> It's striking how different the geometries of 1930's road bikes like
> the Legnano currently on eBay
> http://s211.photobucket.com/albums/bb148/cazpiroz/?action=view&curre nt=001.jpg
> are from modern bicycles. What was gained - and what was lost - in the ch ange?
I've posted a couple profile photos of a late 1940s English touring bike that goes to a bit of extreme along the lines -- just some additional illustration of an extreme.
The bike actually has a good story behind it, as well, pieced together primarily by Nigel Land. It's an Elswick, as the chainwheel indicates, with a transfer on the seat tube reading "MODEL SITA SPECIAL." Not terribly light, but not gaspipe. Black paint with red lining. Serial number on the right side, top of the seat post: G37056. Nigel's Elswick-Hopper dating system places that as a 1949 build. And the Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub is 1948 numbered.
The seller said this was is father's bike, purchased in England between WWII and the Korean War. Adding a bit of fun: 1951 license plate from Claremont, I believe the Southern California city that's home of the Claremont Colleges. Doesn't have the fancy seat support of the Legnano; the original owner had wrapped some tape 'round the top tube and used some twined bailing wire to steady the nose of the saddle!
Turns out Elswick struck a deal after World War II with the Student International Travel Association, or SITA. Here's what Nigel wrote me when we were on the subject:
"From an article in Cycling 23rd April 1958 Elswick-Hopper were "concerned over new rules that Purchase Tax may no t be reclaimable on bicycles bought for temporary use in the UK prior to export and could cause the loss of a £2,000 American order from SITA Worl d Travel Inc. The order is for 225 light roadsters for students' organised tours of Europe - all to be eventually exported. But 30% tax may make them shop in Germany even though they have been dealing with E-H for 10 years."
"Lincolnshire Star of 18th April 1958: ..."cycles are not covered by certai n provisions of the Finance Act of 1946 which allows remission of purchase ta x on mechanically propelled vehicles acquired for temporary use in the UK. SITA worried that Purcahse Tax would be 33 1/3%."
"So a genuine Elswick SITA Special in original finish, so please don't repaint! (Dan, inserting: Not a chance!) E-H evidently started supplying bicycles to SITA in 1948 and judging from yours they were indeed a special model as there is no evidence of a sloping top tube in any catalogues of th at era. I suppose it was to make them look a little racy and thus more appeali ng to American students."
"It explains how it got to the States as the deal seems to have been that t he students had the bikes shipped home after their vacation, presumably included in the cost. As mentioned before export sales were very important after WW2 and so such a deal would be encouraged by the government, especially for $ sales."
The bike now lives down in the UC Davis collection....
Davis CA USA