Book Review: Bicycle Design by Tony Hadland & Hans-Erhard Lessing

Rohloff Speedhub 14 courtesy of Bicycle Design, by Tony Hadland & Hans-Erhard Lessing, p. 242

I like to keep my vintage bicycle library stocked with both old and new volumes.  This book, published by MIT in 2014, caught my eye on a trip to my local Powell’s.  Bicycle Design was written by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing, the latter being a physics professor and Hadland being a Raleigh and Moulton expert and author of a number of cycling books.

This is a book dedicated to the science and design of the bicycle and its components, with an extensive discussion of historical developments and many interesting illustrations and photos.  The entire first half of the book is well worth the admission price I paid – about $35.  There is a fascinating discussion of wheel design and development which includes spoking patterns and engineering concepts.

There are so many interesting engineering designs and cycling innovations in this book that it is hard to single out notable developments.  The book is organized topically, except for the first chapter which deals with Velocipedes and their forerunners from an historical perspective. The remaining chapters address drive train, wheel engineering, braking technology, and transmission, before launching into chapters organized by accessories and applications.

One topic that can be challenging to vintage bicycle enthusiasts is an understanding of the wheel rim designs of the day.  Westwood rims are designed for brakes which will engage the rim rather than the sidewall, while Endrick rims can accommodate brakes which engage the rim sidewall.

C.M. Hanson, 1895 Clipless Pedal

One fascinating innovation described in this excellent resource is Hanson clipless pedals shown above.  At the time, various manufacturers were experimenting with shoe/pedal attachment options.  Another idea involved a magnetic shoe/pedal attachment, developed in 1897 by Henry Tudor of Boston (US patent 588,038).

Mafac, Resilion Cantis, modern cantilevers, courtesy of Bicycle Design p. 277.

This book includes discussions of most historical cycling developments.  However, the authors note their one glaring omission:  derailleurs.  Because derailleur history has been discussed by a number of other authors, that topic is given cursory treatment in Bicycle Design.  If you don’t already have a copy of this tome, I recommend adding it to your library.

JOS Vintage Head and Tail Lamps

1941 Goeland JOS original head lamp shell

1941 JOS original headlamp shell above, with replacement lamp below.

The 1941 Goeland that I have been restoring – a process involving bringing it back to its original condition as much as possible – had a JOS head and tail lamps that were incomplete.  The head lamp was missing its internal parts, with only the pretty aluminum shell remaining, while the rear lamp had still had its “guts”, but was missing the reflectors.  I was fortunate to find a replacement set recently on eBay.

JOS rear replacement lamp

And, I still have some money in my bank account!  This replacement set probably dates to the late 40’s or early 50’s.  I decided to harvest the “guts” of the replacement head lamp and put it into the original shell, which still has some of its red highlighting visible on the JOS starburst logo, as you can make out below:

Original JOS shell with red highlighting, below, replacement lamp above.

It was very easy to remove the lens and electrical internals and transfer them to the original shell:

Original shell with replacement lens and internals

JOS lamps are sought after by restorers and collectors, but I haven’t found much information about the company.

The replacement tail lamp was not an exact match.  However, the length is about right, so I will remove the old “guts” of the rear lamp, and probably not even need to drill any new holes in the fenders.

The JOS replacement lamp has some interesting markings:  Agre’e’ T.P. C 89.

The reflector is cracked, but the rest of the lamp appears fine.

I look forward to getting these replacement lamps installed and functioning, using the Radios Z 27 dynamo that is original to this Goeland, shown above.  Setting up dynamo wiring can test one’s OCD levels and related need for counseling.  Below and above is a nice and professional looking wiring job, from the original bike.

I’ll try to follow this example when I rewire the system. After that, a little mental health therapy may be in order!

Everything Isn’t Cycling

The 1985 film, Turtle Diary, and the book by Russel Hoban upon which it is based, may not be to everyone’s taste.  The film’s plot, which revolves around freeing captive sea turtles, would likely resonate much more today than it did in 1985.  However, when I viewed the film back then, one of the lines in the movie, spoken by actor Ben Kingsley to his co-star Glenda Jackson – “everything isn’t sex” – was a bit of a shock, both to the characters in the film, as well as to viewers.  The odd syntax and brutal honesty of this simple statement probably destined the film (and book) to our culture’s nether regions.

Western society focuses on extremes:  the longest ride, the highest mountains, the fastest race times.  This focus has a chilling effect on “normal” cyclists, who use their bikes for transportation, exploration, and communing with nature.  When asked by friends and other cyclists about the day’s ride, the most frequent question is “how many miles did you do?” or “what was your average speed?”.  Not “tell me about the ride” or “what wildlife did you see today?”.

Most cyclists enjoy other activities:  hiking, running, walking, birding, gardening, children, cooking, wrenching…the list goes on.  We don’t “live to ride”.  Instead, the bicycle is simply part of our daily lives.  We don’t need to do a century every weekend, nor one-up each other with tales of amazing descents and all-out sprints (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Our bicycles are an amazing tool, allowing us to explore our surroundings while invigorating our bodies and spirits.  Everything isn’t cycling.  But cycling is a transformative experience upon which many good things are based.