Posted: Thursday 04th June 2020
Maurice Gaetan Selbach was born at his parents’ home, 4 Rue Laugier in the 17th district of Paris on 12th August 1889. His father, Oscar Carl Selbach, was an engineer, aged 25, and his mother, Marguerite Kossakowska was 17 years of age. The father was an American citizen of German descent, born in the state of Ohio. Little is known of the young life of Maurice. The next earliest reference we can find is in the 1901 England and Wales census, when Oscar C Selbach is listed as living at 21 Southampton Row, Holborn, District of Finsbury, London. His occupation is given as Managing Director, Autocar Supplier. Besides Oscar, two other persons are listed: the first, Louise E. Selbach, wife, aged 28 years, of American origin but born in Bengal, India, and Maurice G Selbach, aged 11 years, of American citizenship.
Maurice’s cycle racing career is believed to have started in 1908/09. His connection with the Unity C.C. is well known and he was to spend a total of 14 years at the sport. Below are some of his successes:
- Fastest in 8 x 50 miles Time Trials
- Fastest in 5 x 100 mile Time trials
- 1st in 5 x 12 hour Time trials
- 1st in 3 x 24 hours Time Trials
- Competition record in a 24 hour time trial
- Best on record in 100 miles tandem – 4 hrs, 27 mins, 50 secs (1920)
- London to Bath and back record – 11 hrs, 55 mins, 30 secs (1921)
- Land’s End to London record – 17 hrs, 47 minds (1923)
- 24 hour Unpaced – 337.5 miles (1922)
- Successfully completed the Paris-Roubaix Road Race (1923) riding for the French Louvet team
During the First World War Maurice served in the London (Cyclist) O.C.A. but was home at some stage during 1917 when he married Adele Nabarro at Edmonton, North London (This marriage was dissolved at some point during the next 10 years and Adele was to marry twice more).
Selbach had his greatest successes in cycle racing in the early 1920s and this encouraged him in 1924 to set up business as a cycle manufacturer at 337, Kennington Road, London, SE11. The business must have expanded rapidly because by 1926 he had expanded into number 312 Kennington Road.
He was a very innovative engineer and pioneered the used of taper tubes in frame constuction and was amongst the first to utilise roller bearings for both the bottom bracket and headsets of his frames. He also pushed forward the design of racing tandems by incorporating a curved rear seat tube making for a stiffer and more responsive frame for use in racing. Maurice Selbach evolved many ideas relating to modern lightweight bicycle design but was far as we are aware only patented one. A patent specification exists for “Improvements relating to Tyre Valves” no. 263,992. Accepted January 13th, 1927.
His superior frames were recognised as being amongst the best by many of the top racers of this time and they were in great demand. Amongst the many successes clocked up by his frames was the taking of the World Motor-paced One Hour Record by Harry Grant a top exponent of this class of racing. Grant managed to cover a staggering 56.5 miles in the hour. 1927 must have been an important year for Maurice as two major events took place. Firstly, he married Florence Rose Whiting at St. George’s House Square, London, and secondly, on the 23rd December, he became a naturalised U.K. citizen, having previously been a citizen of the U.S.A. (Another eye-cathcing connection with the U.S. was the large Buick Princess Sports motor car he drove!).
In 1932 Albert Richter won The world Amateur Sprint Championship riding a Selbach frame.
By 1934 the world depression seems to have made a difference to the business as it is now only listed at 316 Kennington Road. At this time the Selbachs were living in Clapham SW4.
R O Harrison worked for Sebach at one time as a frame builder but later left to set up his own business – see R O Harrison under ‘Classic Frame Builders’.
1935 – Death of M G Selbach
On Thursday 26th September 1935 Maurice G Selbach left Leander Road, Thornton Heath on one of his own cycles for the relatively short journey to his business premises in Kennington Road. He was not due to go to work on this day but, being the conscientiousn sort, wanted to make sure all was okay.
At around 10.30, just under 4 mile into his journey, he made a manoeuvre past a truck and whilst returning to the near side of the road encountered some particularly badly laid tram rails that caused him to fall from the cycle under the wheel of the truck. He died en route to hospital. His funeral was attended by over 150 well-known cyclists and representatives of cycle manufacturing firms together with family and friends. The service was held at Streatham Park Cemetery. At the inquest the coroner recored accidental death by the cycling press felt the poor state of the installation and repair fo the tram lines had played a big part in the accident. Mrs Selbach had a special headstone made which showed a photograph of Maurice edged in gold. Below the picture was a sculpted bicycle leaning against a milestone. Above this were the words “He died as he lived. A cyclist”. In order to preserve it, the headstone was moved in 2004 to the National Cycle Museum in Powys where it is now on display.
By 1938 the business is listed as Selbach F.R. (Mrs.), cycle maker, 316 Kennington Road. In 1939 the move was made to Gillingham Street, Victoria, but closure followed during the same year. The trade name of Selbach was sold and some further Selbach frames were produced in the following few years.
Two of Selbach’s machines are exhibited at the National Cycling Museum at Llandrindod Wells.
One of Selbach’s 1927 frames(3629117) is now in Israel and is in the process of being restored and rebuilt by Amir Avitzur: