Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

22 October 2016

Arielle Is Ten; Tomorrow Tosca Turns Nine

Today marks an anniversary for me.

No, I am not secretly married in some other state or country.  And I am not talking about the beginning of some business venture, sobriety or any other milestone people mark in their lives.  

Actually, today is a milestone, for me anyway.  You see, ten years ago on this date, I got my first.  And you know what they say:  There's nothing like the first.

If you've been following this blog, you may have guessed what I am talking about:  my Mercians.

Yes, on 22 October 2006, I picked up Arielle--my custom Mercian Audax--from Bicycle Habitat in Soho.  My first ride with her took me through streets in the neighborhood, in the East and West Villages and other parts of lower Manhattan.  

You could say I fell in love.  Actually, that happened before I got the bike:  Hal Ruzal, the Mercian Maven at Habitat, let me ride one of his bikes.  And he seemed to understand what I wanted:  something responsive, but not necessarily a racing bike.  Something comfortable, but definitely not a fully-loaded touring bike, let alone a mountain bike or hybrid.  

Also, I wanted something beautiful.

He recommended getting a custom (my top tube is shorter than is typically found on bikes of my size) version of the Audax, a bike made, as he said, "for centuries and day rides."  And, as he pointed out, the horizontal dropouts with adjustment screws would allow me to shorten or elongate the wheelbase a bit, allowing a faster or cushier bike.

On that first ride, I could see that I had the best of both worlds.  I felt as if I were on a magic carpet that could dodge and outrun the taxis (yes, even New York taxis!) or anything else on the road.  The couple of times I stopped for traffic lights, strangers complimented my new steed.

I knew then, to paraphrase one of the most famous movies of all time, that my ride that day was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Today, ten years later, I've owned and ridden Arielle for longer than all except one bike I've ever owned.  And she's been in my life for longer than any lover (or my former spouse) and all except a handful of friends (and two cats) were.  She's also been with me for longer than I've stayed on any job or lived in any one place.  

Plus, she's led to some other beautiful relationships.  One year and one day later, I wheeled Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear out of Habitat.  Helene, my first Miss Mercian followed almost three years later.  Another year later, I found Vera, my green Mercian mixte, on eBay.  

I've enjoyed many rides with them.  Some of them are on this blog.  They've all been great, beginning with the first, ten years ago--already!--today.

21 October 2016

HP-Turbo: A "Lost" Brake From Weinmann?

If you bought a new ten-speed bike of better-than-marginal quality during the '70's Bike Boom, there's a good chance that it came with Weinmann brakes and/or rims.

Most made-in-Chicago Schwinn bikes had one or both until about the mid-1980s.  So did many European bikes, if they didn't have Mafac brakes or Rigida rims.

Nobody ever got really excited about most Weinmann products:  They weren't flashy, but they usually did their jobs and their prices were reasonable.  The best example of this was their "Vainqueur" center-pull brakes, which came on everything from the Schwinn Paramount (the touring model) and Raleigh International to the Schwinn Continental and Raleigh Grand Prix.  It was even found on some bikes from French constructeurs and English bespoke builders, who would attach the brakes to brazed-on bosses.

Probably the one product the company produced that was noticeably different from its competitors was their concave rim.  It unique shape was said to give it superior strength to other rims.  I don't know whether the shape had anything to do with it, but I know (because I used to commute on a pair) it was strong--and noticeably heavier than other alloy rims.

In the late 1970s, Weinmann tried to modernize its offerings.  That is when they brought out the concave rim.  Around that time, they also introduced their "Carrera" brake, meant to compete with Campagnolo.  The quality was excellent and the finish beautiful.  However, it lacked the flats on the center bolt that allowed the brakes to be centered with a hub cone wrench (a nice Campy feature adopted by other brake-makers). Their quick-release device, apart from its finish, was no different from the one on the less expensive models. It had only "open" and "closed" position, while Campy's could be opened or closed partway.  

Another attempt to appeal to appeal to the ultra-high-performance (or simply rich and fashionable) market resulted in their version of the "Delta" brake--which, as "Retrogrouch" and others have suggested, may have been made for them by Modolo.  I never used Weinmann's or Campagnolo's Delta brakes, so I won't argue about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, some users claimed. There is no denying, however, that Campy's version may well be the most beautiful brake ever made.  Weinmann's had a more high-tech (for the time, anyway) look, and was available in black as well as silver.

A few years later, Weinmann came up with another interesting and unique brake:

The HP-Turbo was introduced in 1984.   I could find little information about it, so I don't know how long it was produced.  I also couldn't find testimony from users, so I have no idea of how effective, or not, it may have been.

From what I can see, it's a centerpull brake with the straddle wire coiled around cams to which the brake shoes are attached.  I am guessing that the cams push those shoes into the rims, and that the arrangement is intended to somehow magnify braking power or modulation by increasing the mechanical advantage.

As I said, I am only guessing:  I may have been a mechanic, but I have never been a mechanical engineer.  For all I know, the brake might have been a revolutionary idea for which the cycling public wasn't ready.  Or, perhaps, some people tried it and found that it was complicated and, perhaps, the cams or other parts of the mechanism clogged with dirt or gunked up with grease. (They don't look very well-protected.)  Maybe it cost as much as good sidepull brakes, which came on about 90 percent of new bikes at that time) or cantilevers, which came on most of the rest of new bikes.   Or people thought it was just too ugly to put on their nice bikes.

Whatever its fate, I am curious about it.  

20 October 2016

A Beast Of Burden

For one more day, one more post, I am going to keep up the silly "theme association" I started the other day.

My post on Monday mentioned, in passing, Jean Paul Sartre.  Tuesday's post featured a photo of him on Le Petit Bi, a French folding bicycle developed just as Europe was going to war.  Yesterday, I wrote about another folding bicycle (actually a sort-of folding bike), the Donkey Bike.

So now I'm going to show a bicycle--or its rider, depending on your point of view--serving as a donkey:

From Top At World

Perhaps he is employed by a certain Presidential candidate.  If that's the case, he might not get paid.  Worse, he might need to build a wall around himself if he presses said candidate for what's due, or anything else!

When I was a messenger, I might've built such a wall, or protected myself in some other way, when I went to some of the locales I serviced--especially when I knew what was in some of those packages I carried.  Let's just say that the contents of some of those packets were, um, plant-based and others were chemical.

In other words, although we were employed by a legitimate courier service, my fellow and messengers and I became, at times, offspring of donkeys and horses, if you know what I mean.  I don't think most of us signed on for that.  I know I hadn't.