Technikmuseum Sinsheim – Motorcycles

Here are a few pix I took when paying a visit to the really large Technikmuseum in Southern Germany recently. I must say that I didn´t like it overly much. Terminology isn´t always precise (a bike is restored and so “back in original condition”…), some of the descriptions are downright wrong, some restorations are doubtful (like the modern pedal on the super rare Mauser Einspurauto, missing drive belt on the Meyer – makes me wonder what other corners were cut), flat tires and badly adjusted saddles show that not much love is lost on the bikes and it seems to me that the choice of the exhibits is very much due to whatever was available and not so much to form a representative cross section of technical history.

Bicycles are to follow.


For lack of time, here´s a few cycling pix from some rides this summer.

The top three are from a Sunday afternoon ride using my ca. 1941 Condor, the bottom two are from a quick trip on the Rhine cyclepath between Emmerich and Wesel. This is quite close to the Dutch border, so in order to keep in style I used a cobbled together 1980s Gazelle roadster.

I find the contrast in riding through the jungle like shrubbery in our area and the free breathing flat landscape on the Rhine quite appealing. If you want to cycle on an incline, the best you can do is a dam flanking the river.

Fahr Rad! Exposition, Flensburg/Germany, Summer 2021

This summer in Flensburg, in the northernmost part of Germany, an exceptionally well made exposition on all aspects of cycling culture can be seen. Two large and important museums, Deutsches Architekturmuseum and Deutsches Fahrrad Museum, have contributed hundreds of well chosen and highly interesting exhibits. Smaller local initiatives and large cycle businesses round off the impression of a very capable exposition that holds interest for seasoned cyclists as well as those interested in cycle design and cycle politics. Visitors do not need any special knowledge as the artifacts are described very well, and a highly informative exhibition catalogue is available.

The exposition as such is very well made. There is a lot of space in the 1.700m2 shipbuilding yard, and exhibits are presented in a way that they can fully unfold their special appeals. Exhibition makers have resisted the urge to press as much as possible into the available space and created an airy, pleasant experience which is suitable to attract even non cycling visitors to the topic. The workshop atmosphere of the yard, visibly as well as olfactorily (freshly cut wood), does not distract from the purpose of the visit.

The large and tall building has been used very well not only by the stations in which the general topic of cycling culture has been broken down into smaller, didactically reduced units, but also by installations, like the red one highlighting the main sponsor of the exhibition. Wooden sculptures dotted around the hall are additional attractions.

In all, a two hour stroll through the Robbe & Berking shipyard-turned-exhibition hall is an experience that is wholly recommended.

Rustbucket 1952 NSU Modell 45

So after a log time I found an NSU bicycle again. Same year, or nearly, as my NSU motorcycle, and intended to be used around the village.

Advantages of this special bike are: Frame and forks are straight, no dents, not even caused by stand. All bearings are ok, including the difficult to repair bottom bracket bearing. Chainset: Cranks are straight & have good pedal thread and it has very good teeth in the chainwheel. Pedals are usable. Some of the lining is left. Headbadge and mudguard mascot are still there. Good 1967 Torpedo hub, replaced a worn one I suppose. Tires are good. Nothing is stuck in the frame.

Disadvantages: Bike has been painted over in a horrible fashion. It´s a ladies frame. Rear wheel needs to be rebuilt, but can do that myself. Sadde is ugh. Chain and sprocket are worn. Passes the 100 foot test only. A number of minor bits are missing, but they should come from my box, I hope.

So let´s see what happens. Looking forward to getting my teeth into it, already sourced some parts, including the rare bell top, which will go on the bike only on special occasions. Will leave paint as is to minimize risk of the old girl being abducted.


Tschopp Trick Cycling bike

Sometimes things happen that one would not have thought possible, like finding a quite special bike without even looking for it.

A friend of mine is thinning his herd and I happened to pass by when he had just offered a trick cycling bike for sale on the net. There was one buyer, but things proved to be difficult, so I snatched it. No idea what to do with it, actually what it was tbh.

First a quick search on the net showed that there actually are several types of trick cycling bikes. You get bike polo ones, bike soccer ones, and trick cycling ones as such. The pics I found showed that my bike is a trick cycling proper one with polo handlebars. So, next research, where to get correct bars? New ones cost about double of what I paid for the whole machine. Issue remains unsolved up until now.

So, what makes a trick cycling bike so special? Easy: Everything. I do not think that there is a single main part on the bike that can be used on any other cycle, excepting spokes and (track) hubs. Frame angles are adventurous, as are the lugs of course (why no lugless construction?), and the Wittkop saddle is easily the weirdest bicycle saddle I have seen so far. It has to withstand the rigours of the cyclist standing on it, hopping on and off it, so it´s more a heavily supported platform than a saddle.

What I need to do is contact the Swiss maker of my bike to see if they have any info on it. They still seem to be active, but seeing that my bike does not have a frame number I suppose they will not remember it. Its heavy wear, the 91 on the Maillard hub, and 1980s style Reynolds sticker tell me it might very well be 25+ years old.

The chainset does not need much explanation, it can only be used on a bicycle like this, and the tires are sew ups, which doesn´t make things any easier. The saddle stem is fixed with a heavy grub screw that works itself into dimples in the stem. All of this heavy duty equipment and treatment shows that the work a bike has to do does not necessarily depend on the roughness of the surfaces it is ridden on – trick cycling is performed inside gyms mostly.

Checking on trick cycling I found that a) you live and learn. OK, it´s not exactly a popular spot, but still I had paid much too little attention to it as it b) is fascinating. The prowess of trick cyclists is breathtaking, and the seemingly easy and light footed performances can be riveting. So have a peek on youtube or Instagram, it´s worth it.

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: