Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

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Samuel D
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Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Samuel D » 7 Aug 2019, 1:48pm

You might have noticed that I’m interested in how bicycle technology has evolved and why. I’ve enjoyed books that give insight into the technology of their day and the concerns of cyclists then. Examples from my bookshelf:

Sharp, A. 1896: Bicycles & Tricycles
Urry, F. J. 1956: Salute to Cycling
Watson, R. and Gray, M. 1978: The Penguin Book of the Bicycle
Berto, F. 1988: Bicycling Magazine’s Complete Guide to Upgrading your Bike
Oliver, T. 1990: Touring Bikes
Van der Plas, R. 1991: Bicycle Technology

Not all of these were designed to cover the technology trends of their day, but they do anyway.

From about 1990, the internet (including Google Groups) did a reasonable job of covering trends, at least if you spend hundreds of hours searching for old content as I have done.

You can see my problem, though. I’m missing the first half of the 20th century. Who recorded it in such a way that I might glimpse the arc of progress from my distant perspective here in 2019? I’m particularly interested in books from about 1910 to about 1970.

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Patrickpioneer
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Patrickpioneer » 7 Aug 2019, 1:52pm

Have you searched archive.org?

Brucey
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Brucey » 7 Aug 2019, 2:10pm

As well as obvious sources like catalogues, I would suggest that you seek out introductory books on cycling/cycle maintenance which are produced in each decade. These are, if you like, a pretty good mirror of what has been popular in the years before publication. Even more telling is comparing later editions with earlier ones; omissions/additions may reflect more recent trends.

One of the first books on cycling that I read was published in 1964 and there had been several previous editions. Being a generalist book it mentioned the more exotic 'lightweight' bikes and parts but dwelt mostly on the bread and butter stuff.

cheers
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Samuel D
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Samuel D » 7 Aug 2019, 2:14pm

Patrickpioneer wrote:Have you searched archive.org?

I have not. I’ve never had much luck searching that archive (except for old web pages for which I already have the URL).

I’m hoping someone here can point me to books that encapsulate the technology culture at the time of their publication, so that I can get an idea of the main concerns cyclists (and consequently manufacturers) had in each decade of the last century.

For example, Frank Berto’s Complete Guide to Upgrading your Bike was obsessed to a degree that seems amusing today with gram-counting, precise gear ratios, and braking and shifting performance as defined by cable pull ratios and the like. It did not concern itself in the slightest with the aerodynamics of the machine, whereas today that is the main thrust of development by Specialized, Trek, etc. Clearly road cyclists in 1988 thought differently than today’s cyclists about their bicycles.

Samuel D
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Samuel D » 7 Aug 2019, 2:15pm

Brucey wrote:One of the first books on cycling that I read was published in 1964 and there had been several previous editions. Being a generalist book it mentioned the more exotic 'lightweight' bikes and parts but dwelt mostly on the bread and butter stuff.

Do you recall the title?

pwu
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby pwu » 7 Aug 2019, 2:38pm

When did square taper appear and how long did it take for cotter pin cranks to disappear?
If 8 speed cassettes have existed since 1992 why are 7 speed freewheels still a thing?

Brucey
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Brucey » 7 Aug 2019, 2:39pm

Samuel D wrote:
Brucey wrote:One of the first books on cycling that I read was published in 1964 and there had been several previous editions. Being a generalist book it mentioned the more exotic 'lightweight' bikes and parts but dwelt mostly on the bread and butter stuff.

Do you recall the title?


Sorry, I don't. If it comes to me I'll post it.

Samuel D wrote: For example, Frank Berto’s Complete Guide to Upgrading your Bike was obsessed to a degree that seems amusing today with gram-counting, precise gear ratios, and braking and shifting performance as defined by cable pull ratios and the like. It did not concern itself in the slightest with the aerodynamics of the machine, whereas today that is the main thrust of development by Specialized, Trek, etc. Clearly road cyclists in 1988 thought differently than today’s cyclists about their bicycles.


Well the slant of the content was implicit in the title of the book, wasn't it? Its about upgrading. You didn't buy an aero frame or an aero groupset? Too bad, its too late now, the die is cast. Also the book (and the magazine Berto edited at the time) was only peripherally involved in competitive cycling so efficency might be of interest, but absolute speed via upgrades, less so perhaps. The average reader's bike then (and now) would contribute less than ~10% of the total aero drag, less than that if any luggage was being carried.

In the 1980s you could buy plenty of aero equipment and those who were keen on getting the last few tenths out of their time trial machines did so; aero tubesets, aero groupsets, aero rims, aero spokes.... it could all be had, at a price both monetary and in terms of weight; few of the aero parts were as lightweight as their standard equivalents and few of them were quite as functional either.

The difference now is that you can have a significant aero benefit (amounting to 1-2% of the total aero drag....big whup....) by using more aero parts and there is more choice and less compromise when you do so..... The bike magazines are full of stuff about this because (in the simplest terms) they don't have anything better to write about, and pushing whatever the 'latest thing' in the industry is suits bike magazines very well, because it keeps the advertisers happy.

cheers
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NUKe
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby NUKe » 7 Aug 2019, 2:41pm

Richard ballentines Bicycle book is good source
As is the Sheldon Brown website
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Brucey
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Brucey » 7 Aug 2019, 2:42pm

pwu wrote:When did square taper appear and how long did it take for cotter pin cranks to disappear?
If 8 speed cassettes have existed since 1992 why are 7 speed freewheels still a thing?


-square taper predates WWII
- cotter pins still have not quite disappeared
- 7s freewheels exist because they are cheaper than cassette hubs, and 3x7 gears is plenty for most people.

cheers
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pedalsheep
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby pedalsheep » 7 Aug 2019, 3:04pm

If you can find a copy of 'Every Cyclists Handbook' by F H Camm published by Newnes in 1936 it covers absolutely everything from bike mechanics to building the perfect bike shed. Brilliant book!
'Why cycling for joy is not the most popular pastime on earth is still a mystery to me.'
Frank J Urry, Salute to Cycling, 1956.

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Tigerbiten
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Tigerbiten » 7 Aug 2019, 3:10pm

I thought a quick search in Project Gutenberg may bring up something.
Hope this helps for early stuff.
The Modern Bicycle and Its Accessories, cica 1898.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/58444/5 ... 8444-h.htm

Luck .......... :D

Ugly
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Ugly » 7 Aug 2019, 3:55pm

Veteran-Cycle Club library is a good source of catalogues and much else. This used to be open to all, with certain restrictions, but is now members only. Membership is well worth the nine magazines every year plus access to the library.

brynpoeth
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby brynpoeth » 7 Aug 2019, 8:56pm

Books in French? Or German?

It would be interesting to compare developments in different countries, did changes spread? Were inventions patented? Why are 14-speed hubs only made by one firm? Were there cul-de-sacs, things that did not catch on, or have not yet?
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mattsccm
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby mattsccm » 8 Aug 2019, 7:19am

I like the last idea. I am off to start another thread!

Samuel D
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Re: Books that reveal historic technology trends in cycling

Postby Samuel D » 8 Aug 2019, 9:47am

Brucey wrote:The average reader's bike then (and now) would contribute less than ~10% of the total aero drag, less than that if any luggage was being carried.

The studies I’ve seen show bicycle drag to be typically at least 20% of the total, which leaves slightly more scope for improvement by aerodynamic tweaks.

Brucey wrote:The difference now is that you can have a significant aero benefit (amounting to 1-2% of the total aero drag....big whup....) by using more aero parts and there is more choice and less compromise when you do so..... The bike magazines are full of stuff about this because (in the simplest terms) they don't have anything better to write about, and pushing whatever the 'latest thing' in the industry is suits bike magazines very well, because it keeps the advertisers happy.

Sure, and I can recognise that quite easily today. I have a feel for the 90s too. The 80s get a little murkier and I know the American scene better than the British via Jobst Brandt and company. The 60s are a different age inhabited by a slightly different breed of human. And for the 30s I have no real notion of what preoccupied the minds of performance cyclists.

pedalsheep wrote:If you can find a copy of 'Every Cyclists Handbook' by F H Camm published by Newnes in 1936 it covers absolutely everything from bike mechanics to building the perfect bike shed. Brilliant book!

Thanks. That looks promising and copies are available on AbeBooks.

brynpoeth wrote:Books in French? Or German?

Any suggestions?