So there I was about 15 years ago, looking for a really old bike, in my size so that I could ride it. I´m 6´6″, which doesn´t help in many situations but it makes finding rideable old bikes more difficult than most things.
I was standing in a friend´s storage space full of old bicycles, looking up into the rafters, when my eye hit on a really long headtube facing downwards and adorned with a big headbadge. “What about that one up there?” I asked, and received the answer that the frame was small notwithstanding the long headtube. Could it be a paced cycle? No idea. Anyway, it was taken down, and I bought it for the sum expected to be paid for a ca. 1905 headbadge, having found out that the frame was a complete wreck. Here for example is a picture of some holes in the chain stays:
This friend had bought the frame some years earlier in the former GDR, just after the wall had come down, when all sorts of antiques could be had for a song. Most vehicular antiques, however, had had a hard life, and my Allright – the frame had proved to be of the famous Cologne brand – was no exception. The front fork had been replaced, there were no parts left besides the bottom bracket and the chainset, the rear triangle had holes because people had used too wide tires, regardless of the drag caused by the tires rubbing against metal, there were dings and dents everywhere – ugh. The frame had obviously been used for a long time, and in a completely different role from its original glitzy racing one. Was it worth saving?
I had by then become certain that it constituted the remains of a motor paced machine dating from about 1904, and many phone calls and letters later I had heard of no motor paced machine which was earlier, so I went ahead and sent the frame off to David Miller in Preston, of Hetchins fame, who really put his framebuilders, chromers and paint people through their paces to get this wreck back to a state appertaining to its former glory while I scoured the land for suitable parts. These proved impossible to find, so the state the bike is in now is only an approximation of its 1904 condition.
The worst part of it is the front fork which should have straight blades, but I only found out about that much later. Nobody I asked had any info on very early paced bikes, let alone correct fork rakes.
The piece de resistance must be the huge chainwheel which necessitated that the frame was built around it. It has 33 teeth inch pitch which equals 66 teeth as we know it today.
The block chain I used comes with a special story. Near where I live there is one of the very few surviving cycle tracks built for motor pacing, and there was a very old mechanic who had a workshop in one of the outbuildings. I went up to him and asked about a block chain explaining what I needed it for, and expressing my doubts if I could ever find one that had the right very old looks. The old mechanic walks up to a large blue plastic bin, estimated capacity 25 gal, and pulls several lengths of block chain from it, telling me to keep them. The bin was filled with them. Sadly mechanic, workshop and bin are no more.
The headbadge had to be cleaned using a rotating metal brush on a dremel, but it has come out quite nice.
Another view of the geartrain – nothing one would like to pedal in road traffic.
After piecing the bike together to make it a ca. 1904 paced frankenbike with a genuine heart, my curiosity was aroused re its history. I found it most astonishing that hardly anyone knew anything about the history of a discipline of cycle racing which had once been far more popular than soccer here in Germany. I had written a number of articles for old bike mags on other subjects, and I thought I might write one on motor pacing to get the ball rolling, but then I was really drawn deep into exploring the pacing business and some years later there was a manuscript for a complete book. More years later it actually was published, and here it is:
I hope it can still be bought at Maxime Verlag on the net; if there are some copies left they are 28 Euros plus p&p. It has 234 pages, hard cover and about 150 black and white illustrations. It is of course in German.
I have since found a bike of considerable age in my size, of that later.