Re: [CR]Light Weight - Caminade

(Example: Framebuilders:Richard Moon)

Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 08:44:11 -0800 (PST)
From: "ken denny" <>
Subject: Re: [CR]Light Weight - Caminade
To: ken denny <>,
In-Reply-To: <>

One item of note. Pierre Caminade continued to produce the "Caminargent"models, virtually unchanged, until the late 40's. He did not produce during WW2. He died in 1960. ken denny <> wrote: Greetings All,

An almost perpetual thread in vintage cycling circles is the subject of weight. After all, what constitutes a "lightweight" cycle is the fact that it was constructed of lightweight tubing, with a conscious effort by the builder to minimize weight while maximizing performance - not an easy balancing act, and more often robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I have always been fascinated by the French obsession with this subject, and the ability of French builders to think outside of the box, utilizing alternative materials and designs to achieve this end. It was the French who pioneered virtually every exotic, lightweight material from aluminum to carbon fiber in their designs.

Two pioneers in the development of ultra-lightweight cycles were Pierre Caminade and Nicola Barra. Not much has been written about either of these great builders. I'll put Barra aside for a later subject, but here are a few notes on Pierre Caminade, along with published excerpts. Perhaps some of you saw my 1936 Caminargent (by Caminade) at Lars Anderson, where I presented a short discourse. The bike, model Bordeaux-Paris, weighs just 12.5 pounds, and to date, is still the lightest commercially produced cycle of record (weather or not the statistics on this are accurate or not is open to debate, but please accept the fact that 12.5 pounds, fully outfitted, is darned light).

Pierre Caminade was born near Bordeaux, south west France in the late 1879. He set up shop as a framebuilder in Bios-Colombes, an inner suburb of Paris around 1910, just before WW1, and quickly gained reputation for producing lightweight racing cycles to the Buffalo (Paris) Velodrome contingent of racers. His works at this time were exclusively of lightweight steel tubing, track-specific. After WW1, the use of aluminum, having tested with great successes in aircraft and artillery uses, assimilated into mainstream use. According to cycling historian Raymond Henry, the idea of aluminum racing cycles was not new, with Rupalley building a successful prototype in 1896 of gas-welded, lugless design, and the firm of Delage developing a short production run of lightweight, lugged and bolted aluminum frames in 1933.

But it was Caminade who successfully built a comprehensive lightweight cycle and put it into production for a period that was to last over 20 years, starting in 1936. Promoted by the Societe du Duralumin ( a French trade council headquartered in Paris), the "Caminargent" cycle was launched. Available in two models, the "Bordeaux-Paris" and "Randonneuse", both frames were identical in design and execution, consisting of octogonal section, double-butted (on inner walls) Duralumin tubes with cork-filled dampening ends. The tubes were joined using very high tolerance cast aluminum lugs (quite ornate with Art Nouveau details). The lugs were fitted with opposing setscrews that allowed the main tubes to be compress-fitted and adjusted for alignment. The screws were detailed with the Caminade shield logo. Round-oval section fork blades and stays are fitted with cast fork ends, plug-in type with setscrew fasteners - a predecessor by more than half a century to the replaceable rear fork ends of todays state of the art racing cycles.The headtube is a single cast piece, integrating headtube and headlugs into one contiguous casting (ala later A. Singer).

The cycles were fitted with Caminade handlebar and stem, Caminade extruded rims, Caminade (Atom) hubs, Caminade saddle (aluminum railed predecessor to the Ideale Duralumin railed saddle) Stronglight 49D crankset, Duralumin (Lyotard) pedals.

The Randonneuse model was fitted with 3-speed Caminade derailleur, called "Le Rectiligne", which Pierre Caminade developed in 1933. Modeled after the 1904 Terrot Model H hub, Le Rectigline was a true "freewheel" in that gears were changed NOT by shifting a chain over a static cluster of gears, but by moving the gear cluster in and out while maintaining constant, straight chain line. Used with a double chain wheel, Caminade named his gear "Le 6 Vitesses Caminade" (6 speeds) for cyclotourists.

Below is an excerpt from August 12, 1936 issue of _Cycling_:

"New 13 pound French Road Racing Cycle

A new duralumin machine has just been produced under the name of the "Caminargent", which presents certain constructional features of interest.

The Caminargent is built up entirely with bolted lugs, no welding being employed anywhere. The tubes are octogonal in section and the bolting arrangements are carefully designed to avoid any possible weakening of the tubes, whilst the last mentioned are cork-filled at their extremities to absorb vibration, as duralumin alloys are, in their present stage of development, sometimes liable to rather rapid fatigue and molecular disintegration.

The steel employed in ordinary good class cycle tubing is tested for a shearing strain of 60 kg per sq. cm., whilst the duralumin used in the "Caminargent" will only support 42 kg. Whilst the resistance is thus less, the density of the light metal is only 2.7, as compared with 7.8 for steel. It is thus possible to double the section when employing aluminum, and as a result we have a tube with a much higher resistance - 84 kg per sq. cm., with a weight reduction of 30 percent (K.D. - sound familiar, Cannondale and Klein?).

The construction of the front fork head (K.D. fork crown) is interesting. The lower end of the steel tube (steerer) is pierced with a number of holes and the aluminum lug taking the forks is cast into this (KD. in other words, the steel steerer is cast into the aluminum fork crown integrally). The metal running into the holes forms a very solid joint. The forks themselves are in duralumin, like the rest of the machine, including handlebars and seat pillar. No plating is needed and the machine is simply polished. The weight, all on, is 6 kg for the road-racing (Bordeaux-Paris) model, and 8.9 kg for the roadster (Randonneuse). "
>>My riding impressions of this cycle are very positive. Yes, it is quite whippy, especially going up hills, but once you get into the groove and fully synergize with tis cycle, the ride is quite enjoyable. I know of only one other Caminargent in the US, and very few have survived world-wide. With that in mind, rarity dictates that putting this machine through all of its motions, on a true technical road test, would risk extinction of this great marque.

Hope you enjoyed this mini discourse on Caminade.

Ken Denny

Boston, MA

34 degrees and I'm riding a 24 pound, 1948 Sun Manx tt today - talk about contrasts!

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