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Throughout the twentieth century, Canadian kids were more than a little familiar with the Canada Cycle and Motor Company. They wore CCM hockey skates and either rode or desperately wanted a CCM bicycle.
Throughout the twentieth century, Canadian kids were more than a little familiar with the Canada Cycle and Motor Company (CCM). They wore CCM hockey skates and either rode or desperately wanted a CCM bicycle. From 1899 until 1983, CCM was the quintessential Canadian company.
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.
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.