Bicycle Quarterly – From Seattle to Japan

What´s the most striking parallel between Bicycle Quarterly and this blog? Correct, the lapse in publication of three months or so.

Recently the new issue of Jan Heine´s Bicycle Quarterly arrived, alas in the midst of yet another hectic week so that I just could not find the time to read it properly. When I did it was another great experience, even more so than the preceding issues. As usual, both photography and language are crisp and precise, there is an academic approach not found in any other cycling mag I am aware of, and Jan manages to keep his cycle parts business and his journalistic standards apart by using his famous disclosures that BQ´s sister company sells the product reviewed. In fact, his impartiality in testing has broken friendships and led to concerns that no cycle manufacturer would submit any more bikes, which is quite something.

The whole project of a bicycle mag about mostly French randonneuring cycles developed from a series of articles in the Rivendell Reader in 2002. While I don´t (yet) have the issues in which Jan´s articles appeared, here´s a snap of two comparable covers, #19 the earlier, and #29 the later design, of course:

RRThe copy used by Grant Petersen was entertaining to read, though sometimes a little stressful; wanting to be different at any cost, getting across the Californian style of cycling, a touch of esoteric stretchiness. Why do I mention this? Look at the first two issues of Jan´s VBQ:

CBQDo you notice the similarities in design? Masthead, loads of copy on the cover page, a headline in between. Both of course tie in with a number of other publications, especially scientific reviews, but still. However, Jan´s texts were different from Grant´s right away – in the beginning Jan didn´t sell any goods and he applied a strictly scientific style of writing. Small wonder looking at Jan´s background.

What a development to the latest issue, in full colour and sporting 74 pages:

BQ_12_4_cover

So, what makes this, the latest, issue special? I guess first there is a high personal longing level on my side with a number of articles resulting from Jan and his co-worker Hahn Rossman´s visit to Japan.

shinshu18Their article on a tour of the Japanese Alps describes something I would really, really like to repeat some time as a visit to Japan and its progressive cycle industry is a dream I have harboured for a long time. Jan describes Japan as a thoroughly fascinating country and its inhabitants as just as thoroughly friendly and blessed with a sense for coping and having great ideas as the result.

For instance: What do you do when you have one of the most highly developed train systems in the world but when this system doesn´t cater for cyclists? You develop an ingenious idea which makes the solution look simple:

rinko18This then goes into a bag which meets Japanese train requirements. A complete bike was reduced to what you see in the photo in 12 minutes with the help of two Allen keys only, and even though the owner of the bike performs this little wonder regurlarly, there is hardly a scratch on it, due to the Japanese knack for packing things. Note how the rear mudguard separates just aft of the brake bridge. Also the headset comes to bits without any special tools. And I love the quick release pedals.

The people behind all this are some of the world´s best and most famous steel frame builders. Names like Toei, Nagasawa, Hirose and Zunow come to mind instantly, but also Grand Bois (the make Jan and Hahn tested when they toured in Japan) and Iribe are not to be forgotten. There is a good list of them on the Velo Orange Blog.

level_witchwandThis photo shows Mr. Shikuo Matsuda, builder of the famous Level Keirin frames, applying the “witch wand” hot aligning technique.

The next big issue is the myth busting article regarding Campagnolo. I can already hear a number of long-standing Campag collectors grumbling, but as per ususal Jan´s findings are well-documented and his approach is not clouded by the uncritical behaviour induced by too many advertisements which keep staff on many cycling mags on their toes not to cross any ad customers.campagnolo_10A number of contemporary illustrations accompany the text – like this one showing two precursors of the famous Campa Gran Sport derailleur (right): The 1946 JIC, incorporating a return spring, and the 1937 Nivex, introducing the parallelogram principle. Jan asks himself if Tullio Campagnolo knew about the JIC – that he bought two specimens of the Nivex seems to be certain.

Lastly, I personally am glad that despite the huge development that Jan´s magazine has taken over the last 12 years, the hand made, personal feel is still there. The test bike isn´t ready yet? OK, let´s put it through its paces it without mudguards. After all, it should work just as well. An accident? It can´t mar a major article on another bike – the copy will be adapted so that the reader still knows all the important facts. I hope this way of publishing will continue for a long time.

Disclosure: I have not been paid for writing this post. Sadly, I have not been paid for any post so far. There must be something wrong with my blog.

All the photos, except my crummy snaps of the old mags, are courtesy Bicycle Quarterly.

Very British – Some Sturmey Archer Goodies

In order not to be forgotten completely I thought I might give my blog a quick blast. What´s quicker than getting at The Sturmey Box, taking a few snaps and posting them. Besides, I´m running out of complete bikes to post in the My Herd category. Also some people might say that these bits are quite nice, so I hope you´ll enjoy the photos.

Let´s start with some cute little items which are aftermarket, but I love them. Despite of them having ball ends on the levers I wouldn´t say they´re post-CPSC, but if they are, I promise to still like them. First the rear, Sturmey replacement levers, weighing far less (15g) than the original wing nuts (27g, left rear) because they´re light alloy:

GBrearrect GBversAnd, of course, there´s a matching front pair, too.

GBft

Next, something I´ve always thought was really rather rare, to use Hilary´s words, but at least the hubs bearing the same “Patent Applied For” don´t seem to be. The thing is that this trigger must be 1938/9 as no patent number had been allocated to it yet.

TrigPatApp

The trigger following this one was black, had a patent number, and – like the no patent number one – the ominous spring that stuck out of the body and was lost so easily. It is late forties/early fifties.

TrigBlk

The third trigger in this row definitively is hen´s teeth. The ASC was the only post WWII Sturmey hub that could not take the standard triggers.

ASCtrig

This is the hub that goes with it:

ASChub

And this is the quick release toggle chain connector which allowed you to re-fit the rear wheel after repairs without having to adjust the three speed.

QRtoggle

Lastly, there´s this triple sprocket, again aftermarket and non-Sturmey, but useful if your name is Lauterwasser or if you want to convert your three speed rear wheel to a nine speed.

Tripleft TriplerearRight, done for today. There´s going to be a book review next – I hope.

 

Haarlem, Second Helping

People have been wondering what has happened to my blog, not having had any news for more than a month. No, I´m not throwing in the towel, it´s just that I can´t remember having been swamped with work to such an extent as during the last six weeks or so. Things are clearing up now, or so I hope, and especially the many Dutch people who have visited my blog since last Sunday may now lean back – here´s my short verslag on the second issue of the Tour d´historique. I still can´t find any time to ask the organizers for participant figures or a decent interview though, sorry. Next year.

Before I start I´ll do something rather unusual: I´ll insert a short commercial for a promising blog which I hope will become more and more interesting over the next year. No bikes, but travelling: A year long trip to New Zealand starting on June 30. Here´s the URL which I hope you all will visit frequently: travelnewzealand2014.wordpress.com . No, I´m not taking off myself – the blog´s written by a former student of mine. But now, at long last, back to our regularly scheduled programme.

What were the three most important signposts of the meet?

Definitively this one:

MGbordje

For practical reasons, this one:

TourBordjeBut sadly, this one too:

SlechtWdeckLast year, my son and myself hadn´t gone on the longer route because the wind really got us down; maybe you´ll remember. There´s a post on last years´s meet further down somewhere. This year we registered for the longer ride again and really were bent on covering all of the 90kms; on my son´s mid-seventies Raleigh, described some time ago, and my bought-new-in-the-eighties Mercian – look further down too, or in the search box. A bike I bought new which is now a classic – good gracious. What is that old saying? You´re as old as the bike you feel? Doesn´t bear thinking about.

The day that would hold a nasty surprise started very promisingly about four hours before the start. We packed the bikes in our now nearly 23-year-old Volvo and set off, cruising over near-empty motorways in Germany and Holland, our course only disrupted by a drawbridge being opened right on the highway. That´s something that can happen only in very few places in the world, I guess. We saw another one later that day in the centre of Haarlem:

BridgeUnpacking was followed by encounters with many friends and acquaintances. The venue was the same as last year – look it up in the old post.

VolvoStartVorStartBaumJohRaleigh

TrianglesGrupettoStartBefore it came to this (the start), there were some great bikes to be marvelled at. Not much comment needed, I think.

ColnChainwhl Colnfront Colnfull Colnrearder Colnseatcl Colnseatpin ColnshiftleversThis much to placate the italianates among you. Here´s something for the francophiles:

Peugbelplaatje Peugfront Peugfull PeugStickertjesAnd last year´s beauty was present again.

FrenchRandfront FrencjRandAnd for the Americans:

FordTruckOops, not at the start, that one we saw later en route. Rare and nicely done.

Some Dutch bikes,

RIHPairSprimngfchromeseatcl Springfchrbb Springfchrfront Springfchrome SpringfdttransfSpringfield being a local brand.

Then off we set. First, the whole bunch stayed together, shepherded by three MG Bs, and paid a visit to beautiful Haarlem city centre. It was the Sunday of the Haarlem Stripdagen, the Comic Strip Days, so there were stalls everywhere, literally, and hundreds of them. Luckily I´m not overly interested in comics, leafing through the offerings would have taken days. That´s why it´s called Comic Strip Days, I guess.

Stripdboxesft Stripdboxesside StripdstallBut there also was the Town Hall to be smothered in bikes, riders and MG sports cars, so we set to it.

HaarlemTownhallTownhallsmallgpWe cycled out of Haarlem,

GroteChurchHaarlemBldg

and after this, we set off in earnest.

We found that again the organization was perfect, with well-appointed food stalls on the way (ontbijtkoek, yummy), very friendly company, the weather was wonderful with hardly any wind, the route was signposted clearly, but soon we saw what Slecht wegdek can mean. I guess it´s hard to select 90 kms of picturesque, trafficless and perfectly surfaced roads in the Randstad, the huge Dutch conurbation stretching from Amsterdam all the way down to Rotterdam. Many kilometers were great, with my favourite being a narrow path winding its way through a forest.

Schiph747We also felt that we never quite left the flightpath of Schiphol airport. There was a constant stream of starting aircraft, peaking in this huge KLM 747. I didn´t mind that at all as there always are interesting panes to be watched near an international airport.

However, my son and I soon found that many participants in the meet were out-and-out racers, and as such completely oblivious to the state of the roads. The thing is that for health reasons I can only stand so many recklessly ridden bumps and ruts a day, and having to go slow (and having lost the way on one occasion) we were soon dropped by all available groups on the fast 90 km lap. Also because of the combination of nearly three decades of use and the bad roads my bike suffered a minor breakdown, and that was when we decided to leave the route and to do what we like better than rushing behind an ever further vanishing gruppetto: Discover the countryside.

First, we retraced our steps to Spaarndam, a very pretty town where the first refreshment point had been set up earlier, right in the centre in a pavillion. We also were able to watch a lock being opened and closed, very Dutch.

Spaarndamfull

SpaardamSluis SpaardamSluisclose

SpaarndamSluisclosed Spaarndam2cv Spaarndamgroup SpaarndamPavil I then felt quite content with myself being able to ask a very old and distinguished looking gentleman the way, in Dutch, with what I think is all the necessary finesse, and understanding what he said, but a few meters on was given a rude awakening when encountering this statue:

SpaarndamJeugdIt is dedicated to “our youth” to honour a boy who symbolizes Holland´s constant struggle against the water. Ah. Don´t adults too fight the water? What´s the boy doing? What is he looking at? Where´s the water? Goes to show that I´m quite a way away from a satisfactory understanding of the Dutch culture. By the way, the text is given in perfect American English, too.

On the way we also saw some typical examples of modern Dutch architecture.

ModhouseThese flats for instance overlook a lake (well, what else).

Two unavoidables:

DuckWindmill

Nasty surprise, I hear you say, where´s the nasty surprise you promised? Soon after I took this snap my son cycled slower, and still slower, until he fell ill, right there in the middle of the road, luckily within easy cycling distance of the car. As a consequence we had a very slow drive home, 270 km, with some stops to give him a rest.

Before we started on the return journey, though, we took a first long break and while my son recovered somewhat, at least sufficiently to be able to sit in the car, I had another look at some bikes. Again, no comment needed.

CheapoChainwhRihBaddownttransf RihBadSeatcl

Torpadochainwh Torpadofront Torpadorearder TorpadoseatclCotterPinShimAXped ShimAxRearderSuntourAxShLevVreemdDingetje1 Vreemddingetje2 VreemddingetjefullSo, would I come again? Definitively. Tour d´historique must be one of Europe´s great gatherings for old race bike lovers. That said, I still haven´t made it to the Rommerskirchen meet, this year because it was our Club´s RTF/Century/Sportif day today, and I was up to my elbows in jam and chocolate cake at the 100 km control post when the boys and girls set off for the run in Rommerskirchen.

But anyway, Haarlem is a ride not to be missed.

Re-Run

Readers may remember my write-up of last year´s Miele meet in Gütersloh. As I found the event very much to my liking, I went again today for this year´s issue riding the recently restored 60cm framed bike, and accompanied by my son who was on his 1952 Sports. Both bikes are covered extensively on this blog. I´m sorry if this all sounds a bit sparse, but I´ll be snowed under with work as from tomorrow until mid-June, and anything not covered by today will have to wait until then.

So we set off at five to seven this morning, having decided to ride to Gütersloh and back, just like last year, in spite of the fact that this year´s group ride would take us the the South of Gütersloh, thus adding another 15 km to our ride, but the weather was just to our liking, no sun, no rain, no wind, 15 deg cent. In all we covered 155 km in just under eleven and a half hours, including over four hours of meeting, very leisurely group ride and lunchbreak, the food and drinks again being sponsored by Gütersloh City Marketing. As there was no entry fee or other cost of any sort, we had a great day out with not more than tire wear to pay for.

The company was friendly again, with Michael Patz, a Miele bike expert, giving comments to the roughly 50 attendants on some of the nicer bikes, and those were there in great numbers. The wonderful thing this year was that there was a great deal of the surviving twenties Miele bikes present. Miele only started building bikes in the early twenties, so this is something.

Look at this, for instance:

457This will thrill most Miele collectors as it means that the bike is mid to late thirties.

Now this frame number

109will have them rave, as it belongs to a very original 1928 bike. Many will say that it won´t get much earlier than that, but

035this one has people on their knees because it´s the earliest known frame number. Beat this.

And these were not the only twenties Mieles in the ride. Here´s a few pics of the beautiful 1928 one, as an example. Respendent in Nickle plating, it has internal lugs, narrow mudguards and a number of very old style details, among them the front mudguard ending behind the front fork, giving no room for a mudguard mascot.

Oldchainwh Oldfront oldfull Oldheadb oldmudgstayOf course over lunch there was another round of the never ending discussion about restoring or preserving. If i look at this thirties bike

Thiertiesfschrome Thirtiesfs Thirtiesfsstandwith chrome over rust pores and added kickstand, and then compare it to the much less sightly ladies here

Karinfullwith the few scraps of original paint preserved and the rusty parts oiled, I know which one to chose. The restored one is just not as authentic being decked out in modern paint and the flawed chrome.

Lastly, here´s a few impressions collected at random.

frametriangle Frontrest HelgaDoppeltorp

Here´s a beautiful ladies with a Doppeltorpedo two speed and a watch/speedo combination.HelgaTachoUhr JohFlascheMy son´s bike sporting a modern, but practical bottle which was definitively needed today.

LisaFront Mieletasche

otheroldfullVery nice and original late twenties bike which had been in storage since the thirties and was discovered ony recently. And sorry, I don´t know what happened – this is no hyperlink.

tourhalt

Rather untypical headbadge.Untypheadb

Same venue as last year: the picturesque Stadtmuseum (municipal museum) in Gütersloh´s town centre.UponarrivalSo, a great day out in all respects, and if at all possible I´ll be back next year.

A Collectors´ Item

This is a bike which I haven´t had for a very long time, couple of years, perhaps, and which I have put together with bits which I still had in my box. So I obviously haven´t ridden it and won´t ever, but I still like it for what it is, a typical British Path racer – made for both the track and for road use, featuring a rear brake bridge, drilled front fork and mudguard stay eyes. Here it is in track kit.

WfullI haven´t been able to find out much about its maker, excepting that Hilary Stone says it was round the corner from where he grew up. Also it´s not clear if Westland actually made the frame or just badged it. It is clear, though, that it´s got no helicopters in its ancestry.

WdownttransfIf one applies modern standards, it could very well be a lady´s bike, what with its small size and its colour. I think it´s not unfair to call it pretty. Here´s some more impressions.

Wbb Wbkbridge Wchainwhl

I know, it doesn´t feel quite right, but I guess it´s the correct period (the cranks have the lips inside), and I just didn´t have a Chater or BSA set.WdowntliningWext Wextfront Wforkcr WfthubdoWGB Wreado Wrim Wseatcl Wseatpin Wseattransfer Wseattubelining WsteerheadI left whatever it is on the chrome as it comes off easily but seems to have protected the plating well over the decades.

An Old Friend

Imagine you are rung by a friend who tells you he´s just bought a bike for you which he has seen in a newspaper small ad. This must either be a very good friend or chances are that he is no longer any sort of acquaintance. This one still is a friend.

Rtttransfer

So he says on the phone that he has found a very cheap but good quality road bike, Rossin framed, hung with a mixture of all sorts of stuff, but very probably originally sold by a legendary bike dealer, long deceased, in a neighbouring town. There were some telltale signs, like the choice of headset and the spacer:

Rheadset

And it´s 64 cms frame height. Built from extra strong Columbus tubing, and with an extra long top tube. Wasn´t it just what I was looking for, so shortly after getting into cycle sport again after some years absence. It was.

Rfull

The bike quickly proved to be very able, a great hillclimber (it definitively “planes” if I may use Jan Heine´s diction), and quite fast. I just loved it. The only problems with it were that it is a road bike with no space for mudguards and with a racing gear ratio. Still, I stuck with it for some seasons, with its mixed bag of bits, and it served my purpose well until I bcame fed up of being wet and muddy even after the slightest rainfall.

I then graduated to a real randonneur (http://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/work-in-progress) and the Rossin got laid off and parked in the cellar. As a recompense I had repeatedly promised the old chap to be made over with Super Record stuff, something that happened a few years later when I chanced on a bike thrown together with just what my Rossin lacked.

Rbb Rbkbridge Rbottlecageeye RbridgechainstaysRdowntube RforkcrRlwrheadlugRseatclRRonbbshell RRonlwrheadlIt is a nice frame, no doubt about it.

RchainwhlRftchgRhbarsRrearbk Rrearchg Rreardo RrearhubRsaddleRseatpin RshiftleverNow I keep promising the bike to ride it again, or clean it, for that matter. I´ve nearly made my mind up to take it to the Haarlem/NL Tour d´Historique in June, but let´s see what happens until then.

Sins of the Past

Older restoration – a term which makes me shudder usually, but I keep the shudder internal as I know that I  produced one myself, nearly two decades ago. Well, there was not much to have done, the bike was incomplete, the original paintwork had long gone, and the nickel wasn´t my fault, but still. Luckily I didn´t do anything irreversible to the frame as it is very special.

Ffull FfullftIt is a ca. 1923 Favor split tube, from France, and the ancestor, or one of the few ancestors, of all British Funny Frames.

Fchainstay

FdowntubeAs you can see, my camera also found the concept confusing and focussed on the ground between the down tube halves.

Why all this? People say it must have made the frame stiffer, but I don´t think so. My idea on the real reason is: The design facilitates the transport of small items like cameras.Fphotobag Anyway, when I got the bike it was a complete wreck. It had been used by some Dutch student as a hack bike, had received a modern front fork, and there were hardly any old parts on it. Helen March kindly sent me the photocopy of a sales catalogue, from which I selected the colour option Delft Blue, and my search for the bits started. I was lucky enough to find the remains of another twenties racing frame with a good fork which was perfect in steerer length and angles, and the two headsets matched, too.

FforkcrbheadlFforkcrbk

The original chainwheel had long ago gone and was replaced with a standard part. Funnily enough, not too far from where I am there is another Favor split tube – that one lacks the headbadge but has the chainwheel. It´s a tough sport, cycling.

FheadbFseatclFheadjoinWhere the frame is unmolested, it displays beautiful lugless workmanship.

FreardoFrearbridgeNow for the bits. Sorry to say that the platers made a mess of things by not rinsing properly: All plated surfaces of hollow parts are slowly being eaten away by acid. This is especially sad for the old Rigida rims, but you only find out about these things many years later.

FrimFextFchainwhlFftfkbkFfthubThe hubs seemingly are original; they are very old anyway. I can imagine the wheels having originally been wood rimmed and with smaller hubs, but then again all possible options were in the catalogue.

FrearhubFheadclipFsaddleAnyway, passes the 10 ft test and gives some sort of impression of what racing bikes looked like 90 years ago.

Critical Mess

Just couldn´t resist the pun, though it´s probably very old and tired. Sorry.

So here I was, at my first Critical Mass – April 2014 edition in Osnabrück. The local press had been full of it when CM was first held last summer, what with cyclists actually taking what is theirs – the road, and making it abundantly clear to motorists that the city centre is not theirs exclusively. The police had been there, too, giving the whole affair some disreputable, even illegal touch.

Now the weather was fine, even unusually so for end of April, and no police car was to be seen. They seemed to be busy, or had forgotten about CM, or – well, maybe they had seen that CM is a menace to noone, a very friendly and good-humoured thing in all, and very orderly, too. What was this saying Lenin coined about German revolutionaries who will first buy a train ticket and them storm the station? Although most attending seem to pronounce the name Critical Mess, it was far from one, so maybe the Police had done something very un-German, just letting it run its course. Actually, so did most motorists, who seemed to have gotten used to CM already. Some even stopped to let us pass. The whole atmosphere was  relaxed, some would say disappointingly so, and being taken serious feels different.

A few minutes before the advertised start, not too many people had shown up, but that changed rapidly.

CMfewWhen we set off, taking all of one lane, to which we were entitled because there were more than 15 of us, there were more already.

CMfrontA quick view to the rear showed that there must have been about 70 of us, including fledgeling families in transport trike boxes, small kids on their own little bikes, cheap old students´ bikes and top of the range touring ones. Everyone was avoiding bike lanes, of course.

CMmore

CMrearAs far as I could see, none of the bikes looked unsafe, made any noises or failed in any way – it seems that participants in CM are cyclists who merit this word.

I think I´ll go again next month, if I can make it – it´s a great outing for all the family.

What´s in a name?

OK, I shouldn´t complain, or even comment, what with my blog´s name being Russian and all. But “itstartedwithafight.de”? What started? What fight? Has it ended yet? Mysterious.

It´s a bike blog, would you believe it, and a great one at that. It actually has real, paid for ads. And it´s local to where I am. And it´s made by the only bike blogger I ever spoke to in person.

ISWFTopThere´s a wide choice of topics, ranging from bike politics and technical matters to – wall mounted cycle storage devices. Another one of those mysteries? Don´t think so.

The riders I met at todays´s CM (see following post) were most of them young, university or even college students, and had great bikes. They have little space, typically, and also little reason not to keep their steeds in their accomodations. Wall mounted bike storage devices, bingo.

ISWFchoiceAlso Daniel, the blog owner, has been instrumental in erecting a Ghost Bike, Osnabrück´s first, in the place where a cyclist was killed recently. He has been mentioned favourably for this in the press.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-25 um 21.57.46

So if you have any German at all, try one of Germany´s most influential bike blogs (it has just been voted onto a list of 50 of them), and let´s hope it doesn´t end too soon, whatever it was that it started with.

And don´t ask what rank on the shortlist my blog made. The jury didn´t even know it existed <sigh>.

A Mystery

Dear me, in what area of human life were the early eighties not a low point?

Again, a vinyl record sleeve is telltale. This time it´s the 1982 Hot Chocolate “Mystery” record which shows bikes.

MystfrontfullHere they are in all their post bike boom el cheapo glory. Four of them are Raleighs, and I´d be grateful to hear from anyone who can identify the last bike. It´s the one which is so savagely kicked in the chainblade by its non-rider.

MYstkickWhat is nice about these bikes? The Weinmann centrepulls on the blue cycle, but I guess that´s about all, excepting perhaps the typically British lamp brackets on the front forks. And, maybe, as some sort of smirk of history, the short mudguards.

MystorRalCertainly not the brake levers, nor the chrome rims, both of which seem to have been invented with the sole purpose to keep people from cycling by making it suicidal.

MystbluehbarsAnd look at this one: Bike straight out of the box, bars not fitted properly and probably still loose. For good measure, here´s the rear of the sleeve:

MystfullrearThe chap in the middle proves again he´s not a cyclist really by putting his foot on the chainwheel. Also, am I mistaken or do some of the bikes look too small for their riders?

Dear me.

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