Re: [CR]early, light tandems


Example: Framebuilders:Norman Taylor
From: <themaaslands@comcast.net>
To: Classicrendezvous@bikelist.org (Classic Rendezvous)
Subject: Re: [CR]early, light tandems
Date: Sun, 01 Feb 2004 17:31:13 +0000

Jan wrote:
> I still maintain that as far as useful tandems are concerned, the
> 1930s stand out. A good French cyclotouring tandem weighed 26 kg in
> 1929, had 3 speeds, just a rear rack. (I am not aware of any other
> country that produced better tandems at that point.) In 1938, you had
> 10 speeds, or even 15, front and rear racks, useful brakes, and the
> thing weighed 18 kg, which is the same as today once you outfit
> current machines with fenders, racks and lights.

YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NOT MADE AN INDEPTH STUDY OF TANDEMS. IF YOU HAD, YOU WOULD REALIZE THAT NONE OF THESE ITEMS ARE UNIQUE TO FRENCH CYCLOTOURING TANDEMS OF THE 30'S. IF ON THE OTHER HAND YOU ARE TRYING TO VALIDATE A PARTICULAR THESIS OF YOURS BECAUSE YOU HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN YOUR LATEST VBQ AND DON'T WANT TO MAKE THE CHANGES NECESSARY TO MAKE IT REFLECT REALITY, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTINUE. JUST BECAUSE YOUR SELECTED 'GOOD' FRENCH CYCLOTOURING TANDEM OF 1929 HAD 3 SPEEDS AND A REAR RACK, THIS IS NOT THE STATE OF THE WORLD AT THAT TIME. NOR IS THIS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NEEDS OF THE CYCLING PUBLIC. MORE DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN 'BETTER'. IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, PEOPLE WENT CYCLOTOURING FOR A FULL YEAR WITH NOTHING MORE THAN THE EQUIVALENT OF A HANDLEBAR BAG (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU READ THE BOOK 'ROUND THE WORLD ON A WHEEL' BY JOHN FOSTER FRASER, ONE OF THE GREAT CYCLING ADVENTURE REPORTS!) WHY WOULD YOU THEN NEED FRONT AND REAR RACKS? ON ROADS WITH NO TRAFFIC AND FIXED GEARS, WHY WOULD YOU NEED BRAKES (EVEN TODAY PEOPLE GET BY VERY WELL, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IT IS NOW CONSIDERED RECKLESS AND ILLEGAL AND THE TRAFFIC IS LIKELY AT LEAST 100 TIMES AS DENSE AS THEN)? IF YOU ARE ONLY RIDING IN YOUR LOCAL AREA OR IN THE BUILT-UP AREAS OF THE TIME (WHICH WAS THEN THE NORM) THERE WAS NO NEED FOR MULTIPLE GEARS. IN FACT, THE 1930'S CYCLOTOURING BIKES ARE MERELY ACCUMULATION OF TRIED IDEAS THAT WERE BROUGHT TOGETHER TO ANSWER THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF A VERY LIMITED GROUP OF FRENCH SPORTSMEN (AND WOMEN). A GREAT ANALOGY WOULD BE THE PIONEER MOUNTAIN BIKE BUILDERS IN MARIN COUNTY. VERY FEW NEW IDEAS WERE USED WHEN THEY BUILT THEIR FIRST MOUNTAIN BIKES IN THE 70'S AND 80'S. THIS DOES NOT HOWEVER DIMINISH THEIR IMPORTANCE IN COLLECTING THE IDEAS INTO A WORKABLE IMPLEMENT TO RESPOND TO NEWLY CREATED NEEDS: EXACTLY WHAT THE BUILDERS OF THE FRENCH CYCLOTOURING BIKES DID.


> Many features were introduced around the turn of the century or
> earlier, as Steve Maaslands pointed out, but led nowhere. Maybe World
> War I was such a horrible event in Europe that everything before was
> forgotten, and had to be rediscovered.

THE OVERSIZE TUBING AND DRAWN TUBES THAT YOU MENTIONED EARLIER BOTH DISAPPEARED IN MY OPINION BECAUSE THEY SIMPLY NO LONGER MADE ECONOMIC SENSE IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER THAT WAS BROUGHT ABOUT IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY. WHILE BEFORE, HAND-MADE PRODUCTS WERE STILL THE NORM IN MANY IF NOT MOST INDUSTRIES (INCLUDING BIKES), IT QUICKLY WAS BECOMING APPARENT THAT INDUSTRIALISATION WAS DESIRABLE ALMOST EVERYWHERE. IF YOU LOOK AT THE COST OF A BIKE IN THE 1880'S AND THEN AGAIN IN THE 1910'S, YOU WILL SEE THAT THEY WERE THE EQUIVALENT OF THE COMPUTERS OF TODAY. EVERY YEAR THEY IMPROVED AT CONTINUALLY LOWER PRICES. THIS CAME ABOUT AS OBSOLETE AND OVERLY EXPENSIVE TECHNOLOGY WAS PUSHED ASIDE IN THE FAVOR OF NEW IDEAS. IT SHOULD HOWEVER BE POINTED OUT THAT THESE TRENDS HOLD TRUE FOR THE MASS OF PRODUCTION AND NOT THOSE SPECIALIZED 'NICHE' MARKET PRODUCTS. YOUR TECHNICAL TRIAL BIKES ARE A 'NICHE' SEGMENT OF A 'NICHE' MARKET. YOUR STATEMENTS CAN BEST BE COMPARED TO SOMEBODY IN 50 YEARS FROM NOW, SAYING THAT A RICHARD SACHS, MARIPOSA, BAYLIS (INSERT THE BUILDER OF STEEL BIKES OF YOUR CHOICE HERE) REDISCOVERED OR INVENTED STEEL FRAMES SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY DID NOT FOLLOW THE FLOW OF DEVELOPMENT FOLLOWED BY THE NORM.
> The link from a 1930s Reyhand or Narcisse, via a 1948 Singer or
> Herse, via a 1960s Jack Taylor, to today's Santana et al., is very
> direct, and it shows in the bikes. (The French all knew each other's
> machines, Taylor built bikes inspired by the French, Santana imported
> Taylors before building their own.)

TAKE A REYHAND OR NARCISSE TANDEM AND COMPARE IT TO ANY NUMBER OF EARLIER TANDEMS FROM THE TEENS AND YOU WILL ALSO SEE THE DIRECT LINKS. YOU ARE THEREFORE MAKE A SELECTIVE CHOICE OF REPRESENTATIVE TANDEMS. I ON THE OTHER HAND THINK THAT IT IS THE INTENDED APPLICATION THAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN THE VARIOUS BIKES THAT YOU MENTION. CYCLOTOURING HAD A NUMBER OF BOOMS: IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, BETWEEN THE TWO WORLD WARS, IN THE 70'S AND 80'S. IN BETWEEN THESE PERIODS THERE WERE OBVIOUS PERIODS OF VIRTUALLY NO CYCLOTOURING WHATSOEVER. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE OBSERVED THE NORTH AMERICAN BIKE MARKET OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS, THEY WOULD NEED TO BE BLIND TO NOT NOTICE THAT BIKE TOURING HAS DECLINED CONSIDERABLY OVER THE LAST DECADE. IN THE 70'S AND 80'S, YOU HAD TOURING BIKES BEING OFFERED BY NUMEROUS MAKERS. THE SAME HOLDS TRUE FOR PANNIERS, CARRIERS, MUDGUARDS... FURTHERMORE THESE PRODUCTS WERE WIDELY AVAILABLE, INCLUDING IN DEPARTMENT STORES. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW A TRUE CYCLOTOURING BIKE DESIGN AT POPULAR PRICES? AN EARLY 80'S MIYATA 1000 OR ONE OF THE LESS EXPENSIVE DECLINATIONS THEREOF WOULD EASILY STAND COMPARISON TO MOST CUSTOM-MADE TOURING BIKES OF TODAY COSTING 4-5 TIMES AS MUCH. THE MARKET EXISTED FOR SUCH BIKES AT THE TIME AND THEREFORE THE BUILDERS SUPPLIED THEM.
> The earlier tandems from the turn of the century (19th to 20th)
> usually had frame tube configurations that were based more on fertile
> imagination than on rational engineering, the Pedersen being an
> exception. The track pacing machines shown in Toni Theilmeier's
> article in the last VBQ are amazing, but it is hard to see why tubes
> were arranged in the way they were. Each machine was different,
> showing that there was a lot of trial and error. By the 1930s, the
> configurations popular today had evolved. Back then, they preferred
> the triangulation with twin laterals, and it's hard to argue with the
> resulting machines. In fact, a few years back, Co-Motion offered an
> "extra-high performance" tandem in exactly that configuration, if I
> remember correctly.

I HAVE TAKEN A LOOK AT ANY NUMBER OF TANDEMS FROM THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY AND THE LARGE MAJORITY SPORT EXACTLY THE SAME FRAME DESIGNS AS THOSE POPULAR TODAY. OF COURSE THERE WILL BE SOME EXCEPTIONS AND THERE WILL ALSO BE SOME RATHER ODD SOLUTIONS TO SPECIFIC 'PROBLEMS'. THE SAME CAN BE SAID ABOUT YOUR CYCLOTOURING BIKES OF THE 30'S. EACH ONE OF THEM USED DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS. DOES THIS MEAN THAT THEY WERE NOT FULLY EVOLVED? I LOOK AT A NUMBER OF PACE TANDEMS, TRIPLETS, QUADS, QUINTS... FROM A CENTURY AGO AND SEE WHAT WOULD APPEAR TO BE ODD FRAME MEMBERS PRESENT, BUT THEN REALIZE THERE IS A LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR MANY OR ALL OF THEM. WHEN YOU HANG THE REARMOST RIDER OFF THE BACK OF A BIKE, WELL BEHIND THE REAR AXLE, AS WAS COMMON ON THESE PACERS, YOU WILL NECESSARILY HAVE DIFFERENT FORCES ACTING ON THE FRAME.

AS I WROTE BEFORE, IF YOU WANT YOUR BELOVED TECHNICAL TRIALS BIKES TO BE SPECIAL, YOU CAN DEFINITELY DEFINE CONDITIONS IN SUCH A WAY TO PROVE THIS, BUT REALITY WOULD HOWEVER SHOW THAT THEY WERE SIMPLY PROOF OF AN EVOLUTIONARY DEVOLPMENT OF TECHNOLOGY. LIKE 'COST IS NO OBJECT' COMPETITION CARS OF TODAY, WHICH ARE OFTEN SHOWCASES OF THE BEST NEW TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE, THE TRIAL BIKES WERE EQUALLY SO. GREAT, VERY INTERESTING BIKES, WORTHY OF SPECIAL STUDY AND UNDOUBTEDLY AT LEAST AN ENTIRELY DEDICATED ISSUE OF YOUR RAG. PLEASE HOWEVER REMEMBER THAT OBJECTIVE JOURNALISM GENERALLY PRESENTS ALL SIDES, WHETHER THEY AGREE WITH YOUR POINT OF VIEW OR NOT.

--
Steven (worked for 4 years for The Wall Street Journal) Maasland
Moorestown, NJ