As an ardent cyclist and avid collector of visual ephemera, cycling headbadges resoundingly ring my bell. Back at the turn of the twentieth-century, long before fancy marques found their way onto car bonnets, manufacturers used these miniature marvels as a way to distinguish their bicycles from one another. Whilst designers of these exquisite artworks grappled with injecting a bicycle’s DNA into a piece of metal no larger than two postage stamps, recurring graphic themes inevitably ensued.
Heraldic escutcheons abound from rampant lions to strident eagles, regal crowns to leaping stags. So too the representation of freedom, with the novel ability to take off at speed symbolised by a plethora of winged wheels, birds and aircraft in flight. Knights in armour became well-worn metaphors for strength and, as these headbadges signalled the beginning of a new era of affordable mobility, what more optimistic way than to utilise a sunrise, of which there are many.
The bikes these diminutive metal shields once adorned have long since vanished and whilst they could not act as talisman to protect their manufacturers from demise we do have collectors like Jeff Conner, from whose collection these are taken, to thank for saving these graphic jewels from oblivion.
Featured here is a small selection from the 400 examples of headbadges we have included in our new book, A Cycling Lexicon.