Icons of cycling: The National Cycle Museum

The Mid-Wales treasure trove which presents the history of pedal power in an educational and entertaining way

There’s a handsome two-storey building in the centre of Llandrindod Wells in Mid-Wales. It stands proud of the main A483 at its junction with Spa Road East and Princes Avenue.

The building is art-deco with a curved front, lots of glass and it was completed in 1911. It was the Automobile Palace, the first Ford agency in Wales, and now it houses the National Cycle Museum.

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It was built by the transport pioneer Tom Norton, who as well as selling motor cars started one of the first bus services in Wales, and was involved in the early days of passenger aviation.

Norton was an enthusiast and a collector, something he passed to his son, also called Tom, who in 1997 opened the museum here with his collection of bikes and that of Mr David Higham, the first curator until 2010.

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There is a lot to see — cycle history in 260 bikes. From cycling’s predecessor, an 1816 hobby-horse, the museum tells the story of bicycle evolution through treadle bikes, the first pedal-powered boneshakers, high-wheeled bikes of every variation, and the first chain-driven safety cycles.

Then on and on through the line of bicycle evolution until today.

From frames to frills

There are also many fascinating offshoots, some that ended in extinction and others that became areas of specialisation.

Racing is catered for with record-breaking machines and bikes belonging to some of the great and the good of the sport.

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Everything is shown in an imaginative and informative way, including tableaux depicting things like cycle camping and traditional bicycle repair shops.

And it’s not just bikes. Cycling outfits from the 1890s onwards, including divided skirts and bloomers that played a part in women choosing more freedom in how they dressed, are on display.

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There are racing jerseys, including some very special ones belonging to the pioneer road racer Bob Maitland, as well as his trophies.

The museum inherited the charity status of the former National Cycle Museum in Lincoln when it closed in 2000, and it received Lincoln’s collection.

Don’t let age slow you down

Run entirely by knowledgeable volunteers, funding comes from entrance fees; five pounds for adults, four for seniors, two for kids, and dogs and carers go free.

One-off donations help too, and you can help further by becoming a friend of the museum. Opening times and other details are on the museum’s website, www.cyclemuseum.org.

A visit should be part of every cyclist’s bucket list. It’s too often used today but the National Cycle Museum really is a national treasure.