Posts Tagged ‘Sturmey-Archer’

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.

Advertisements

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #16

September 9, 2011

5 UP Todd Gogulski and Steve Schlanger
First things first: if you didn’t catch Sky’s Chris Froome winning stage 17 of the Vuelta on Wednesday, then head over to Universal Sports to see the Kenyan-born Brit’s all-out, gutsy double attack on the Peña Cabarga, and to marvel at the all-out, gutsy double attack of US commentators Todd Gogulski and Steve Schlanger as they attempt to out-yell each other. The OMG-gasm at 3min 20sec – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” – is a sound to marvel at. You don’t get this from Phil and Paul…

4 DOWN Dahon
What’s the worse that can go wrong in the world of collapsible bikes? A stiff Sturmey-Archer lever? Misplaced bicycle clip? Scuffed Birkenstocks? Well, if you think that’s the case, you’ve obviously not heard about the internecine battle of the Hons. Dr David Hon, founder of Dahon, began pursuing Josh Hon through the courts after his son and estranged wife Florence started a new company called Tern. In August Dahon senior failed to stop Tern trading, and last Thursday a court in Munich made a preliminary injunction forbidding Dahon from selling two of its 2012 range in Germany ahead of Eurobike. So it’s Dahon vs Dahon. And you know what that means, don’t you? Yes, it’s a DYNAMITE! Files pun explosion! Because things have taken a Tern for the worse. It’s a case that could go Dahon and on. Hopefully, one side will do Dahonourable thing. Or it’s Dahmagedd-on. One company could even fold. (FOLD, you see. Because they’re folding bikes, yes? Oh please yourselves…)

3 UP The bike tree
“Boy went to war in 1914 – left his bike chained to a tree.” That, at least, was the story of a seemingly poignant photo doing the rounds on Twitter – until someone pointed out that tree trunks grow thicker, not taller, so the bike was probably placed up there by some prankster on a ladder. But does that make it any less awesome? No, chums, it does not. In a strange way, the bicycle looks like it naturally belongs there, the colour of the rust melding into the hue of the tree’s bark. And it’s a practical joke which has taken up to 70 years to reach its conclusion – a dedication to tomfoolery which this light-hearted blog wholeheartedly admires. So bravo, mystery bike planter, whomsoever you may be…

2 DOWN Damon Rinard
What would you say to a porky rider looking to justify the purchase of an aero road bike? If you’re Damon Rinard, race engineer at Cervélo, your answer to BikeBiz magazine consists of just two words: “Thor Hushovd.” So Cervélo reckons the muscular, powerful Norwegian is “porky”, eh? Dear oh dear – no wonder he’s off to BMC!

1 DOWN Leopard
The name is extinct – so farewell, then, to that strange, contradictory beast called Leopard. The matching scarves, “epic” black-and-white landscapes, a brief attempt to push a fashion line – it all seemed to be a considered, sophisticated marketing strategy, but the whole project from conception to launch was actually a seat-of-the-pants rush job. Leopard’s detractors saw the team as the epitome of corporate dullness crushing the spirit of professional cycling – and yet it aroused huge passions from many (including a defiant and ultimately wide-of-the-mark piece from Velocast) when reports suggested a merger was imminent. And then, late on Monday night, came the final nail in the coffin of Brian Nygaard’s branding: the team that was originally meant to be about “smart, young riders” announced that it is merging with RadioShack, the semi-retirement home of the Armstrong era’s elder statesmen. An interview with Nygaard in the latest edition of SportsPro magazine, published prior to the merger, serves as an unwitting epitaph to the Leopard story (see page 90) – and the Dane admits he “couldn’t care less” if we all pronounced the name “leppard” rather than the prescribed “lay-o-pard”. But The DYNAMITE! Files only wants one question answered: what will be the fate of the light blue strip across the front of Leopard’s jerseys, which, when worn by the team’s portlier fans, appeared to be a middle-aged moob tube? That design feature must stay, if only for the sake of our amusement.