[CR]Early stems, brake-shift levers (was: Vintage Bicycle Quarterly)

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To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "Jan Heine" <heine@mindspring.com>
Subject: [CR]Early stems, brake-shift levers (was: Vintage Bicycle Quarterly)
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2002 09:22:18 -0800

Stems clamped onto the steerer tube were very common in the late 1940s. In fact, they used a standard threaded headset. A smaller diameter tube was brazed into the steerer tube, onto which the stem clamped. As Roger Baumann (winner of PBP 1956 and "Pilote de René Herse") pointed out in the interview in VBQ 2, the practice was abandoned because you couldn't adjust the stem height. I have seen Singer, Routens, Herse and others with this feature.

The shifter on the brake lever was made for/by the owner of TA (maker of cranks, chainrings, etc.). The Rebour drawing is available at the VBQ web site (which, by the way, has some additional content since yesterday) at http://www.mindspring.com/~heine/bikesite/bikesite/subscriptioninfo.html

Go to "Samples." However, it seems that both levers rotate together, probably to control a Cyclo rear derailleur with continuous loop cable. Sort of like Suntour's shifters that attached to the bars near the brake levers. So it doesn't appear to have a ratcheting mechanism like STI or Ergo.

Obviously, combining brake and shift controls was tried many times (see also Joel Metz' page in VBQ 1). However, in the end, there was no advantage to it, and nobody picked it up. In fact, I have found that having to move my hands once in a while to shift was a good prevention for sore hands. Also remember that back then, people still used rod-operated front derailleurs - not because others weren't available, but because nobody saw a need for anything heavier and more complicated. (See Baumann's Herse in VBQ2.)

Things that were considered important, like hubs with axles that don't break and bearings that don't need overhaul, were adopted almost immediately by the French cyclotourists and their constructeurs - see Maxi-Car hubs.

VBQ will continue to delve into that topic. I hope to examine the 1930s some more, because that was the time when French cyclotouring bikes as we know them now were developed. If I come across any amazing technical solutions (beyond the well-known cassette hubs, etc.), it will be in the magazine.

Finally, Vintage Bicycle Quarterly intends to cover not only French cyclotouring bikes, but also other aspects of vintage bicycles. Issue 3 will have a story of a guy who rode from San Francisco to L.A. in 1902, on a fixed gear. I hope to get a story on British unorthodox frames some day. Maybe some early Campy treasures. There is so much in this hobby that hasn't been documented well...

So this also is a call to all who have something they'd like to contribute, a story they'd like to write, etc.!

Jan Heine
Editor, Publisher, Mail Clerk
Vintage Bicycle Quarterly