A Good Read Plus – Ulreich/Wehap Puch Cycle History

I was going to start this book review by saying “It´s a rare occasion”, but I´ll have to rethink this lead-in for two reasons: Firstly, the quality of cycling literature has vastly improved over the last few years, so it´s not a rare occasion any longer to find a well-researched and well-written cycle history book nowadays.

9783705903814_hp

Secondly, it´s a German book I´m reviewing, with captions translated into English, English language quotes and a very informative 15 page English summary in the appendix, but still it´s mainly German language. True, the illustrations are wonderful, full colour where available and worth the money alone, but you miss out on a lot if you can´t read any German and still try to peruse this book. So I´ll carry on in German.

Styria Schwarz Luzern

Es passiert nicht häufig, dass man ein Buch in die Hand nimmt und sofort, ohne es schon durchgelesen zu haben, denkt, dass man auf soetwas gewartet hat, weil es das Ansehen der Fahrrad-Geschichte-Forschung weiterbringt. Nicht nur ist Walter Ulreichs und Wolfgang Wehaps Buch über die Puch-Fahrräder ein respektabler Klotz von 400 Seiten in 23 mal 26 Zentimetern, dazu durchgängig vierfarbig und mit stabiler Fadenheftung im Hardcover, sondern es zeigt auch eine ideale Kombination aus Informationsfülle für Sammler, Entertainment und Wissenschaftlichkeit, die ihresgleichen sucht.

Anton Rath Styria1894

Aber von vorn, oder besser, von hinten. Der Anhang eines großen Standardwerks – ein solches wird die Puch-Geschichte werden, da bin ich mir sicher – ist doch immer das, woran man sofort sehen kann, was Sache ist. Gibt´s ein Literaturverzeichnis? Sieben mikroskopisch eng bedruckte Seiten. Danksagungen? Voll externer Expertise. Einen Index? Auch die Mühe war dem Verlag nicht zu viel. Was hat der Sammler davon? Eine Rahmennummer-/Baujahrliste und ein riesiges Verzeichnis aller von Puch im Inland herausgebrachten Modelle. Und eine Auswahl von Katalogseiten.

Kat1896-29

Das ist es eben – der Standard, den ein Werk braucht, um zu zeigen: Ja, auch wir nicht-universitären Geschichtler können das.* Wir machen den Schritt raus aus der nebligen Ecke der nur-populären Buntbücher mit angreifbaren Texten wegen nicht überprüfbarer Inhalte hin zu glasklarer, nachvollziehbarer, aber doch spannender Literatur, die erkennbar von Experten (wie Walter Ulreich, der “Steyr Waffenrad”-Autor, einer ist) geschrieben ist.

Und von Wolfgang Wehap – Radler, Journalist und früherer Leiter eines Regionalbüros einer großen Presseagentur. Das Buch liest sich wie ein Krimi, was natürlich jeder Aufstiegsbericht eines Industriellen vom Schlage eines Johann Puch vom Tellerwäscher/Mechanikergesellen zum Millionär ist. Das Puch-Buch möchte man gar nicht loslassen, trotz oder gerade weil auch unangenehme Züge der Puch-Geschichte wie die Ausbeutung von Zwangsarbeitern während des Zweiten Weltkriegs (S. 165) oder der robuste Umgang mit Arbeiterrechten im ausgehenden 19. Jhdt. (S. 75) nicht ausgeblendet werden.

Endfertigung 70igerFlammlötungSkringer EL

Begleitet werden die eigentlichen Puch-Texte nicht nur von hunderten von Fußnoten; unaufdringlich untergebracht, aber doch präsent, wenn die Leser sie brauchen; sondern auch von Exkursen, die Zeitgeschehen, Menschen, technische Entwicklungen aus dem Fluss des Haupttextes heraushalten. Grün unterlegt sind diese Exkurse sofort kenntlich, leicht auffindbar und überhaupt eigentlich schon ein kleines Buch an sich. Beispiele: Der Exkurs zur Verwendungsgeschichte des Aluminiums. Interessant zu wissen, aber eben nur als Hintergrund für Puch wichtig, oder die fünfseitige Kurzbiografie des Rennfahrers Franz Gerger.

Styria Schwarz Luzern

Insgesamt quillt die Puch-Geschichte über von Information, die sich bei Walter Ulreich in 20 Jahren Arbeit an diesem Themenkreis angesammelt hat. Abweichend von der anfänglich chronologischen Herangehensweise gibt es beispielsweise ein Kapitel über Rennräder von Puch. (Das finde ich natürlich besonders spannend.) Bergmeister, Superleicht, Inter 10, Vent Noir, Ultima – Kindheitsträume, über die man endlich harte Fakten findet, wenngleich es hier einige Unklarheiten geradezuziehen gibt. Zunächst ist da die populäre Verwendung der Bezeichnung “Rennrad”. Auf S. 255 wird sie benutzt für ein Fahrrad, das deutlich kein Rennrad im engeren Sinne ist: “Dynamo mit Sportscheinwerfer und Kotblech-Rücklicht” zieren im Regelfall ein Sportrad. Die Ausstattung dieses Modells mit Allvit ist für 1963 auch eher in dieser Richtung zu verorten. Leider wird zwei Seiten später auch die von Berto schon vor Jahren widerlegte Legende von der 1973er Ölkrise als Auslöserin des Bike Booms in den Staaten bemüht.

Mistral Ultima 1981

Insgesamt jedoch ist die Geschichte der Puch-Fahrräder ein Buch, an dessen Qualität sich nachfolgende Projekte zur Radhistorie orientieren müssen.

Walter Ulreich, Wolfgang Wehap, Die Geschichte der Puch-Fahrräder, Weishaupt Verlag, Gnas, 2016, ISBN 978-3-7059-0381-4, €46.70.

______________

*Sicher, das Puch-Buch ist nicht das erste, das diesen Weg einschlägt, aber es ist doch dasjenige, das ihn m.E. bislang am konsequentesten geht.

______________

Illustrations in this review, courtesy of Ulreich/Wehap and Weishaupt-Verlag, are taken from Die Geschichte der Puch-Fahrräder.

______________

Disclosure: I have received a free copy of Die Geschichte der Puch-Fahrräder for review purposes.

Yeah. Fame at last.

Wood and Coffee

At Marten´s open day on Dec 20, there was one bike which I found highly fascinating although its human powered two wheels were about all with which it qualified to be an exhibit at the event: A late thirties Vianzone wood framed bike.

This one seems to be fully original, including both mudguards, a wood handlebar and a wood seatpin.

I can´t imagine the bike having been ridden overly much, not only because of the wonderfully preserved transfers and lining, but also because of the rather shaky looking bottom bracket, being bolted to the frame with only four none too beefy bolts. I shudder imagining the consequences of only one of their nuts shaking loose.

Also the fork legs being fixed to the crown by only two bolts each isn´t a design feature I´d voluntarily entrust my life to on a tour of the Alps.

Having said that, the bike is a thing of rare beauty, and that´s something.

 

 

tc3viabb tc3viabbbottom tc3viabbside tc3viachainguard tc3viadownttransf tc3viaforkcr tc3viafull tc3viahandlebar tc3viaheadlamp tc3viaheadtubetransf tc3vialiningtransfer tc3viamudguardtransf tc3viarearbrake tc3viareardo tc3viareartransfer tc3viaseatcl tc3viaseatpin tc3viaseatttransf tc3viasteeringhead tceviafrokcrrear

Tubes and Coffee 2015

Today saw the third open day at Marten Gerritsen´s workshop, and, as always, it was an event worthwhile visiting even if it meant driving about 370 km.

So the four of us, two friends plus my son plus myself, climbed aboard the trusty Volvo (now showing roughly 427.500 kms) and set off. After leaving the motorway the extremely flat countryside provoked the age old jokes we love so well (see on Thursday who´ll be visiting on Saturday…). We carried on through Stadskanaal displaying its lintbebouwing, ribbon structure

TC3StadskanaalLintwith its monotony interrupted by a jeep.

TC3jeeproof

Having arrived at M-Gineering, we found to our pleasure that Marten had again prepared his wonderfully tasty vegetable soup and apple crumble, which visitors tucked into without hesitation, but definitively with repetition.

tc3tableThere was the saucepan on the stove, filled with the soup, so

tc3stovetalks about bikes and cycling were well fuelled. They carried on the in “museum” part, where visitors were able to see among others a Barra alloy frame from Marten´s growing collection of classic bikes.

So we had lots of tubes to see, but he coffee wasn´t neglected, either.

tc3coffee

Contrary to us, a number of guests had arrived on their bikes, some of them made by Marten. Kogas were also well represented in the herd that was assembling in Marten´s yard.

tc3guestbikes

tc3orangeheadb tc3orangefull tc3orangefronthub tc3orangeforkcrInside the warm and cozy workshop people were able to marvel at wonderful bikes, old and new, and their components.

tc3rohlsilver tc3repair tc3kirkprectc3bluefullThe frame of a 29er single speed

tc3bluetoplug tc3bluereardo tc3bluechainstay tc3bluebridge tc3bilamnaked

Thank you, Marten, for a super day, and I´ll definitively try and be there next year, as anyone interested in handmade bikes should be.

I have taken a number of photos of some more great bikes, but, being hard pressed for time at the moment, I´ll post them later.

 

The Thing That Makes All the Good Weather

We´ve had quite a remarkable autumn this year; the weather was fine quite frequently, so I could get a few miles under my belt which I had missed out on during the season proper.XRhof

XRfullsunfl

I haven´t told you yet about the mishap I had while doing a century ride, have I? Early this year I decided that I didn´t want to do all that many miles in the car anymore, so I did a lot of what we call Sternfahrten. This is basically a normal century ride, but the miles spent on the bike en route to the event also count. Of course you meet less people that way, also the fee stays the same but you don´t profit from food stops, but, as I said, it means less driving.

Of course less driving also means less compatibility of flea markets and cycling events. While I´m definitively shrinking my collection of vinyl and shellac discs, I still can´t pass by a fleamarket. In the car – no problem. You just throw the records in and forget about them until you´re back home. On the bike you need to plan your route more diligently to include the car boot sales, and also there´s the problem of carrying, say, 30 discs on a randonneuse. So what to do? I decided to press my Rohloff equipped touring bike into RTF service, because years ago I had found out a quite foolproof way of transporting LPs on it.

For this reason, I take my winter mitts even in 30 deg Centigrade weather, and I always take both of my trusty, by now 30 y-o Agusport panniers.

XRbagsbadgeXRBagsrearXRbagsmittsThe two small Agus make a very trustworthy platform, and the mitts are wrapped around the bag with the records under the spring clip

XRbagsdiscsrearand just aft of the seatcluster,

XRbagsmittsfrontand Bob´s your uncle. I have carried close on 50 LPs in one go this way, and there´s no problem whatsoever. OK, granted, on steep descents the weight makes itself felt in some sort of weird rear end shimmy, but that´s a small price to pay. One Saturday this summer I bought 25 LPs and then went on a 120km ride.

One wonderful side effect is that the cyclists you meet during the small portions of the RTF route that you have to do in order to validate your license entry have a hard time guessing what´s in the yellow bag. One actually made me show him the discs as he wouldn´t believe that I took LPs on a century ride.

Anyway, back to the mishap. On one of these Sternfahrten with a carrier rack full of LPs, and about 35km from home, a pedal axle snapped, just where the adjustable cone starts, at the end of the thread. I was lucky enough to be quite close (10km) from the home of a friend who also is into bikes, so I was able to borrow a pedal, but I do hope that this is the last prank the cheapo stuff on the original chain store cycle has played me. You might remember that I bought the Rohloff used (and the Maguras, and the lighting, and…) hung on a frame which was so cheap as to be nearly unridable.

I then decided to get a decent pair of pedals and bought the heavy version Shimano reversibles.

XRPedflat XRpedspdThey´ve been fine so far. I usually keep single pedals, far too thrifty to throw a good pedal away, but I binned the un-broken one this time.

Another funny thing about my bike is this dead spider

XRheadlspidin the headlamp. It must have crawled in when the first owner of the chain store bike put the machine away after about 50km of use. And, no, neither the spider nor its net makes a shadow on the road.

What else? Oh yes, the Rohloff´s been fine, and I have decided to perform the yearly oil change tomorrow. Well, bi-annual, this time. Sorry, hub. BTW, there´s a great write up of “Rohloff how to and why” on Marten Gerritsen´s m-gineering website (whose third Tubes and Coffee will be on Dec 20th, and unless something horrible happens you bet I´ll be there).

I can´t resist in offering some impressions from this wonderful autumn´s rides, beginning with a marvellously dangerous and rusty steamroller which has been stationary on our neighbourhood playground for decades. Kids can fall off, put their hands in holes, bang their heads on protruding things, cut themselves on sharp edges – they hardly ever do, and they love the machine.

XRSteamrbadge XRSteamrfull2 XRSteamrfull

Here´s one half of a Beetle. Before I chanced upon Volvos I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Citroen 2CV man, so I guess that this is the best thing you can do with a beetle – cut it in half and use it as a stopgap in the hedge.

XRVWThis is a bike which I happened to see on one of my rides – a real cross frame ladies roadster, more precisely a Utopia Kranich (Heron). As so often in German bikes – good idea, cheapo build; just look at those lugs and the seat stay top.

XRUtseatcl XRUtreardo XRUtheadb XRUtfull XRUtforkcr XRUtcross XRUtbbUtopia started in 1982 and have always used steel frames, which is good, of course, but all Utopia frames I have seen were relatively coarse and, if I´m allowed to say so, priced in a way that I never bothered: A Kranich frameset is now +/- 1.000 Euros.

Kranich_gruen

Photo courtesy Utopia Velo

However, pricey as they may be, they are known for their ruggedness. A former neighbour of ours who is 6´7″ and weighs in accordingly has used a London, the gents´ version, with a Rohloff for more than a decade as his exclusive means of transport without a problem.

The frames are made in the Netherlands at van Raam bike speciality workshop in Varseveld near Doetinchem in the Achterhoek region, funnily enough only about 40km from where I spent my youth. The firm has been going strong for more than 100 years at different locations. If you look closely, the Utopia frame pictured above does look Dutch, too. According to their website, van Raam employs three framebuilders at the moment. Actually, the boxlining on some of the forks is done by Henk Kluver who, at 93 years of age, is the oldest employed person in the Netherlands. He´s been working at van Raam´s for an unbelievable 70 years.

Utopia have also had a strong connection with Rohloff and were presented with a pair of specially engraved Speedhubs for their 25th anniversary.

XRweatherfull XRweatherbadgeSome kilometers away from our village an automatic weather data gathering station was erected some years ago. Is this responsible for all the good weather?

A Bike for Brum

Some of you may know that my son recently moved to Birmingham/UK because he received a grant/bursary for a year´s worth of study at the University there. The problem about taking a decent bike was twofold: Would he need one, and if so, would there be safe storage? Both questions have by now been answered with a yes, the first one because there is not even a student bus pass included in the unbelievable £9.000 yearly fee. Allow me to be a bit unfair: Our local university manages to include a pass for less than €600 total fee per year.XGJdtransf

Anyway, this gave me the great opportunity to go hunting for a trusty steed. Sadly, the first port of call rendered a magnificent bicycle, of my favourite utility bike brand, from the perfect era and in very good condition. I would have loved to visit more bike shops and look at more small ads, but it just had to be this wonderful, ca 20 y-o Gazelle.

XGJfull XGJfullfrontYou will note right away that it has a somewhat shorter wheelbase than a standard Dutch roadster, which makes it a lot nippier. There actually are light alloy handlebar and seat post. I don´t know how Gazelle engineers could bring themselves to use these parts – they make the bike at least 200 grammes lighter. Horror.

But also the wheels are a little more sporty, if I may use this word in a Dutch roadster environment. Hubs (five speed Pentasport with drum brake) have light alloy shells, and rims are of a Westrick profile. To make good for the other light alloy parts, rims are sturdy stainless. Still, I think they are lighter than the usual Westwoods, so riding the bike in a hilly area (England, not Holland) should be pleasurable.

XGJrearhubXGJrimXGJfronthubnutThe last photo brings me to an explanation why I think that the bike is in such good nick and from such a great era: Just look at the hooded axle nut and the mudguard stay end. OK, admitted, the end goes shabby quickly if you´re not careful with it, but still.

As per usual on Gazelles from that time, the bike abounds with places the brand is mentioned on in picture or word from. I have long coveted the idea of staging a competition: Send in the right number of Gazelle sightings on a 1990s specimen and win the bike, but that would be unfair on readers as it would take ages to figure out.

A certainly non-complete list must start with this,

XGJheadbthe beautiful (screen?) printed metal badge.

XGJbrakeleverXGJelasticXGJextensXGJforkleggazXGJheadlampXGJhandlebarXGJmudflXGJmudgmascotXGJrearstaymudg

There was a plastic guard over the part of the stay protecting the little badge. Those are missing on all bikes I know of.

XGJseatclXGJtubestickerAgain, the last pic brings me to an explanation why the great era of Gazelle framebuilding must have come to an end shortly after this model.

It did have an oversized downtube (sporty, remember),

XGJbb:fatdt

but look at this:

XGJbbbottomWelded before brazing – ugh.

The old Gazelle “Kogellager”, press fit ball bearing b/b, was still there, however. René Herse, eat your… oh well.

Also look at this:

XGJbrakebridgeplateSo there are the two stainless bolts holding the carrier rack, and just above them there is a little piece of sheet metal just like a tiny recessed display board – which it used to be, because there was the frame number stamped on older Gazelles. On this bike, expensive stamping has been economized away, and strangely enough the frame number is to be found on the sticker just over the b/b shell. I should imagine that nothing is easier to remove or falsify.

Speaking of the carrier rack: It´s so Dutch. The versions for the German market had a sprung baggage holder and looked completely different.

XGJbaggcarrXGJrearreflBut look at that lock. Massive, and with real keys (both of which are still there). The hole facing you is for a cable loop to secure the bike to some tree or lamp post. The cable can be locked with the same key. However, it had to be bought as an extra and is rarely seen. BTW, noted the box lined mudguards? Not a spot of rust on their edges.

XGJaxalockSomething else which is really nice and useful is the brazed on rear light base, a sign of the more expensive Gazelle bikes.

XGJrearlightIf I´m not mistaken there´s an LED insert with a supercap to carry on burning after this

XGJdynhas stopped in front of a red light. Gimme an AXA HR anytime – just as good as a cheap hub generator. Earth cable, large dia cap for slow turning internals – wonderful. And the way it´s fixed on old style Gazelles:

XGJforklegbrazeonsBraze ons everywhere.

And then the track bike fork crown!

XGJfrokcrJoke, there´s no hole because of the bike having drum brakes. Very useful in Dutch (and British) weather.

XGJfronthubleftAlso this brake (is Fichtel &) Sachs and not the usual heavy Sturmey.

XGJtwistshiftTwist shift for the five speed. Much handier that the old thumb shifter.

XGJreardeassy

 

XGJkettingkrear

The two rear d/o end assemblies. The plastic chaincase is remarkably robust and its small rear part comes off very easily for maintenance or repair of the rear wheel. I must say I found the old fabric covered kettingkast still easier to work on, but there you go.

XGJkettingk

All bolts and nuts are stainless. The lighting cable emerges from the chainstay and vanishes in the mudguard stay after only a few inches. Can be a pita when you´re working on the rear wheel, but is perfect in daily use for anti-snagging purposes. Also look at the Gazelle chain tensioner.

XGJframenostickerDon´t know about royal, but a quality bike it certainly is.

Half a Post

Yes, I´m still here.

After a rather un-satisfying summer, there´s not much to report – I missed nearly all of the interesting meets and rides this year, for reasons of overwork, bad luck with double booked weekends, and also a few instances of sickness.

I feel a bit like the cyclist on this record cover:

SAM_6623

Yes, there is one. Look at the bottom left hand corner:

SAM_6624The front wheel of his bike is just visible, but he´s been relegated to the rear:

SAM_6622Turning the record over, there he is, looking none to pleased to have been left off the front cover. His bike is quite OK, equipped with what looks like Suntour gear and a Turbo saddle. And look at his Cinelli socks!

Let me add that Eros Ramazotti isn´t exactly the music I usually listen to, but the cycle on the cover affords at least some optical attraction.

As far as I´m concerned, I´m hoping for a better 2016 cycling season. Until then, and unless I can find the time and an occasion, I guess I´ll prolong my blogging break.

 

Two Steel Framed Rides (Rohloff, RIH)

Here I am again, but only for short report on two interesting rides. Can anyone fill me in on what happened while I wasn´t looking? Weeks with hundreds of visitors although I had not posted anything? I guess I should stop altogether, this seems to net the views.

Anyway, about a month ago, during the first week of school, a colleague fell ill, and I had to stand in for him. Nothing unusual it seems, only I stood in on a cycleride. Year 13 Advanced Level Geography class had to be shepherded by two people, one preferably knowing his way with bikes (and boy, was it needed), so I accompanied the herd together with the colleague who is the class teacher. The idea was to have a closer look at the Ruhr, but for the first day I had a closer look at neglected bikes, it seemed, but as I don´t mind to look over bikes, I was fine.

The idea was to cycle from Dortmund to Duisburg, starting on the Thursday, returning on the Saturday, but I had a family do on Saturday, so I came back the Friday, having been relieved by another colleague. I decided to use my Rohloff equipped KFS (see earlier posts), and in general it was great. We had to carry our luggage, but the bike didn´t mind at all, and, if anything, the ride improved in spite of the big bags I had on the rack.

XLKRadIt became necessary to sprint in order to overtake the group for a couple of times when the people going in front went too fast, but even then there was no problem. The bike behaved fine.

On the Thursday we set out from Bielefeld station, and what a difference it was from the French trains I used just a few weeks earlier. Bicycle tickets to be bought (and not cheap, either), special luggage vans for bikes,

XLKTrainconductors making sure every last paragraph of the rules was adhered to. In France? No rules, no luggage vans, no tickets, no trouble.

Having arrived in Dortmund in two trains (one alone could not take all our bikes), we set off. We took a break at Phoenixsee, an artificial lake dug to give some sort of mediterranean feeling to a newly developed quarter of the city. Also, the first of a number of geographical presentations was given by one of the students.

XLKSeeThe day went by, accoustically accompanied by the merry sound of bursting tyres. I actually had to delve into the biggest cycle superstore I have ever been to to buy a new tyre because the one I had to replace on a student´s bike had worn tread to a degree at which the inner tube was visible.

Phoenixsee is served by a cyclepath which follows the tracks of a disused railway, and even some bridges have been erected to help cycle traffic.

SLKBridge

In all the group behaved very well. In Germany, a group of over 15 cyclists (there were 22 of us in all) can cycle two abreast in the carriageway, not using the cyclepath. After some explaining, not even a trial ride was necessary, and we were happy to hold up motorized traffic and be perfectly legal too. At one point we even were thinking of using the motorway, but after some consideration didn´t.

XLKmotorwayJoke aside, some cyclepaths/provisons for cyclists were really substandard and we were lucky to be in a big group.

Mostly we used byways, though, which was as well, because my colleague was able to use several opportunities to get lost in spite of two satnav devices on his bike´s handlebar.

XLKGroup

Dortmund for many spells soccer, so there was one sight we couldn´t leave aside.

XLKBVB

In the everning we reached Bochum where we spent the night in a Youth Hostel. It is found in the middle of Bermuda-Dreieck, an amusement quarter, and my guess is that the students made good use of this. However, in the morning they were all up, most even had breakfast, and after packing the bikes,

XLKBOJH

off we went again. A great bunch they are, all in all, and I was happy to be with them.

On the Friday we visited Zollern II/IV colliery which is quite something. The view from the shaft tower is fantastic, and we were blessed with the most amazing weather. 25 deg C, no wind at all – perfect. On both days, would you believe it.

XLKZollernXLKFörderturm

XLKZollernbldgXLKViewMuseum staff were super friendly, facilities are wonderful (there even are little garages for bikes, free to use).

XLKBoxesAfter some more presentations,

XLKDahlhFor me the ride was over in Gelsenkirchen, and I only wish that more stand in periods could be like this one.

Ride two: Last weekend I took the freshly built up RIH for its first longish ride – 100km of RTF. It´s a really nice rider, and the miles flashed past hardly without me noticing. Descending, ascending – no trouble. Rides straight as an arrow, good amout of flex in the frame to make the bike “plane”.

RIHfull

Starting off early in the morning to cycle to the starting point, there still was some fog which soon was cleared by the sun, and then the weather was perfect.

RIHsunOne control post is at a manor house even, and that´s it again.

RIHmanor

Paris in the Rain…

… is what I´d fully expected to see, after the show stopping thunderstorms on the way out. Here´s a snap from the motorway in Holland, dry for a change, with what one might consider to be a spontaneous Volvo 7/9 meeting. BTW, my car (guess which one it is) topped the 420.000 km mark during the hols. XVolv

But no, the weather was wonderful all the time, and the friends we visited live in a very picturesque part of Normandy. Cycling was great too.

XnormOn our first day there we took it easy and just went to rather small neighbouring St Germer-en-Fly with its rather big cobbled together church.

XnormSGDurchf XnormStGertourisYou see a great number of cyclists in the region, what with the new London-Paris cycleway having opened, of which more later.

XSGbikes XSGCathSt Germer is a French village in which time seems to have stood still. Don´t know what the inhabitants think of living in a god-forsaken corner of France (our friends´ sons made some remarks in this direction), but I just love it.

XSGFils

Doesn´t this somehow remind one of Champion´s grandmother´s house in Les triplettes de Belville?

XSGafficheThe affiche really was still hanging near the church last week. You can´t say that people are hurried in St Germer. [“No, we´re not taking it down. We want tourists to think that we´re not hurried in St Germer.”]

The next day, we were off to Paris.

XPBiketrainIn French trains, bikes travel free, which was helpful. We boarded at neighbouring Gisors, and after just one and a quarter hours we arrived right in the middle of Paris at St Lazare station. My family wanted to have a detailed look at a certain exhibition in a modern arts museum, but especially on the bright day it was I couldn´t imagine not being on the bike, so I took mine. It fitted right into a corner in the entrance area of the double decker rolling stock, and while this meant that I couldn´t go upstairs, the folding seats quickly were taken by families with prams, and I got talking to a father of a wonderfully active and bright two year old who was fascinated by the red chronometer seconds hand of my watch.

Having arrived at St Lazare, this is the first thing one sees (and hears):

XPKlavThe piano is there for all to use, and it seems that vandalism has stopped short of it so far. Sorry to say that talent also stops short of its many users, excepting this one, but there you go.

Hardly had I left the station, when I saw my first classic bike. When I think of Paris, of course one of the first things that come to mind of a subscriber to Bicycle Quarterly is Wonderful French Bikes.

XPVeloSLThis one was a little less than wonderful, and the picture would stay that way. While I have had the pleasure of seeing one of those Wonderful French Bikes right out in the open about 15 years ago (see post), this time there was no such luck even in Paris. What abounded were users of those rather doubtfully designed Vélibs.

XPvelibuse

These are found absolutely everywhere in the inner city, and it´s really cheap to use them. An annual subscription starts at 19€, and with the first 30 min of every trip being free of charge, for most short trips this is all it will cost. If you use the bike any longer than that, an hour is a Euro, with rates increasing with the length of time you use it. The rationale behind it might be a high frequency of change, and consequently less bikes necessary.

If you want to use a Vélib`, all you need is your subscription card, which you swipe over the top of the parking pod, a large magnet will let go of the bike, and you´re off.

XPvelibrow XPvelibrearh XPvelibhbars XPvelibfaceHaving just said all you need is your card, I have to correct myself. For me at least, the cost in nerves it takes to cycle in Paris traffic would be far higher than the few Euros Vélib`rent. In theory, there are pistes cyclables everywhere,

XPcyclepbut in a traffic jam, or the normal peak hour madness, life for a cyclist can become very dangerous indeed if he/she insists on using the piste. The problem are not so much parking cars, not even cars in use, but the ubiquitous motor scooters. They don´t care a hoot about anything and will literally push you to the side.

So there I was, in the middle of Paris, with an afternoon off, and of course, where does the beginner visitor go first?

XPetnetouchExactly, to the thing you mustn´t touch. Quite how people are supposed to touch the Eiffel Tower at all remains a mystery, but still.

XPETeb XPetfull XPETfromfarIt´s completely overpoweringly huge, and completely different from what I´d thought it to be. I think this is all it takes to describe the atmosphere:

PETcolaThe cup was given to me by a bench neighbour who had no intention to take it home. He was one of two people I got talking with while feeding on my bananas, the other one being a guard, who professed that he had become quite used to the Tower which now was nothing special for him.

Right, next. Le Jardin des Tuileries.

XPTuilgateQuickly dealt with. Unless, of course, you´re a tourist who wants the extra kick: A sighseeing tour of Paris in a Wehrmacht grey sidecar, starting from in front of the garden.

XPRetrotmotfull XPMotblocWhat precisely the attraction of a min. 25€ tour in a brand new, re-painted Ukrainian motorbike can be escapes me. But then, perhaps, people might think it´s the real thing? Who knows. The website mentioned on the sidecar doesn´t open because it´s regarded as “attacking” by my browser.

Paris and movies – an endless story. Here´s the next chapter.

XPTuillfilmThere´s such a lot of money everywhere in Paris. The cars you see which are there only for the show – unimaginable. What do you do with a Lamborghini or a Ferrari in the middle of a capital city? Or with an Aston Martin Volante Superleggera?

XPAMvol

Before not being able to use it for what it was built, you have to have it brought into the city centre on a flatbed. The flatbed man must have discovered an economic niche I wouldn´t have dreamed of being there at all. He said he was very happy being able to work with cars like this. As the owner of the AM, what do you say to him? Don´t drop it?

What do you do if you want a photo like this and if you want to pay hommage to the eternal flame under the Arc de Triomphe? Easy, either take the pedestrian tunnel under the Etoile, or your life into your hands and cycle there. In light mid-day traffic it takes one round of the Etoile to work your way into the middle, or out again.

 

XParctrbike XParctr

Time for a break. While approaching the somewhat more distant parts of Paris, like Levallois Perret, you will be able to find loads of bakeries selling wonderfully fresh sandwiches based on French bread. While consuming your bread at one of the tables on the sidewalk you might even be asked by some elderly coffee sipping Jewish gentlemen about your bike, and how life is in general, and the pretty saleswoman might also join. And do you know that there´s a cycle shop just around the corner.

So you carry on over the Boulevard Périphérique,

XPASboulper

pass by this road sign

XPASLevalPand this one, which suggested to me it couldn´t be far now.

XPASsquareAnd indeed, a couple of metres, and there I was.

XPASfullThe little old house, squeezed right in the middle of many high rise buildings.

XPASbike

Would you say “the little old house where time has stood still”? Oh no, because it hasn´t. Victor´s new bike for instance is equipped with Campag ten speed. The difference to usual cycle stores is that time has stood still where development has reached a peak, as in framebuilding. It definitively has moved on in areas in which there is room for improvement.

XPASbbchrXPASdetbrake XPASdetbrchrXPASrearmugsWhen walking though the door I was greeted in a most friendly way, even although everybody was quite busy, even preparing a PBP bike. I was allowed to lean my Ellis-Briggs bike to the counter, where it was looked over with interest, I then was explained the ins and outs of the shop, shown a second hand randonneur, and the atmosphere in general was relaxed in a way which comes from absolute mastery of one´s metier and the seemingly effortless superiority it gives.

In a way, this old and battered sign, which must be the understatement of the decade,

PASartisanalement

Bicycles made to measure Made by craftsmen and built up to customers´ specifications

is a good reflexion of the whole shop. It´s not the exterior that counts. To top everything off, I was actually given written instructions on how to find another cycle shop.

It was this one: XPSMschr XPSMfullYou can spend 3.960 Euros on the electrically assisted cycle in the window, and when I asked if I could come in with my bike because I didn´t want to leave it outside in this

XPSMTiquetarea, I was told it was not possible because the shop was busy. Would I mind waiting outside. Is this the difference between the letter written “dealer in beautiful bikes” and the old, battered cardboard sign? You bet.

What else was there in Paris? So much I don´t know where to start.

 

XPbldgBut then, that´s not what you come to this blog for. Maybe this is:

XPBblondXPBpeug XPBportfull XPBtranspAfter another sandwich bought at a place near the station, more expensive, less nice and eaten without a word from the chic people around me, it was time to return.

Next to where I ate my second sandwich I happened to see a spoon lying in the road. Tending never to let anything useful go to waste, I had nearly picked it up when I noticed that its underside had been blackened by heat, and there was a residue of some white powdery crystals on it.

Back in St Lazare, I had to wait for the train, and looking around I suddenly got an idea where to cycle to the next day:

XLAStlazLes Andelys with its Chateau Gaillard. While my family drove there, I set off early and was rewarded with a wonderful ride through the gently rolling Normand countryside.

XLArougemThis old style road sign shows the way to a WWI memorial, but its design, typeface and colour scheme took me right back to the seventies when I first went to France with my parents.

After about 35km, I arrived at Les Andelys and was greeted by this panorama.

XLAhlm2 XLAhlm1HLM (social housing), it seemed, and hardly worth visiting as I had seen much more impressive specimens the day before, in Paris. But then, it turned out that the town can also be like this:

XLAcastlefrombelowXLAstreetChateau Gaillard is visible in the top photo. Easy – or so it seems.

XLAhairpHaving covered those hairpin bends, one is rewarded with one of the most spectacular views imaginable, which sadly are not rendered well in my snaps.

The chateau dominates the Seine and its chalk cliffs, and looking down one has a feeling rather like flying.

XLAseineXLAlaXLAGaillXLAbikecastleA quick blast back after a meal at a small restaurant, and a great day came to an end in the cozy kitchen of our friends.

XLAreturn

Lastly, the London to Paris cycle route, the “Green Avenue”.

XLPoffsign It´s a project shouldered by the départements and Dieppe harbour society on the French side, and Sustrans on the British side. If you don´t know what Sustrans is, look it up on the net – it´s great. The Green Avenue wi(e)nds its way through picturesque Normandy countryside, branching at St Germer, offering two routes to Paris after that village. It seems that the French at least care for the lives of their tourists:

XLPsign

Let´s share the road

Part of one route to Paris is the Trans´Oise (Oise being the name of the local département) bike track on a disused railway line. If you thought that carrying a bike on the train can be boring, try the Trans´Oise track.

XLPtransoisesignFirst, there´s a Stop sign for the cyclists at every crossing with motorized traffic, signalling to cyclists that they´re still not taken serious on an advanced level. Next, there´s a complete absence of any roadsigns, excepting the ones telling you you´re on the track, which you´ve probably known for ages. There´s one or two giving the distance to Beauvais, but if you want to go from Beauvais back to, say, St Germer, you´re stuck, because there are hardly any identification points in the green hell of the nearly straight track and you don´t know where to turn off.

XLPtransoisegreenhellIf you´re training for speed, the perfect surface of the track is great. It´s new, however, and I´d rather not guess what it´ll looke like in ten years´ time.

So you´ve got this slight decline into Beauvais, for 30 km or more, and you zip along at about 40, your cadence only broken by the Stop signs. Of course you´re a tourist, and you´re clueless about the locality, and then the track ends here:

XLPtransoendNo signs whatsoever telling you where to go. So, for those of you who will be in the same situation like myself: Turn left here, follow the road up a slight hill, past the Renault truck dealership, until the next major crossroads (500m, perhaps). Turn right, and you´re pointed towards the cathedral – that´s what you´ve probably come for.

Before this, however, there´s a surreal experience to be made. The tunnel-like green suddenly stops, and St Paul fun park appears. When cycling along the track, I began to hear children screaming through the near-total silence, then mechanical noises, wondering what was wrong with me, and then saw this:

XLPtransoisestpaulI cycled past it to be swallowed by the green tunnel again. Not long until Beauvais now.

XLPBeauvholsten XLPBeauvcath XLPBeauvbikeA gate not unlike Lübeck´s Holstentor, and of course the magnificent cathedral is the reward for having mastered the Trans´Oise track. On the way back you have about 30km´s worth of finding out what a false flat is.

The short holiday had already come to an end, and after a pilgrimage to Vera Brittain´s fiancée´s grave, covered with violets, at Louvencourt,

XLOUVtop

the Nécropole Nationale de Notre Dame de Lorette,

XNDLfull

and Vimy Ridge Memorial

XVIMfull

on the way back I have to hope for next year.

 

This was my twohundredth post. Who´d have thunk it would come to this, and more than 54,000 views too. Thanks. Taking a break now – no idea how long it will be.

 

The Two-Event-Day

On May 17, I got on a bike, rode in two events, had great fun, and nearly forgot about it. How horrible.

First, there was the RTF/century in neighbouring Stemwede-Levern to where I usually cycle, but this year I took the car because after the 08.00 hrs start for the short route 75km there,

 

Stemwstart

The 1931 Miele standing next to some more likely bikes for a century ride

Stemwkontr2

next to the the first control post (And look at the weather!)

 

I arrived back by about 11.00hrs, loaded the bike again to drive to Enger, another place not too far away. I just made it in time for the 13.oo hrs start of the veteran ride there. Phew.

In fact, I was a little early and was able to have a look at the location of the start of today´s ride #2. It is the Widukind-Museum, which took part in the national open museum day that day.

EnMustag

EnmusEnsymbWidukind was a Saxon duke who led a resistance movement against Charlemagne between 777 and 785. Subsequently he became a mythical figure in the early 20th century for German nationalists and neo-pagans, being pressed into posthumous service by the fascists as well by being made into a symbol of Germany fighting France in the person of Charlemagne.

The Enger museum originally was a memorial place erected in 1938, and embellished with all sorts of reliefs around the entrance, like the Odal rune (above, under the word “Gedächtnisstätte”, in the sérif version) which is a symbol for inheritance, lineage, possession. When I looked around, I could find no explanation what those embellishments mean and what they were used for in Germany´s darkest era. I think that luckily knowledge of these things has been lost in the vast majority of Germans, but still the absence of any sort of explanatory note left a somewhat stale aftertaste.

Soon, however, a number of fellow veteran bike nuts arrived, and the atmosphere became somewhat less inclined to brooding.

Enerste

EnStart

We then set off on a well-chosen trail, mostly following a disused railway line.

EngruppoThere was a major break on the way, of course, during which the bikes could be looked at, old friendships could be renewed and new ones made. That´s life, I´d say.

EnHWMEnOP EnPause2 EnPause

EnDürkWe then arrived at our destination, a veteran car meet in a neighbouring village, lined up our bikes,

EnTREffen

and were content with the fact that we were regarded by the motor people as slightly odd, possibly retarded, but definitively to be healed.

Nevertheless, there were some nice vehiclesENautos2 EnAutos1 to be looked at.

Some, however, were not really that nice. There was a 50s Chevy which seemed to consist of nothing but putty, and this VW wasn´t much better, either.

ENVWsidepanelI was sorely tempted to draw an Odal rune onto this thing with a screwdriver. Maybe we should try to convert the owner to the real religion.

After a short stay, I went off on my own, returned to Enger, loaded the Miele and went home. I´ll be back next year, for sure, even if the old car meet is included again.

A High Bicycle

Here´s one more episode from the series “Bikes on Vinyl”.

Found in a fleamarket recently, and sold for a little less than a Euro, this 1971 Czech gatefold sleeve shows a great supposedly Czech ordinary. Czech cycles, aero engines and cars were famous for their quality up until the forties, and even kept some of their originality in communist times (Tatra lorries and limos, for example). So the front sleeve possibly alludes to the great Czech past in producing advanced transportation technology.

SAM_6223

Look at the nickeled centre spoking on the small pic, taken from the inside collage.

SAM_6225The rock group “Olympic” who are featured on the disc (yes, there´s something more than the bike) was founded in 1963, seems to have been very popular in Czechoslovakia and is in existence still. The album title “Jedeme, jedeme” I think means “Let´s go”, but I´m not too sure about this. Anyone who is?

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