100 year-old State of the Art & Industry: Bianchi Model 1912:

Byron recently posted an aged picture of two men with bicycles strapped to their back. I recognized the photo from somewhere as being WWI Italian soldiers, and in my net search to verify I came across the webpage of The BSA & Military Bicycle Museum. One hundred years ago, shortly before Serbian nationalists assassinated Franz Ferdinand, this Bianchi Model 1912 was ordered by the Italian military to equip their Bersaglieri, or light infantry units with an emphasis on high mobility. At the time, Bianchi made 45,000 bicycles, 1,500 motorcycles, and 1,000 cars yearly. This Model 1912 was a fairly ambitious design, incorporating front and rear suspension on a folding frame. After WWI, Italia expanded the number of bicycle troops as part of tactical commitment to mobile warfare (as opposed to the stalemate of WWI trench warfare), though those divisions converted to motorization before WWII.

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BSA Bicycles were a well-known, quality brand in the United Kingdom from the beginning of the bicycle until the company sold bicycle assets to Raleigh TI in the mid-1950s. The company came about from the consolidation of several munitions factories in Birmingham that came together to meet a critical British shortage during the Crimean War, eventually selling rifles to a handful of countries. In 1880 with military arms sales flagging, the Birmingham Small Arms Company diversified into bicycles since the industrial processes of guns and bicycles apparently had a lot in common. BSA’s bicycles introduced many innovations that paved the way for cycling’s popularity, while simultaneously serving as a critical supplier of military arms during the two world wars. Besides guns & cannons, bullets & bombs, bikes & bike parts, BSA seemingly had a role in every British machine that moved in the first half of the 20th century, including Daimler (autos, engines), Triumph (motorcycles), and de Havilland (aircraft).

BSA’s story bears similarity to that of Spanish cycle manufacturer Orbea, which also had a start in small arms in 1840 before building bicycles. Orbea’s transition to bicycles had more to do with Fascist dictator Franco’s policy of dismantling regional autonomy and arms production; the Basque company was prohibited from manufacturing weapons during the 1930s.

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It is often said that bicycles today are soul-less products for mass consumption, but perhaps we are deluding ourselves if we romanticize the history of the bicycle. If we can only approve of a bicycle if is handcrafted in some one-man shop, then we should admit that we want luxury artisanal goods. Bicycles are as much an industrial product as automobiles, aircraft, sewing machines, and machine guns.

Limited Visibility in the Rain

Limited visibility

Over the weekend, on Sunday, rode the I-90 bridge by memory. This photo is from an onboard iPhone camera in front-facing mode and shows visibility at about 10% from car spray. An earlier squall left standing water on the road. Anticipating an epic crossing, I quickly took the photo as we descended the ramp to the bridge bike lane. Then put my head down and kept a steady pace to the other side. The spray was as constant as the wind and polluted with run off from the cars. I’ve crossed that bridge thousands of times, but never like this. Gluckman was on my wheel and I knew all he could see was my tire.

We were here and could barely see

On Mercer Island, after the bridge deluge Gluckman said almost poetically

I get a rush from mastering the elements. Being comfortable in miserable conditions with the right gear.

Don’t know if I could sum up riding in the rain better or how we get through it hour after hour, then treating it as a challenge in itself. Especially when the weekend before, I failed at it and Mother Nature reminded me who the boss is.

To get a photo that fast on the move, I used the Cypher Gloves and the iPhone was in a Biologic Reecharge case.

DIY: Converting Ergopower to Super Dummy Lever

Dummy lever start Start with brand new Veloce Powershift Ergo levers

Dummy lever step 1

Dummy lever step 8 Finish sanding, righthand unit is a dummy lever and left hand is the most comfortable brake only lever created by mankind

When it comes to the ergonomics of dropbar levers, Campagnolo absolutely nailed it with their third generation Ergopower. I want these for my fixed-gear handlebar, but unfortunately the levers have that annoying and useless shifter mechanism. So in order to convert a new set of Ergopower levers into something really useful, namely the most comfortable brake levers ever, here’s what you do.

1 Gut the shifters.

2 Cut the cross section of the shifter cavity into thin cardboard

3 Trace cross section onto 2x4”

4 Start carving

5 Keep carving. The righthand unit is purely a dummy lever, so the goal is to completely fair in the gap underneath the body and replace the brake blade, since without the shift mechanism there is no return spring to keep the blade from rattling without a brake connected. With lefthand unit, you’re trying to fair in the underneath and as close to the blade as possible while still allowing the blade to complete its travel all the way to the handlebar.

6 Now that the carving and sanding is done, ideally I’ll get these painted to protect the wood and to improve aesthetics. I’m still considering options for that.

After the jump, see photos of intermediate stages.

Like a Dram of Scotch

scotchChuckled at this Scotch review and then thought, wait, I think I can make that work for a bike.

Imagine a bike shop several hours after the torches were turned off. Riding this bike, you get a whiff of acrid smoke, sweat, paint, distillates, and the personality that went into the frame. You can still see the fingerprints on the tubes from the hands that built it and know you can pronounce his name.”

All I got so far, but working through it.

Twitter version Retweet

Reviewing a bike like Scotch: in a shop after the torches were lit, a whiff of acrid smoke, sweat, distillates, & the builder’s personality.

Also, the Macallan Oak 10 isn’t anything like warm strudel.

White Bike

Velo Couture from photographer Brian Rose

As Brian Rose said

I like street photography, fashion photography, and bicycles, so to have these come together like this was pretty darn cool.

It is cool. Brian is the community manager for Google+ photos.

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