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  1. #1
    Senior Member GrandaddyBiker's Avatar
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    Bikes of the first TdF and today's fixie

    I came across this picture of Maurice Garin, the first Tour de France, and winner in 1903. His bike is what got my attention. It looks to be a fixed gear no brake bike, just like fixie bikes of today. Not much change in almost 110 years. Compare the bike Garin rode in the tdf with the one Eddy Merckx rode seventy years later in 1973. I see very little difference, both fixed gear no brakes. Why anyone would want to come down the side of a mountain with no brakes is beyond me. I seen a picture of a 1903 bike with brakes, so it was not that they had not been invented yet and they certainly had high quality brakes by 1973, when Merckx rode.

    I don’t really have a point here, just wanted to share some thoughts. If I had a point it would be that be that if you have a good design to start with it is hard to improve much on it.


    maurice-garin (1) by Tomas Poblete, on Flickr
    Mautice Garin 1903


    Joop Zoetemelk en Eddy Merckx schudden elkaar de hand/ Joop Zoetemelk en Eddy Merckx shaking hands by Nationaal Archief, on Flickr
    Eddy Mercky 1973

  2. #2
    Senior Member telebianchi's Avatar
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    Talk about a slack head tube angle on Garin's bike. But more to your point, I'm guessing that bike would still make for a great ride today although the steering might take a little getting used to.

    I'm guessing that Eddy's bike in that picture was only used at the velodrome for track racing. You can see that the bike leaning against the wall has brakes and gearing.

    PS: someone should have told Eddy and Joop that you always take pictures of your bike from the drive train side. Amateurs.
    May your tires or beer never be flat.

  3. #3
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Merckx is standing by a track bike. Track bikes, by definition, are fixed and brakeless. Eddy used gears, and brakes, on the road.

    There were no derailleurs when Garin was riding the TdF. To change gear for the mountains they stopped, removed their rear wheel and turned it round to use the larger sprocket on the other side. Long after derailleurs had been invented, Henri Desgrange, founder of le Tour, refused to allow their use, so TdF contenders rode fixed right into the 1930s.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by telebianchi View Post
    PS: someone should have told Eddy and Joop that you always take pictures of your bike from the drive train side. Amateurs.
    Look at Eddy's face. I think the photog just told him to turn his bike around and Eddy is telling him to go **** himself.

  5. #5
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    There are quite a few differences between the fixed gear bicycle of 1903 which is a path / road bicycle and the track bicycles Merckx used on the track, where brakes are not allowed.

    The turn of the century bicycle has extremely slack angles, a relatively low single gearing to allow for climbing and descending, and wider higher volume tyres to handle what were atrocious road conditions... the early TdF was also a solo event and the total distance and many stages of the race were longer than they are in the modern day. There was no team support and penalties were imposed on riders that cheated by getting outside help or teamed up.

    It was not long after this that the early TdF bicycle had spoon brakes and a flip flop hub that had a single speed freewheel to allow for faster descending. If you have ever ridden a bicycle with these very slack frame angles and higher volume tyres you would see how they ride and handle differently and how well they handle extremely bad terrain.

    I built up a replica of these classic fixed gear bicycles... practicality and safety dictated that I run a front brake.



    Fixed gear road bicycles remained popular among club riders into the 1950's as derailleur gearing was expensive and the most popular alternative was the internal gear hubs as the mass produced and affordable rear derailleur has only been with us for the last 60 years.

  6. #6
    cycling fanatic Ken Brown's Avatar
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    In the early days riders would often stop for a beer and cigarette along the way. Sorry, but I don't have a date for these photos.

    Tour de France 7L.jpgTour de France 9L.jpg

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Keep in mind that in Garin's day, the roads were terrible by modern standards. They weren't paved, they were dirt roads, and poorly maintained; Garin's average was less than 16 mph, so aerodynamics weren't exactly the biggest issue. Bikes needed the long wheelbase and upright position to survive those surfaces.

    Also, Desgrange was notorious for dragging his feet on advancements. E.g. he kept derailleurs and gearing out of the race for years.

    This might give you an idea of what they had to put up with....



  8. #8
    Senior Member Wizel603's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Brown View Post
    In the early days riders would often stop for a beer and cigarette along the way. Sorry, but I don't have a date for these photos.

    Tour de France 7L.jpgTour de France 9L.jpg
    Nice photos.

    Downing that much beer is sure to give those guys a spare tire around the gut. In fact, after a closer look it appears that it's already too late for them.

    As for the bottle placement, I wonder if the weight made steering more difficult. Certainly seems like a convenient location though.

  9. #9
    Senior Member GrandaddyBiker's Avatar
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    Bacciagalupe, that was an excellent video, thanks for sharing it. I watched it twice this morning and it almost made me late getting my grandson to school. One of my grandsons lives with me.

  10. #10
    cycling fanatic Ken Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wizel603 View Post
    As for the bottle placement, I wonder if the weight made steering more difficult. Certainly seems like a convenient location though.
    Riders had their water bottle holders on their handlebars until about 1960, then they went onto the downtube. I believe it was for aerodynamic reasons.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    At one point early on a great advancement was brazing on 2 footpegs, like on a motorcycle. The rider who did this then took his feet off the pedals and usd the pegs when decending. Pre freewheel of course and it seems it was a significant advantage.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  12. #12
    Senior Member SouthFLpix's Avatar
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    There were no mountains in the early TDF routes. They were added later, I think in 1909 or 1911, I forget the exact date. That's why you didn't really need brakes. Those early TDF bikes were about 25lbs, btw, still lighter than my current touring bike.

  13. #13
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    A bike like this might have been used in the '30s.

    David Beck of Crystal Lake, Illinois rode his gently restored 1933 Frejus road bike in The Dairyland Dare this year. David and his bike completed 150Km.







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  14. #14
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    A bike like this might have been used in the '30s.

    David Beck of Crystal Lake, Illinois rode his gently restored 1933 Frejus road bike in The Dairyland Dare this year. David and his bike completed 150Km.
    I'm afraid it wouldn't have been allowed in 1933. I think 1937 was the first year in which multiple gears were allowed in the Tour.

    Love the gear shifter, though.

  15. #15
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post

    Love the gear shifter, though.
    As impressive as it looks, the device is only an adjustable idler. The shifting is done manually.

    The cyclist needs to put slack in the chain by using the lever to lift the idler. The cyclist then pedals backwards (the hub has a free-wheel) and use his right hand to lift and derail the chain and shift it over to the cog he/she wants. The cyclist then re-tensions the chain with the lever attached to the idler.
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  16. #16
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    As impressive as it looks, the device is only an adjustable idler. The shifting is done manually.

    The cyclist needs to put slack in the chain by using the lever to lift the idler. The cyclist then pedals backwards (the hub has a free-wheel) and use his right hand to lift and derail the chain and shift it over to the cog he/she wants. The cyclist then re-tensions the chain with the lever attached to the idler.
    Good grief. I'd assumed it moved in a lateral arc to act as a derailleur.

  17. #17
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Could the cyclist use his heel to move the chain if his hand was manipulating the idler?
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  18. #18
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Could the cyclist use his heel to move the chain if his hand was manipulating the idler?
    Difficult to impossible.
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  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Could the cyclist use his heel to move the chain if his hand was manipulating the idler?
    there is but 1 chainring, the back end there is more than 1 cog..

    were there a spring tensioner, you can boot down to a smaller chainring..

    but this is not the case..

  20. #20
    Senior Member scotjonscot's Avatar
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    Pretty sure I saw this guy drinking a PBR last night. Hipsters.
    ars longa, vita brevis

  21. #21
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Keep in mind that in Garin's day, the roads were terrible by modern standards. They weren't paved, they were dirt roads, and poorly maintained; Garin's average was less than 16 mph, so aerodynamics weren't exactly the biggest issue. Bikes needed the long wheelbase and upright position to survive those surfaces.

    Also, Desgrange was notorious for dragging his feet on advancements. E.g. he kept derailleurs and gearing out of the race for years.

    This might give you an idea of what they had to put up with....


    hey baccia, that was fun to watch

    thanks or I guess I should say, grazie!

  22. #22
    SLJ 6/8/65-5/2/07 Walter's Avatar
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    Very cool video baccia.

    When I got back into cycling in the 90s I did it by building up a Basso with vintage Super Record. I spend nearly all my time with Ti and ergo now but I'll still ride that bike and it is still a blast.

    Alot of these guys were riding stuff that would make my late 70s early 80s vintage stuff look brand new and cutting edge.
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  23. #23
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Brown View Post
    In the early days riders would often stop for a beer and cigarette along the way. Sorry, but I don't have a date for these photos.

    Tour de France 7L.jpgTour de France 9L.jpg

    I rode this from London to the North east of England a few years back. I stopped for beer along the way too, but no cigarettes as I don't smoke. To climb the steeper hills I also flipped the rear wheel to go from an 16t freewheel to a 22t one and used my finger to move the chain from the 40t to the 32t chain wheel. The horizontal drop outs allow for take up of chain slack



    http://wheelsofchance.org/england-2009/

  24. #24
    Senior Member spacemanz's Avatar
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    Excellent video. I found it from a search for Frejus.

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