The Hub of the Universe

After 33 years, a new edition of Tony Hadland´s Sturmey Archer history has appeared last year. Much as I loved the first edition, which has been a constant companion in the world of old bikes for me, I have to say that the new one is just overwhelmingly nice.

Let´s begin with the appearance of the books. This is what the 1987, the first edition looks like:

It´s fine, handy in its format, and holds a wealth on information. It´s fine, handy in its format, and holds a wealth on information.

However, if one unpacks the new, the second edition, one is surprised by the colcourful, nearly gaudy, looks, and the box in which the book comes. The nice surprises continue when the reader leaves through the book. First rate printing and binding quality made in the EU, with a hardcover and stitched binding, simply lovely. The colour illustrations continue throughout the book where available; the day and age Hadland and Clarke explore used a lot of black and white of course.

The new edition keeps a lot of the useful info from the old one, especially the flowcharts which I like a lot. They show at a glance in how far the hubs, and there are literally dozens, differ.

Also the range of the rich SA history is amazing. It´s not too well known that they made one of the, if not the first variable hub gear anyway, and kept designing and producing innovative hubs for nearly a century. It was uncertain for a long time if the derailleur or the hub gear would carry the field in a long standing battle for the favours of the racing community, and that was largely due to Sturmey´s efforts, especially by creating close range two- three- and four speed hubs.

On its 367 pages the book covers everything from the million selling hubs like the AW or AB, well known to any rider of classic Dutch bikes, to the rarest products. Lamps, dynohubs, a moped engine, armament, motorcycle gearboxes, dozens of triggers, quadrants and other shifters, you name it, it´s in the book, and mostly accompanied by very useful technical drawings, sometimes even including parts numbers.

So, can people who are interested in bicycle hubs do without the book? Definitely not. It´s an absolute must, also because it delves into the history of the firm as such.

The Hub of the Universe is available from Pinkerton Press through the Veteran-Cycle Club.

Mercian Find

Earlier this year, a friend who was looking for a classic British steel framed bike to use for touring actually found one on the net. Odds had been against him as there aren´t many of those around here in Germany, of any brand, and in the correct size too. So the friend clinched a deal although the frame was entry level, because it´s still tops looking at what we Germans are used to, also the component list had a lot going for it.

Lucky him drove up to Hamburg and collected a bike which had suffered optically, had been “modernized” in a somewhat heavy handed way (for instance a cheap Shimano dynohub had replaced the marvellous Suntour Superbe), had a badly neglected saddle and was just about to suffer the student bike fate when the former owner found that steel wasn´t real for him after all and decided to sell.

My friend then set about to make a bike of his liking of the old Mercian. An ugly shock waited for him when he found that the TA cranks had French pedal thread, but someone had driven in cheap British thread pedals using brute force. Luckily the crank arms could be saved, and French thread MKS pedals were sourced on the net. The only major surgery left to do is the replacement of the cheap Shimano hub with a SON, but that´s an investment that has to be well planned.

The proud owner of the ride ready bike says “I didn´t want a museum piece as I find it a shame to scratch it in use.” Riding alongside him today on a quick run gave me the inpression that the bike fits him extremely well and that the paint blemishes are of lesser import than the good feeling he has on the Mercian.

Now see the bike for yourself.

A Swiss Heavyweight

Purchased from a friend, this bike looks like a Swiss army bike, but it isn´t. Numbers don´t match the system, and the + “year” is missing. FAIK the rest is identical, save the headbadge and the Condor transfers. A quick internet research brought the idea that this must be one of those bikes that were sold into private ownership from new. Now who can say if Condor frame number 164xxx is 1940/41 like the rear hub? You know what? I actually like the civil version better, pacifist that I am, and the headbadge is just great.

Also the unbelievable build quality and the typical 1905 details like the sloping top tube are all there. The bike rides well too. Once you have its 22kg gotten going it´s very comfy.

 

m-gineering 650b road bike

There´s not much to say about this one, except that I´m hugely looking forward to riding it as it is something of a dream bike and that circumstances beyond my influence kept me from finishing it for some time. Now there are only the provisional brake cables to be put right and some fine tuning to be done. Also I have a wonderful set of Paul canti brakes I got at a Tubes and Coffee meet, only they are gold anodized, I just can´t decide if to fit those instead of the Mafacs I still had in my box.

The hubs were sourced off the Classic Rendezvous mailing list, a prime place to go for all sorts of bits and info on classic bikes. The rear derailleur came from there too, and it actually was a gift. The owner of the list, a bike shop owner, went to enormous lengths to sell me the Phil b/b bearing. The stronglight cranks were sent to me by a friend in Holland. I can´t thank enough the persons who sent the parts. The SunTour bar ends as well as the Hetres I bought in Neerkant at the Stalen Ros meet, now sadly discontinued, and the saddle, (I know it´s a ladies, I´m not getting any younger) came off a bike I got at a house clearance. The Campag seat pin also was still in my box.

Most of all I have to thank Marten Gerritsen who made the frame, furnished parts and who gave a lot of invaluable advice. Building up the bike there was nothing at all that had to be reworked or filed or twisted as it does happen with lesser frames, so that was great. I hope to take the bike to Tube and Coffee this year and to have a ride or two on it with Marten in summer.

In general I hope that be bike will help to pull me back onto the road of fitness and self care which I had to neglected for some time now.

Now for some pix.

Not the scheduled programme, again

After some time here is another tidbit about my motorcycle. Found a really interesting sales leaflet the other day on the net.

The funny thing about this is that the name “Consul” is spelled with a C here, whereas in all later publications it´s a K, Konsul. the reason for this remains an object of speculation; the C in German in this position sounds elegant to some, foreign, brings up a connotation of luxury. Maybe that was it?

Maybe the fact that the original Consul should have had a longitudinal twin like a Sunbeam? It was to have been a very ambitious project, it was to have a shaft drive too. The project proved to be too complicated though, so the good old 350 and 500cc OSL engine/gearbox combos were dug up again, as they had been used in the late 30s, and replaced the ambitious twin. This was facilitated by the fact that the old 250 OSL was still on the NSU range, nearly unchanged from when production was halted due to the war, as was the 350 for a few months, couple of hundred bikes.

So here NSU had a relatively modern frame/suspension (rear plunger see pic below, both front and rear were bought in) and a definitely outmoded, yet rugged engine. I personally must say this odd combination is just what attracts me to the Konsul, and, looking at the prices it´s being sold for, it seems more people share my feelings.

Even at the time a 500cc bike was considered to be unnecessarily flashy and powerful by some; there were prominent motorcycle journalists in the early fifties, like Carl Hertweck in the August 1953 issue of “Das Motorrad”, who actually said that they could not use more than 15 bhp on the road, and that this was a natural limitation for bikes. 15 years earlier the 250 OSL at ten bhp had been considered sporty. 98 bhp were enough to establish land speed world records. In the leaflet the Konsul was described as having ample power for fast riders at its 22 bhp rating, so of course this nostalgic roguish feeling also enters into the equation of me liking the bike. James, would you increase speed to 40, I want to see eye to eye with death.

The 500cc version (Konsul II) was to stay on the range from 1951 (when the leaflet was printed) until 1954. By then it had become clear that the single cylinder 500cc Konsul could not compete against the same cubic capacity twin cylinder BMWs, although the NSU cost considerably less money. This was an experience Zündapp were making with their KS 601 at the same time although the KS was of the same outlay as the big BMWs, and when prices for small cars decreased, a 500cc sidecar rig of any brand was the same price as a four wheeler with a roof over your head.

Here´s a couple more snaps of the leaflet:

Lars Amenda, Strich durch die Rechnung (Thwarting the Bill)

Hamburg, network bike / history, 2020

Hardcover, 110 pages, four-color printing, thread stitching, ribbon bookmark, high quality paper, 9 978 3949 139000, no price yet, German language

Occasionally you discover books that you think would be included in the selection if you had to pick one that you would take with you to a desert island. Every few years you find one about which you think why you know so little of the riveting topic and that you would have liked to have written it yourself. Amenda’s monograph on the feature film “Strich durch die Rechnung” with Heinz Rühmann, which was set in the racing cyclist milieu of the early thirties, definitely falls into both categories.

Rühmann? To the lonely island? This time, yes. It seems that in almost 90 years more will be forgotten than is commonly assumed. It is thanks to Amenda that part of this loss, which was promoted by a de facto ban on the film after 1933, has been reversed. You can see that Heinz Rühmann played in a film in his early work that did not serve to give those people who were suffering from the horrors of the Second World War more stamina (Feuerzangenbowle!) so that a criminal government could continue its war. On the contrary, Amenda states that the film dating from 1932 which he researched in his book shows internationalist tendencies, and that Jewish participation at all levels of the film’s making process was decisive.

So what happens in the plot that is roughly based on Fred Angermeier’s play of the same name? Rühmann embodies the stayer Willi Streblow, who at the beginning of his professional career has to make his way between the poles represented by Hanni Spengler (honest, serious friend), Gina Stern (fashionable lady and bike manufacturer’s daughter) and Gottfried Paradies (fraudulent manager of the aging cycling champion Banz). Paradise offers Streblow money to secure Banz´ victory in a race. The course of the race and other coincidences let Streblow win the well-paid event as well as the heart of his honest friend.

It goes without saying that here one should mainly look at the cycling side of the book, and this is where Amenda proves to be just as much a master of his craft as he is on the film-historical side. I don’t presume to discuss his portrayal of film history, but the chapters on it are definitely exciting and offer a lot of information and insider knowledge. The creation of a feature film 90 years ago is presented very readably in all its tension between the technical, financial, human and political dimensions.

The cycling part of the book is almost perfect. An introductory chapter on the part of cycling history leading to the popularity of the stayer sport in Germany can only be recommended as a basic, concise and well-illustrated presentation. The numerous illustrations, all contemporary and from rare sources, have been selected in an exemplary fashion and made me look several times to appreciate their wealth of detail. On the subject of rare sources: The film cannot be bought over the counter, there is only one, incomplete positive copy and, despite considerable success at the time it was made, this was later shown only very occasionally semi-privately or on television on a few dates around the turn of the millennium.

Amenda knows how to work out the mutual influence between stayer sport and the film industry in an understandable and entertaining way; His text is consistently accompanied by references to endnotes and thus shows the necessary scientific nature without the reader needing to have any fears of illegitimate copying. The bibliography is impressive and invites you to deal with individual aspects of the topic independently.

Another mainstay of the presentation is a spotlight on a short section of the local history of Forst / Lausitz, which was given a glitz of glamor while the film was being made, as the racing scenes were filmed on the Forst track. Amenda knows how to write local history in a relievingly sober, yet friendly way.

Is there anything that thwarts my bill? Actually almost nothing, but I find the strong sepia tint of the pictures disturbing. A homely shade of brown in the illustrations, which does not match the otherwise clear atmosphere of the book, overlays most of the pages. The serif font, which is actually easy to read, should also have been chosen a dot larger. The book is very well produced however; the quality of the print and binding is impeccable, the design is clear and the images are relatively large and make the book worth it even for those not able to read German.

All in all, Amenda’s book is a small gem that is quite suitable for desert islands.

Villa Road Bike with Cambio Corsa

So last week a friend of mine bought this beauty. Any idea if this is the original paintwork? Decals certainly are seventies or later. This bike is actually going to be ridden.

Fed Up

Can you see why I am?

It´s been going on for decades, cities praising themselves in the press for building short stretches of cyclepath in the centres, or for erecting signposts, but if you look at the outskirts, where much of the cycling over longer distances happens, you still see lots of impossible things like this, that only serve to make life easier for drivers.

Actually while I´m neither an engineer nor a lawyer, I´d not be surprised one bit if this sort of cyclepath were even illegal. But who cares…

Wanderer Telex

Because of an acute shortage of time, here are just a few snaps of a very interesting moped. It´s the last product of the famous Wanderer brand, already built in München, not in Chemnitz, and if the Wanderer people of yore had seen that a twowheeler of theirs would use a proprietary engine instead of an in-house development, they would have cried bitter tears. Anyway, still a number of interesting features on this weird little thing, especially in the suspension.

And yes, I think it qualifies for this blog – it has pedals.

Join!

If you haven´t already. The Veteran-Cycle Club is a great club even if you are an overseas member and can only join runs every few years. The magazines alone are well worth the membership, they make for riveting reading in their mixture of info, small ads (yes, even in this day and age of Ebay…) and well researched articles. The network of marque enthusiasts is able to answer nearly any question. Find the website on the net.