Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting On a Bike, 1899-Style

Dr. Neesen's Book on Wheeling published in 1899 has this guidance:

In learning to mount, head your wheel for the down grade, place your left foot on the little projection on the rear axle, shove off with the right foot, raise up on your left foot, and balance that way until the right pedal rises to its height, then place the right foot on it, glide into the saddle and seek the left pedal with the left foot. Experts are in the habit of mounting directly from the pedal as a horse is mounted. This requires considerable skill. Dismounting, however, is done from the pedal. Just as the pedal reaches it lowest level, and is about to rise, stand up on it and fling the other leg over the saddle. Mounting from the pedal is done in the same manner.
Of course, this mounting from a peg on the left of the rear wheel is quite different than what is generally done today. One may wonder why they felt that "considerable skill" was required to mount the bicycle as we typically do today, and the answer would be that this is a fixed gear arrangement so that whenever the bike moves, the pedals spin - there is no coasting possible - and this would make getting on a moving bike with the left foot on the left (spinning) pedal more difficult, assuming you try to get moving and get on at the same time (which apparently was the thinking).

I noticed an image at work that needed to have its "title construct" (a made-up title that describes what the cataloger sees in the image) updated.

Bicycle Print
"Man on bicycle pushing to follow bicycling man in distance" - the original title given

In fact, this is a man getting on his bicycle, perhaps to give chase to the other cyclist. You can tell by where the left pedal would be compared to the right and where his left foot must be - he has his foot on the "peg" and is getting ready to swing himself up onto the seat.

Following my advice, the title was changed to this: "Man in foreground mounting bicycle to follow bicycling man in distance."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

French Chainless Bike, 1890s Poster

My terrible effort pasting together two halves of a scanned poster

Another follow-up on the shaft drive bike-share bikes in Los Angeles - they have been around forever, so if there was something so great about shaft-drive bikes, we'd have a few more being made today.

This poster is for a French bike from the late 1890s and pushes the chainless aspect - it isn't so much pro-shaft drive as anti-chain.

Title: Acatène Velleda / / L. Baylac, Biarritz '98.
Creator(s): Baylac, Lucien, 1851-1913, artist
Date Created/Published: Paris : Imp. Kossuth & Cie., 1898.
Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 156 x 118 cm.
Summary: Advertising poster for the chainless Acatène Metropole bicycle with G&J tires showing the Germanic priestess, Velleda, a legendary leader of the Batavian uprising against the Romans, with a bird of prey carrying chains and the Latin motto "Vae Catenis," or "Woe to Chains," above its head.
From the Library of Congress
Persistent link to full record

In the good old days of digitization, a large-ish poster like this was scanned in two pieces and the two parts offered up separately, leaving it to others to piece them together. The images are skewed and I could have probably done this better if I fiddled with it, but this is a lot better than what you see here.

The LA shaft-drive bikes have a chain stay (well, what else do you call it, even if it is a chainless bike??) plus the shaft drive, but this older bike follows the more "elegant" design of replacing the right side chain stay with the shaft drive shaft. So, you have to give the old time bike designers credit for that.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

30 Year Old Bottom Bracket - Replaced

Side view My 1982 Bridgestone Sirius - while it had its original 1982 bottom bracket still installed

When I acquired this Bridgestone frame and fork and started riding it, about a year ago, it still had the original bottom bracket installed. The spindle spun nicely and since it was a cartridge type (not loose bearings) I didn't attempt to lubricate it. Probably that was a mistake.

1982 Bridgestone Sirius bottom bracket At this point, last year, the original bottom bracket seemed fine

After probably 1,000 miles or so, the spindle suddenly became quite crunchy in its travel. However I was not able to get the bottom bracket out of the bike, even after I bought what I thought was the necessary tool. I took it to my local bike shop and they couldn't get it out, either - the mechanic recommended I try using a torch to heat up the bracket and (hopefully) get it loose. This might well wreck the paint, which seemed too bad, so I put the bike aside for a while to think it over.

Eventually I got the torch and the bike together. Apparently the bike thought better of its attitude once it saw the torch, because when I gave one last try to get the bracket to break free, it came loose immediately. After that, it was back to the local bike store to let them replace the bottom bracket with a new one. I could have done it myself, but they have been pretty helpful lately and not charged me anything, so about time to let them actually do something (AND charge me for it).

SunTour 1982 Bottom Bracket 30 year old SunTour bottom bracket, now a souvenir

Monday, April 16, 2012

LA Gets the Shaft (Drive Bikeshare Bikes)

The LA Times has an article about a new bikeshare program in Los Angeles: "Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will unveil a $16-million bike-share program Sunday that aims to put thousands of bicycles at hundreds of rental kiosks across the city."

Much of how the LA bikeshare program will be structured is like Capital Bikeshare (which isn't particularly surprising) however the bikes themselves are fairly different. I don't really get how the company, Bike Nation, makes money at this - they pick up the entire capital investment cost (the sixteen million bucks). Here is another description of the business aspects - the comments are fairly interesting.

BikeShare Bike Patent
It appears this patent is for the Bike Nation bikeshare bike, with airless tires, shaft drive, and absurd basket (but not with final design's step through frame)

To me the technical aspects of the Bike Nation bikeshare bike are the most interesting. The LA Times article notes that, "The bicycles are made without a chain and have special tires to reduce the possibility that they will get a flat or break down during their trip."

Opinionated as I may be (for someone who doesn't really know that much), I do not have strong feelings about the airless tire business. Sheldon Brown, some years ago, didn't express much enthusiasm, noting that, "Airless tires have been obsolete for over a century, but crackpot 'inventors' keep trying to bring them back. They are heavy, slow and give a harsh ride. They are also likely to cause wheel damage, due to their poor cushioning ability. A pneumatic tire uses all of the air in the whole tube as a shock absorber, while foam-type 'airless' tires/tubes only use the air in the immediate area of impact." However it doesn't seem impossible that someone clever could come up with a design that could do a decent job with shock absorbing and not add much weight or performance problems. It does appear that most airless tires to date are not very easy to get on or on the wheel rim, but for a bikeshare bike that would be a mechanic's problem.

I have much less enthusiasm for the shaft drive idea.

The Bike Nation bike doesn't use a traditional chain but rather a shaft drive. Shaft drives have been around since the 1890s but never really caught on since they are (a) more expensive, and (b) less efficient. Also, taking a rear wheel off a bike with a shaft drive is going to be more annoying to repair a flat than a standard chain bike (but of course not a problem there with airless tires!).

Shaft Drive patent, 1894
Shaft drive bikes have been around . . . practically forever

Shaft drive intuitively seemed to some like a great idea compared to "dirty" traditional chains, but they never became popular. For motorcycles somewhat, for bicycles no. That doesn't mean that various bike companies haven't tried to bring it back from time to time . . .

Eventually Bike Nation will supply more info about "What’s so special about the Bike Nation bicycle?" but for now, the link for "more info here" doesn't work. (Perhaps they are still doing research.)

Me & a Rental Bike in Paris
A bikeshare program bike in Paris, with a chain and air-filled tires - but what do the French know about cycling

Also, the French bikeshare bike has a deep basket, while the LA bikeshare bike has a flat shallow basket. I guess with bungee cords stuff could be made to stay in the basket.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Learning to Live with the e-Bikes

Until recently, I almost never saw e-Bikes - there is one fellow near where I live who rides along much of the same route I take who, depending on our respective schedules, I would see often enough, but that was pretty much it.

Suddenly I am seeing them a whole lot more - I assume this is a result of higher gasoline prices combined with increasing options for the e-Bikes available. I am having trouble getting used to them, which is not very tolerant of me, I guess.

An e-Bike, parked on the bike rack where I work

Wikipedia has a reasonably good article describing e-Bikes, although some of the conclusions aren't terribly current, based on 2010 information. The kind of e-Bikes I am seeing are various types of "hybrids" that combine pedal power and electric battery driven power - I think most of these require pedaling in order for the electric drive to engage, but it isn't obvious when looking at them whether this is true. By federal law, they are supposed to be limited to 20 mph with electric power alone and 750 watts.

The above e-bike, which has been parked recently at work, is a">Prodeco 'Storm-500' model (the 500 is for 500 watts). It has the most common configuration I am seeing, with the drive in the rear hub - I believe that the the drive system (in the hub) is made by a separate company, because I see this same sort of hub on different companies' products. The main utility of this is that it means the chain doesn't have to carry the power of the motor's propulsion, just the (much lower wattage) energy of the rider, so presumably no special chain is required and all the parts of the bike associated with the chain are the same as a regular bike. (Another way of achieving this result is to put the drive in the front hub.)

The information on the Prodeco web site is a little vague. It does not appear one has to pedal to engage the motor, since it has a "Press the Throttle for ‘Power-On-Demand’ propulsion system." I assume the frame is still, but perhaps it is aluminium - they don't say. The "group" is reasonable, although I'm not sure I agree entirely with the later part of Prodeco's statement that it has, "High quality components (as with all Prodeco, we use only the highest quality components)." In some of their choices, they could have made more costly choices that would have represented higher quality, I think. The most obvious place to offer something better would be the cable actuated disk brakes, where hydraulic would seem a better (but more pricey) choice. But if one accepts that the cable brakes are OK, then what they have is "the highest quality" (since there isn't that much difference between the choices, as far as I know). The rotors are nice and big, which should help.

The Prodeco site also leaves the bicycle weight out of their "product details" - but lifting the Storm-500 up at the bike rack, it's clearly over 50 pounds. (I did find a review of the 200 watt Storm model saying it weighed 46 pounds, so "over 50" seems about right comparing features etc.) One of Prodeco's priorities is to keep the weight of the bike down compared to other companies' products, but without the electric propulsion, riding this bike would be a real chore at this weight. So I'm not sure I'm very impressed with its "low weight." For $1,299 however, it seems like a pretty good deal, all things considered.

It still takes some getting used to, having folks who don't exactly look like Speed Racer zipping along on the trails with these things - again, I need to work on my tolerance. I remind myself that they are more like cyclists than motorists, and therefore presumably our ally - but I'm not all that sure. I read in Wikipedia that one in eight bicycles sold now in the Netherlands are e-Bikes, so we likely have many more such bikes on the roads and trails in our future.

Something to ponder.

By the way, electric bicycles were attempted very early after the introduction of the diamond frame "safety" bicycle - here is a short item from the 1892 "Pittsburg Dispatch" (yes, spelled without an "h" at the end of Pittsburgh).


One Devised in England for Which Great Things Are Claimed.

SOME GROUND FOR GRAVE DOUBT as to the Practicability of the Machine Until Thoronghly Tested


The electrical bicycle is again cropping up. This time it is in England, and its inventor promises to give the public a machine that can go from the most northerly to the southern extremity of Great Britain without stopping to have its batteries refilled. The weight of the batteries when filled with liquid is to be 44 pounds, and the whole weight of the apparatus is to be 155 pounds. The English financial papers also announce that a small company is to be brought out with a capital of $15,000 for the manufacture of electric cycles. Until, however, the practicability of the electric cycle is demonstrated beyond question, the public may be pardoned some degree of incredulity concerning it. The electrical tricycle, which was designed by a well-known electrician in this country some two years ago, failed to reach the practical stage, and although the storage battery is turned to better account in England than here, the record of English electrical bicvcles is not by any means satisfactory. Whether this latest form of bicycle will be an improvement on its predecessors remains to be proved.

By "subtle fluid" they mean electricity. Of course, electric, steam, and gas-powered two wheel and three wheel vehicles evolved into cars. Round and round the cycle goes. So to speak.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Little Lost Bikes

Riding to work, I saw these bikes by the tidal basin, not far from the Jefferson Memorial. Three days in a row! (Going home, navigating the intersection there, I kept forgetting to look to see if they were still there in the afternoon.) Today I looked up the vendor, Capital City Bike Tours online and sent them an email.

After more than 48 hours locked here, still both in one piece

Thanks for the email and the heads up. I appreciate you letting us know about this. As it turns out, some guests who rented them decided to not bring them back. Anyway, we took care of it and picked them up today.

Thanks again and have a great day!

So, they were then rescued. Even if they are slightly beach cruiser-ish rental bikes, better they should return to service in one piece.

I was reminded of the photo book, Bicycles Locked to Poles This is a most peculiar book of photographs of books, mostly partially or completely vandalized, locked to poles in New York City.

Derelict Bicycle
This isn't from the book, but is the sort of thing that is

Of course bicycle theft has been a problem since . . . there were bicycles to steal. The Washington Times had an article, for example, in December 1899 that reported on this issue:

How the Thieves Secure Possession of Valuable Wheels.
The methods of regularly organized gangs of robbers exposed by the police - Machines, shipped out of the city others rebuilt - One good effect of the cold weather.

According to the reports at Police Headquarters the bicycle thieves who have been carrying on extensive operations for months past and particularly during the warm weather period, have to a very great extent ceased their operations. As a result tho complaints of bicycle thefts which until recently have been numerous are now reduced almost to a minimum, and the prospects are that as long as the cold weather continues the present condition of affairs will exist.

The diminution in the number of complaints, or rather the fact that a decrease in the number of thefts is apparent. Is attributable, say the police, directly to the weather conditions. The police claim that cold weather is in more than one way responsible for the scarcity of bicycle thefts.

Detective Muller, of headquarters, whose especial duty it ist to look out for and recover lost or stolen bicycles, and arrest all such thieves, stated yesterday that the most annoying thief which the police had to deal with was the sneak who made a business of stealing bicycles.

According to Muller no one can tell where the bicycle thief is going to turn up. He will steal a bicycle in one portion of the city in the morning, and before the sun sets will have made off with one and sometimes more from other sections. Almost invariably the thief leaves no clew [sic] and is only captured when, after weeks and sometimes months, he gains enough temerity to offer his ill gotten gain for sale.

Even then it is often the case that the original stolen bicycle is so disfigured that it is almost an impossibility to identify it. The recent arrest and conviction of a regularly organized gang of bicycle thieves and the recovery from them of a number of bicycles exemplified the difficulty met by the detectives in establishing the ownership of such recovered property. . . . .

The article continues further with more details of bicycle theft in DC at the turn of the last century. I like the idea that cold weather is good since people keep their bikes indoors, don't use them, and therefore they aren't stolen so much.

Wichita Bicycle ad (1898)
An ad from 1898 pitching "Bicycle Protective Company" services

Bicycle Protective Company? Well, we don't have that today.