Esquires Coffee House Coventry is a fine city centre coffee shop; even better, though, it’s got Coventry’s Transport Museum attached. The museum is free (though not the coffee), and for cyclists, it’s a real temple. It’s got James Starley’s Ariel bicycle, an innovative penny-farthing, and it’s got Rover bicycles by his nephew, John Kemp Starley. These were the first bicycles that put together the elements of our modern bikes: wheels of similar size, chain drive for the rear wheel, and steering for the front wheel. Coventry became a centre for bicycle manufacture in the period before the First World War.
In the Museum, the Women’s Rover Safety Bicycle (1898, at left) is labelled as having “all the extras a woman in Rational Dress” needed to cycle. Actually, it looks remarkably similar to the step-over frame bicycle that we have, a Coventry Eagle that was built between the two world wars, when the Coventry Eagle Company was still located in Coventry. It lacks the skirt guard that the earlier bike has, and ours has a two-speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear, but it’s a fine machine, and with the Rover, both are eminently rideable.
After the peak of cycling (not counting us now!), many bicycle manufacturers switched over to making cars. Starley’s Rover Company was among these; the Rover Company lasted until quite recently, though in nothing like the same corporate organisation or ownership. If you’re interested in cars—and I can’t think why a cyclist would be—there are fine examples in the Museum.
On a cool November day, we had cappuccino and latte in Esquires before dropping in to the museum for a brief look-around. It’s a good coffee shop with cakes and mid-day food; however, we stuck with the coffee.
Saturday, 5 November, from home to coffee and then home again, 5.27 miles; cycling, good; the cappuccino and latte, good; Esquires’ Coffee House, good; Coventry Transport Museum, great!