Look at any photos or watch any video of cycle racing from the 40s and 50s and there’s one common piece of equipment almost everyone used: an aluminium drinking flask with a cork stopper. A group of designers and cyclists is trying to bring back one of the most popular flask designs, originally made in Birmingham by the Coloral Company.
The original Coloral bottles deserve the status of a design classic for their elegance and simplicity. They cost four shillings and six pence and had a fluted alloy body, cork stopper, ridged cap, elegant logo and ‘Coloral Birmingham’ manufacturing stamp on the base.
Coloral made bottles from 1947 until the company folder in 1954, a brief British success in the post-war manufacturing boom, killed by cheaper imports and plastic alternatives.
Last summer a group of cycling enthusiasts, no known as the the Coloral Project, began to investigate the history of the Coloral Company of Birmingham. But after an exhaustive search, they turned up no new information. All that remains, it seems, are the bottles and cages. Originals in good conditions can fetch three-figure prices from collectors.
A manufacturer is found
The Coloral Project folks eventually visited the origial home of Coloral in Steward Street, Birmingham in their search for information. There they met father and son David and Chris Beeching who run a metalwork factory, one of the few specialist steel spinning factories left in the UK.
The Beechings had never heard of Coloral, but they showing the Coloral Project team round their factory and explained the process of how the Coloral bottle could have been made back in the 1940s.
A plan was hatched: to recreate the Coloral bottle in the same street where the original was made, and to bring it bang up to date. CAD programs were fired up and 3D printers turned out prototypes.
The Coloral 2.0 bottle will be made of food-grade stainless steel and will fit a modern bottle cage. Original Coloral flasks were small by modern standards. The bottle top will be made from FSC certified cork, sourced directly from Portugal and they are identical to the originals with ridged metal caps and printed Coloral logos.
The Coloral Project team is using Kickstarter to get things moving. They need £75,000 for custom tooling and materials to produce the first 2,000 bottles.
They say: “If we can achieve that kick-start we are confident we can generate the momentum required to bring back the Coloral Company as a UK specialist-manufacturing brand for the long term.”
Take a look at the Kickstarter page for more, and here’s the rather lovel accompanying video:
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.