Sunday, February 1, 2009

Two great books and Merckx's bike.

I have just received a copy of the marvelous book "The Competition Bicycle" by Jan Heine. It is a wonderful follow up to his previous book "The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles".

Both books are filled with superb photographs by Jean-Pierre Praderes. I don't think I have ever seen better photos of bikes. The Golden Age book only shows French touring bikes. I have no problem with that. It is just that I feel that the title is a little misleading. It should be "The Golden Age of French Touring Bicycles". After all there were a few good handbuilt bicycles built elsewhere.

‘The Competition Bicycle’ however deals with just that, the racing bike, although including the Paris newspaper couriers' bike is a bit of a stretch. Those bikes were everyday work bikes that for one day each year were used in a race organized for them.
My one irritation about the book is the photo on the flysheet, the photo of Eddy Merckx's bike.

Eddy Merckx's bike as shown in 'The Competition Bicycle'.

In my humble opinion Merckx's bike was just about the finest looking bike ever. The proportions were perfect and it was from an era when all parts were simple and clean. No extra cables from Ergo/STI levers, no ugly threadless stems, perfect 32 spoke wheels with simple rims not covered in advertising and frame tubes of classic dimensions. Even the decals are clean and simple. I think Jan Heine must agree with me on this otherwise he wouldn't have used the photo on the cover and in all his advertising for the book. However the image is spoilt by the position of the saddle. Merckx would never have ridden it with the saddle so low. It is about five centimetres below where Eddy would have positioned it.

Eddy Merckx with his perfect bike.

Apparently after the bike was ridden by Eddy to win the '74 World Championship in Montreal it was presented to the Pope. The Pope then passed it on to a priest who was a bit of a cyclist. He apparently rode it a few times and then presented to the cyclists’ chapel of Madonna de Ghisallo.

Why when Jan Heine and Jean Pierre Pradares photographed the bike didn't they put the saddle back to Eddy's position? Jan is very knowledgeable and must have realized that it was wrong.

I haven't yet finished reading the book completely but Jan obviously knows the subject really well. I have only found one mistake in the text so far and that is one concerning the operation of the Cervino derailleur. A very minor mistake that only someone as obsessive as me about derailleurs would pick up on.

Both Heine's books are great and anyone with a keen interest in classic bikes should have them on their bookshelf.
I just wish I could get that saddle repositioned.

Both books are available from:


OAP said...

Since you're an expert on derailleurs, I'm sure you also have read "The Dancing Chain" by F. Berto. Lots of information. It even briefly mentions the BGA Velectrik derailleur that you showed in the blog, along with the Cervino, Vittoria etc... Good stuff! And thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike;

Although orange has never been a personal favourite colour, on a Merckx it looks just right and a total classic. From that era, the two other great frame colours: Merckx's white & red frames from his Faema team, and of course DeVlaeminck's simple blue Gios with the understated white type.


fred said...

Rofl...It's not hard being a 'classic aficionado' when things get so incredibly out of to speak:

Sydney Morning Herald, Oz:
[Bicycle technology cranks up a gear

* Andrew Stevenson
* February 17, 2009

ANYONE watching the Tour de France can see how hard it must be to ride. But apparently it's not only the endless climbs up the Alps that have been wearing riders down: it's all the work changing gears.

Problem solved, it seems. The bicycle might be just about the most efficient person-powered machine ever invented but it's now entering the digital age, with an electronic gear system soon to reach the market in Australia.

Push a button and an electronic signal is sent to a tiny motor that shifts you up or down a gear. No more cables, no more pushing levers and no more waiting. "It can be more precise and it doesn't require any effort at the input stage: you're just pushing a little button," Shimano Australia's marketing manager, Greg Chalberg, said.

Professional cyclists have been moving towards the new component over the past year.

Bike geeks will lap it up, Cycling Australia's vice-president, Stephen Hodge, said.

"Bicycle technology is very attractive. Buying an expensive piece of bicycle machinery is the next best thing to having a mid-life crisis," he said.

Mr Chalberg said the new system - likely to cost an extra $3000 - is fully waterproof.

Apart from the saving on energy, speed is everything.

"Think about it like a light switch when you walk into the room: it happens instantly." ]

$3000, batteries not included.

Oh man....when will the madness end?

I've long ago given up indexed shifting to go back to 'feel' shifting. It is *much faster* in my experience! It does necessitate no more than a six spd cluster, or the ability to get 'pulled into gear' is defeated, but with a triple on the front, and a classic Simplex retrofriction shifter (I have them on a classic Argos I leave in the UK, which I'm retrieving to Canada this Spring), shifting is an absolute joy, and with careful choice of ratios, 18 more than does the trick. The devil only arrives after having to replace the cable and the shift positions slighty changing, that takes a few weeks to 'recalibrate' mentally.

Anyone remember 'Bio-pace' crank-rings? You just knew that somehow they were a marketing man's dream.

fred said...

Obviously Shimano must be blitzing the media, and there is a much more detailed article running at the New York Times. I must admit to being unaware of Campy, Huret's and others' history of attempts at the 'electronic shifter'...and the NYTimes has at least talked to the many skeptics on the matter.

I now know more about the "Velectrik" that OAP mentions, albeit I could find no reference to it in Mike's blog.

From the NYTimes article:
[...] Electronic gear-shifting technology has spent a long time in development. Prototypes of Mavic’s first system, the Zap, made a cameo appearance at the 1992 Tour de France and the company introduced its second attempt, the Mektronic, in 1999.

For much of this decade, both Shimano, which dominates bicycle parts the way Microsoft dominates computer software, and its venerable Italian competitor Campagnolo occasionally tested prototype systems on the bikes of pro riders. More often than not, the prototypes were devoid of trademarks, presumably to limit embarrassment if results proved as unfortunate as the Zap.
[b]Even Devin Walton, a spokesman for Shimano, acknowledges that when it comes to the rear derailleur, there is little or no difference in shifting between the electronic and comparable mechanical offerings from the company.

The gains are more obvious, however, with the front derailleur, which moves the chain between the two large, toothed rings on the bicycle’s crank.[/b]
Because cycling teams rely on sponsorship from companies like Shimano for their financial survival, several riders were reluctant to discuss their concerns about the system, which range from the prospect of battery failures to difficulty shifting gears using the small and very sensitive paddles while wearing gloves. But after a couple of training rides, George Hincapie of Columbia said he agreed with his team owner, Stapleton, about its merits.
[...] ]

Now I've never been a racer, save against Nature and the clock for a given ride, but I was doing well over a hundred miles in a day a decade back, on a good day mind, with perfect weather was a case of pace more than effort, and it had to be enjoyable, or why bother?

But I'm certainly very technically minded, I design and build electronic components, but I'd never put a battery device in a guitar or a bicycle, save for lighting for safety.

There's a lot to be said for KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid), whether that be cars, motorbikes or bicycles. Or life!

The NYTimes article is very balanced and has an interactive graphic. It was too lengthy to paste in in entirety here. I highly recommend the read.

I'm curious to know if there is a difference of thinking between Mike Sr and Jr on these matters beyond the obvious imperative of purpose?

fred said...

By Googling for "Velectrik" I now realize OAP's reference was to Mike's blog a year ago, which I'm now re-reading.

You're a hopeless romantic, Mike. I love it! There is something wonderful about rear derailleurs, vastly beyond the front derailleurs in dynamic and concept. But that raises an interesting point that I don't understand about the claim for electronic shifters: They talk about double rings...a two state situation. My experience has been setting the stops and cage parameters makes it a no-brainer, the indecision comes on a triple crank!

I'm perplexed if this is 'technology for technology's sake' or if I'm just too mundane to 'get it'?

Again, to me, a non-index shift is analogous to a violin:

Frets are for those that can't hear!

Big Hug Foundation Tanzani said...

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