Posts Tagged ‘Penny-farthing’

Four men on top of the world

October 18, 2013

While waiting for the elite women’s race to reach Florence (and I swear to God this is the very last time I’ll mention our trip to the World Championships) Jen and I wandered into a bookshop. We left with a book that goes by the hyperbolic title Fifty Bicycles That Changed The World. I’m not sure that a Brompton is on a par with penicillin, but then again the book is part of series put together by the Design Museum which also includes Fifty Typefaces That Changed The World and – hold on to your fanny packs – Fifty Bags That Changed The World. By “change the world”, I think what they probably mean is Fulfil A Purpose Particularly Well At A Specific Point In History.

Fifty Bicycles is a slim hardback with thick pages. It displays an image of each bike on the right-hand side and explanatory text on the left. You could say the format is a grown-up version of a Ladybird book.

Fifty bicycles that changed the world cover

It’s actually a cracking little read. You can get through it in an hour or so and learn about the major innovations in the 200-year history of bike design as well as some odd cul-de-sacs designers have wandered down, such as Denmark’s architectural Dursley Pedersen which encompasses no fewer than 21 triangles in its frame. It’s basically a bridge on wheels.

Author Alex Newson has squeezed some great little nuggets into his no-nonsense descriptions. The BSA Airborne bike for paratroopers came with its own parachute. The design for the Raleigh Chopper was doodled on a transatlantic flight, literally on the back of an envelope. To entice the more sybaritic consumer, an advert for the Sturmey Archer Roadster from the 1930s featured a cartoon of a chubby chap pedalling away while merrily smoking a fag.

I was particularly taken by the photo for the Penny-Farthing, which cheerfully attempts to show that it’s the ideal means for delivering mail. Which I suppose it is, if the recipient happens to be standing on the third step outside their front door at the very moment the postman trundles past.

fifty bicycles that changed the world penny-farthing

But the picture I keep returning to is right at the front of the book. It’s an uncaptioned shot of four men on a mountain. Emotionally and geographically, they look like they’re on top of the world, as might you be if you were about to invent mountain biking, which I assume they are on the cusp of achieving judging by their klunker-looking bikes and the landscape.

Howie Hammerman Otis Guy Chris McManus fifty bicycles that changed the world

I know very little about MTB history, and I only recognised the guy on the right as Joe Breeze because there’s a picture of him on page 51 next to the entry for the Breezer Series 1. His name was enough to prod Google Images into surrendering the names of the other three and the location. They are (left to right) Howie Hammerman, Otis Guy, and Chris McManus, and they are on top of Kent Rock, Mount Tamalpais, California, in November, 1977.

I like the expressions of the two on the left: grown men displaying a childlike joy – which, ultimately, is the state to which all cycling should aspire. Did 50 bicycles really change the world? Maybe not. But these four bikes certainly changed their world.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #18

September 23, 2011

5 UP Evolta the Panasonic robot
What’s an Ironman? It’s just a marathon, sandwiched between a swim and a run. Anyone could do it. Sure, you’d take much, much longer to reach the finish line than someone who thinks sleeveless jerseys are more a way of life than an ill-advised wardrobe decision, but hey – you’d get there eventually, you’d have a never-to-be-repeated personal best, and ultimately doing it is what really counts, right? Of course it is. Which is why non-triathletes all over the world should be inspired by little Evolta, the foot-high Japanese robo-child who announced on Sunday that he’ll be doing the 230km Hawaii Ironman next month over the course of a week, powered by nothing more than three triple-A batteries. Yes, his bike has stabilisers, but at least he doesn’t have two bottles parked next to his bottom like his dorky human counterparts. And unlike Evolta, we bet none of them have ever scaled the Grand Canyon, cycled the Le Mans 24-hour course, and had a Banzai!-style short film made about them. Ironmen: out-awesomed by a tiny plastic boy. The shame of it.

4 DOWN Shred West
There we were on Sunday in our famous soundproof bunker, watching Mark Cavendish blast past four riders to win the final stage of the Tour of Britain, when a question occurred to us: is this the first time that ITV4 co-presenter Yanto Barker has been involved in the world of sportscasting? So we googled him and… er, hold on. That’s a joke, right? Surely no one would actually give their magazine a title that’s a pun on the name of a serial murderer? Well, apparently so: mountain bike mag Shred really did produce an offshoot publication called – yes! – Shred West, one issue of which features Yanto on the cover. Killer concept, fellas!

3 DOWN Penny-farthings
It’s probably the fastest-growing type of bike racing in the country (on the basis that barely anyone can ride them, so just a few more participants represents a huge percentage jump) but the BBC had some bad news on Wednesday for eager daredevils looking to become a penny-farthing racer: Leicestershire firm Cycle Magic has sold out of its first batch. Although with only three races a year in the UK, you’ve got probably got enough time to wait for the second load. Hurrah!

2 DOWN Surrey Police
Red faces all round for Surrey police, which last week provided a perfect lesson in how not to do community policing. Commenting on Cycling Weekly’s story on the force’s questionable response to the increased popularity of cycling in the area, Inspector Terri Poulton apologised on Friday for “blunt” and “inappropriate” leaflets handed out to riders around Box Hill threatening them with a £1,000 fine if they rode without due care and attention. Insp. Poulton revealed that the ungrammatical notices were “produced by a local officer who genuinely thought it would be helpful. We live and learn!” Let’s hope so…

1 UP Friendliness
As a counterpoint to the heavy-handedness of coppers in Mole Valley, a pleasing snippet from Tuesday’s Guardian: membership of cycling clubs in Britain has increased by more than 10 per cent during the last two years, taking the total to 82,000. But what clever marketing tools have those devious pedallers used to increase their numbers? Why, if it wasn’t those familiar bedfellows of friendliness and inclusiveness. If only they were not so happy and welcoming, then club runs might not be as well-attended, and motorists would be less likely to complain to the Surrey police force about having to slow down. Damn you, friendly cyclists!