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 A group of designers and cyclists is trying to bring back one of the most popular flask designs, originally made in Birmingham by the Coloral Company.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.
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:
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.