Re: [CR]Where did the Bivalent design originate

To: (Classic Rendezvous)
Subject: Re: [CR]Where did the Bivalent design originate
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 23:12:15 +0000

Jan states about the Bivalent hubs:
> Don't you think all those concerns could have been overcome - if not
> then, at least today with so much superior technology - if the
> advantages were real? Cost - no problem for pro racers. Weight - how
> much, and I am sure you could get that down. Herse used "moyeux a
> broche" on their 7 kg bikes in the technical trials, so they must
> have been light. Reliability problems - could those be ironed out?
> Unwillingness to try something new - clearly, racers have, over time,
> tried new things when they thought it was worth while. Otherwise,
> they'd still race on Campy NR or wooden draisennes! (Or maybe Cino
> didn't pay enough to convince the riders that the hubs were worth
> trying?)

The problem is not the technology today, it is the economics. No company would now be able to get a new standard hub spacing/setup adopted and the economic interests of the various hubmakers now make this proposition impossible. This is also probably what happened back in the day as apparently the only team to use them was the Italian national team (perhaps it was only the amateur team. It should be pointed out that Cino Cinelli did not feel that team sponsorship was ever necessary and apart from the 1940's G. Cinelli amateur team in Florence, there was never a team of riders to be paid by Cinelli to use his equipment.
> I completely understand the concerns of wheel changes in racing,
> which is why smart racers and their teams agree on hand signals to
> indicate which tire is flat - front or rear (usually one hand for one
> tire, the other for the other). Motorcycles with wheels, as far as I
> know, seem to be a more recent invention than Bi-Valent hubs. And
> even those motorcycles usually carry two wheels - a front and a rear.

Ride in a team car and you would then know that hand signals, no matter how well planned, do not always work and the penalty of missing or misinterpreting a hand signal is so large that most mechanics err on the safe side and therefore still pull out both a front and rear. As far as the motorcycles go, I believe you are right about when they appeared. It should be pointed out that it was only in the mid-50's that team support like we know it now became available. That is why the riders used to carry their own spare tires wrapped around their shoulders in all the old photo.
> (Yes, I have been in races where the neutral support ran out of
> wheels, or one type of wheels. The same guys who made fun of my tire
> savers at the beginning of the race suddenly were quite interested in
> the concept!)

Double the number of wheels available and the problem of running out of one wheel type would not occur! Tire savers are a quaint idea and lovely additions to a vintage bike (I sold a number of 1950's NOS ones at le cirque), but have never been proven to be in any way noticeably effective at avoiding flats and this is why during professional races their use was rarer than rare. Far more effective and with less of a disadvantage is to use your gloved hand to wipe the tire while riding. Of course in cyclotouring this is not possible with mudguards mounted, so the tire savers then become very useful. The same in the rain.
> I wonder how serious Cinelli really was about the Bivalents, or
> whether it was more of a publicity stunt to draw attention to his
> company, which just had introduced new alloy handlebars, etc.? (Sort
> of like certain Cannondale prototypes a few years ago.) I have no
> idea, but one wonders with a product that is the answer to a question
> nobody has asked, and that nobody seems to consider all that useful
> after it is presented. (Of course, the fact that they were made in
> some, albeit apparently small, numbers seems to indicate the
> contrary, that Cinelli was at least trying to sell a few.) Maybe the
> handlebars took off, and they/he didn't have time to pursue the
> project? Without any first-hand knowledge, I can only speculate. Does
> anybody know more?

The Bivalent hubs were supposedly developed by two gentlemen: one the father of a top amateur and the other the Italian National team coach. It was not Cinelli himself who developed the idea. He was simply the person who industrialized the product. The national team coach obviously determined the idea to be worthwhile. As far as it being a publicity stunt, this is a nonsensical statement. Firstly, they were launched at the Milan show in fall 1963 when no other Cinelli product of note was launched, secondly, Cinelli was already very well known and his products highly respected. Had you been to le cirque, you could also have seen the original marketing photos that Andrea Cinelli leant to me. In these photos, you can clearly see that the original prototypes were made with three-piece Campagnolo hub shells. This fact was then retouched for the press release photos that I also had at le cirque. In the press release photos, the Cinellil name has been added and the hubs have been retouched to look like one piece all alloy hub shells. A December 1963 article in the Gazzetta dello Sport shows these exact photos. I also had a developmental photo of an exploded view of the hubs with Cino's notes on the rear, showing how the product had to be modified. All very interesting stuff.
> Also, why are Cinelli Bivalent hubs sought after by collectors around
> the globe, yet the much more innovative clipless pedals go dirt-cheap
> and hardly anybody wants them?

The M-71 pedals were first commercialized a decade after the bivalent hubs, in 1973, and were produced in huge numbers (unlike the bivalents). There must be thousands of NOS pairs still available. With such a supply, the price is bound to come way down. The price will also remain low as long as it is apparent that a ready supply is still available. Unfortunately, the pedals were launched on the market at a time when few shoes were made that could withstand the stress of the nailed and screwed in shoeplates. They therefore got a bad rap for this and the fact that the release lever is hard to reach, especially on a track bike. By the time Look came out with their pedals, the shoe soles were then sufficiently thick to accept the shoeplates. I have a set of the very first Look shoeplates that came a plate to affix inside the shoe. Look also paid attention to Cinelli's errors and made sure their product avoided these known problems. The idea of a functional clipless has always been a great idea. With both the Cinelli and Look versions being basically from the same era, it would seem that most prefer the better of the two. The bivalent hubs on the other hand are virtually unique and represent another groundbreaking idea sold by a trendsetter.

Steven Maasland
Moorestown, NJ