1938 NSU Sulm

Never had a pre-WWII gents NSU bike, and when a friend had this old wreck for sale for a very nice price I bought it yesterday.

Now a lot of work waits; all bearings have inacceptable play, the tires are rotted, and the whole thing needs seeing to. The front dropouts had to be welded as the NSU showed the typical 1930s German bike illness: Front dropouts are created by inserting a thin liner into the ends of the fork legs, and then a few cm are just flattened and sawed out to receive front hub the axle ends. This method of building front forks shows that the good old bike days often weren´t. Both ends had cracked badly, rendering the bike a lethal trap in as found condition. Luckily the friend I bought the bike off of has welding equipment.

The bike is dated according to the stamping on the rear Torpedo hub and a matching frame number taken from http://www.fahrrad.nsu24.de/html/nsu-rahmennummern.html. Also both rims have the same very worn paint scheme.

The “Sulm” model was named after one of the two rivers that flow through Necharsulm, the town in Southern Germany where NSU was situated. The model was in the cheaper range.

The bike has lost its original saddle, tool pouch and, worse, the original bottom bracket and chainset. However, as NSU were made in great numbers and had identical chainsets with Opel too, I hope to be able to find a replacement for the horrible 70s stuff eventually. The carrier rack of course also dates from much later and will be removed. The sadle will stay on as I hope to ride the bike too.

Positive elements are the headbadge, the mudguard mascot, the wide NSU specific mudguards and the bell, all of which seem to be original. In the case of the bell this is no less than a miracle; one major cost factor in getting old bikes right is buying a bell as nearly all of them are lost and cannot be replaced by a generic one as all German makes had their names stamped/cast into the bells. The better known the marque, the costlier an original bell from the correct era.

The missing brake parts aren´t; they were taken off when the bike was partially disassembled to weld the front dropouts. Headbearing is still servicable. Phew: NSU had their own size.

Those of you who know what a steering damper is, skip the next para. The knob in the front top headlug actuates a it. Nearly all German bikes up to the thirties had those, and lost them after WWII with the exception of some Nuremberg makes who fitted them for a few years into the fifties. You turn the knob and a threaded part tightens a bronze band around the fork column. Simple but effective when leaning the bike to something (stands were not provided then) or of course when riding on sand or gravel roads, not uncommon in the day.

A nice touch: Some old tools in the pouch, among them the original (it seems) Torpedo tool and some cone spanners which the former owner(s) certainly never used.

And lastly the front hub which bears a tiny NSU flying toadstool sign. The shape of the hub shell screams Fichtel und Sachs though, so I wonder if NSU might not have bought the hubs in. I will perhaps find out when disassembling the hub for regreasing and adjusting. Let´s hope the cones are still alright. Surprisingly the wheels are still true.

I`ll keep you posted.

Tour de France, 3rd day, Denmark, 03-07-22

This year I was lucky to chance on an étape of the Tour as I visited my son who lives only about 40km away from the pretty town of Grasten (which should have an o on the a), through which the tour passed.

So we thought we might, after Utrecht some years ago, have a look. What hit me this year, probably because everybody is talking about saving energy to prevent the climate change, was the huge number of cars, trucks, vans that are used to stage the race. There even was a helicopter. Only one in Denmark, far from the central étapes in France, and the caravane also was pretty small, but still there is only one thing that can be said: This huge event does not fit in our times. It is about as outdated as a dinosaur, only those didn´t exhale tons of CO2 per minute. All of the vehicles, and the helicopter, had to transfer on the following day from Southern Denmark to Northern France, a distance of about 950 km. The caravane vehicles can´t for the largest part cover such distances on their own and are trucked I hear. Madness.

However, the general atmosphere of a town´s preparation of months culminating in a huge amusement fair was great too, so we joined in the festivities as much as possible. We had a pizza in a place that actually used the same menues than before the event, so not everybody made a quick profit.

After our meal, we found a place in the shade of a huge hedge, on a little incline, I took out my 300mm telephoto lens (400 really as it´s one made for an analogue camera and my old but beloved Minolta Dynax 7D has a small sensor), and waited for the things that were to come.

I guess the pix can speak for themselves now.

Gardien de la flamme

Two years ago I took my motorbike to France for a holiday. This of course meant: No cycling. Or so I thought. On the first day, actually first thing on the first day, I noted a few bikes stood next to a road, and they were for sale, so I bought my first Decathlon bike for the princely sum of fifty Euro. It was MUCH to small for me, I usually ride 65cm c-t, and the Decathlon is 52. Still, for a fortnight of light touring I put up with it, and, surprise, a nice bike it proved to be.

It also was still in a pretty good condition, given the fact that Decathlon isn´t exactly known for top quality. However, the French have this tradition of making nicely rideable, well equipped and durable bikes for every day use, remember the lower range Peugeots or Motobécanes from up until the nineties? On the Decathlon, the carrier rack is sturdy, the extension is adjustable, the tires are Michelin, the 3×6 speed derailleurs have a good range, the brakes are capable of stopping the bike well, so what else does one want? A good bike needn´t have a big brand, nor need it cost huge amounts of money.

Predating dynamo hubs, as the bike does, and given the fact that Decathlon did after all build the bike to a budget, the lighting is suitable only for summer holiday use. That´s a major drawback.

Looking at the cheap French Soubitez dynamo and some other kit like the twist grip shifters, I can imagine the bike dating from the late nineties. I have not yet discovered a Shimano date code; the triple chainset is SR, and as the hubs are still perfectly adjusted I´m not taking them apart just to find out their age. I need to scutinize the derailleurs.

Anyway, the frame is steel, with brazed in forged droputs, and that is a nice thing in itself. All components are no name, doubtlessly it is of Chinese or Bulgarian manufacture, but again, it does its job.

Surprise ending: The friends that took over the bike at the end of the holidays found that they had no use for it after all, so when they visited some weeks ago, the brought it here in their van. Great.

P.S.: The front q/r is the wrong way round, I know.

Fleamarket find

Found in a real fleamarket ealier this year, not a swapmeet. I was quite bowled over. The levers are there too, and even the brake shoes are gold anodized. If I told you the price you´d hate me even more lol.

Absolute lack of time means only this quick post this month.

Paris-Roubaix Book

On the day on which P_R is held this year, what else to be posted than something connected with it. I´m not as lucky as to own a participant´s bike or lesser ites, so a great book it is.

It´s the EngLan edition of Pascal Sergent´s “A Century of Paris-Roubaix”, a fascinating work full of illustration one might lose oneself in, covering the races between 1896 and 1995. I know it´s been quite rare for some time, but if you have the chance, grab it. Funnily enough, even the English edition was produced in Belgium, see last pic.

Only one thing to be said these days…

… as seen at a Unkraine demo in Osnabrück on March 5, 2022.

Update: Rohloff bike after eight years

As some of you might remember I came by a really quite nice city bike a number of years ago. Read up the adventure of building it here: https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/rohloff-test/ .

All those years, a number of oil and chain chain changes and many thousands of pleasurable miles later (I don´t use odometers), this is what the bike (still) looks like:

As you see, most of the components have stood the test of time as well as wear and tear very well. The exception was, of all things, the Brooks Conquest saddle which broke a railing wholly unexpectedly and potentially dangerously last year. Luckily I was riding at low speed and could stop. Also luckily I was quite near a fleamarket where I was given a cheap road bike saddle for free by a very kind stallholder who must have noted my still shocked expression. The Italian plastic thingy got me home somewhat uncomfortably but safely, where it was replaced by an old but hopefully rugged B17 from my box.

B17s still are unsurpassed in comfort, that much is clear. I do not miss the springs of the Conquest at all.

One more change to the original setup was the largest sprocket I could find to help me avoid those whining low gears as much as possible. This small piece of metal transformed the bike, I must say.

Some other shocking incidence some years ago was when the original Shimano dynamo hub nearly blocked after a very short notice of making funny noises. I nearly went over the handlebars. The front wheel was replaced with a SON hub and a standard rim which have been giving stalwart service for some years now.

The original equipment Rohloff hub, the Magura brakes, the KFS frame, – all have performed flawlessly up until now and I hope they will continue to do so for a long time.

Sports Book

One often finds books from the thirties to the sixties that claim to give an overview over the whole world of sports at the time when they were written. So if you find one dating 1956 (Alex Natan: Sport aus Leidenschaft, Zürich and Paderborn) you expect some coverage of the cycling giants of the day, and here it´s just what one expects.

Alex Natan (1906-71) btw had a very adventurous life; a participant in the 1928 Olympic games (track & field), he emigrated to the UK in 1933 as he was Jewish, worked at the University of London, internment in Canada as an enemy alien, Senior History Master at King´s School, free lance sports journalist, opera reviewer… amazing.

Five real giants of their sport are mentioned, but the biographies are restricted to the most basic and yellow press like info. A few pictures are also there, exactly one per rider, one supposes that this is all the editor wanted to pay royalties for.

So would one recommend buying such a book? Yes and no. If one´s interest in the history of cycling is just awakened, then the short biographies might help to start one off, no doubt. Also those books do have a certain old fashioned touch, and they are cheap too. However, if one has progressed beyond the beginner stage it´s not really worth it.

Instagram!

I can already see most, or some, of you flinch at the title, and until some time ago I would have too. Instagram, the embodiment of shallowness, influencers shamelessly influencing teens, in-app purchases pushing people into poverty, users running a high risk of becoming anorexic, depressive… all maybe true I´d say, from what one hears, but there is a different side to IG too.

This side is created by people who are very much into old bikes, and it shows. Quite a number of profiles offering the tastiest bikes for sale, amateurs presenting their latest finds, and all that ranging from bmx via Krates to high end Italian and French classics. I think I can say that IG reflects nearly the whole bandwidth of the bicycle culture. I have not been able to secure the publishing rights to any pictures in the hurry I have been in lately, but I can give you a written introduction to some few profiles. The order does in no way reflect any order of preference.

Let´s start with akira_miyano, a Japanese wheel cover craftsman, one of the more exotic profiles. He makes just that: Aerodynamic wheel covers for road bikes. Very colourful in any case.

Cattelan.cycles is one of the more accomplished makers of replica 1890s cycles. The few details visible in their pictures are quite nice.

worldofcycling1 has a collection of lovely, mostly touring cycle pictures.

Caturthalhah writes ” In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” in his bio, but despite this he seems to be an avid cyclist. An example of a typical IG mixture reflecting the interests of the profile owner; bikes both with and without motor, religious posts, and more. From Indonesia methinks.

Great nature and randonneuse pix on jasonmytail. Lovely Hillborn Campeuse style bike featured.

premiumcycling, self acclaimed “World´s No. 1 luxury vintage & collectible bicycles boutique” from Slovenia of all places. Indeed the pictured bicycles are extremely tasty classics. Maybe the vicinity to Italy helps here?

Schill_ma71, a German collector who manages to show the nice sides of run of the mill – bikes.

Classic racing pics abound, there are tons of profiles specialising in that. Pedaleanarquista is one, Reynolds.531 is another. It seems to me as if the latter is indeed run by Reynolds Technology.

Juans_bicycle_repair is a fascinating cycle workshop in CA as it seems. Great chap too.

French cycling heritage as well as inspired randonneuring is depicted on dynamocyclerepairs, located in the thick of it in Aix-en-Provence.

And so on, and so on. Have a look yourselves, if you haven´t done so already.

Bicycles in the Neckarsulm Museum

This month only a quick post, lack of time.

The Zweiradmuseum in Neckarsulm is centered on motorbikes, but it is also in the happy situation to have a few choice bicycles. Sadly they are hard to photograph, so only three here, of which the NSU Pfeil (bottom picture) is the one I feel attracted to most.