I am in need of a Maxi Tandem rear drum brake (tambour) Super Grand Tourisme, 115mm, duralumin flanges and 40 holes, in good usable condition, for the René Herse tandem featured in the next post. The steel version is not suitable, and it has 36 holes. Please do let me know if there is one available to purchase.
My wife has recently undergone major surgery for a tumour in her head and she will be unable to ride a bicycle for many months.
I am trying to get the tandem finished so that she can enjoy some gentle short rides on the back of it as she is recovering.
I would really appreciate any help or advice on where to find one of these.
It looks like this….
Photo’s courtesy Alexander March
In the early days of Pneumatic tyres there were numerous manufacturers. Often the tyres were made to fit a specific rim, which no other product would fit. For example, the tyres originally fitted to my Starley Brothers ‘Psycho’ Road Racer c.1893/4 were Starley patent tyres, and the rims were Starley rims specific to those tyres. Stiff wires which ran through the beaded edge exited through holes in the rim and a locking device held them securely in place at four positions around the circumference. Other manufacturers tyres did not fit these rims, and it was only by chance that I was able to find a modern cover to fit.
Similarly, the rims fitted to my very early pneumatic tyred safety bicycle c.1890/91 were Bartlett Clincher rims, the tyres being Bartlett patent tyres. Despite the invention of the pneumatic tyre in 1888, it was not until 1891/2 that pneumatics became really practical, as methods for easy fitting, removal and repair became more sophisticated. The Bartlett tyre, patented in 1890/1, is thought to be the very first practical detachable tyre ever made.
The tyre, as in the exceedingly rare original survivor pictured here, was of ‘beaded edge’ construction without a wire through the bead. The inner tube was of rubber impregnated canvas. When the tyre was inflated the bead was pushed securely into the edge of the rim and it was not possible for the tyre to expand beyond the size of the canvas tube. Thus the tyre was not forced off the rim as it assumed its correct shape. The large valve was one-way only, deflation not being possible except by puncture!
Tyres like this soon became obsolete, as tyre and rim manufacture improved and became standardized, and probably led to the scrapping of most very early pneumatic bicycles, which were worthless unless the rims were changed. It is a fact that very early pneumatic tyred bicycles are MUCH more rare than solid tyred safeties, for which tyres have always been available.
Similarly, many 1890′s pneumatic safeties had 30 inch front wheels, and 28 inch rears. 30 inch became largely obsolete by around 1900 leading to the demise of many of these machines too, such as those pictured below at the start of a road race in the mid nineties. Since no 30 inch covers are available, these machines are sadly no longer usable, or alternatively people have fitted a 28 inch wheel, leaving an unsightly gap below the fork crown and altered geometry.
A friend kindly gave me this publication from the Bates Tyre Company ( W. & A. Bates Ltd. ) of Leicester, dating from around 1910, which prompted this posting. Established in 1863 as manufacturers of rubber thread, they later turned to tyres around 1882, being one of the earliest makers of solid tyring for Ordinaries and later Safeties. They became quite a large company, exporting internationally, as evidenced by the copy of their poster for Japan seen below. Later they were swallowed up by Dunlop who dominated the market in the early decades of the twentieth century. I particularly like the photo demonstrating how flexible their rubber inner tubes are, being ‘..made from a mixing of the finest Brazilian Para Rubber’.
This year’s edition of Anjou Velo Vintage was an enjoyable affair, despite the weather trying its best to spoil it. Many hundreds of vintage bicycles gathered at Saumur, in the Loire Valley, for the weekend rides. There are many images of the event on the internet which capture the atmosphere far better than I could, but I’ve found no better than Romain’s fantastic photographs here. Tomoko was riding her Barra whilst I was on my 1948 Alex Singer. During the 87Km ride I glanced down at my Stronglight chain ring and saw that one of the bolts was coming undone. At the crest of the hill I stopped where a bunch of cyclists were congregated. By extraordinary chance they turned out to be Olivier Csuka ( the owner of the Alex Singer shop in Paris ) and ‘Team Singer’, all on beautiful Singer bikes, including a superb 1950 chrome tandem and Ernest Csuka’s personal bike, both illustrated in the ‘Golden Age’ book. An 8mm spanner was quickly produced and Olivier insisted on tightening the chain ring bolts for me. After many handshakes, the ‘Entente Cordiale’ was strengthened and I was on my way to complete the ride despite some vicious winds and heavy showers which necessitated hiding under a tree for a while.
Many thanks to Olivier Csuka and Team Singer!
On a recent visit to Japan Tomoko and I visited a number of bicycle related craftsmen and shops, including Toei and Grand Bois – posts coming later! First though, in a suburb of Tokyo, Shoichi Watanabe and his Wife Tomoko make the most beautiful bicycle luggage in traditional vintage style, largely based on the products of the French Sologne and Lafuma bags, but with some added detail and innovations. If you want to equip your randonneuse with the most elegant and beautifully finished handlebar bags and panniers, you won’t find any better than the products of Guu Watanabe. As well as their advertised range they will make pretty much anything to special order. At the time of our visit they were making a very complicated canvas and leather briefcase. The quality of Japanese manufactured canvas and vegetable tanned leather is first class.
As well as being great craftspeople, they were very welcoming and a pleasure to talk to. Shoichi San demonstrated to me how he does the leather binding on the edges of their bags…completely freehand, without an edge guide or feeder! Believe me, that is an incredible skill, gained from over 20 years experience. He explained to me how the supplier of his edge finishing leather strips has just closed down, so he is recommissioning an old machine in his workshop to make his own, 8 strips at a time – a very fiddly and time consuming job which he would rather not have to do!
We enjoyed seeing their neat and efficient workshop with lots of beautiful tools and machines, adapted to the purpose of making beautiful luggage. More pictures of their work can be seen on their Flickr pages here. Thank you to Shoichi San and Tomoko San for their time and for the warmth of their welcome, and for my new green canvas handlebar bag!
The word Guu (from the French ‘Goût’) means ‘in good taste’, and is fittingly applied to these fine craftspeople.
Raymond Bon was one of René Herse’s team riders. In the late 1940′s he designed the Spirax derailleur, seemingly quite a revolutionary gear. The main principle of the design was to maintain even chain tension throughout the gears.
One of the disadvantages of the Cyclo gear, as used by most touring cyclists of the period, was that chain tension was uneven, being maintained only by the long spring attached between the derailleur and a lug on the chainstay. The Cyclo also had a ‘dual’ cable arrangement which is a little tricky to set up. Bon did away with both these disadvantages in his design. The gear still moved along a rod with a helical groove, like the Cyclo, but the visible flat coiled spring returned the gear along the rod using its tension. This meant that only a single cable was needed for actuation. There was a second coiled flat spring concealed inside the metal casing, which maintained the chain tension.
It could handle a wide range of gear and chain-wheel sizes, 12 teeth at the rear and 20 teeth at the front. The lever was ‘indexed’ by virtue of a captive ball bearing clicking into the holes in the drilled washer as illustrated in the drawing by Daniel Rebour below. It was also said that the gear could handle a six speed rear block, making it possibly the first six speed gear.
It appears that the gear was available from about 1950 to 1956. Despite the theoretically sophisticated and revolutionary design, it is rarely seen fitted to bicycles of the period. You can see one on a Herse dating from 1950 on pages 156/7 of Jan Heine’s book on René Herse, and also to my Goëland below. So why was it not a great success? I can only assume that in practice it perhaps didn’t live up to expectations. At present I am having difficulty getting enough chain tension on my one!
Do any readers have recollections of this gear and can they perhaps can shed some light on its shortcomings?
Photo’s of NOS Spirax gear reproduced with the kind permission of Chris Protopapas.
Some time ago I found a wonderful and very moving film of Yves Montand singing ‘A Bicyclette’ In the lyric of this song he recalls childhood memories of cycling with friends, and their crush on Paulette, the daughter of the postman. The song is a moving recollection of the romance of a more innocent ‘golden age’ when simple pleasures were paramount and the bicycle was a catalyst for such pleasures. Times have changed but perhaps our interest in the things of the past, such as our passion for vintage bicycles, has much to do with such recollections of golden days gone by, and the stories that our bicycles have to tell. When researching the constructuer Dejouannet, I was delighted to see this song quoted in a newspaper article about Marcel Dejouannet dated 1981, the year of Montand’s performance at Olympia in Paris, referenced above.
The recent acquisition of a Dejouannet Randonneuse of the early 1950′s led me to research this very fine, but little known French ‘constructeur’.
Martial Dejouannet (d.1992) started making bicycles in Paris in the early 1940′s, and his son Marcel Dejouannet (1922-2007) joined him in 1946 to form Dejouannet Père et Fils. Father and son were both members of the Versailles Cycling Club, and Marcel was apparently a reasonable amateur racer.
Little is known about the early history of the Company and few bicycles from the early years seem to have survived. In 1959 Father and Son moved to a shop in the Place St-Jacques in Bressuire, a town in the mid west of France, in the Poitou-Charentes region. They took over the premises of an old bicycle racer, Charles Lacquehay, along with a concession for the increasingly popular Velo-Solex moped. Most of the finest bicycle makers were situated in either Paris or the Lyon/St.Etienne area, so Dejouannet was a little away from the epicentres of cycling activities but apparently grew a clientele of enthusiasts who appreciated the finer points of a quality maker of ‘made to measure’ artisan cycles.
Marcel Dejouannet’s daughter Claudine recalls that, when she was 13, her Father made a bicycle for her which had 650B wheels. The wheels were unusual in having 24 spokes arranged in groups of three, as he said this would make for a stiffer wheel. Marcel had a strict regime of exercise and diet, and in latter years followed the Taoist teachings of Stephen T.Chang, in particular the ‘Internal Exercises’ from Chang’s book ‘The Complete System of Self Healing: Internal Exercises.’ He exercised for about two hours each day. Claudine says that on a bicycle he was inexhaustible!
The majority of the archive material, such as the newspaper cuttings below, relates to the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. At this time Dejouannet was producing between 30 and 50 bicycles per year from their modest workshop in the town. Each bicycle took about 8 days to produce, and there was a waiting list of between 4 and 6 months. The articles stress the expense of the bicycles which in the late 1970′s were priced at between 7000 and 10000 Francs for a bicycle and around 12000 Frances for a tandem – Approximately 3200 to 4500 Euro, and 5500 Euro respectively by today’s standards. This prompted one journalist to remark that ‘Haute Couture’ is available on two wheels but is not within the range of everyone’s purse.’ Marcel responds that it’s not expensive in terms of satisfying a passion.
Martial and Marcel Dejouannet in the workshop in Bressuire in 1981, aged 84 and 59 respectively. Courtesy Mme F. and Mme C. Dejouannet
The titles of the articles are evocative – ‘Rayons de Luxe’ and ‘Le Couturier du Cycle’, the latter a term often applied to René Herse. Marcel said that he was reluctant to expand the business by taking on new employees, as his customers feel more confident in knowing that the boss is making the bicycle. Anyway, he says, even if he had the time to take on an apprentice ( which he didn’t ), the skills are lost and young people are not interested in such a profession. Above all anyone involved with the profession should have a passion for cycling and all that surrounds it. His customers, whether they be from Lille or Marseille were loyal, often returning to him for another machine, whilst one Charentaise family he equipped with bicycles for the whole family, including the 3 children. Another went cycle camping to Cap du Nord in Southern Africa, and three machines were sent to the United States. He says that making a bicycle takes patience, good tools, and a lot of elbow grease. It is working with the hands that gives flavour to life, he says, quoting Michelangelo.
A fine example of a Dejouannet of this period is seen below, a long distance touring machine with substantial racks made by the constructeur.
It is interesting to note the bracing of the rear rack including a strut to the Mafac brake mount, making for a very sturdy platform for luggage. It is built from Reynolds 531 tubing and is fitted with top quality French equipment of the period including Maxicar hubs, Mafac brakes, Stronglight chainset and Huret gearing.
Another example is a chrome plated machine from 1982, featuring internal cable routing for the rear brake, and also wiring for the front lighting passing through the tubes of the rack. This machine was clearly made for lighter touring than the previous bicycle, having a removable rear rack and front pannier supports for shorter distance work.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone with a Dejouannet bicycle or other historical information regarding the marque. This article is evolving and I would like to add to it as new information becomes available.
I am very grateful to Mme.Françoise and Mme.Claudine Dejouannet, Marcel’s daughters, for the archive information, and to Claude Macé and Löic Chauvin for the photographs of their lovely machines
In the early days of cycling a bell was the most common means to warn pedestrians, horse riders and carriages of the approach of a cyclist. The earliest forms were simply globe-shaped rumble bells attached to the handlebars by a leather strap. They rang continuously as the machine rattled over the roadway. Later came a bell with a sprung lever to sound it only when required. If you were riding an Ordinary (penny farthing or high bicycle) this was very necessary to ensure that the horses were prepared for this strange beast passing by, often taller than the horse. As we know, horses are highly strung, and their reaction to bicycles, particularly high ones, can be unpredictable. There were many disasters in the early days with carriages running out of control, the horses having been spooked by cyclists, and there were many serious injuries to bike riders. As reports in cycling journals and many court cases evidence, there was quite a bit of animosity between horse and carriage owners and cyclists in the early days.
There were other means of making noise for cyclists. A small bugle, often made by Henry Keat and Sons of Stoke Newington, London, was used by Clubs as a rallying call. A number of the Clubs even had their own specific bugle calls. There were various other types of pocket horns and sirens.
Then there were whistles. These were commonly kept in the top pocket of one’s jacket, attached by a chain with a T-bar through the lapel buttonhole, or sometimes with a lanyard around the neck, so they could quickly be whipped out for use. Whistles specific to cycling are now very rare. The earliest and rarest whistle here is marked ‘The Kings Own’ and T.B.L.W. The latter stood for Thomas Bowling Lamp Works, after the Joseph Lucas works in Little King Street, Birmingham. ‘The Kings Own’ was used as a trade name for Lucas TBLW lamps as well. It dates from the early to mid 1880′s. It has two holes and consequently two tones. You can hear it being blown here!.
The second is an ACME whistle with a rider on an Ordinary on each side. I’ve never been able to establish if this whistle is from the time of the high bicycle, or made later as a decorative item. Still, its a rare and lovely beast. You can hear it being blown here!
The next whistle is marked ‘The Cyclist’s Road Clearer H.A.K. & Co.’ It was made by J.Stevens and Son of London and Glasgow, and probably dates from the 1890′s. You can hear it being blown here!
The other whistles pictured here are not necessarily related to cycling but I like to imagine they were the sort of items used by early pioneers of the road. I particularly like the Acme Siren, which you can hear in operation here.