Author Archives: starostneradost

Neerkant Revisited – Randonneurs

It might not have escaped your attention that I have a predilection for randonneurs. To me they seem to be the pinnacle of cycle construction, uniting light weight, practicability, comfort and a high degree of individuality. Also you need a very good Constructeur to build you that lightweight bike which incorporates a great number of custom made peripheral structures such as décaleurs, racks, lighting installation, brake cable stops, mudguard eyes and clearance, and what not. After all, even if you don´t go for PBP, the average (or below average, like me) rider wants a bike which will help him or her to attain the longest possible ride distance with the least discomfort. Add to that personal touches like special lugs, and there you are: Not to be surpassed.

Rivendell

So, about eight years ago (yes, it´s that long ago), I was lucky enough to have a custom made randonneur made for me by Ellis Briggs in Shipley (see Work in Progress post). At the time I thought one would see a big renaissance of steel framed, constructeur made randonneurs, but it seems I was mistaken, so whenever I see one, I have a good look, as in this year´s spring Stalen Ros meet. The first bike I found to be quite nice was a US made bike, a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen – strange name, great bike. In theory I was familiar with the brand, I had read a number of Rivendell Readers, even before Grant Petersen and Jan Heine fell out over rolling resistance of tires,

so I knew that they made nice lugs

and artsy headbadges, too. I used to say that I only wanted to ride bikes with metal headbadges, but I wonder if that can be continued nowadays. Anyway, Rivendell Bike Works still have them:

And here´s the bike in full:

Some nice details:

Personally, I´m not so sure about asymmetrical lugs, but that´s a matter of taste, I assume, as long as certain limits are not exceeded. I just love the lugged extension, that´s true, although my taste for fantasy literature is underdeveloped.

Batavus

There was another really wonderful bike, hard to be photographed, sorry to say, so there´s just a few snaps. Based on an elderly Batavus frame, the rider had made a great long distance bike, changing tire size to 650B on the way, and incorporating such features as remotely controlled directional lighting, reminding me of the 2nd series Citroen D-models.

 

So the former down tube gear lever is now attached to the brake lever body and actuates the Edelux swivel mech. Great stuff.

Lastly for today, these two nice touches:

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Open Monument Day 2017 – Bielefeld Racetrack

Unexpected experiences often are the most interesting ones.

I had planned to visit the 2017 edition of the open day at the Bielefeld/Germany cycle track on Sunday, Sept. 10, expecting to witness some exhibition racing by stayers, but when I arrived at the scene, I already could hear that something unusual was going on. So through the tunnel, and into the track oval inner field.

Parallel to the cycling part of the open day there was a meeting of people foolish enough to risk not only their lives, but also their wonderful motorbikes on the track. This is possible because Bielefeld was built for stayer racing in the 50s, and so can stand the stress exerted on the track by heavy and speeding motorbikes. On the Saturday there had been heavy rainfall, so that no fun could be had by the motorbike people, who had been allowed to take the exhibition racing over on the Sunday – some of them had travelled for 1.000 kms to ride their bikes on a track, so who could have refused them?

There were some weird and wonderful bikes assembled inside the track oval, a 1929 NSU racer for example,

or a recently finished re-creation of a JAP engined track racer,

but the stars of the show on the track were the fast and hard ridden Harley Flathead WL model conversions. Strictly speaking hardly any of the motorbikes present were actual track racers, but boy did they let fly, never mind knobbly tires or other un-track-like additions.

Riders actually developed some racing ambitions and up to four serious contenders were on the track at a time. One thing bikes did not have were exhausts worth mentioning, so the warm, low key noise of the Harleys, the NSU or the JAP was contrasted by the sharp sound of a sixties Honda.

In the bends, the low pressure, large diameter tires of some bikes were visibly compressed by the G forces exerted on them at speeds of up to 100 kph.

Of course, there also were cycle related activities. Old films about the track were shown, and Christian Dippel, one of the last great pacemakers, explained some tricks of his trade at the small exhibition of cycles and motorbikes.

Outside the track proper, there was tent in which visitors could partake of cake and other delicacies, and the tent also harboured a small collection of very nice, but hard to photograph racing bicycles.

A short ride for people on old racing bicycles had also been scheduled, and one bike in it, a fully original Bianchi Specialissima, was ridden by it first owner who´d had it for quite exactly 50 years.

Soon it was time to return home, but first the beautiful weather had to be used for some photographs.

Nice Try

The other day a friend rang who had scored a Bickerton Portable MkII on the net and wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Which should have made me think twice. However, being a fan of all bikes British, I went and bought it for a very moderate sum indeed. Which should have made me think twice over.

So, what about a Bickerton Portable? Checking things up on the net does not yield very substantial information, even the Wikipedia article is more than skinny. Made from alloy mostly. 10 kilos weight. Not bad.

Also, there´s a clip on youtube which shows Mr Bickerton himself arriving at a train station on one of his bikes at the same time as his train, he folds his bike down in a jiffy, and vanishes in the station, bike in hand, in time to catch his train. Great.

In the real world I had this heap lying in front of my garage and started to wonder.

Like that perhaps?

 

And where is this going to go?

I have seen long saddle posts in my time, being 6″6´tall, but the Bickerton one beats them all.

Just a few hours later: This is what I think it must be like.

And what does it ride like? After pumping up the age old brittle tires as hard as I dared, I took my fate into my hands. Here´s what the cockpit looks like when in flight:

Exactly my thoughts.

The bike is definitively not for fast, spirited riding. Just look at those handlebars, the unbelievable seat pin – it all adds up to a feeling which can only be described as impossibly wobbly. You´re good when the bike takes you within about 10 or 20 degrees of where you point it. Still more unbelievably, the machine sports two different wheel sizes,

the smaller one being in front and not exactly adding to anything even remotely reminding of a stable ride.

But I doubt anyone in the seventies (the Bickerton was launched in 1971 according to some sources) would have noted. Those days were the low point of the bicycle as such, the only category cycles would be classed in was price point, hardly any good bikes were to be had anyway, and the car reigned supreme. The Bickerton was expressly made as a supplement to the car (or the train), so I suppose it wasn´t seen as the insult to serious cyclists that it must be perceived as being today.

El Cheapo

And cheap it is, truth be told. Look at this dropout end. Squashed tubing, no strengthening inside, full stop.

Much was made in advertising from the fact that Mr Bickerton was an aircraft engineer – whatever that was supposed to mean. I guess I know now why I have an aversion to flying.

Chromed steel rims, cheap plated and plasic covered q/r levers everywhere, but a min insert marking as a saving grace.

Never heard of Ursuss with the double “S” – are they the Italian manufacturer of bike components who may have lost an S over the years?

Cheapest German brand of pedals, too, plus a front hub (and front dropout) in the same vein.

Also the chainset is the cheapest available given the large chainwheel size.

The funny axle nut is there to catch the rear dropout end when the bike is folded, I think. In the manual it´s not described very in-depth – there´s mention of pushing the folded down handlebars until the catch frees the wheels.

Also the construction as such is so very quirky, and definitively not made for prolonged serious use. Look at that brake bridge. Luckily my bike has a coaster brake, but just imagine a brake caliper hanging from it, and what it would do to the two small bolts attaching the bridge to the stays. Flexing is an understatement really.

Or look at this cable clip. It moves when you look at it.

Lastly the saddle, which according to some illustrations on the net could well be original.

The wrench ingeniously suspended from it was put there by the former owner who obviously hadn´t understood the folding mech and undid all the nuts everytime.

So how does it fold?

You have this funny lever which has a flat surface into which a hook hooks. The hook is attached to one half of the central square tube, the lever to the other.

You turn the lever to the left, the flat gives the hook a little play…

… which allows it to be swung out…

.. and the Bickerton becomes a folding bike. It has a hinge…

by the shape of which the bike can be indentified as a Mk II, BTW, and which is fixed to the tube by bolts, as is everything else. Bickerton prided himself by saying that he didn´t use a single weld on his bike.

The tube doesn´t just consist of two empty halves, but the screwheads in the two faces of the folded frame insert themselves into the oposite face´s holes, giving at least some little strength to the construction.

But the quirkiness goes on.

One of the pedals must be removed in transit, so in order to facilitate removal it can be blocked with the help of a small plate, showing clearly that the pedals must be original:

Now it´s free…

… and now it´s blocked and can be unsrewed. When the bike is in transit, the pedal lives in the hole in the square main tube behind the seat tube, where, BTW, it sits very losely and to my mind is lost easily.

It says in the manual not to forget to un-block the pedal when the bike is assembled, else the pedal is unscrewed when in use, but I´m not sure if the whole contraption would make today´s health and safety people happy. Also it says in the manual that the pedal doesn´t need to be screwed in the crank eye very tightly – I think that is so tell-tale with regards to what sort of use the Bickerton was meant for.

One more major headache is the complicated system of catches, safety tubes and springs which makes up the extension. (Note how the headset is plastic…)

So once you have progressed this far, the handlebars must be folded down. Mr. Bickerton did invent a device that made folding during a ride impossible, but it´s also quite impossibly complicated to use when operating the folding mechanism.

Got it? No?

See?

Let´s turn it round

Now the Bickerton from below.

I really hope that the small bolt isn´t the only thing holding the b/b shell, but I wouldn´t be surprised if it were. Anyway the big hole is where the seat tube is attached.

This nice little plate sits on the underside of the square main tube right behind the steering head. Could anyone please explain how this bike came to be made in Australia? No mention of it I could find on the net. There´s another, different Australian plate on bickertonbicyclespares dot co dot UK (which site I am very much indebted to for much info in this blogpost), but no explanation is given as to where Bickertons were really built.

What else?

I´m quite certain that mine was made for the German market, what with the dynamo lighting and the Shimano 3CC coaster hub,

yes, the one with the cranked mech for which others just used a toggle chain,

because people here love their coaster brakes. But then, all of these items could have been retrofitted, of course.

When getting the bike a few days ago, I also was attracted to it because the whole drive train on my bike is like new, chain, sprocket, alloy chainwheel – what does that tell us?

Yes, you´re right. Think twice. But then again, every cyclist who owns bespoke or other great bikes should have a Bickerton just to remind him or her every now and then of how lucky they are.

Not getting rid of mine in a hurry.

Bikes vs. Motors

Not wanting to make too much of it, but still I can´t help thinking sometimes that bikes and motorized transport have unequally distributed values assigned to them by the makers of record covers.

I´ve already had some bike covers on this blog. Most of them showed cheap or shoddy bicycles, while cars or motorbikes seem to receive a completely different treatment.

Here´s some more examples:

Herman van Veen, who actually is Dutch, and who really should know better than to depict a completely impossible bike. Just look at the steering head.

Ok, Ray Coniff is American – so I guess he must be forgiven for endangering a child. And for running a tandem without a front brake.

Angelo Branduardi, Italian, chose the cheapest bike components around in 1980, or, in fact, ever.

The get fit parade on this record has had an illustrator who definitively didn´t get fit on a bike. Even track bikes have the chain on the other side.

And now look at the motorbikes:

Here´s some Australians who knew what a good motorbike is.

Another great British bike chosen here – is it a Triumph?

And the cars, likewise in the focus of attention:

Skandinavians (Norwegians), so I guess a pun or two about Volvos is in order. The second pic is from inside the gatefold cover. Actually, these people make good prog music.

More Volvo, a Seine Maritime registered Amazon in this case. Little Bob Story hail from the area, Le Havre, so it all works out.

Slint seem to be great Saab fans. Again the car is in the focus, well pictured, and the label also is great.

Please, can´t anyone produce a good cover design on bicycles? Or maybe there is one I´m unaware of?

 

Later: Yes, there is. A reader vastly more knowledgable than me in all things rock music has written in to say that Guns N Roses´ Chinese Democracy has a bike on its cover which actually looks like one. Trust Guns N Roses to get it right, and thanks, Nikki!

Inside Gazelle

In an earlier post I described what it was like to be in the big meet and retrofestival Gazelle staged on June 10. During that event it was possible to walk through some of their production facilities, like stores, production line and the paintshop. I took some photos, some not overly in focus because light was low in some spots, and Gazelle were kind enough to permit posting (cheers, Paula!).

I have just adored Gazelle bikes ever since the early eighties when I started wrenching, on a small scale, but nevertheless to earn money, and I found that you need to punish a Gazelle very severly to make it impractical to repair. Clever solutions for common problems (drum brakes and chaincases that insure full functionality of the bike in severe weather conditions, yet can be accessed easily, for instance) have always made Gazelle bikes a favourite of mine if it comes to repairs. Then the eighties and nineties bikes with their stainless nuts, bolts, and handlebars, extremely well built wheels, early adoption of high quality lighting equipment – the list is long.

Not to say that Sparta, Union, and what else there was, weren´t good bikes, but in my opinion Gazelle always had the edge. And, of course, there were those wonderful road and track bikes, but that´s what the earlier post is about.

And there I was, in the heart of it all.

I don´t think much comment is necessary, so let´s more or less speak the pics for themselves.

I personally found the sheer volume of bikes overpowering, but then I´m not too often inside mass producers´ plants.

It seems that no production these days can do without pep talk for the workers, if it makes sense or not. BTW, Gazelle is in Dieren, which is in the Netherlands, not in the US.

Some older parts of the works cleverly integrated into more modern buildings.

Maguras – very tasty.

Of course, you daft computer – it´s a Saturday.

Items to be returned as defective.

Attention to detail – not only in the bikes, but also in production failities.

Oh well…

The last two pics are taken in the paintshop – all powdercoating, of course.

Gazelle – Retrofestival and New Frame Presentation

Are you into Gazelle? If so, you should have been in Dieren/Netherlands last Saturday because there was a big meet of people who are interested in old (and new) Gazelle bikes. I´ve been a great fan of theirs all my cycling life, starting in the early eighties when I repaired bikes in a bike shop frequented by college students to earn a penny or two finding that Gazelle were of superb quality, until today when I´m privileged enough to own about ten classic Gazelles, from daily riders dating to the 1990s to real collectors´ items. You can find most of them portrayed on this blog. Just key “Gazelle” into the search field top left on the screen.

The reason for organizing the festival was that Koninklijke Gazelle N.V. presented a new racing bike called Champion Mondial, just like the classic frames used to be from the sixties up until the eighties. Also this year it´s their 125th birthday.

The new frame is a curious mix of classic and modern components and techniques and as such carries its name with justice.

It was unveiled by two Dutch cycleracers of yore, Harm Ottenbros and Hennie Kuiper. Both spoke a few words on the small stage erected in the parking lot of the big Gazelle works, and then set off on the new bikes for a ride. They were kind enough to sign the poster I had brought on the offchance:

Hennie Kuiper being one of the heroes of my youth, that was good. Here´s a few impressions of the festival terrain:

The whole Gazelle area was choc a bloc with old Gazelle bikes, heavy black Dutch Roadsters as well as sleek racers. I don´t think there were many models unrepresented in that gruppetto.

Weights ranged from super heavy 1930s Roadsters

to a super lightweight track bike and, unbelievably, an actual 753 frame:

Some of the oldest Gazelle lightweights, purported to be that early that they were built at Eroba and not at Gazelle, were also there, only space was cramped and photography next to impossible.

The blue “race” model is just a run of the mill 531/Nervex Professionnel frame of course, a bit old fashioned even in 1966 when it must have been made. Its being the oldest surviving Gazelle lightweight, however, is what it makes so special. The bike is kitted out well, French mostly, and is really great all in all. I spent nearly a quarter of an hour next to it.

There also was a ladies light tourer of the same age – another great bike.

More details of some bikes, from wonderful

… to rough and ready.

The cutest bike at the whole festival must have been this kid´s racer:

After some time the whole group of about 250 participants set off for a ride of either 25 or 50 kms through the beautiful landscape surrounding Dieren.

The crowd at registration

The climax of the ride must have been the crossing of the river Ijssel on ferryboats.

“Don´t pay the ferryman / until he gets you to the other side” – ha, funny, great joke. The lucky participants of the ride had received a red plastic chip at registration (or somewhere else) which was taken in payment by the ferry crew, but we unlucky ones who had not been told there were red plastic chips had to pay our own ways – before the boat set out. Oh well, it wasn´t that expensive, and on the way out we were even invited by some very friendly people we had met on the way.

Had I known that also other brands than Gazelle could take part,

I would have ridden my wonderful RIH and not the much too small AA Special Gazelle equipped with C Record. I didn´t feel comfy at all on my Gazelle – small wonder at 6-7 cms too low.

After a very enjoyable ride we arrived back at Dieren and cycled past the old Gazelle shop where the whole affair had started in 1892…

… contrasting starkly to the ultra modern new building…

… which actually incorporates an older one.There was the possibility of walking round parts of the factory, and I did take photos, but as I´m not really sure if I can publish them on the net, I´ll ask Gazelle first. So if you still see this sentence in a few weeks´ time…

Lastly there also was the possibilty of taking part in a Guiness world record attempt – the most bikes over 30 years old in one spot, or something, but we really didn´t get idea nor the purpose of that, so we didn´t take part. It was required to cycle 4.6 kms on a bike that was at least 30 years old, and as my son brought our Gazelle track bike for people to look at, and his riding bike was definitively less than 30 years old, there was no chance for us to take part anyway. Here´s the start of the record attempt:

Of course there were some old cars to be found in the parking lot. I didn´t get the chance to snap a beautiful PV 544, but these aren´t bad either:

All in all, the combination of old and new was very appealing, and I would say that the festival was a great success.

Not Neerkant Anymore – Stalen Ros 2017

To sum it up, a new location, but the same friendly faces.

Arriving, you find that the parking space situation has changed – from unregulated chaos as it was for the first nine years (or so?) to regulated chaos. Oh well, you aren´t coming for the cars – or are you?

 

As always, there were a few nice cars to be seen, but of course, hundreds of bikes.

You start off by seeing the insignia of the host,

the Natuurpoort de Peel, and of Stalen Ros:

Once you have made your way through the restaurant and waited in the line to pay the 2€ entrance fee, you arrive in a big shed.

You see at once that the stall have now near-completely taken over, there is only very little room now for the expo bikes,

as many people are trying to sell off their unwanted parts

and are actually expecting to be paid for this sort of scrap, or, if it´s nice items, prices are about where they have been for the last few years.

Not really a Peugeot, of course. Nice, but definitively not what the seller said it was. And possibly believed it himself?

Also I noted a great deal of wholly off-topic items for sale.

But OTOH, there was this really great asymmetrical Labor bike to see. Once properly restored, it has the potential to become a real sight. As it is now (see rims…) there´s still a lot of work to be done.

Not saying that I like the construction; the Labor people just flogged the dead horse of an unusual idea obviously long after it had started to putrify, refusing to admit that this is not a viable way to make a bike, but still, it´s 1920s, and as such an exception in the meet. Sad, really, that people seem to look nearly exclusively at 70s and 80s bikes nowadays.

What I noted this year was the sheer number of items for children, ranging from the superbe to the horrible. Anyway, we all like kids to cycle, and on steel too, so – carry on with it, everybody, please.

This handlebar/extension/bell set was the show stealer, if I may say so. Bearing the markings of Kessels´ Main d´Or, the combination of green anodizing and chrome was – well, resistible at the price, but very nice to look at anyway. The Belgians really knew how to make beautiful bikes.

What did I take away? A very positive impression of the new venue and the people working there, the many nice talks I led with interesting people, some even in-depth, and two saddles: A 1979 full chrome Champion Narrow in pretty good nick, and a 1974 B17 Standard which is barely broken in. Both have untouched tensioning bolts and had escaped being maltreated by people wielding oil cans or whatever unsuitable fatty matters there are, and both were bought (relatively) cheaply.

Dus, tot volgend jaar, definitively.

This Is Not About Bikes…

… but hopefully interesting for those into lightweight design. Yes, you guessed it, it´s about planes again.

On a business trip to the beautiful Polish city of Cracow I managed to take time off to visit the Muzeum Lotnictva Polskiego, the Polish Aviation Museum. First thing to be said: Don´t try, like I had to, to make do with an afternoon – there´s enough exhibits for a week, I´d say. The museum is situated 7 km to the East of the city centre and can be reached with trams No. 52 or 10 inside 20 minutes from Wawel for PZN 7.20 per return journey, which is fantastic. On the way you also see a different Cracow – modern buildings, some reaching back to Socialist times. You get off at the Muzeum Lotnictva stop, and from there it´s an easy 5 min walk until you see this:

The futuristic main building of the museum. From above it looks slightly like a propeller.

So you pay your PZN 15 entry fee (about 4 EUR/$/£), and right away you´re greeted by a hall full of exquisite exhibits like:

a 1947 Yak 23, one of the earliest jet planes, and the Soviet Gloster Gladiator if you wish, or

a Blériot 11 on the ceiling, a late model, but never mind, or

a 1917 Albatross that was used in the Polish airforce until WWII, or

a Me 109 people dragged from some lake a few years ago, or lastly

a late model Spitfire in the colours of a Polish RAF Squadron. In recent years Poles have remembered about their countrymen who fought so valiantly and successfully in the UK even after fascist Germany conquered their country. One of the main bridges crossing the Wisla is called Monte Cassino bridge – check out on the the net why.

So the hall´s been a good start.

But then you leave the main building and stumble upon some very sad sights. Sorry to be so straightforward, but to the visitors´ view the MiG Alley, as it´s called, is little more than a collection of rotted out planes that might have been a great attraction if housed somewhere out of the reach of the inclement Eastern Polish weather:

The 21 U is a rarity in itself, and the incomplete 29 is an open invitation to anyone to help themselves to some magnificent titanium parts. A near complete collection of MiGs – from the earliest to a 29, out in the open – sorry, can´t do anything with that. No more snaps of that tragedy.

But the outside drama goes on. The AN 2 stored in the open is replaceable, I guess,

but a Belphegor, the only jet propelled biplane, is just a sad sight with cracking perspex and UV damaged seat upholstery.

Worse still: An Amiot AAC.1 Toucan, a Ju52/3m knockoff, made ca. 1946 in France, where the Germans had hoped to use French aircraft production facilities to make their less modern aircraft in greater numbers, thereby delivering to the French f/o/c all the tools and know how necessary to produce one of the more rugged cargo planes of aviation history. The poor beast is also sitting out in the open. Its completely unoriginal paintwork, an embarassment to say the least, is best bleached by the sun, but its substance also is suffering.

At some point a Junkers pair of rudders must have found its way onto the Toucan, as betrayed by this plate:

But on the other side of the plane its counterpart has already supposedly been nicked:

Luckily this French 1952 revision plate is still there.

A 1943 Li 2 is suffering still more.

Strangely enough, I was touched most by one of my childhood favourites´ fate. I have no idea why and when, but I started being fascinated by planes at a very young age, and one of the planes I always found fascinating is a SAAB 37 Viggen. Lo and behold, there´s a 1977 AJSF one at the Muzeum Lotnictva. But in what sad state of neglect.

I took some time to check the thing out in detail, hence the number of snaps. There´s always the possibility to just scroll down 🙂

This one is a recce version. The wonderful Matra cameras are still in place.

The rest of the Viggen photos can speak for themselves.

It´s such a great plane, oozing build quality and original design ideas. I wished I could have taken it home to some sort of shelter.

OK, on to some more stuff.

The Museum prides itself in a unique collection of Pioneer Aircraft. Thing is, most are unrestored, unlike this admittedly beautiful Sopwith camel with its Humber built engine:

Many old planes are left in as found condition (no comment here why that´s the case, you can find out about it on the net), but I hope I won´t be eaten alive by readers if I say that I prefer it this way: It´s not every day that you can see underneath the surface of pre-WWI planes.

So this Etrich Taube may look like it came straight from the bin,

But it is fascinating to see how it was designed. Also some details of planes can be observed well as there is no limit to where visitors are allowed to to go, short of climbing onto the exhibits (it really says so on boards).

A bungee cord suspension. Foolproof, lightweight – great.

Same is true for one of the other planes which ranks high in my most fascinating list, the Levavasseur with its Antoinette engine. The competitor of Blériot when attempting the first crossing of the English Channel by plane was, to my mind, the FAR nicer machine. I mean, look at that 50hp, liquid cooled Vee-eight engine. This one is incomplete and damaged (accident?), also it´s not the one with the light alloy cylinder heads, but it´s there to be looked at. What wouldn´t I give to hear it running…

And this is where it went: The bow, literally, of a German license built Levavasseur plane. The engine goes onto the gunwale like rounded rests.

The fuselage was built like a boat, complete with name on the bow.  The rest of the woodwork also is really nice:

It´s so intricately designed, and the woodwork is fascinatingly well executed. Bad lighting conditions precluded me from taking more detailed pics.

This is the cockpit.

The handrails are wood, the spokes are cast light alloy.

There´s some fascinating original footage of Antoinettes being built on youtube.

What else? The main exposition hall contains rarities such as a Sea Vampire and some Soviet WWII planes, but also, if I got it right, Ernst Udet´s personal Curtiss Hawk II:

AFAIK, this is one of the first planes which used the Townend Ring. Again, cramped and badly lit conditions…

Then on to the engine collection. There´s one hangar literally choc a bloc with the choicest engines.

Starting with the earliest rotaries like this Clerget,

carrying on to radials,

from flimsy to brutal like the BMW 801 which could be changed as a complete unit,

not forgetting early in-lines like this airship Maybach,

passing onto early Vees (and even Ws), like a Liberty,

and of course a whole array of thirties engines, like a rare Kestrel,

some Jumos, and then the superbly looking 12 series Hispano Suiza:

I´m fully aware that all Jumo 2xx, Mercedes 60x, RR Merlins and later the Griffons, their Packard offsprings, the US Allisons, Soviet Vee 12s were engines for warplanes and that people being killed by planes equipped with them didn´t care at all what these engines looked like, but I can´t help thinking that of all the liquid cooled Vee 12s, the Hispano 12 series must be the best looking. Contrary to the block like Jumos especially I think there was someone at Hispano´s who cared about the looks of their products.

If you have ever been puzzled by a drawing of the internals of a Bristol Hercules and wondered how the hell it was working, who was crazy enough to be able to design it and if there can possibly be a more intricate engine, you´re in for a shock. This Jumo opposed piston Diesel engine is just the worst. I spent ten minutes of my precious time in front of this cutaway specimen and didn´t understand much of what it tried to tell me.

Why simple when it can be complicated.

Lastly, in a museum like the Cracow one, where visitors can come really close to exhibits, there´s always some surprise to be had, like this warranty certificate which expired nearly 100 years ago:

Rijwielbelastingplaatjes

Last year´s visit to Belgium left some traces – in my memory, on this blog and also in my glasscase. When visiting Ypres, I chanced upon an antiques store which sold a great number of old Belgian bicycle tax plates. That´s BTW what the word in the title of this post means. Couldn´t really call them discs, because they look like this, for instance:

This one was the oldest I bought, I think it says 1923. Given the fact that those plates were introduced in Belgium in the 1890s, successively by the Province Governments, it´s not very old, but compared to the scrap that was available in the box at the dealer´s, it´s definitively one of the nicer ones. Prices reflected the sad state of most of the plates, so I could afford a goodly selection.

Thing is, they are made from real enamel, and of course having been fixed on a bike for a year, and very probably having served as a plaything afterwards (nice and kleurig, colourful, and just the right size too), many were reduced to a very sad state indeed. Those I skipped, and I bought these:

Dating from the 1930s, these are already simpler in shape – but still, real enamel.

That stopped during the war. I got this 1943 one, too,

which seemed unused, and discovered only at home that it actually had a twin stuck underneath it:

As you can see, 090409 was on top all of those years, its colour having faded a bit, and 090544 is as good as new. So I owe the antiques dealer one.

Them being war production, they are also made from re-used sheet metal:

If you look closely, you can see that there´s a “V” next to the Hainault “H”, and if one turns the thing round it becomes obvious that in its first life the plate used to be a West Vlaanderen one from the year before.

The Belgian system of those plates was quite sophisticated. If you look round on the net you see plates that were for the unemployed, coming free, but also those for childrens´ bikes – a thought I can´t really warm to. The plates in the end were too expensive to make, some it is said even were more expensive than what they brought in tax, so they were discontinued in the eighties. These two which I was given by a cycle dealer who I stopped at en route to the first classic RVV must be among the last ones issued.

And here´s one I unbolted from a cheap brake caliper out of a grab box at this year´s Stalen Ros (later addition, 24-04-2017):

 

Also I imagine those sharp metal edges jutting from the bikes must have been considered a risk by the eighties.

Once we´re at it, here are some Dutch plates I bought years and years ago in Haarlem, also for a song like those in Belgium last year:

Although they´re much simpler made, I also think they´re nice to look at. On the 1940 one it says “RWB” which must be Rijwielbelasting – Tax on Bicycles.

And lastly something I found in a fleamarket right in the middle of Germany:

Nothing to do with tax at all, this badge was worn by someone who took part in some editions of the Landelijke Fietsdag, nationwide bicycle day, organized as from 1973 by the ANWB, the largest club in the Netherlands with 4 million members and in charge, among other things, of all Dutch road signposting, and the VVV, the Dutch organization of all tourist information offices. No idea if the Fietsdag still exists, but I don´t think so. It´s a witness from a bygone era, too, when cycling events were organized by motorist organizations.

So it´s a good thing we don´t have to use any of the above.

1950s Bauer

This nice little bike apparently is nothing a serious collector would get excited about, but I like it. I´ll explain why in a moment.

xbdownttransfxbmodeltransfThe bike was built at Fahrrad- und Metallwerke L. Bauer & Co in Frankfurt. The works were founded in 1911, so the bikes you still see around with the headbadge alluding to the firm´s 50 years anniversary are all later than this one. Its rear hub bears the year stamp “56”, so it must be about that time.

It´s not one of the famous Bauer Weltmeister bikes, although the World Championship attained in 1952 on a Bauer is mentioned on the seat tube transfer:

xbseatttransfSadly, this is the only badly worn part – should have been the nicest.

But here the bike is in all its glory:
xbfullfront xbfull

The frame is not the greatest example of craftsmanship. For instance you get mid – to – late fifties stamped sheet metal dropout ends instead of the nicer drop forged ones that were still the norm a few years earlier:

xbreardoIn the front, the chrome´s a nice touch though.

xbfrontdoHere you can see how dirty and neglected the bike has become after about 30 years of disuse. Ah well. It was cheap.

The seat stay tops are OK, really, as are the lugs and other frame components all round:

xbseatclxbtopheadlxblowerheadlxbbbxbcarrier-eyes

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Also the Mod. 55 F&S three speed is equipment which one wouldn´t find on too many bikes at the time as it was quite dear still. The bike came with an ugly black later model plastic trigger, which of course couldn´t work correctly either, but I had a blue Mod. 55 trigger in just the right state of dilapidation in my Box:

xbthreespxbtriggerI haven´t seen one of those for ages – getting rarer and rarer it seems.

The chainset is above average too, I think it´s Bielefeld made. Plus I forgot to snap the alloy rims – another unusual and expensive touch at the time.

xbchainsetIt´s counterweighted by this unavoidable, horrible, useless and even dangerous anti-theft device which buggered German bikes for decades. The only chance it would stand against thieves was that they would laugh themselves silly when seeing it, forgetting what they had come for.

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But now to the points I really like. It was of course the fashion up until the sixties to adorn bikes with as many branded components as possible, but this Bauer has a lot of them, most still present, and they are above average good looking too, like the extension or the mudguards which are alloy and nicely lined.

xbrearmudg

rear mudguard transfer

xbmudguardmascxbheadlxbheadbxbextension xbdynamoxbchaingxbbellSo, what do I make of this bike, then, after having been told by a major collector that it being a 26″ wheel size one it would only be good for breaking for parts?

That´s not going to happen at least until my tenure ends. I can´t stop wondering if the first owner wasn´t very proud of it – he (probably a he) spent a lot of money on it for sure, and received a bike which in 1956 or 57 was above average, frame wise, equipment wise and by the looks, too. The headlight, the deep bend mudguards, and the extension even add a French touch. Apart from the slightly wrong saddle, the lost tool pouch and the wrong handlebars, there´s nothing amiss with it. Looks a bit like a time capsule to me, it even seems.

I hope to find a few hours during the next vacation to polish the chrome up, use black wax on some of the rusty spots, to repack the bearings, renew the cotterpins and so on. If the bike´s back to a little more splendour, maybe it will make people see its real value.