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The Inventor of the Bicycle

The bicycle as we know it came together from the innovations of many inventors, such as the inventor of the roller chain, and first person to put a crank on a Dandy Horse, the first person to invent pneumatic tires, and the first person to adapt ball bearings to bicycles wheels.







But enough of these features came together in one machine in 1885 to form a device we would recognize as a bicycle.  It was built by John Kemp Starley of England.  John moved to the big city, Coventry England, to work for his uncle, James Starley.  James was an inventor, and was in the sewing machine business, had perfected the penny farthing high wheel bike, and had invented the first tricycle, which was sold as the Rover.

John Starley built an improved Rover, which was a two wheeler with a chain drive on the rear wheel, equal sized wheels, diamond shaped tubular frame, tangential spokes,  ball bearings in wheels and cranks, and pneumatic tires. It was a truly modern bicycle.  The photo below is of John Starley’s Rover of 1885.  Other early bikes were Isaac Johnson’s folding frame bike, and Harmon Moise’s bike with a freewheel, both of which came after Starley’s Rover.


The Rover company also experimented with motorcycles, and also started a car company.  The Rover Motor Car Company went on to build Rover cars, which run from luxury sedans to the famous Land Rover and Range Rover.


Updating an 80’s road bike (Fuji Design Series)

I lucked into a fantastic bike about 6 years ago, a Fuji 1987 Design Series road bike.  This was their top of the line road bike, and all components were top quality Campy parts.  It fit my wife Tuckie perfectly, and was her road bike.  We went on some fun short rides, and she never did longer rides or group rides on it.  She didn’t ride it enough to get used to using the clip-in Speedplay pedals, and one time she didn’t get a good push off from a stop, and fell over onto the pavement.  She broke her fall with her hand, and ended up with a broken bone in her wrist.  This was exactly what the bike looked like, but it was not quite as pristine as this one:


The picture below shows the down tube Campy shifters.  Our bike was the same color, same saddle, same components as this bike, but the paint was not as perfect as this one.


While recuperating from the broken wrist, Tuckie rode a mountain bike with flat handlebars, and got used to having all the controls on the bars.  She never really got used to the down tube shifters, nor riding with hands on the brake hoods, as road bike riders of the 80s did.  I talked to a friend of mine who owns a bike shop, and looked at his new road bikes with flat handlebars.  They also had wide rims and heavy tires, and cost upwards of $1500.  I wanted the light weight and speed of a road bike, just with flat handlebars.  He said don’t try to convert the old road bike, as it would be a money pit, and would require a different axle and derailleurs, and I’d never find the right size parts to do the job.  I had a love for the old bike, and I wanted to try to make it work.
So my project was to make a few changes to the Fuji, to take advantage of the light frame, and nice road wheels, and keeping the Campy brakes.  The tasks were thus:

replace the drop handlebars with a flat handlebar, complete with shifters and brake levers

put on a granny gear for getting up the mile and a half long hill to our house

possibly make it indexed shifting, but I knew there was a low probability of that

I had a pair of brand new brake levers, so that was easy.  I bought a pair of Suntour thumb shifters on ebay.  With those components I put on the flat handlebars, and replaced the down tube shifters with shifter cable stops, as shown below.


The flat handlebars, with brake levers, new grips, and the Suntour thumb shifters, are shown below.


That was the easy part.  To add a granny gear, I would need a different axle with a longer end on the drive side, and a triple crankset, with pedals.  I’d also need a long reach derailleur to take up the extra chain slack when using the granny gear.  The chances of getting all these components to fit correctly was pretty small, and would likely be costly but I had two secret weapons.  First secret weapon: We have a bike co-op in Boise, the Boise Bicycle Project.  They have a good supply of bike parts, and I found an axle with sealed bearings that fit my bottom bracket, and would likely accommodate the extra gear of the triple.  We also found a long reach Suntour rear derailleur, and also a front Suntour derailleur.  It was coming together, against all odds.  The triple crankset we found is shown below, after I added a 40 tooth chain ring to replace the 48 it came with.   Cost of parts, about $50 for the axle, triple crankset, derailleurs, platform pedals, and flat bar,  $40 for the thumb shifters.  Second secret weapon: expert advice and coaching by two BBP mechanics, Yon and Michael.  Wow, those guys saved my butt every time I turned around!


So the bike came together nicely, and every thing actually works. We found that the thumb shifter had an indexed setting for a 6 speed cluster, and since the rear cassette was a 6 speed, and the Suntour rear derailleur was compatible with the Suntour index thumb shifter, we had 6 speed indexed shifting!  Awesome, and an unexpected result.  So the bike ended up looking like the picture below.  I also put on platform pedals, which Tuckie wants to use.  Now maybe we’ll get a gel saddle, and do on some rides when the weather gets better.



Mirage Chainless Recumbent Bike

Bike designs using a drive shaft were tried at the turn of the century, but never caught on as the best form of power transmission bikes.  I’m not sure why, because a lot of bikes were made with a drive shaft and bevel gears for a power train.

A Finnish company led by Tatu Lund has designed a beautiful drive shaft recumbent bike, shown below.  It has disk brakes, a wonderful feature on a recumbent, fenders , a built in pack support, and rear suspension.  As in all Finnish products, the design is a thing of beauty.  Sells in the neighborhood of $3500.


The drive shaft goes inside the frame to the gear wheel, yet the rear wheel has suspension and moves up and down.  Very impressive.  The bottom bracket is a bit lower than the seat, so stopping and starting should be much easier than on my high race.  Tatu says that the bike is designed for two demographics: those that are looking for increased speed, and those that are looking for increased comfort.  Sounds like the same demographics that all recumbents appeal to.  Mirage has 3 U.S. distributors, and if the bike rides as well as it looks, it should be a world beater!

Info about the company:

Br. Tatu Lund, CEO

MirageBikes (VAT ID: FI23497371)

+358 40 541 0900, Skype: tatu.lund

The Velocar, Charles Mochet

Charles Mochet of France first set out to build a four wheel bicycle, because his wife (just a tad overprotective, are we?) thought that bikes of the day (the 1930s) were way too dangerous for her precious baby boy.  So Charles made a little 4 wheeled car that his son could not fall off of.  However, he found that the little car was very fast, and son George was leaving the other kids on their bikes in the dust.  That observation started Charles on his next project.  The first was to make more pedal cars, and there was a mini craze over pedal cars.



From the childs pedal car, Mochet went on to improve a recumbent bike design to a world speed record setting form.

Twist Grip Shifters

Twist grip speed control started with the first motorcycle, a steam powered oddity made by Sylvester Roper in 1869.  His motorcycle was controlled by a twist grip throttle.  The twist grip for control of bicycle derailleurs was first popularized in the 1960s by the Sturmey-Archer company, famous for their internally geared hub shifters.   Other  makers followed with their own twist shifters, a notable one being the 1990 the Campagnolo twist-grip shifter below.


The Sturmey Archer Hub

A strong rival to derailluers for gear changing on bicycle was the Sturmey Archer three speed hub.   The SA Hub had internal gears, which were selected using a lever on the handle bars.  They are reliable, sturdy, and trouble free.

The Sturmey Archer hub was designed in 1902 by a schoolmaster, Henry Sturmey, and an engineer, James Archer.  Both of these men had designed earlier internally geared hubs, and were brought together by Frank Bowden, inventor of the Bowden cable in 1894, and owner of Raleigh Bicycles.  Raleigh favored use of Sturmy Archer hubs, which left the French to develop and popularize the derailleur.   The story of the development of the derailleur is told in the wonderful book “The Dancing Chain”, by Frank Berto and Daniel Rebour.

Tony Hadland has written a book on the Sturmey Archer Story that has the complete history of SA Hubs.  As usual, Sheldon Brown of Harris Cyclery has detailed information about Sturmey Archer hubs, the various models, and repairing them.



Chainless Drive Bicycle

Around the turn of the century there were a number of bicycle designs which did not use chains, but instead had a drive shaft with bevel gears.  This bicycle is from 1891 and uses four bevel gears and a drive shaft for propulsion.  This idea was later taken to motorcycles, such as the BMW shaft drive motorcycle some 50 years later.


The First Tadpole recumbent tricycle? A cool one from 1875

According to the Field:

My tricycle weighs 83 pounds, and, when loaded for a summer journey of several days, it is made to carry myself, 196 lbs, and an overcoat, spare clothes, a book, sketch book, colors, etc to the extent in all of 221 lbs.  I have always a comfortable seat to sketch in, or to rest in when I need, with great ease in driving.  Although I can put it along on level ground at the rate of 8 or 9 mph, I seldom cover more than 6 in traveling/ but the road must be very bad to reduce me to 4 mph.


Removing a Bicycle Cassette, by trikebldr

To remove a “current generation” of Shimano’s Hyperglide cassette from the freehub of a rear wheel you will need two rather specialized tools besides a 12″ adjustable wrench. First, the lock-ring that holds the cassette on the freehub has 12 internal splines, as can be seen in the first picture.

Park Tool’s #FR-1 or #FR-5G will fit this lock-ring. FR-5G has an alignment pin that makes the job of loosening the lock-ring a lot easier. Without the pin, the tool is hard to hold in place while also holding the cassette with a chain-whip. Using a quick release skewer lightly snugged up will also hold the tool in place. In the second picture you can see FR-1 on the left and FR-5G on the right. The third picture shows FR-5G in place for loosening the lock-ring.
The next tool you will need is some kind of device to hold the cassette from rotating backwards (counter-clockwise) as you loosen the lock-ring. Large ChannelLock-type pliers will not do it as they tend to bend or nick the teeth of the cogs of the cassette. An old piece of chain used with a pair of Vice-Grips will hold the cassette well enough for loosening. The best way to hold the cassette, however, is to use Park Tool’s SR-1 chain-whip, or equivalent, positioned as seen in picture four, to the left.
A 12″ adjustable wrench, a 1″ open-end or box wrench, or even a 26mm open-end or box wrench will turn the FR-5G tool to loosen the lock-ring, as seen in the fourth picture.
Holding the chain-whip, turn the adjustable wrench counter-clockwise to loosen the lock-ring. The lock-ring and the smallest cog of the cassette have serrations on their mating faces to help prevent loosening while riding, so you will hear some clicking as you loosen the ring. Once it is loose, remove the chain-whip and wrench and also the ring. It should look like picture five.
Now, simply lift the cassette off of the freehub, but be careful to hold onto the two smallest cogs of the cassette because they will not be firmly attached as the rest may be. Take special care to notice how they fit onto the cassette for replacement later. Notice how their flanges face, and how they also have a larger spline tooth and smaller groove like the rest of the cogs on the cassette. These must all line up.
Most cassettes are held together by a single screw that keeps all but the two smallest cogs together for easier handling and assembly. Some cassettes have all but those two smallest cogs rivetted to an aluminum spider, too! But, some cassettes have all of their cogs and spacers simply assembled onto the freehub’s splines one-at-a-time. Be very careful about keeping everything in order and be sure you know exactly how all of the spacers and cogs fit onto the freehub. Each spacer has two small pins that MUST fit into the correct holes of the cogs. If they don’t, they will hold two cogs just slightly too far apart and that will ruin the alignment that allows for index shifting. If you are not absolutely sure you know how all of the spacers and cogs fit together, then if they all feel loose as you try to lift the cassette off the freehub, stop and take it all to your local bike shop for servicing.
The freehub with the cassette removed should now look like picture six.
The majority of freehubs are made from hardened steel. Some road freehubs were made with aluminum spline shells to help save weight. Once the cassette is finally removed, these softer splines will usually show where the cogs have dug into the edge of the spline over time and under heavy loading. It will also make it hard to remove the cassette on these freehubs.
To replace the cassette on the freehub, just line up the large spline tooth of the cogs with the large spline groove in the hub’s shell and slide the cassette onto the hub. Be careful to get the flange of each of the last two cogs facing the wheel. Screw the lockring on and tighten it with the special tool and wrench. It doesn’t need to be “stand-on-it” tight. Park Tools lists it as needing about 260-434 in/lb. (about 21.7-36.2 ft/lb). Since the freehub’s ratchet will stop the cassette from turning clockwise as you tighten the lock-ring, you do not need the chain-whip for installation of the cassette.

Chainlines for 2 wheeled ‘bents

Not to leave the 2 wheelers out of the collection, here are some chain lines of two wheel recumbents.


Says Bruce: Stephen (tennbent) and I wanted to eliminate the inherent problems on his Optima Baron that also exist with the chainlines on a lot of mid and low racers. The picture above shows the chain crossover between idlers.


The picture above shows the revised chainline, with crossover issue resolved. First, we wanted to clear the front tire/fork, and also to eliminate any chain cross-overs. We also did some other minor chainline mods to clean up the line. I won’t go into all of the details of HOW we did this, but the pics show the results. And, it works quite well. Stephen says it quieted the whole chainline a lot.

Admittedly, the change added another small bend in the power chain line, which technically adds pedal effort, but Stephen says he can’t feel any extra effort, and most folks won’t either.  Maybe Lance Armstrong could feel it.  The extra bend is about what most trikes experience in chain line bend.  Bruce


The picture above shows one wheelbase-version of the Musashi, with chain crossover problems.
Another version of the Musashi, with chain crossover issues.