What is the Bootie bicycle?
The Bootie bicycle is the bike that's small enough to keep in your car. Dr Moulton had started a trend with his separable 'stowaway' bicycle in 1963, and this is another take on that idea. It was introduced in the era of mini skirts, mini cars and mini-who knows what else, so its not hard to imagine a mini bicycle such as the Bootie being at one with the times.
The Bootie was produced by F & T Kitchin Engineering in Leeds, Yorkshire UK from 1965 to 1973. It was never a big seller, and it might have been totally forgotten had not Hadland and Pinkerton mentioned it in their book on portable cycles It's in the bag! in 1996. Some of the information here comes from that book.
The design is based on a simple concept - make everything as small as possible and have a steering stem and seat post that can be tucked away. Probably not the first, and certainly not the last. Despite its unnervingly small size it has some claim to practicality, with internal hub gears, mudguards, a built in luggage rack and a sidestand. These things were once taken for granted, but how many contemporary bikes can boast all that?
What's in the name?
If you're from North America you may be wondering about the name. It's called Bootie because it's meant to live in the boot of a car, which is what you would call the trunk. If it were North American it could have been called the Trunkie, or more likely the Trunkster!
Design and components
The frame is generally of lugless, welded 'gaspipe' construction, with substantial gusseting in a few places. However, the chainstays are made of flat steel strip.The seat tube does not extend all the way down to the bottom bracket. Rather it ends in mid-frame, with the bottom bracket located to the front.
The handlebar stem fits into a tube that is clamped to the upper part of a heavy steel hinge. The lower hinge is clamped to the fork tube. Loosen a wing nut (of the type used to secure the wheels on racing bikes) and the handlebars can be folded down. Another wing nut allows the handlebars to swivel around so they fold flat against the frame.
The early Booties had a folding seatpost. Later versions had a sliding seatpost - secured with a wingnut - that can be fully lowered.
Both wheels are single-piece cast alloy, the front being fitted with sealed ball race bearings. The rear is made to accept a Sturmey Archer combined three speed gear and internal expanding brake. It appears that the hub flange on the drive side has been removed so it can be fitted to the wheel.
The brakes are notably strong for such a bike, so its a shame the levers are shaped so they're a big stretch to operate. The front brake is an alloy GB caliper, mounted on the rear of the forks. Together with the internal expanding rear they're more than well up to the job, and probably still would be if it were towing a caravan as well!
The chainguard appears to be made of angle iron. No flimsy pressed metal stuff there.
The wheels are 203/47 ETRTO. The wheelbase is around 76 cm. The overall length is around 120 cm with the foldable rack extended, and around 110 cm with it folded. The Bootie might be small, but it weighs 17 kg, as much as a typical light roadster. They squeezed a lot of British steel into a small package.
This bike has been pulled apart, cleaned, put back together and not much more. It has a new chain and tyres (sadly the originals were too far gone) and a replacement period saddle (ditto) but nearly everything else is original.
I wanted to service the Sturmey Archer hub gears, but the hub appears to be stuck in the rear wheel, and I didn't want to risk cracking that cast alloy wheel by knocking it around. With proper overhauling of the gears being out of the question I contented myself with removing the bearings on the left side, and the bearings, driver and various small bits from the right and seeing what I could do.
Good thing too, as the interior was riddled with foreign matter, as much as possible carefully picked out with tweezers. A quick rinse with degreaser, a slosh of oil, and it was back in service with the characteristic gentle tic tic of a happy sturmey hub. Big sigh of relief!
What's it like to ride?
No surprises here, it rides as it looks. Ponderous, slow and 'entertaining', but that is no doubt largely caused by those little balloon tyres. I ride it with 40-45 psi in the tyres (the original Michelins said 40), and am constantly aware of it. But of course you wouldn't want to go very fast on this anyway.
Not that the gearing would let you. No attempt has been made to adjust the gearing to compensate for the tiny wheels, so it is very low. It even has a 14 tooth sprocket (rather than the 13 tooth fitted to many later small wheelers). Handy for towing that caravan. I don't know what the gearing is in gear inches, but its the first three speed I've ridden in which first gear feels like first gear on a derailleur bike, and I can often go straight from first to third.
Despite what you might expect, it is not prone to doing 'wheelies'.
So there you have it, the Bootie in all its glory. Have a squiz at the thumbs below and click on them for a bigger version. Some are of the rebuilt bike, others are 'before' photos or of bits during the rebuild. And you'll notice that a few of the bits vary from photo to photo as I try out different things.
BOOTIE CYCLES LTD