Posts Tagged British bicycles

Do You Like Messing Around with Bikes?

As a kid, I was always fascinated by how things worked.  A broken toaster was an invitation to explore:  I had to take it apart to figure out what made it pop.  Discarded TV sets, clocks, lawn mowers, electric mixers, and tape recorders were some of the subjects of my screwdriver autopsies.  With my knack for mechanical things, bikes were a breeze.  When I was 12, I assembled my new 3-speed right from the box.

Yes, I got my driver’s license when I was 16, and anything with an internal combustion engine had a certain allure.  But cars were too big, dirty and expensive to mess around with.  Now, a bike – I could store that in the kitchen or carry it into the basement.  I could clean the chain, disassemble and repack the bearings, or adjust the derailleurs just about anywhere.

My first real racing bike was a Gitane Tour de France, orange with chromed fork tips and stays and gaudy Mylar stickers.  That bike taught me what it means for a bike to be alive (especially compared to the Schwinn Varsity that I took on my first century ride).  Turns out those old European racing bikes from the 1970s were great all-around rides, which is partly why you see so many of them resurrected for duty around town today.

I was constantly experimenting with my gear, trading one bike for another, always searching for the “magic ride.”  I worked for awhile brazing frames at Trek, when all of their bikes were lugged steel, made in Wisconsin.  I made my way through school wrenching in bike shops, because I had a passion for bikes and a talent for fixing them.   I also loved to ride bikes, and working around them gave me the opportunity to try hundreds.  Later, when I could afford it, I began collecting lightweight racing bikes, many from the 1950s.

One thing I always wanted was a bike frame that could do just about anything on the road or a light trail.  A kind of universal bike.  About 10 years ago, I noticed that people started buying cyclo-cross bikes, but not for racing.  The extra clearance in the frames for muddy knobbies also made them suitable for fenders and puffy road tires.  Like the old racing bikes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Although a C-X bike is a lot better than a contemporary road racing bike for the riding that 99% of us do 99% of the time, it still involves some compromises.  There must be a better way, I thought.   How might a bike frame be made to work for every rider in a variety of situations?  I decided to design a frame that could be a flexible platform for any type of drivetrain and a wide variety of riding styles.  A frame that would expand a rider’s choices now or in the future.  I thought, “What if we made it modular?”  I began experimenting and made a prototype of an interchangeable dropout system that would meet the particular demands of belt drive, but could also be used with derailleur gears.

All those years of experimenting inspired me to create Speedhound Bikes.  Our patent-pending Speedhound Dropout System is a unique departure from conventional thinking.  With this system, the ONLY ONE offers a degree of flexibility not found in any other bike frame.  Now, you no longer have to settle for one type of drivetrain or brake system.  You aren’t stuck with a track frame when you decide you want gears.  Want to go low maintenance, ditch the chain and go belt drive?  Be our guest.  You pick the drivetrain you want and build your Speedhound in any configuration you like.  Cantilever brakes or calipers?  We don’t make any decisions for you.  And if you want to repurpose your Speedhound to do something completely different, the choice is yours.  If you like tinkering with bikes, you get it.  “Go Your Own Speed” is our motto and the principle we live by.  The quest for the magic ride never ends.

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Vintage Bicycle Websites

HeadbadgeWe’ve mentioned before how we’ve drawn inspiration for the Speedhound Only One from vintage lightweight bicycles.  Our choice of high performance steel and the classic diamond frame configuration are obvious connections to cycling’s enduring heritage.

We also love the understated aesthetics of bikes from 40 or more years ago, before the fluorescent color schemes of the 1980s, the billboard graphics of the 1990s and the sterile swooshes of the 21st century.  Our stamped brass headbadge, double plate fork crown and understated graphics are homages to the hand-crafted frames of an earlier time, when bicycles possessed a very soul.

 

 

 

Wall of ConfusionWe love to hunt for vintage bikes and rare old components on e-Bay and at swap meets.   But the addiction can get a bit out of control, so mostly we just look now – it’s free!  To do some of your own gazing, start with the treasure of photos and information on the following sites.

Caution:  you might get the habit!

 

 

Our Favorite Links

Where Speedhound’s rediscovery of vintage bicycles in the Internet era began: www.classicrendezvous.com

A very impressive UK resource with a true sense of history: www.classiclightweights.co.uk

Mind-blowing Swiss photo collection:  www.speedbicycles.ch

Repository for all things Hetchins:  www.hetchins.org

User submitted photo galleries of vintage lightweights:  www.wooljersey.com/gallery/main.php

Huge database of old bikes and components, including headbadges:  www.velobase.com

UK site dedicated to derailleurs (discover a connection to the 1960s supergroup, Cream):  www.disraeligears.co.uk

Excellent photography (and how to do it) featuring mostly Italian iron and mostly Colnagos:  www.raydobbins.com

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Speedhound’s Graphic Inspiration

At Speedhound, we’ve long had a passion for lightweight British bicycles from the early post-WWII era, when cars were scarce, gas supplies short, and the club riding scene flourished.  There were mass-produced brands, of course:  Armstrong, BSA, Dunelt, Hercules, Humber, Norman, Phillips, Raleigh, Rudge, and Sun, but the really special machines were from the boutique hand builders, particularly in the London area.  Some of the notables included Bates, Gillott, Ephgrave, Hetchins, Hobbs, Maclean, H.R. Morris, and Paris.  You can see some stunning examples from these and many other artisanal makers on www.classicrendezvous.com.

We have to admit that we’ve borrowed a bit of the graphical style from the bikes of  this era.  The headbadge and seat tube graphic of the ONLY ONE draw inspiration from coats of arms, which were a common theme in British commercial design.  Although the font for our downtube decal is more 1950’s Frigidaire than English script, it’s understated and elegant.  Perhaps our best muse is Hetchins, with its heroic cast metal headbadge and seat tube shield wreathed in laurel.  The photos show details of a bike in Speedhound’s collection, a 1956 Hetchins Experto Crede Vibrant in original, unrestored condition.  This old steed still rides wonderfully, a testament to the enduring quality of steel.  For more vintage eye candy, go to www.hetchins.org.

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