Re: [Classicrendezvous] S-A dead (was: Brooks Saddles are Back. . .)


From: "Russ Fitzgerald" <rfitzger@emeraldis.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: Re: [Classicrendezvous] S-A dead (was: Brooks Saddles are Back. . .)
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 19:14:32 -0500


O fellow classicists,

Below is an excerpt from something I wrote for the local club's newsletter. If they need copy badly enough, they might even run it, who knows? Anyhow, apologies for its length - I always did like the sound of my own voice, I guess. Still, this is how I feel about the situation ...

***

The handwriting was probably on the walls years ago. Sturmey Archer was just too damned dependable and reliable to fit into a world where bicycles are disposable toys or “fitness equipment,” soon obsolete and fit only for the scrap yard. The very idea of something that could be repaired, the concept that bikes and bike parts should work flawlessly for decades, was simply incompatible with the age of Shimano and the four year cycle in vogue now. Five speed freewheels were the standard for forty years, but we’ve gone from eight to nine to ten in five years – what possible hope could there have been for a company that still made three-speeds, and who cares how well they worked?

In its day, the Sturmey Archer AW appeared on almost every type of bike. You can find specimens on everything from cheesy kid’s high-risers from the ‘60s to impeccably elegant custom bikes from the 30s as light as anything on the market today. There are countless millions of them out there working in their quiet English way as I write this. It’s more than just “too bad” that there won’t be any more.

I feel sorry for the three hundred or so employees who found out their jobs have ended, bang, sorry, off you go. Some of them had been there since before I was born. It can’t be easy to know that you have done your job and made stuff that works for a long, long time and then one day, poof, nobody wants you any more. It might soothe their feelings to know of the wave of anguish many of us older cyclists feel to see them go – but that doesn’t pay their rent. The closing of Sturmey Archer hits hard at deeply-held and cherished values – among them, the belief that good work and loyalty will be rewarded. Maybe those ideas are just as old-fashioned as an AW hub.

On a personal level as a cyclist from way back, I feel like weeping. It’s a long, sad roll call – Simplex, Normandy, FB, Magistroni, Universal, Huret, Chater Lea, CLB, Clement, BSA, SunTour, Cyclo, Mafac, Ideale, Oscgear, Bayliss-Willey, Zeus, and far too many more – all parts makers who live on only in memory and on ever more closely hoarded collectors’ bikes. And now we must add Sturmey Archer, the last great British component maker. Another part of my youth has to be surrendered; another icon has fallen.

***

Russ Fitzgerald
Greenwood SC
rfitzger@emeraldis.com