Sunday, January 22, 2012

1988 Klein Quantum & Team Super

Bicycle Guide April 1988

Bicycle technology is driven to make bicycles faster, lighter, more efficient, or more affordable. It is not (specifically) to make them any more fun. 
Fun is about circumstance, context and a frame of mind.

Joe Breeze Repack via

1977 lineup via Charlie Kelly's website

1988 Kestrel Nitro

Bicycle Guide April 1988

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The beat of the drum

Adult life in a structured society requires us to do at least one thing well. The rest is padding. Or fluff. Never mind that you consider your work enjoyable or rewarding, or that you are driven by passion and enthusiasm (just count yourself amongst the lucky ones), a job by which you make a living (and thereby provide for family and dependents - some of which dispense essential but unpaid work) remains one of the most universal conventions of a structured society.

Outside of that requirement, and assuming that one lives in a “free and healthy” society (free and healthy being purposefully vague and relative terms), one is left at liberty to express oneself. Preferably doing so within the constraints of the social-legal-political-religious mores of the day. And providing (at least as far as ones dependents are concerned) one does not lose ones job over it. 
Then again, you may choose to march to the beat of a different drum.

 (or otherwise to the toot of a different wind instrument) via

Even in the somewhat more predictable and contained world of bicycles (assuming here that we are talking about a form of transportation that has two wheels and reliant, at least in part, on human power - UCI regulations notwithstanding) there remains a broad range of options available for the inquisitive consumer. However, as any bicycle retailer will inform you, the vast majority of bicycles are built with a certain purpose in mind. A job, if you will, for which it is ideally suited.

 This one is made to go fast. via

And, in the name of advancing bicycling as a worthwhile activity, one will find numerous examples of bicycles and assorted componentry specifically targeting the challenges of a particular task at hand. Under the layers of rhetoric it is still the task that defines the build. Some concepts reach a production stage (often by incremental improvements of previous designs). Some go no further than an idle thought or a fancy render simply because of shortcomings in resources and/or available technology.

A commuter concept that, to use the modern parlance, totally rocks. via 

This, of course, should come as no surprise. Humans dominate the planet because they have a large brain and are adept at making tools. Ever since the first ape-man used a stick and poked it into someone else’s eye (probably his sister’s) and discovered that it hurt and that he got his way thereafter, he’s been in the game of making things for a purpose. Flint stones can be made sharp to cut or stab; two sticks can be rubbed together to make a fire; a pig’s bladder can be pressed into service as a flotation device or watertight container; and baked beans can be hermetically sealed in a tin thereby allowing this totally awesome (near) complete meal to last (virtually) forever.
Tools are defined by the tasks that they perform. They are made with a purpose in mind. Building on the results of appropriately applied tools is something that most people would refer to as progress. Conversely, modern man may well be born without a sense of purpose but over time he attains a set of skills that then defines him. The maker of tools himself becomes a tool within a structured society. Sure, some traditional cultures still segregate what duties certain pre-ordained classes may deliver but all structured societies have their labourers, their warriors, their academics, and their politicians.
So adult life in a structured society requires us to do at least one thing well. The rest may well be regarded as padding or fluff. But it’s fun. And it is why we bother to get out of bed in the morning. For a lucky few it is also their job. For everyone, it is their inner song. The beat of the drum.

Mondraker Podium Carbon. Made to go fast offroad. A team wakes up to the same beat of the drum.

Variety is the lubricant of life. And some people are just different. They choose follow the beat of a different drum. But in a world connected through social networking, internet forums, blogospheres, and collated image/ video galleries it is easy find others that beat to the same rhythm. 
Some bicycles too are different. They are specially made to be, well, special. 
Some are simply awesome.

There comes a time in a child’s life when your mother tells you “Oh honey, it’s ok to be different...” Although soothing and placating at the time, any child with the slightest bit of insight will, upon reflection, take to the comment with shock and dismay. Children want to be accepted, to have friends, to blend in with what they perceive as the accepted norm. Most adults continue their life living by this rule. But others don’t. “Ok to be different” is a phrase that liberates them from the shackles of accepted society. And some clearly take this freedom further than others. 

Some are ridiculous but totally awesome.

Some are a little impractical but still totally awesome.

designer is Jason Battersby at

Vertically compliant, laterally stiff and tracks true - so long as it doesn’t rain. via  

Some are gloriously lost in translation.


And some make no sense whatsoever.

There are myriad of other examples out there on the net but I want to move on to my most recently acquired bicycle. And this place here (being my blog and all) is where I choose to beat my drum. 
Way back in time, when I bounced with youth and vigour and the word “epic” actually meant something of a grand or heroic scale, a "funny bike" referred to something like this:

Franceso Moser 1984 on a “funny bike”. via 

Moser 1988 in same tucked position on a different "more funny" bike. via 
(Moser fans should also check out )

Or this:

(both Obree images are by Graham Watson

But I found them funny-looking then. And I find them funny-looking now. 

I too rode a bike back in them days, and it sure didn’t look anything like them things (then again, I thought 30km/h was going kinda fast). Even now I find fitting a Brooks saddle on a race bike from the 1970s-1990s (a time when Brooks saddles were well and truly out of the game when it came to competitive racing) utterly inappropriate. It’s like Conan the Barbarian swinging a light sabre. It’s just not right.
A staid, sombre and  predictable life for me, thank you very much. 
... And yet I don’t mind just that little bit of spice...

So long as it stays subtle, simple, and understated.

For me at least this particular specimen hits all the right notes. 

Elegant. Timeless.
One-off Schrade (Basel, Switzerland) single speed, circa 1985, frame number 18334. Short-slot Campagnolo dropouts with derailleur hanger removed.
All original including modified Campagnolo parts mix ranging from the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s. Concor Supercorsa saddle. Cinelli Giro d’Italia bars and 1R stem.
Just a little bit of spice? Oh yes please!

A fine example of fillet brazing (with little evidence of a fillet). No frills. No mucking around. No idea how it's been done. 

More mitre than fillet.  

 ...1950s Campagnolo Gran Sport high-flange hubs modified with Campy track axles. Brass washers on the spoke eyelets. Tied and soldered spokes... 
...It’s the little details that count...

Beautiful and just that little bit special.

March, dance, skip, or waddle to the beat of the drum. 
Sometimes that means one walks amongst others. Other times it means one walks alone. 
Now that’s a good thing.