London: Cycling’s Steel City

There is a boom in cycling and there is no finer expression this than in London at the moment. A couple of hours free with the old Canon Ixus 70 and time for a bit of bike spotting.

These bikes come in all shapes and sizes: delivery bikes, tricycles maybe the odd bit of carbon fibre. By and large though this isn’t about hi-tec machinery it is about steel and old steel at that. It is about the bikes that people like me wanted as a child, bikes that were superseded by better, lighter and stronger stuff, but bikes that have now found a new lease of life.

These bikes have been stripped down, many turned into London Fixies: no gears, little in the way of brakes, some almost devoid of handlebars. For the most part they have become vivd expressions of their current keeper. Some are off the peg: made to look like bikes used to but of course never actually did. Of course there are also Boris’s bikes bringing a bit of Barcelona to London, well not really but you get the idea.

A friend recently told me that she sold her motorbike when she returned to London, there is apparently little space to park one. Unlike Exeter where I can put my motorbike pretty much where I want London is no longer motorbike-freindly.

So the trusty old peddle-iron is the functional expression, taken to work then left to sulk all day tied up to a lamppost occasionally throwing a sulk by lying down on the pavement and sometimes totally disappearing (well almost anyway).

Paolo De Giusti-900 SD Big Mono Naked

L’impostazione stilistica della Moto trova ispirazione nelle antiche realizzazioni monocilindriche Guzzi. Nel passato, prima dell’avvento del V90, Guzzi realizzò moto come la 500ss, Condor o il Falcone e sperimentò anche un monocilindrico Compresso. In questi veicoli la meccanica era organizzata lungo un asse ideale che collega il mozzo anteriore a quello posteriore; a queste suggestioni se ne aggiungono altre meno tecniche.

Or put it another way.

Inspired by the old Moto Guzzi productions single cylinder bikes’ style, designer Paolo De Giusti has designed three Naked bikes that flaunt their extra good looks and green credentials. Designed to be romantic is the “900 SD Big Mono Naked” that uses diesel/electric engines and comes in the red and the black models. It uses a single cylinder 903 cc with direct injection and turbo diesel engine that makes it ideal for fast riding.

Well I don’t know about the turbo-diesel but it is good to see this bike and it is hard to ignore the heritage of them (there is a similar electric concept).

Ghezzi Brian have been doing a good job with Guzzis for a while now but sadly I feel rather unmoved by the reported Guzzi Clubman. Pastiche is the word that comes to mind.

The bottom line is that design heritage can be drawn upon and improved upon, or it can be plundered.

Cinelli – Just because

This is ‘just because’ really, follow the link to see the bike. About £5k will get you one, I suspect I would look a tad overdressed on it though.

I’m Not in Paris for the end of Le Tour

The Tour is On and I’m Not There

The other day my after a trip to the beach where my daughter insisted on swimming fully clothed she borrowed an old T-shirt of mine bought at the final stage of the 1991 Tour de France. This was the stage where Djamolidine Abdujaparov famously crashed out. Every year since I have wanted to return to Le Tour, next year I will.

For now then a bit of a mish-mash which at some point I will re-visit this post.

First off a reminder of the end of the 1991 race.

The Colour of Cycling

Cycling World Champion Rainbow Stripes

World Colours

The cycling World Champion colours are not ones that any designer would generally place together, all a bit Play-School. That said in the world of cycling it works, don’t know why, it just does. These basic primary(ish) colours are repeated throughout the cycling world, and why not?

For the uninitiated cycle shirts aren’t just about carrying a brand. Some specific shirts have colours to denote the position of the rider within the race (or World). Whether it is the leader in the sprint race, the best climber or the overall leader there are shirts to be worn.

There seems to be some dispute over the origins of Le maillot jaune in the Tour de France. I certainly like the second suggestion.

The colour was chosen either to reflect the yellow newsprint of the organising newspaper, L’Auto, or because yellow was an unpopular colour and therefore the only one available with which a manufacturer could create jerseys at late notice. (Wiki)

Cycling World Champion shirt

Cycle Logo Design

As a youth, the Campagnolo Super Record Mech (shown) was about as good as it got, but I always preferred the look of the Record (below), which was much more ornate. However the Super Record did allow the Campagnolo logo to be seen in all its glory.

Campag Gears

Campagnolo Logo

People argue about the relative merits of the Japanese and European technology but for me it is European, in particular Italian all the way, and it’s about look and history. I ride a Dutch Gazelle with a strange mix of Campag, Sachs and 3ttt. Yes there are bits of Jap stuff in there but had I the money it would be Italian all the way, and probably steel too.

Cinelli Logo

Cinelli Logo

Colnago Logo

Colnago Logo

Merckx Logo

Merckx Logo

There is a certain purity to any of these logos. Some such as the Cinelli logo are a world apart from their predecessors, have a look here.

My friend Msr Moutard was having a bit of a whinge about the loose bottom bracket on his (Taiwanese built) Colnago earlier this week but I don’t think I would tire of seeing this logo on t’ push-iron.

(Told you it was a mish-mash).

Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King

Looks quite fun (the new Range Rover Evoque) thankfully the car isn’t in beige although as I write I am mindful of the fact that the early Range Rovers did indeed look very proper in beige.

It is with sadness though that the arrival of this new Range Rover coincides with the departure of Spen King

Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King, one of the British motor industry’s most famous, resourceful and prolific engineers, died last weekend as a result of injuries sustained in a collision between his bicycle and a van a fortnight earlier. He was 85. Autocar

If you go though you might as well leave a legacy and what a legacy Spen left.

  • Rover 2000
  • Range Rover
  • Triumph Stag
  • Triumph TR6
  • Triumph TR7
  • Rover SD1

It is easy to overlook highlights of British motoring history, I would be happy to have any of the vehicles mentioned here, yes even the TR7.

Rover have a fantastic history and the era of the Rover Gas Turbine cars perhaps encapsulate the spirit of adventure. You can hunt out the other Rover Turbine cars, the Jet is my favourite but for mow here is the T3.

John T Overlander – Form Follows Function

Design can take various forms and the often quoted “Form Follows Function” will probably always be a good start to any great design.

Recently I posted some images of the Snaefell. Personally, if the donor Laverda was on the forecourt next to the derivative I would be on two wheels every time. However I might just be found revving the engine and listening to it. This is the point where discussion could deviate to the relative aural delights of the 120° and 180° cranks, but it won’t. Suffice it to say that I am pleased that Snaefells exist

John T Overlander

John T 'n' Andrew B

At the weekend I witnessed the John T Overlander, a bespoke motorbike with a different focus, to travel around the world. John T explained to me that the bike had indeed travelled this journey, in effect 5 times.

Built for Simon Milward’s Millennium Ride the bike still continues to attract attention both for it and Motorcycle Outreach.

On first sight the Overlander is a total shed of a machine, however closer inspection reveals a huge amount of thought in particular the pannier system linked and damped with a steering damper and the dual height suspension. More of this machine can be found here.

Suffice it to say that bikes like this are never going to be things of beauty, they are things of purpose, a true expression of Form Follows Function.