Bicycle posters

An exploration of bicycle adverts at key moments over a century

I produced these posters whilst working on the Quixotic Press, a zine of works by several artists. Given a theme and free to take any direction wanted. This project was to give a deadline to complete the artwork, to encourage us to collaborate and network, a space to show our works. To help us practise promoting our work.

My theme: Content

I explored the content of adverts through 100 years – 1900 to 2000. What is being sold and to whom. What is happening in society during that period and what is the culture? What securities or insecurities is the advertiser appealing to?

1900 bike poster  1920 bike poster 1940 bike poster 1960 bike poster 1980 bike poster 2000 bike poster

Behind the art

I created six posters advertising bicycles. In each age the challenges of that time and it’s culture show and the constant is the human innovation, designing ways around problems to move on. I loved researching this and here’s why…


1900 bike poster

In the 1890s bicycles were now being advertised to women. It shifted their use and public perception from being a dangerous toy for sporting young men to being an everyday transport tool for men—and, crucially, women—of all ages.

Adverts emphasise – easy, grace, skirts not catching, chainless, birds, flowers, spring

“By now, the British cycle manufacturers had observed the brash American sales techniques; as well as the artistic French poster designs. But British bicycles sales were, in this period, decidedly upmarket, and that meant a more conservative ‘gentlemanly’ approach. What we do see between 1900 and 1920, however, is British bicycle advertising directed toward women. In this era in Great Britain, for the first time, the bicycle allowed women a freedom of movement previously denied. One of my favourite British adverts of this period is the 1905 Royal Enfield ‘Made Like a Gun’ advert.” (Quoted from

Important things: Freedom and self reliance for women, safety, smooth ride, well produced, efficient, strong, comfort and speed. The ‘golden age’ of cycling. Frances Willard, President of Women’s Christian Temperance Union’ said – “I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum. The ‘rational dress/ came into being.


1920 bike poster

World War One changed everything. Never the same again.

THE thirty-three years from 1887 to 1920 witnessed the conception, birth, growth, adolescence, and premature death of military cycling (as distinct from mere despatch riding) in the British Army.

1914 – At start of the war, Britain had 14,000 cyclists in a variety of bicycle regiments and battalions. In 1916, every corps was assigned 500 riders in three bicycle companies, By 1919, The British had 100,000 riders. The London Cyclist Battalion patrolled the coast of England to watch for a German invasion. After air attacks began in May 1915, bicyclists with signs “Take Cover” warned British citizens to find shelter.


1940 bike poster

1940 – Second World War. There were several accidents (bicycle and otherwise) because of regular blackouts due to the threat of being bombed from the air. It became a worry and I found several posters advising people how to stay safe while travelling around London during a blackout. Bicycles were adapted with special lamps that gave a low amount of light.


1960 bike poster

Hippies – Peace and love – Pop music & fashion – First man in space

After the post-war hardship and the belt-tightening of the 1950s, there was a feeling that anything was possible in the 60s. A time of experiment, freedom, sexual and racial taboos begin to be challenged.


1980 bike poster


2000 bike poster

Overpopulation, pollution, fitness, less smoking, worries about alcohol, nanny state, health & safety, Olympics, communications open up possibilities – anyone can do anything now.

Sports and elite, anyone can and must get out on a bike to save themselves and the planet. Overweight and overpopulated