About Nola Wilken

Cycling enthusiast and owner of Restoring Vintage Bicycles; CPA/Founder of Wilken & Company, P.C., CPAs

1976 Bicycling! Magazine

On this bitter cold snowy day in Portland, Oregon I took a nostalgia trip back to the 1970’s.  Long ago, I had a copy of this 1976 Bicycling! magazine edition but it had somehow gone missing.  I’ve been searching for another one since, and finally found a copy in good shape on eBay.  So, since cycling today (or tomorrow or the next day) is likely out of the question due to record snowfall and below freezing temperatures, it was fun to spend time perusing this mag’s fascinating pages.

The ads in vintage cycling magazines are actually as interesting (or more so) than the articles themselves.  Here’s Campagnolo making its case for the Super Record rear derailleur.  Catching my eye immediately was the “removable stop for easy disassembly” so that the derailleur can be properly serviced.  That’s a big contrast to today’s black box, unserviceable and throw away technology and one of the many reasons why I prefer vintage components.

Pricing is also interesting.  This Masi could be had for $699 from beloved Bikecology (whose mail order catalogs were legendary).  Likewise, framesets from well regarded builders were also on offer.  In today’s prices, the Masi would go for $3,675.

Here’s some book reviews up top, plus an ad for Barelli Supreme pedals.  I’ve got some of these pedals in my shop.  They are amazingly smooth, but I’m not likely to use them since I no longer ride with toe clips.

Here are some new products featured at the 1976 Cologne Bicycle Show.  Note the Shimano attempt at early indexing, as well as a strange saddle design from Sella Royal.

But the real reason I wanted this edition of Bicycling! magazine was the review of the 1976 Centurion Pro Tour – my touring bike for over 20 years.  The review sings its well deserved praise, with only a few nit picks.  I put over 40,000 miles on my model and the bike was a true friend.

Here’s my Pro Tour from an early 1980’s ride up in the San Juan Islands.

The magazine has an ad for the same front bag I used over those years, made by Eclipse.  It worked well, and I liked the simple frame which looped under the stem and supported the bag without the need for a front rack.  The map case, side pockets and easy front access were great features in the days before smart phones.  I normally stored my camera plus snacks and extra gloves up front.

Here’s a few more pages featuring ads from Mathauser (maker of oddball “finned” brake pads), Zeus, and even Chuck Harris’ mirror company (I featured Chuck in the previous blog post).

I’m looking forward to being able to get back out on the road, but it was fun to take a trip down memory lane today.  Vintage bicycles and components have a lot to offer and I’m glad to be able to share my enthusiasm.  Happy cycling!

Discovering Chuck Harris

While recently perusing my 1976 Bikelopedia compendium, authored by Fred DeLong, I began looking more closely at the illustrations, as they seemed unusual in their free-hand style, depicting a whimsical contrast to the precision of Daniel Rebour’s artistry.  Bikelopedia is a compilation of Fred Delong’s columns in Bicycling! Magazine, which first appeared in 1970.  This edition of Bikelopedia contains Fred’s informative and sometimes grumpy responses to reader inquiries appearing in Bicycling! magazine since 1970.  It also includes a few other authors who helped prepare answers to cycling technical questions of the day.  And some of the articles in this compendium were never previously published.

Studying the intro page led me to the mysterious illustrator’s name:  Chuck Harris.  As this was a name I was not previously familiar with, I took to the internet to uncover what I could.  As it turns out, Chuck Harris was a well regarded engineer, tinkerer, manufacturer and promoter of unusual gearing options, including modified derailleurs and freewheels.  He happily welded bikes together to make homemade tandems, and championed lightweight touring bikes long before the American public figured out that their American bicycle choices were unacceptably limited. He was also known as the “Mirror Man” for constructing bicycle eyeglass mirrors made from recycled and repurposed objects.  He handmade 88,000 of them before his death in 2012, among many other accomplishments, including operating the Ultra Lightweight Touring Bike Shop in various towns in Ohio over the years.  The bicycle depicted in the above drawing is one of Chuck’s own bikes.

There’s even a self portrait of Chuck on page 78 of this booklet, wherein a reader asks about where to acquire a rear view mirror.  Chuck’s company is not mentioned in the response, which seems like a bit of a slight to the hard working illustrator.  But as it turns out, Chuck himself authored these responses and was probably not allowed to mention his own company.

There are two articles about Chuck Harris in Grant Peterson’s Rivendell Reader, which he has graciously allowed access to at http://notfine.com/rivreader/.  The second article, authored by Tom Gensemer appeared in the #21 edition (year 2000) and featured a discussion of Chuck’s interesting take on derailleurs and gearing. The above photo depicts page 2 of the article.

The other Rivendell Reader article was authored by Sheldon Brown (RIP) and appeared in the #5 edition in 1994.  This article discusses how Chuck came to invent the first American derailleur, explaining that he was inspired by seeing a drawing of a Nivex derailleur in a French cyclotouring magazine in the 1940s/1950s.  According to Sheldon, Chuck’s extra long cage derailleurs were known as the “Beach Hill” models, needed by Chuck to ascend the steep hill leading to his Southern New Hampshire neighborhood.  The derailleur mounted on the chainstay and featured a low-normal design and a floating lower pulley. He also modified freewheels to get a 40 tooth option, taking an aluminum sheet, drilling out, hacksawing and sanding it to the finished product then adding it to an existing freewheel.

Chuck also invented a pedal powered lawn mower and also used pedal power to operate his shop equipment.  He was a penultimate innovator and wanted to use existing materials wherever possible.  He was clearly ahead of his time.

Chuck was also an author and wrote this article for the August 1972 edition of Bicycling! magazine.  He describes how to convert a SunTour Honor derailleur to handle more extreme gearing options, in this case a freewheel up to 34 teeth and a chainring down to 24 teeth.  He preferred a wide gear ratio, and his own bikes were equipped with his modified derailleurs and freewheels that allowed a 15-133 gear inch range.  Wow!

Interestingly, Chuck was not well known for his cycling illustrations.  So, I’m including another page here for your enjoyment.

I’d love to have one of Chuck’s derailleurs in my collection, so if any readers know if any still exist, please let me know.

More information can be found about Chuck’s interesting life at the following links:

Looking Back at Chuck Harris, Cycling Innovator

Click to access 201104_MirrorMan_Siple.pdf

The Bridgestone is Back!

 

It’s been a typical gloomy winter in Portland this year, with plenty of grey, stormy days.  Normally I ride my winter bike – a 1987 Panasonic MC7500 which I converted to a commuter bike quite a while back.  But this winter, the bike just didn’t speak to me as it has in the past, and I’ve decided to sell it and let someone else enjoy its funky delights.  I had previously stripped the Bridgestone MB-3 bike down to the frame a while back as well, as the build I did at the time also didn’t really stick.  I guess I am fickle!

So, for this iteration of the 1989 Bridgestone MB3, I decided to focus carefully on what would make the bike a keeper for me.  As I’ve aged, I find that I want lower gearing, and I’ve also come to prefer index-style rear cassettes combined with friction shifting.  For commuting and roaming weekend rides I love the silent and immediate shifting this set up offers.

Of course, that meant using some NOS Suntour shifters mounted on V-O’s thumbies, which allow you to mount any brand of shifters so you can be as creative as you like (unlike Paul’s thumbies which are brand specific).  I also used a new V-O Tourist bar, which has a nice shape without a huge amount of rise.  For this build I did not cut the bars down because I wanted a little more room in the grip area.

I also used some NOS Suntour brake levers that came complete with the original cables and special ferrules.  These brakes have reach adjustment and are spring loaded, with a comfortable cover over the lever portion.  Very nice.

Continuing on with my Suntour NOS theme I used the Suntour XC cantilevers which I had used on the original build.  The set up for these is a bit of a learning curve, as the spring tension is adjustable on only one side.  What I’ve learned is that positioning the brake arm on the adjustable side so that it matches where the other non adjustable side falls is the quickest way to get the tension on both sides to be equal.  Once properly set up the brakes are not grabby and easy to modulate.  For the rear hanger, I used a model that has an angle adjustment screw which really helps with setting up cantis and centerpulls.  It is a very short hanger, which works very well with smaller frames, allowing more cable travel from the straddle cable.  You generally need at least 20mm of travel, but I’ve got lots more than that by using this shorter hanger.

At this point, my love affair with Suntour had to end.  I had originally thought about using some NOS BL Black derailleurs that I had in my collection, but they did not work well with my chosen 8 speed 12-34 cassette.  So, I went with the excellent offerings from Shimano:  a new long cage Deore rear derailleur mated to a NOS 105 derailleur up front.  The crankset is a new V-O 46/30 double.  This gives me a gear inch range of 22-95.

The wheelset is one that I built a while back – Shimano Ultegra hubs laced to Mavic X221 rims.  I’m trying out these Schwalbe Kojak 35 mm tires, which are tread-less.  They are designed as a road tire, but with extra flat protection for commuting.  They are lightweight at 295 grams each.  And they roll very well, a bit faster and quieter than the Pasela’s I usually use for commuting duty.  So far, I really like them which is amazing as I usually have nothing good to say about Schwalbe tires.

This model Bridgestone was built with Ishiwata triple butted 4130 Cro-Mo tubes, with a Cro-Mo unicrown fork.  The frame is lugged and has a couple of degrees of slope in the top tube, enough to allow a large enough head tube for lugs in this small framed bike.  The understated (for the 80’s) black and grey paint is still in excellent condition and the bike’s logos are vibrant and intact.  There are two bottle cage mounts, as well as fender eyelets and rack mounts on the seat stays.

I decided to finally use this wooden fender set that was given to me many years ago.  I never had the right project for them so they sat unused in my fender drawer.  The normally torturous process involved in setting up fenders and racks was no less so with this bike.  The wooden fenders have an unusual stay attachment with a shouldered washer that was difficult to master.  The fenders were originally designed for 700c wheels, so I’m letting them bend into place before I cut down the projectile-like stays to the right size.  Likewise, the rear rack required a bit of problem solving as I wanted to use this classic Italian Vetta rack with its single brake bridge stay.  Unfortunately the straddle cable for the cantilever brakes landed right in the path of the brake bridge stay, so I got creative and found a way to use the bike’s seat tube rack braze-ons with this vintage rack. 

The relatively short chain stays on this bike (42.5 cm) meant that I needed to use a narrow pannier to avoid heel strikes when pedaling.  These older and very inexpensive Avenir bags came to the rescue.  Although small, they can hold more than it would seem at first glance, so I plan to use them throughout the winter, as they are also reasonably waterproof.

 

On the bike’s first test ride I had an unpleasant experience.  While riding through Mt. Tabor park, an unleashed Pitbull escaped from the off-leash area, charged toward me with bared teeth and proceeded to latch on to my ankle as I was pedaling uphill.  After kicking him off (along with various shouted expletives), the dog then went for my wrist and at this point I had to stop pedaling to avoid crashing.  Fortunately, the dog’s apologetic owner arrived on the scene and finally got the dog leashed.  Because it was a rainy day I was wearing rain booties over my shoes, plus rain tights, and thick wool socks and so thankfully I had no broken skin on my ankle or wrist, and no trip to the emergency room was required.  The bike performed very well through this emergency and I did not crash.

Is this bike a keeper?  So far I’m thrilled with the silent, stable ride, the smooth shifting, and the lower gearing for hill-climbing.  The bike looks beautiful and has already garnered compliments. Hopefully I’ve landed on a winter bike that will keep me going for the years ahead.  We’ll see!