Subscribe in a reader

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

TerraTrike Recumbent Trike

The style of recumbent tricycles with two wheels in the front and one in the rear is called a tadpole recumbent, because like a tadpole, the big end is at the front. Here is a very low slung tadpole configured recumbent, patented in 1975, and it has the rear wheel as the drive wheel, with the chain passing alongside the seat.  The two front wheels are the steering wheels, and steering is by an underseat control. In this style of bike, the rider is way more comfortable, with no leaning forward, no saddle soreness, and no weight on his wrists. The wind resistance is also quite a bit less, which is why recumbents can be as fast or faster than upright two wheelers on flat terrain, even though they are generally heavier. A really cool tadpole trike is the TerraTrike, and they have all kinds of information on their site at WizWheelz.  A TerraTrike is shown below the 1975 tadpole.



Vintage Fuji Roadbike

Recently my 15 year old daughter has "adopted" my wife’s nice road bike, and has been doing some great rides around town on it.  So I thought I’d look for another road bike of about the same size to have a road bike available for both of the ladies in my life.  I thought I’d go check out a thrift store bike yard, because my partner Steve found a great mountain bike out there.  I went to the bike enclosure of the thrift store, and ran into Steve and his wife Jody, who were scouting for a kids bike.  We prowled around together looking for gems, and seeing mostly junk. 

Steve and Jody left with a nice kids bike, and I saw an aero brake lever on a handlebar, under a pile of nasty bikes.  I unraveled the stack of nasty bikes, and got more and more excited as I freed the bike at the bottom of the pile.  I saw a Campagnolo brake, then finally got the entire bike free to look it over.   

It was a Fuji, with double butted steel tubing, and about the right frame size for  my wife.  It  had Campy hubs, cranks, brakes, headset, shifters, bottom bracket and skewers, and Cinelli stem and bars.  The saddle was suede, and it had Shimano pedals.  Since one tire was gone, and it was pretty dirty and greasy, the lady at the gate of the bike yard put a price of $5.00 on it.  I tried not to jump for joy, paid my $5, and took the bike home to clean it up.  It was like Christmas in July, and with new tires and a little soap, the old bike looks pretty decent.  This bike was the JACKPOT!  Judging from ebay prices, any of the Campy parts would go for $75 to $125, and the whole bike might run $500+ on ebay. 





Bicycle Derailleurs

The first U.S. patent filed on bicycles was by Lallament, for his version of an improved velocipede. Like the earlier velocipedes, it was powered by crank arms and pedals attached to the front wheel. That must have made turning interesting.

Later early bikes, called velocipedes, had a large front wheel, driven by a fixed crank. Each rotation of the wheel required one rotation of the pedals, since they were rigidly connected. The wheel had to be large so that the rider could go faster without having to pedal furiously on a smaller wheel.


The tall wheel resulted in some tall crashes, and a need for a safer ride, by having smaller wheels.


A smaller wheeled bicycle was made possible by the use of gears, so that one rotation of the pedals could be converted to many rotations of the wheel. Of course, when you have one gear ratio, a very small and weak motor (the human rider), and widely varying loads (the hills, downhills, and flats of a road), you will immediately find that you need more than one gear ratio.

All kinds of attempts were made to provide variable and selectable gear ratios, as evidenced by a number of patents and products. The Sturmey Archer hub changed the gear ratio by having gears internal to the rear hub, which provided 3 speeds. This hub was popular through the 1960s for touring bikes, but not for racers. Internally geared hubs are still around for special bikes, like recumbents.


Others devices changed the size of the chain ring, and some provided multiple chain rings that were selected by a fork repositioning the chain. Of course, when you change the size of chain ring that the chain is running on, that will produce a lot of slack in the chain, which has to be dealt with.

A functional derailleur was made by Paul de Vivie of France in 1905. He published under the name Velocio, and was a proponent of bicycle touring and especially development of derailluers.  Due to his efforts, the early derailluer makers were French.  Across the channel, James Starley had leveraged his successful Rover into a megacompany, and became Raleigh bicycles.  Raleigh bought Sturmey Archer, the internal hub maker.   For this reason, Raleigh had no interest in derailluers, and shifter developments in England were limited.  One of de Vivie’s designs shifted among four gears mounted on the crank. We would call this a front derailleur in today’s terminology. He made other designs that shifted the chain in cogs on the rear whell also.  Today’s bikes use a derailleur at the front, and one at the rear, which yields a large number of gear combinations for use when riding.


Paul de Vivie and his front derailleur

The European racers were at the forefront of technology, and for a long time they chose to use a rear wheel with a chain ring on each side of the hub. One chain ring was geared for uphill, and one for downhill. When they got to the top of the mountain pass, they would remove their rear wheel, flip it over, adjust the chain, and zoom off on the downhill gear. Part of this choice of technology was caused by the rules of the established racing organizations, which precluded new technologies, such as non-wooden rims, and derailleurs. The use of multiple gears and derailleurs was also discouraged by “purists”, who viewed the need to change gears the sign of a weak or inexperienced cyclist.



Tullio Campagnolo in his Racing Days

The need of racers to remove the wheel and flip it over prompted an Italian racer, Tullio Campagnolo, to invent the quick release hub. After his racing career, Tullio founded the Campagnolo company, whose products exhibited amazing design and finish quality, and are still among the most prestigious bicycle components today.

Simplex made a functional rear derailleur in the 1930s, which was cable operated, and became a standard on road racing bikes. It used two cables, because the internal spring was not strong enough to move the cage in both directions, so one cable moved it one way, and another cable moved it the other way.


Simplex Derailleur, courtesy of Tony Hadlund

In 1946, Campagnolo made a dual-rod derailleur called the “Cambio Corsa”, which used two levers that moved the chain from chain ring to chain ring, and also moved the wheel axle back and forth to take in the chain slack. Patent figures for the Cambio Corsa are here.

Tullio Campagnolo and the “Cambio Corsa”

The first derailleur that worked by moving the chain with an articulated parallelogram, called a cage, operated by cables, was made by Campagnolo in 1949. That model used two cables.

The first single cable parallelogram derailleur was Campagnolo’s Gran Sport, made in 1951. This derailleur would be recognizable as a modern derailleur, and is very similar to current designs in 2004. Campag_2