Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quadricycle Fire Engine (1896)

Article in the April 25, 1896 issue of Scientific American.

Qaudricycle Fire Engine
Figure 1 - Quadricycle Fire Engine

We illustrate herewith a quadricycle fire engine that attracted considerable attention at the recent bicycle exhibition at Paris, and which presents unquestionable advantages over the hand engines in use in all places that are too small to afford the luxury of steam fire apparatus.

As shown by our engravings (Figs. 1 and 2), the engine consists of two tandem bicycles coupled by crosspieces in front and behind and having but a single steering post in front. The free space between the two frames is occupied at the front by a hose reel, in the center by a rotary pump, and at the back by a coupling that allows the pump to be put in communication with a water tap.

This entire affair weighs scarcely more than 180 or 188 pounds, which represents about 88 pounds per man.
[This per man figure does not seem right, whether the riders' weight is factored in or not, but is what is stated in the original.] It will be seen that upon such a machine four trained cyclists can reach a fire at a speed that could never be attained by fire engines drawn by horses.

Cycle Fire Engine - Ready
Figure 2 - Ready for Operations

As soon as the engine has reached a favorable position, the four men jump from their seats, and, while two of them adjust the couplings, a third unreels the hose, and the fourth, turning down the jointed support, raises the back of the machine and throws the pump into gear.

The four men afterward get into their saddles and pedal in situ with a mean velocity that causes the pump to discharge about 4,500 gallons an hour in the form of a stream 100 feet in length in a horizontal direction and about 75 feet upwardly. These figures are those obtained at the trials made at the Palace of Industry on the 23d of last December.

All the preparatory maneuvers require scarcely more than two or three minutes. If, on another hand, we take into consideration the fact that such machines, propelled by men with some little training, can reach a fire in a quarter or a third of the time made by ordinary hand engines, we shall realize how great an interest attaches to the use of them in country places where a fire so easily assumes the importance of a disaster by reason of the tardiness with which the first help comes. Everything, therefore, leads to the belief that this invention is destined to completely revolutionize the fire apparatus of small towns and villages.
An interesting notion - I don't believe this caught on in the U.S. In a radius of travel less than a couple of miles and with relatively flat terrain, this could make sense, but notwithstanding the advantages of quick response cited, one can imagine fire fighting personnel would prefer not to pedal to fires.

Video from Library of Congress showing the competing horse-centric approach

Advertisement for the Side-by-Side Tandem (1896)

In an earlier post I described and presented information about the Punnett Tandem Bicycle as described in the September 4, 1896 Scientific American - in the same issue at the back is an ad for this bicycle.

Punnett Tandem Ad (1896)
Forty pounds in weight and only $150!

While it is supposed to be reasonably easy to mount this thing, one can't help noticing that both gentlemen mentioned in the ad are noted for trick riding.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Black Bicycle Mfg. Co. - 1896 Bicycle Factory

Exterior of Factory
The Black Bicycle Mfg. Co. in 1896, external view

The January 4 1896 issue of Scientific American has illustrations showing scenes from the Black Bicycle Manufacturing Company factory and some description of the manufacturing process in an accompanying article.

Within the past three years, the American bicycle Industry has grown up to dimensions which fairly entitle it to be considered representative of the country and of the day. Every day sees hundreds of wheels of high and low grade made in the factories of this country for the American and foreign market. Three years ago the English bicycle was considered by many the best wheel, and the possessor of such was apt to consider himself better equipped than his friend who rode one of American manufacture. Now, all is changed. A visitor to England or to the Continent, if a cycling enthusiast, cannot fail to be impressed by the superiority of American wheels as contrasted with the foreign ones, and no wheelman really an fait in his subject would dream of buying his wheel abroad, so superior is the American make. The industry has brought about an enormous development in the manufacture of special tools and of parts of bicycles.

Assembling the Bicycles
Assembling the Bicycles

Many assumed bicycle manufacturers simply buy these parts and do their own assembling. But for the production of the absolutely high grade American bicycle, a factory is required which will turn out practically all the parts of the wheel manufactured, for unless such is done one concern cannot be answerable for the perfection of the whole machine.

We select as the representative of such a factory the works of the Black Manufacturing Company, of Erie, Pa., a company which produce the highest grade of wheel and which put it on the market purely on its merits without the adventitious advertisement of paid riders. The wheel made by this company, the "Tribune Bicycle," embodies the best possible practice and is correspondingly free from structural variations of unproved merit.

Milling Machine
Milling Machine

The tubing, whose walls are of 20 gage thickness, is of American make, the company having found that English tubing could not be obtained of sufficiently even quality. At the junctions of the tubes forged connections are employed. These are received in a solid state and are machined out, drilled and turned, until only a shell of the original material is left. Each connection has projecting nipples which enter the ends of the tubes, and the whole is so accurately made that when the ends of the tubes are placed over the nipples the frame will hold itself together without further fastening. The tubes are of uniform diameter throughout and are simply cut of proper length, so that their natural strength is unaffected. The most striking instance of the preparation of the forged connections is in the crank bracket. This is received as a massive forging weighing 3 pounds 2 1/2 ounces, in general shape a cylinder, with four solid projections. This is put into the finishing machine and finished. It comes out with the solid cylinder drilled out so as to present a large aperture through which the crank shaft is to go. and its ends faced off and finished for the reception of the ball races: The four projecting nipples are drilled out and are also turned down on the outside so as to fit accurately the outside of the tubing. The bracket now weighs 8 ounces; all the rest has been converted into drill chips. One of the typical connections is that used for the head of the rear forks, which forging we specially illustrate, in order to show how solid a construction is given to this vital point.

Rear Fork Detail
Rear Fork

The frame has now to he brazed together. The pieces are placed in a massive iron jig or template, adapted to receive them and retain them in position, and which holds horizontally the entire frame. This template is mathematically accurate. While held therein, holes are drilled through the connections and tube ends and pins are driven in, pinning all the parts together. When removed from the jig the frame is perfectly rigid. It now goes to the braziers, who, with the best quality of brass and with large gas blowpipes, braze all the the liquid spelter penetrating all the join even running out around the pins. The frame next goes to the filers, after the borax has been brushed off it, who with file and emery paper, go over all the connections and over the tubing, polishing it all, and removing every excrescence, which, it will be observed, gives the frame an absolute hand finish over all its surface.

Brazing Room
Brazing Room

The forks taper toward the end, and to produce this taper cold swedging is employed. The swedging machine carries a heavy head like a lathe head or chuck, which rotates in a horizontal axis, and within which are eight hammers, which by the action of the machine move in and out in radial directions. A piece of cold tubing pushed into the machine and fed up by hand is subjected to a multiplicity of blows and has its diameter rapidly reduced, the workman being able to give it any desired taper. The metal thus tapered is flattened and bent to the proper curve to give one side of the fork.

Old Swaging Machine
Cold Swaging Machine
[For someone who doesn't know what "swaging" is - like me - you can read something about it in Wikipedia.]

The cups and cones for the ball bearings are made on automatic turret lathes, the turret carrying in some cases as many as five tools. A bar of tool steel which may be 20 feet long is introduced into the machine and is gradually and automatically fed up to the tools, which shape and cut off from it bearing after bearing, which drop from it every few seconds without any attention from the workman. A liberal supply of oil is kept in constant circulation through the machine, falling upon the cutting tools. The bearings thus finished are purposely left 0 005 of an inch too large. They are then screwed on a mandrel in a special lathe and the final finish is given by hand. They are then tempered by secret process with sperm oil and polished, coming out with a beautiful straw color, equal in finish to any steel tools made. The standard finish of the machine is black enamel and nickel plate. The enamel is put on in four coats, two of India rubber enamel and two polishing coats, the frame being rubbed down with rottenstone between the applications. This gives a finish equal to a piano body. To secure evenness the enamel is applied by dipping in a tank of the compound, after which the parts are hung up and allowed to drip to remove the surplus before baking. All nickel plated parts are first copper plated. This prevents water or moisture from getting under the nickel and rusting the steel and thereby causing a separation of the coating.

Factory Floor
[Factory Floor]

The aim of the constructor of this typical American wheel has been to secure simplicity and produce an absolutely standard article. Its criterion is its quality pure and simple. There are, however, some novelties introduced that are especially worthy of illustration. One of these affects the crank and crank shaft mechanism, the crank being secured to the shaft in a new way. V-shaped teeth are formed upon the crank shaft and upon the aperture in the pedal arm. This aperture in the pedal arm is split and provided with a tightening screw. To attach the ciank arm to the shaft, it is thrust over the end of the shaft and the tightening screw is turned up, when it is secured as rigidly as if all were one piece of metal. Those who have struggled with the old-fashioned cotter will realize the advantage of this crank, which is instantly released with two or three turns of a screw.

The handle bar is made adjustable by an arrangement of equal simplicity and efficiency. The socket in the head which receives it is threaded. On the center of the handle bar is brazed a sleeve threaded with the same pitch of screw. The socket is split and provided with a tightening screw. The screw is loosened, the handle bar thrust through the socket and screwed into place. When at the desired angle the screw is tightened and the whole becomes practically one piece of metal. By reversing the handle bars, they can be used in up-tumed or downturned position.

The sprocket wheels ought not to be spoken of as a novelty now. They are cut to the cycloidal or theoretically correct curve, which avoids all friction of the chain against the teeth. This has long been the specialty of the Black Manufacturing Company, but now the system has spread among other companies, and cycloidal sprockets are characteristic of several other first-class wheels.

Cycloidal Sprocket
Cycloidal Sprocket

We also illustrate the system of truing up the wheel. Each wheel is mounted on a gaging frame, and the workman, by setting up and loosening the nipples, brings the rim into an absolutely perfect plane. The steering arrangement of the tandem machine deserves attention. Sprockets are carried by the front and rear steering posts, and these sprockets are connected by chains and rods so as to insure unity of steering action between the front and rear handle bars.

Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings
What I have done here is bring together the illustrations that were on the cover of the issue and with the article with my hand-corrected version of the OCR'ed text, but some errors likely remain (alas) - if you come across a mistake, let me know in the comments and I'll fix. Thanks!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Side-by-Side Tandem (1896)

Side-by-Side Tandem (1896)
From the January 4, 1896 issue of Scientific American

Full text of the article describing this side-by-side tandem bicycle that goes with the above illustration:

The bicycle has now reached a typical construction from which there seems to be slight tendency to deviate. Absolute novelties beyond the details are more and more rare. The companion side seated bicycle which we represent is. however, one of the novelties of the year. The tandem bicycle, which has met with considerable success where the desire is to have company on a ride, is more or less criticised on account of the position of the riders, one of whom must be behind the other. In the bicycle which we illustrate it is proposed to have the two riders seated side by side, as in the old-fashioned "sociable" tricycle, and yet to have the two riders carried by two wheels only. The two cuts are self-explanatory. The long axle of the rear wheal enables the use of two sprockets at its extremities so far apart as to permit of each one being acted upon through a separate pair of sprockets, each actuated by a separate rider. There is a triple head and a duplex frame, the latter carrying two saddles placed side by side at a proper distance apart for two riders to occupy also side by side.

It is said that a difference of 100 pounds weight in the two riders is not noticeable, and that a person who is ignorant of riding can be taken out on this wheel with perfect safety. The system of mounting is peculiar. For the first one who mounts, the wheel is inclined to one side and this rider takes his or her place on the lower saddle. The machine is then pulled back to an upright position and the second rider mounts by the pedal, and so the start is made. The dismount is made in the same way, reversing, of course, the operations. The two saddle posts are connected, it will be observed, by a crossbar. At the center of the crossbar is a special socket. When a single person fa riding the wheel the saddle is transferred to the central position and the rider sitting there drives the machine by one of the right hand and one of the left hand set of pedals. This, of coruse, produces considerable lost motion in the pedal action, but it at least is possible for a single rider to take care of and to drive the wheel to and from the place of appointment with his friend. It is not a wheel depending absolutely on the presence of two riders. The wheel shown in the illustrations is made by the Punnett Cycle Mfg. Co., Rochester, N.Y.
I can't work out if this really could work or not - apparently it did, but it seems difficult to manage, to say the least.

Original article is here

Cycles with Guns (1896)

Army Bikes 1896
Two "Army Bicycles" shown at trade show at Madison Square Garden

Article text that accompanied above illustrations is below, from Scientific American, February 8, 1896.
The new army tandem and the model 40, mounted with a Colt's automatic machine gun which have been made by the Pope Manufacturing Company, were exhibited at the Madison Square Garden Cycle Show and attracted great attention.

The tandem is one of the Pope Company's regular model 43s taken directly from stock and finished plainly in enamel and nickel. On the front handle bars are tightly strapped two army overcoats, and on the rear bars a pair of blankets. Resting safely in brackets on either side of the machine is a twelve shot repeating rifle, and hanging on each seat post a Colt quick action revolver of the latest pattern. In addition to this there is a case of signal flags extending almost the whole length of the machine, but not interfering with the riders in the least; and this is the case with all the equipments, being as well and safely placed, ready for use in a moment, and yet causing not the slightest interference.

The Colt automatic gun mounted on the model 40 is the one recently adopted by the government for our navy. This gun weighs between thirty-nine and forty pounds, shoots two hundred and fifty or five hundred times—being automatically fed—and is remarkably accurate. It is fastened securely to the head of the machine, can be easily directed at any angle, and does not interfere with the rider or affect the steering of the machine.

These two wheels are as perfectly equipped with the necessary accouterments of war as would seem possible, and the interest which army people and civilians alike have shown in them leads one to believe that it will not be long before the wheel will form a very effective adjunct to regular army service.
For good or bad, cycles as a part of warfare didn't catch on. Original article is here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tolstoy's Bicycle Riding - 1896

Tolstoy's bicycle, preserved in a Russian museum

A Cycling Notes entry in Scientific American for April 18, 1896, includes this brief item:
Count Leo Tolstoi, the Russian novelist, now rides the wheel, much to the astonishment of the peasants on his estate.
Apparently Tolstoy took up bicycling at the age of 67. Russia comes up again in a later Cycling Notes entry, for May 9, 1896:
Though Moscow has nearly five thousand wheelmen, only about one-half have permission to ride in the city limits. [?!?!?] Russia asks $12.50 duty on each wheel imported into that country, no matter what the price may be.
Presumably Tolstoy had no problem paying a price that included this fairly high duty.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on Benefits of Cycling, 1896

The usual quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Scientific American 1896 is given as:
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.
But did he have more to say? Yes he did.

The rest of what he had to say:
I have myself ridden the bicycle most during my practice as a physician and during my work in letters. In the morning or the afternoon, before or after work as the mood o'ertakes me, I mount the wheel and am off for a spin of a few miles up or down the road from my country place. I can only speak words of praise for the bicycle, for I believe that its use is commonly beneficial and not at all detrimental to health, except in the matter of beginners who overdo it.
This quote from the physician Conan Doyle was in the spirit of this period to find medical doctors who would endorse the health benefits of cycling, or at least not condemn it. That he was a famous and clever writer was presumably a bonus.

Scientific American, January 18, 1896, Cycling column, pt 1
Cycling Notes column in Scientific American issue of January 18, 1896 with full "Dr. Conan Doyle" quote in middle.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Park Service Says, "Dismount!"

Dismount ahead (for cyclists)
Sign added to bike trail April 7, just before the governement was expected to close

I think this is very odd - Thursday morning two trucks of U.S. Park Service personnel were pulled up along the bike trail to install this sign. Is this really important?

The southbound cyclist, before this sign, would arrive at a stop sign and one that also demands a dismount - I have never seen anyone do so. The trail crossing is zebra striped and looks like a cross walk to the drivers leaving National Airport - the traffic is one way, from left to right in the picture. What generally happens is that cyclists slow, the cars slow, sometimes the car stops and wave the cyclist or cyclists on, sometimes not and then the cyclists stop.

Providing a notice (now two!) that dismount is required just makes cyclists into scofflaws in this instance. There are, I think, some locations where dismounting is sensible, for example the crosswalk across S Shirlington Rd after going under I-395 on the bike trail. The crosswalk has lights to attract attention of drivers that are activated by a button and it seems reasonably for cyclists to dismount here (and a lot safer).

Dismount ahead (for cyclists)
Couldn't they have planted more trees instead?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moscow City Authorities Back 150 KM of Bike Paths

Locomotion in Moscow
Article suggests better riding conditions will be offered to folks like him

Article in Russian describes Russian city authorities plan to improve traffic in Moscow (which is apparently awful) that includes new interest in supporting cycling.
The authors of the program are betting on cycling. "They move through the city with an average speed of 17 kilometers an hour and get around all traffic jams, while the average speed of cars reaches only 25 kilometers per hour and in rush hour doesn't exceed 13 km/hr" - they claim as advantages of bicycles. A driver pays an average of five rubles per kilometer [28 rubles to the dollar] and the government pays roughly the same amount in addition as expenses for supporting the infrastructure, so the authors of the program consider that cycling support would have savings for the citizens directly and for the government. They suggest constructing by 2016 no less than 150 km of bike paths and bike lanes and to create 10,000 bike parking places in Moscow.

(The Russian version: Авторы программы делают ставку и на велосипед. «Он движется по городу со средней скоростью 17 км/ч и объезжает любые пробки, а средняя скорость автомобиля составляет 25 км и в часы пик не превышает 13 км/ч», — рекламируют они преимущества велосипеда. Автомобилисту километр проезда обходится в среднем в 5 руб., еще столько же — расходы государства, например, на инфраструктуру, подсчитали авторы программы, так что передвижение на велосипеде экономит деньги граждан и города. Они предлагают до 2016 г. оборудовать не менее 150 км велодорожек и велополос, построить 10 000 велопарковочных мест.)

Well, the Alaska legislature is working on a bill (says this article) to have grants to encourage cycling, so why not Moscow? "Innovations like studded tires, fenders and trailers to carry groceries and work supplies have made bicycle commuting a viable option even during Alaska's icy winters," it states.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Avid BB-7 Disk Brake Adjustments

Rear brakes
A shot of a road version of the BB-7 Avid mechanical disk brake - his example is nice and clean, rather than using an image of mine ~

Even this very detailed description and advice does not cover the problem I had with BB-7 brake set up that neither the bike store that sold me the bike with these brakes nor mechanics at my LBS were able to identify.

I bought a Traitor Ruben in the summer of 2009. I generally ride it to commute to work when the weather looks like rain or is otherwise crummy - otherwise I ride a more pleasant (in my view) road bike. One of the main advantages (if not the main advantage) is that in rain the mechanical disk brakes, Avid BB-7s, have no noticable drop-off in performance that you have with rim brakes. The problem can be that adjusting these brakes to perform reasonably whether raining or not can take some effort.

The many-step process described by the blogger above leaves out the problem I was eventually able to correct that seriously lowered the BB-7s' performance for me. The problem I had stemmed from incorrect setup by the store that sold the bike to me. (Or perhaps by the company that produced it, I suppose.)

out with the old, in with the new
Two disk brake pads not yet mounted in their spring are at left, two mounted in spring (they look like a tiny waffle iron) are at right.

In order to operate properly, the brake pads, pressed together with their spring into a kind of brake pad-sandwich, need to be inserted fully into the caliper slot. Each pad has two small "ears" that are supposed to fit into a metal clip that is inserted into the caliper from the opposite side from where the brake pads slide in. As it turns out, this clip is quite strong and getting the pad "ears" to fully engage with the clip takes a bit of force - and if you convince yourself that they are fully seated (it isn't readily apparent whether they are or not by visual inspection) then the brake pads don't lay flat against the pistons but instead are sort of balanced on top of two pins that are in the middle of each of the pistons. When the pads click into the clip properly the pin on the piston will seat in a slot in the back of each pad and hold them in the right place. (Yes, hold them in the right place in addition to the clips - the clips that seem to work more to keep them out of the right place.)

What this means is that instead of having the pads solidly pressing against the pistons on each side, they are wobbling around, made parallel to the disk only by the tiny spring that is intended simply to push them apart. It is possible for an otherwise sensible bike mechanic to perform the usual setup process and miss that the pads aren't fully inserted. When the pad aren't sitting fully against the pistons, the pads wear at a highly accelerated rate and the performance is poor, although it isn't so poor as to indicate the serious problem you actually have in this situation.

Avid BB7's
Here you can see the slot where the clip inserts, just to the left of the red adjustment dial that is visible

My simple solution that Avid would doubtlessly not like was simply to take the clips out and insert the pads fully so they were in the right place and mounted on the pistons properly, and leave it at that. The little posts on the pistons are inserted into slots in the back of the pads and keep them in place just fine, it seems. I did try to insert the clips after the pads were in the right place, but that didn't work, so I just left them off. I had a BB-7 on a bike (just on the front fork) that I gave away that was an older model (before this "mtn" and "rd" distinction appeared) and I don't think it even had this clip, so I decided that I couldn't see any reason why if the pads were properly inserted that the clip was necessary. With the pads fully inserted it has been much easier to adjust the brakes to achieve decent performance (and pad wear). I have been riding like this for 500 miles or so, no problem.

So, how did I discover that I had this problem that mechanics didn't see? I had a separate problem with the rear wheel of this bike and had it rebuilt when several spokes blew (described in this post) so I had my LBS that rebuild the wheel and when they put it back on the bike the guy neglected to tighten the skewer enough and silly me didn't check his work so I was riding in a downpour and the rear wheel popped out, yanking the brake bads and spring out. (Luckily I did not fall, although I was mighty surprised.) When I looked closely at the wear on this set of pads, I realized something other than simple adjustment was wrong. I bought new pads for front and back and realized upon more thoughtful examination that the front pads weren't fully inserted (and presumed this had been the problem with the rear one as well). Geez!

I guess the sense that disk brakes are a little more complicated to adjust masked the more serious problem since I assumed that the bike store had set the things up properly in the first place. At one point, tired of making constant adjustments, I stopped at the other good LBS and a mechanic performed his version of the setup but while it seemed OK for a while, it was back to poor performance in a day or so. Anyway, I guess I learned something - perhaps even several things.

In addition to my disappointment with professional bike mechanics in this (which isn't really that great; this isn't brain surgery) I think the Avid instructions supplied are part of the problem - they are pretty poor. The Avid PDF manual (that is the same as what is delivered with the brakes) states that pads should "click" into place but the critical importance of seating the pads in the clip isn't mentioned specifically as the necessary requirement. The two pages have the same information in nine languages, so the degree of clarity in any particular language is proportionally reduced. The steps to take are described, but not much "why this step is important" sort of info.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bike Parking in Defiance of Signage

Bike Parked Wrong Place
Bike parked, locked to railing where it isn't supposed to be (or perhaps it's OK)

In a previous post I described this not-very-friendly sign's placement in front of the Adams Building of the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The sign is on a post that isn't bolted down, so it sort of wanders around this area. The apparent goal is to keep bikes from being locked to the railing and blocking the ramp for disabled persons, but the sign isn't clearly associated with that ramp and to put the sign on the ramp would block the ramp!

Where this bike is locked, then, isn't a problem. But the sign would suggest it is.