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Slotted forks date

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The Carolina Rambler

Finally riding a big boys bike
I'll chime in and use a couple of examples I have. This is something I have noticed and speculated about as well. I have a men's and women's pair of 1897 Cresent bicycles, and both of them have slotted forks. If I was to guess regarding the early innovation and design of bicycles, it would have been the most sensible to build forks with slots instead of holes, just like on the rear stays and for the same reasons, but I can only assume that perhaps there was a reoccurring incidence, or at least fear of, the front bolts failing or being insufficiently tightened, and the wheel flying loose, in the years following the 1890s. So as a safety feature, it was the general standard to build bicycle forks with holes and not slots, despite the difficulty of mounting a wheel. But then sometime between about 1935 and the late 30s to 1940, I am guessing is when slotted forks became standard, when bicycle equipment and hardware was perhaps consistently of a higher quality and less prone to failure of any kind than on earlier machines, which is why the slot design was finally acceptable and deemed safe. I draw this conclusion in part, because I have both a 1935, and a 39 Colson bicycle, and even on the 35, the forks are still not slotted. I've seen other similar examples as well, but this is all just an educated guess on my part. That would be my guess regarding that.

Even in modern times, there is a fear amongst manufacturers of the front wheel becoming loose or failing, which is why most all bikes available new currently are equipped at the very least with a seat of tear-drop shaped, hooked, safety locking washers to prevent involuntary dismounting of the front wheel.
 
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Archie Sturmer

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Holes might have been cheaper than slots?
It’s interesting that Westfield in the 1920’s or so, had one slotted fork and the other drilled for through-hole mounting, (and Westfield would also assume the G&J Rambler line).

Regulations, 16 CFR 1512.12 Requirements for wheel hubs, codified the requirement for a locking feature front forks/hub (Dec. 22, 1978; a long time ago, when gas prices and inflation were high).

"All bicycles shall meet the following requirements:
(c) Front hubs. Front hubs not equipped with lever-operated quick-release devices shall have a positive retention feature that shall be tested to assure that when the locking devices (e.g., axle nuts) are released the wheel will not separate from the fork".
[Effective May 11, 1976].
 
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slcurts

Finally riding a big boys bike
Just built a new set of wheels for a newly acquired 1937 Lincoln. Went to swap wheels and find that the fork is slotted on one side and a hole on the other. Not fun to remove or install, but probably easier than just having 2 holes.
That actually seems like a great compromise between safety and being able to get the wheel out.
 

slcurts

Finally riding a big boys bike
So it seems the answer is that there were slotted forks in the early 1890s (and I would guess sooner), then it looks like most but not all companies stopped using them, until the late 30s when everybody went back to them.
 
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