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On another outing during our short stay in the UK I saw this marvel:

The headbadge was unreadable as it had been effaced by some cable rubbing against it, but I think it´s a Pashley built bike. What I find most interesting about it is the fully lugged, rather 1930s style frame construction and the sloping top tube.

This is a very nice way of fixing the carrier rack, which has some workload, to the frame. It´s practically unbreakable, or looks that way, and is good when weight is no object.

A nice detail: The front lamp. British battery lamps used to be somewhat fragile, at least from the early eighties onward when I live in the UK, but this construction looks like it might anchor a major ship if the necessity arose.

Perfect for quick saddle height adjustment when there are several riders using a bike pool. The whole makeup of the seat cluster is rather outdated, though, and was criticized as from the 1920s when seatstays were first brazed to the seatlug on recognizable numbers of frames.

This again is a construction that I was outmoded in the fifties at the latest. The seat stay is squashed flat, if the owner of the bike is lucky with an interior liner fpr added strength, but the inherent lateral instability of the setup can only be overcome by sheer material weight.

Weight also is no issue with the bike I ride to the shops. It´s an ex-Post bike from Germany and will make an interesting comparison.

The story is that this bike was built in the early eighties (I presume) for the then state owned Deutsche Bundespost who used it for some years and then threw it out. There used to be a small scrapyard in the vicinity which received all of Bundesposts´s scrap bikes, which was no secret, so a number of people came and built themselves sturdy city bikes out of the remains of the written off Post bikes. This is what happened here. The new owner painted the bike red and then used it to go to the train station and hoped it would still be there when he returned from work in the evening. After some time something went awry with the bottom bracket and he gave the bike to me. The bottom bracket only needed some adjusting, and held for another 12 years. I only replaced it last summer.

Unbelievably, the bell survived both service with Post and its time at the rail station. There used to be two traditions concerning German bikes and bells: One tradition was that the customer of a new bike expected the regulation bell to sport the bike´s brand logo, and the other one was to have the bell top stolen as soon as possible because it could be screwed off in a jiffy. This one is now safe in my bell box.

Back to frame construction. The basic difference between the Pashley and the German bike is of course the latter being a ladies bike, for ease of mounting and dismounting, but certainly not for the stiffness of the frame, nor its durability. There are also a number of differences in the carrier rack treatment.

The original yellow colour shows through in places, and also the way of securing the rack to the frame is completely different from the Pashley. It´s rather primitive here, and very heavy; in a word, typical for classic German bike construction. There´s a saying among older German bike mechanics whenever they get the chance to wrench a British bike: Why do it simple if it can be done in a complicated way. I myself much prefer the British approach. Another example for the German way of doing things is the rear rack.

The idea of course is to enhance mass production by making the rear and front racks the same, but as there is no steering head in the rear of the bike, a rather heavy, unsightly and wobbly steel bracket secures the rack to the frame. This is original, believe it or not.

As on the Pashley, there s a very simple rear dropout construction: Flattened tubes welded up. The seat stays aren´t any better either:

Is this what people call a rugged construction? Don´t know if I like it even though I´ve used the German bike for nearly 15 years now. Two things I do like are these:

First there is the Hebie prop stand which is indestructible and secured to the frame using two bolts and plates. The bike laden with both racks full of grocery will not topple. The third plate holds the rear mudguard; the braze on came off still during the bike´s service with Bundespost – there´s red paint in the crack.

And here´s my all time favourite rear hub for a utility bike:

A genuine, last version, Fichtel & Sachs Torpedo single speed with a coaster brake. This was made from 1908 until the mid-nineties with most parts interchangable and has given rise to countless attempts at copying. On my workshop wall I have a wooden board with metal hooks from which I hang all the Torpedo copies I find (bulky refuse, bike dealers´ scrap…). They are from places like Chekhoslovakia, Poland, the Soviet Union, China, Britain (Sturmey and Perry), the GDR and some more. All in all there are 12 copies and 10 originals in varying hub shell designs.

The Pashley has Sturmey front and rear hub brakes while the German bike relies solely on its Torpedo; the front plunger brake with a rubber block being pushed down onto the tyre is no use at all, rain or shine. It is legal to this day, though.


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