Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's Always More To Learn

My brain has a tendency to store somewhat useless data. As a child I would sit down and read the Encyclopedia when bored; memorize Hardy Boys novels; accidentally imprint long monologues from Brian Jacques novels into my brain (usually sections dealing with feasts and food). It makes being a bike dork fun, because somehow, a bunch of information that I find interesting just gets stored away, and when I lest expect it, my homunculus will rummage through those cerebral filing cabinets and pull out some esoteric factoid (much to the delight, no doubt, of my conversational companions).

So, when it comes to bikes, I really like seeing new things that I just plain-old haven't been exposed to yet. Last week it was Cantiflex Tubing, used by Bates in the 1930s as a way to make oversized tubing work with conventional lugs. It's a curious little corner of frame construction.

Even more so comes from this Casati pursuit frame currently on eBay, with the photo above. The 1980s and 1990s saw revelations about the importance of aerodynamics in cycling (see, for example, 1989's Lemond v. Fignon, and some more details here) - time trial bikes got lower front ends, Greg Lemond introduced aero bars to much controversy, and disc wheels - brought to the sport by Moser's hour attempt gained more widespread use. I always enjoyed this video of a 1987 Tour de France team time trial - you can see different aerodynamic developments being employed by different teams.

But I've never seen a bike with such design as that Casati. It seems to me to be a flawed frame design, , sacrificing front end stiffness (admittedly not of paramount importance in a pursuit) for - well, I'm not exactly sure what for.

Conversations about experimental frame design almost inevitably turn toward somebody saying, "There's a reason that the double-triangle frame design has been used regularly for a hundred and fifty years." It's true - it's a good design. But there's something about all the experiments, the attempts to create something new and revolutionary, that makes the standard classic racing bicycle even more beautiful. I suppose that's part of why I love the stories behind the Hour Record - it's got experimentation, that unusual combination of engineering and athleticism, and the story ultimately forks, reigning in one element in order to let the other blossom.


  1. NOL,

    I'm enjoying catching up on your blog. It's really great to find someone who muses on the sport as much as I do! Lots of gear blogs and ride report blogs, but velosophers are harder to come by.

    I'll be tuned in. Have fun with it!

    (If you add a more prominent subscription button, it would help folks read you in a feeder -- I had to search for your link!)

  2. Thanks velosopher. Yeah, my dorkness tends to make me muse. I also started this blog in an effort to act on my desire to write more, to write better. It's working out well so far - thanks for reading! I've added a link to your blog, and I'll be reading your stuff.