Pennies from heaven.

13 04 2010

The Devil's Gear Bike Shop's six high wheel penny bikes parked outside the shop.

Six penny bikes ready for action.


Spring Snow of Cherry Blossoms

9 04 2010

The Devil's Gear Bike Shop Penny bikes near Wooster Park in New Haven.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited

19 03 2010

The Irwell safety bicycle made by the Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited, Manchester, U.K.

Irwell - Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited headbadge.

This is an Irwell safety bicycle made by the Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company, Limited in Manchester U.K. I have been able to find out very little about this manufacturer. They appear to have made bicycles starting in the mid to late 1880s and by 1901 they were out of business. I found an 1887 advertisement from a Luxembourg newspaper advertising a three wheel safety/high wheel. And, there is another safety bicycle from Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Co., Ltd. called a claviger in the Pinkerton Collection that resides at the Manchester Velodrome.

The bicycle itself is in excellent condition for it’s age. It’s present owner purchased it as a 13 year old boy from a bicycle shop in Greenwich, Connecticut. He had been eyeing it for a few years and knew it had been hanging over the door in the shop for a long time. He convinced the shop owner to sell it to him for $4. That was a lot of money for a boy . . . in 1948. He rode the bike frequently for the next 10 years. He regularly rode it from Greenwich to Norwalk, a trip of about 17 miles. Each way! He has kept it lovingly for the past 62 years and, it has recently come down from it’s place in his barn for the first time in 40 years. Before he stored it he lubricated the entire bicycle utilizing the numerous lubrication fittings installed by the manufacturer. It must have worked, everything on the bicycle is in working order. The cranks spin freely. The pedals spin freely. The wheels spin freely. It is almost ride-able, almost. The chain needs to be inspected. The rear wheel is missing two of it’s straight pull spokes that thread at the hub. They need to be custom manufactured exclusively for the bicycle. And, the seat needs new leather.

As best as I can guess the bicycle is from the 1890s. It is an amazing example for it’s age. The straight pull, radial laced wheels are marvelous. The adjustable bottom bracket, to tension the massive chain, features a set of cranks with an 1874 french patent. The rear dropouts are cast pieces with vertical dropouts. The left dropout is cast to include a foot peg for mounting the bicycle, a holdover in design from the high wheel era of the decade earlier. The solid rubber tires are slowed through the hooded front tire scrubber. The headset is tensioned through a combination of springs mounted both above and below the headtube. The saddle features the cutout design that has become popular again called a hygenic saddle. Other than the obviously poor early frame geometry the quality of the external lugwork is amazing.

Claviger Safety c1887 – 1890
The Claviger (meaning “one who carries a club”) was added to the at the Velodrome later than the rest of the colection and little is known other than it was designed by William Golding and produced at New Bridge Street, Strangeways in Manchester by the Manchester cycle Manufacturing Company Ltd.
The machine was lever driven (as against chain) and was considered better than a pedal driven machine in many ways.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited bottom bracket.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited bottom bracket.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited brake.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited cog and chain.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited rear dropout and footpeg.

Irwell – Manchester Cycle Manufacturing Company Limited crank.

A Trip Through Cycling’s Past.

14 03 2010

1936 Landon and Knox predsidential election campaign bicycle placard.

Today, I had the distinct honor of ending up in one of ‘those’ places. You know, ‘those’ places that you only hear about but never get to go yourself. That dark back room; that dusty attic; that old barn. ‘Those’ places loaded with treasures that took a generation or more to assemble. ‘Those’ places with artifacts from eras past stacked so deep you can’t even see it all. Today, I visited a little piece of bicycle heaven. And, I cannot thank my host enough for the experience. I am a confessed bike geek. I love bicycles most for their technology and engineering. The form of the bicycle has been expressed in so many weird and wonderful ways over the past 130 years. But, the most interesting thing about bicycles is the abundance of early patents that cover virtually every ‘innovation’ still being introduced by various manufacturers today. Seeing the past reveals a lot about the present and, great ideas persist throughout time.

1899 Eagle headbadge from the Eagle Bicycle Manufaturing Company in Torrington, Connecticut.

The Eagle Bicycle Manufacturing Company was based in Torrington, Connecticut and built bicycles from 1888 – 1900.

At one time Eagle had a capacity to manufacture 20,000 to 30,000 bicycles annually. Eagle promoted features on their bicycle like aluminum rims and pneumatic tires with inner tubes. The inner tubes could be easily removed and repaired in the event of a puncture. Eagle was one of the earliest bicycle manufacturers to manipulate the diameter of the frame tube at the joints to produce a more precise fit, a process called cold swagging. Eagle built high wheelers including a 48″, 50″ and 52″ inch high wheel in 1880’s. They weighed from 35 to 50 pounds and cost from $40 to $150.

Eagle’s use of aluminum rims with inner tubes and clincher tires is a prime example of a technology developed and patented early in the history of the bicycle.

Dayton Bicycles track racer.

Dayton skip tooth chainring.

1935 Ingo Bike.

At first called the Exercycle, the Ingo-Bike was invented by the Huyssen brothers and manufactured by the Ingersoll-Rand Corporation from 1934 to 1937. The inspiration for the Ingo-bike was the limber platform of some homemade scooters that induced an up-and-down motion to the rider. It is powered by the rider making a bouncing motion on the platform to turn the eccentric hub rear wheel and give forward motion. A team of Ingo-Bike riders made an incredible trek from Chicago to Miami, FL on the odd machines in just over 30 days.

BSA British paratrooper bicycle.

British paratrooper BSA bicycle jumping instructions.

BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Co.) made airborne bicycles for the British paratroopers. Between 1939 and 1942 they made around 70,000 of these folding bikes. By the time the big invasions in 1944 Britain had bigger aircraft than the Hotspur to fly in Jeeps, etc. Soldiers disliked the paratrooper bicycle so much they discarded them within a few miles of the beach.

Great day for a ride!

9 03 2010

Cross walk Salsa.

Went out for a 20 mile ride on the Farmington Valley Canal Trail today. With the temperatures in the mid-50’s the trail was filled with all kinds of hikers, roller-bladers, and cyclists. I was riding my Salsa LaCruz that I am really loving Riding it today made me realize that I need to finish writing part 2 of my review. Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer. Yeah for spring! Yeah for an extra hour of daylight next week! Yeah for biking season!

Univega Alpina Country mountain bike and Salsa La Cruz leaning against a fence along the Farmington Valley Canal Trail.

Cyclist on Farmington Valley Canal Trail heading towards New Haven.

On top of my bike . . . on top of the world!

Budget Transportation: 1989 Nishiki Tri-A

8 03 2010

Nishiki Tri-A with Tange 1 frame tubing and original Shimano Santé shift levers.

This morning was a beautiful day for riding to work so, I decided to ride my Nishiki road bike. I picked this bike up a few months ago, and it is a great example of what you can find for a few hundred bucks. It has a high quality japanese steel tubing from renown manufacturer Tange. The frame has a lugged construction and was hand brazed by Kawamura for Nishiki. The bike itself is in really good shape and has little serious wear. Everything on the bicycle except for the tires, seat and handlebar tape is 100% original. Shimano Santé shift levers with Santé front and rear deraileurs. Shimano 600 cranks, brakes, hubs and headset. The bike even has the original Araya hard anodized rims. What attracted me most to the bicycle was the Santé components. When I first got a job working in a bicycle shop one of the owners had a 1989 Schwinn Circuit that had a full Santé component group. The memories of the elegance of that Schwinn came back to me when I saw this Nishiki.

Other than giving it a tune-up and swapping the 1980’s Bio Pace chain rings out for some round ones, the bike was ready to ride. And what a great ride it is. I have extolled the virtues of steel in the past and I will likely continue to do so in the future. A quality steel frame performs exceptionally and the ride quality cannot be matched by any aluminum bicycle. Running on 700×23 tires the Nishiki is quite fast. I have been able to average between 17 and 19 mph on the commute into New Haven. The skinny tires do make them more vulnerable to flats so, more vigilance of what is in front of you is required. I have already put close to 200 miles on this bicycle and it has been trouble free other than a flat caused by a bad tire. Anyone who is in the market for quality budget transportation shouldn’t rule out a nice used bike. This Nishiki was $1000 or more when it was new. It never saw much use and eventually was sold for a few hundred dollars. Now I get the enjoyment of a high quality steel road bike for a bargain price.

Nishiki Tri-A with Shimano Santé and Shimano 600 components.

Snow Kona

27 02 2010

Riding the Humu Humu Nuku Nuku A' Pua'A down Hamilton Street in wet snow.

After riding the Salsa in the rain for a few days the moisture has turned to snow. With the added Slipperyness I have been riding my Kona Humu for the past few days. I was really hoping for more snow. I still haven’t gotten to ride around in any decent snow this winter. All the good storms have been missing New Haven.

Cruising on the Kona.