In 1899, the popularity of the new motorcar provided a severe hit to the bicycle market. “Small bicycle companies had difficulty surviving,” said John McKenty, author of Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story and vintageccm.com. “To keep Canadian companies competitive and in business, Torontonian Walter Massey, the president of Massey-Harris Manufacturing Co., bought four Canadian bike companies and merged them into one.”

The result was CCM and it achieved exactly what Massey was hoping it would: CCM was able to compete with large bicycle companies including the American Bicycle Company, which had also formed recently by amalgamating more than 40 small bike manufacturers and was expanding into Canada.“The Canadian bike market was confined to a smaller area before CCM. After its formation, the market was worldwide,” said McKenty. CCM sold their bikes right across Canada as well as throughout the British Empire.

During the First World War, CCM was involved in the war effort by shipping bikes, most commonly the Planet model, to Europe. In addition to shipping bikes overseas, part of the CCM plant was retooled to make ammunition for the war effort.

Come 1939, CCM helped the Allies with another world war. “The company was less involved in the war effort than it had been during the First World War, but they still produced bicycles specifically for shipping overseas,” said McKenty. During the Second World War, CCM produced war-grade bikes, which were very different from the ones produced for the retail market. They were plain black to be less visible and foil was used instead of metal for the head badge.

The Flyte

1936 CCM Flyte Brochure

During the aviation mad 30’s and 40’s, American bike companies started to build incredible aviation and motorcycle inspired bicycles like the Elgin Bluebird.  CCM’s response was the Flyte, immediately recognizable because of its swooping fork and seat stays. It was designed by Harvey W. Peace, Chief Engineer and later factory manager at CCM, and featured a shock absorbing seamless steel aircraft tubing frame, a CCM Triplex Hanger crankset, and CCM Hercules coaster brake. The Flyte was the only bike design patented by CCM. The bike was in production from 1936 to 1940 and examples come up for sale from time to time.

The Flyer

ccm flyer catalogue page

From a collector’s perspective, another one of the most important CCM bikes is the Flyer track bike, hand built from 1923 until around 1950. The Flyer, with its flat fork crown and pencil thin stays was very popular with 6 Day racers in Canada and the US. It’s highly collectible and is held in very high esteem by bike collectors around the world. I have no idea how many Flyers were built over its long history, but because they haven’t been in production for over 40 years I can’t imagine that they turn up at garage sales all that often. I’ve noticed that on vintage bike forums if someone who’s come across one asks if it’s a keeper, the typical response from collectors, even from the US and other countries is “oh yeah, beautiful bike, don’t mess it up.”

The Flyer track bike went out of production in the late 40’s or early 50’s. CCM then started to build a road version of the Flyer with Reynolds 531 tubing, Nervex lugs, and top of the line components in small numbers until the mid to late 1950’s. Some of Canada’s best cyclists rode CCM bikes during the 60’s.

Where CCM really built its success was in making the shift from the adult market to the youth market in the 1950s. CCM gave schools notebooks with pictures of their bicycles on the back cover and ad campaigns encouraged kids to ask for a new CCM bike for getting good grades.

By the 1980s, CCM could no longer keep up with what riders wanted. “When the 10-speed upgrades hit the market in the 1970s, CCM had already gone through a series of different ownerships and the quality of the product began to deteriorate,” said McKenty. As more and more Canadians chose to buy the newest bikes from Japan or Taiwan, CCM eventually filed for bankruptcy and by 1983 the company assets had been sold off.

It is still possible to buy CCM bikes today, although the bikes are no longer made in Canada and the brand is owned by Adidas. “Most people who are buying CCM bikes these days are doing it because of the nostalgic appeal of the CCM name,” said McKenty.

Once a company engraved in the Canadian psyche, CCM the bike manufacturer is now just a name accompanied by memories.

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