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Old 12-02-21, 07:33 AM
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Here's my favourite weird chain technology, the 1890s Simpson lever chain. I became aware of it in the 1970s, via the famous Toulouse-Lautrec poster. Originally, I thought that he had committed a faux pas and drawn the teeth on the chain, instead of the cogs and chainwheel. Only decades later did I discover that Toulouse-Lautrec was an avid cyclist who regularly attended competitions at the Paris velodromes and that his representation of the Simpson Chain was accurate.

Simpson claimed a mechanical advantage over traditional chains. The benefit reportedly came from driving at two different levels, at two different pitchs, as a result of the triangular links. The inner pins at the base of the triangle were driven by the chainwheel while the outer pins, at the peak of the triangle, drove the cog on the rear wheel.

Of course, these claims were the subject of much ridicule, Consequently, Simpson set up a series of match races for June 1896 in which he gave 10:1 odds for anybody using traditional chains that could beat his sponsored riders. The races, held at the Catford track in London, reportedly drew crowds of 12,000 to 20,000 spectators. All the eveents were distance races, preformed with pacing bicycles consisting of triplets, quadruples and quintuples (i.e three, four and five rider bicycles). Simpson prevailed but only because of the superiority of his team. The company would go bankrupt in 1898, when the bicycle boom went bust.

The poster depicts a similar 1896 event at the Vélodrome de la Seine in Paris. The Simpson chain would probably had been relegated to obscurity had it not been for this poster being produced by an artist of Toulous-Lautrec's stature. However, it merits attention beyond the artist and chain. In the back ground, upper left, is a depiction of what appears to be two bicycles with five riders on each (quintuplets). Of more interest is the solo cyclist in the foreground. It is Simpson sponsored rider Constant Huret, 1900 World Champion, and brother of André Huret, of wingnut and derailleur fame.

Last edited by T-Mar; 12-02-21 at 07:43 AM.
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