Early Forged Dropouts

So when did forged dropouts strat to appear on good quality bicycles? I would say in the fifties. Campag was a firm who had them first, even in the forties for their Cambio Corsa; however in Germany there was F&S with their weird rivet on three speed who pioneered forged dropouts, as fas as I can say. Here is a pair salvaged from a destroyed NSU sports frame.

The r/h side one shows the three holes for the rivetted on derailleur which this bike never had. Also residual brass from brazing the frame is still visible. The dropouts are quite well made; very thin and lightweight, to my mind nicer than Campag. They have an integrated mudguard stay/carrier rack eye too.

ca. 1948 Bauer Gents

So here we go again with a late forties gents bike; rough now, but it used to be one of the nicest bikes one could buy then. Look at the lamp and the dynamo:

Compare the funny triangular shape on the dynamo with the headbadge…

… and you see that the dynamo is Bauer branded too. Lovely detail.

Else, the bike is a typical forties/fifties roadster, see the “48” marked rear hub, which means that the hub was produced in 1948, and the bike not much later, possibly in the same year.

A Very Old NSU hub

I have had this 36 hole front hub for the best part of 40 years, and thought about showing it only now. Also I am very hard pressed for time and energy atm so there will only be a few pix this month.

The hub shell is nickel plated, so will be earlier than 1930. Matter of fact, the NSU logo with the antler (from the Württemberg coat of arms) had been around for quite a long time. The 1923 50th anniversary commemorative shows quite exactly the same, already simplified antler design for a 1913 hub:

And lastly, from the same source, here is a drawing of the hub internals, giving 1924 as the model year:

Quite elaborate, compared even to good quality hubs from later periods of time. Look at the “Oelrohr” alone, an insert that will deliver the oil straight to the ball bearings (“Kugellager”). “Filzdichtung” means “felt gasket”.

Cycling and Cameras

We all know those pictures of 1890s catalogues and books showing the weirdest contraptions which should enable cyclists to take their cameras along on rides. Some of those things worked, some didn´t. Most didn´t I imagine, also because cameras up until the fifties were both cumbersome and delicate. Not everybody had the means to purchase a Leica or a Contax in the thirties, and it was only with the popularization of 135 format film that affordable cameras became smaller than those large-ish 120 or 220 format, or even glass plate, ones. Still, space in the panniers was and is at a premium.

So, what to do? Cameras have become still smaller and better since the digital age arrived, so digital it will be, the box we´re taking on rides. Phones don´t count in my opinion; I´m convinced that a good camera is still more versatile. But spending hundreds on a camera that will be subjected to jolts and vibrations? I don´t think so. My solution are fleamarkets.

The little boxes in the picture above were sourced from various markets this summer, and cost me about 45€ the lot of them. I have taken them all on rides, the Sony Alpha on the motorbike, and found them great.

What have we got? Let´s start with the biggest one, still lightweight and small, even in a pouch. It´s a roughly ten year old Alpha 3000, a beginners´ model at the time, but still very capable. Body and lens are separate; lenses cost a fortune even used, but in all the bundle wide angle to standard zoom lens is highly recommended.

Next down the line is a Nikon, typical for again the time of the 2000s, in this case a Coolpix P530. It´s a bridge camera, meaning the lens is not exchangeable, but its range of 42x optical zoom, ending at 180mm, is quite breathtaking. It´s not much smaller than the Sony.

Third is a really grand litle thing, a Fujifilm X10. The first issue of the X series is quite affordable now. If bought on the net it´s a lot dearer than the 15€ I paid, but I bought it non-working, meaning with a flat battery and no charger, of which more later. Its lens is a wide angle zoom.

Lastly, and smallest of them all, is the second Sony in the flock, an RX 100.

It´s a perfect little machine, and although I bought it last, I have taken a lot of pix with it already, among them these:

I actually did make it home dry.

So, why were all those cameras that cheap? How can you reproduce getting those boxes for next to nothing so that you´re not risking hundreds in a tumble?

First, if you decide to get them from markets, buy them from stallholders you know or who seem trustworthy. Elderly ladies are great. You avoid buying scrap, or, worse, stolen goods. Next, don´t shy away from buying cameras without manuals (available free on the net as pdfs) or chargers. Li-Ion batteries are surprisingly resilient, they will survive long periods of not being charged. Many cameras can be charged with simple USB cables and off the phone charger via the USB ports the cameras have. Never mind if it says “data out” only, give it a try.

If you do need a charger, generic ones fitting your exact camera model can be had for very little money on the net, and I have yet to get a camera for which chargers, or batteries for that mater, are no longer available on the net. So your non-working camera can be resuscitated for free (if you have a fitting USB cable) or very cheaply. None of those cameras are that old yet that they need mechanical servicing, so you´re ok with that side of operations.

Stick to well known brands. There are lots of very cheaply made cameras available, don´t buy them. Two brands that are great, but not represented in this post, are Samsung and Panasonic, btw. Especially Panasonic has a reputation of making practically indestructible small cameras.

Look out for the exterior of the camera when viewing. If you notice dings, dents, scratches, cracks – leave it. The exterior often is tell tale with regards to the electronics too. It´s great if the camera comes with a pouch; you will need one on the bike anyway, and the presence of one is a sign that the camera will have been well cared for by its former owner. Check if the on/off button still clicks when you press it. Check front lenses for scratches. All of these are reasons to politely place the camera back on the stall.

That´s about all there is; of course a camera that has a flat battery always is like a lottery ticket, but your chances of winning are much better.

Didn´t Hyman Hetchins´ parents have a record store?

I think they did. As actually did a number of other cycle dealers. So I may be forgiven for posting a few pix of the newly opened German Record Museum in Nortorf/Schleswig-Holstein, just North of Hamburg. Great place, wonderful approach. Feels like family.

Situated in a part of the former Teldec record factory, the museum has a number of first rate exhibits, none of which are roped off and can be approached freely. During guided tours the players are demonstrated. Wonderful.

The many thousands of records on the shelves are the former archive of one of Germany´s oldest public radio stations, NDR Hamburg, which has been donated to the museum. The archive goes back to the twenties.


Before I post a few pictures of my latest acquisition, I have to say that I am fully aware of how much against my usual conviction it goes.

It has not been long since I´ve said I´d never get a bike with an alloy frame and disc brakes. Or an electric motor btw, but since I have decided to try just such a bike last year on my commute, a seriously horrible looking Chinese e-bike, in order to get at least some little time out and about of my still 75km/48mi daily driving, dams have broken. So when a friend offered the bike pictured below for an agreeable price, I just got it without thinking much. I suspect it is about time for my first mountain bike too. Over its long-ish life any frame transfers have been lost so I have no idea what brand it is, but with those mass produced alloy Chinese or Bulgarian frames it doesn´t matter too much anyway.

Actually I like the bike for two things: The hub gear gives very clean lines in the drive, what with the kit and caboodle of the derailleurs missing, and the fat knobby tires are somewhat balanced in the fat frame tubes.

I´m now wondering if to keep the bike as is, simple, lightweight, but only a toy; or add muguards, lights and a rack cluttering it up, but making it more useful. OTOH, I still have my cluttered up Rohloff equipped city bike, so I might as well keep the new bike as a nice weather plaything. Luxury problems.

Anyway the speedhub works well, and I have planned to change the worn chain and sprocket next weekend. I will fit a push on sprocket adapter too. As is the hub, which dates from 2005 if I can believe a list published on the net, still sports a screw-on sprocket. Those are not available any longer, and I will fit the largest tooth count sprocket I can find in order to be able to use the noisy lower seven speeds as rarely as possible. I´ve done that to my Rohloff equipped city bike too, and it now has the smoothest drive you could hope to ride.

Nuff said, pix now.

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.