle forward. What an astounding collection of photos! Well done.

  2. Yes those are wind shields or in french ' Coup Vent ...