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GCN Video: Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?

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GCN Video: Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?

Old 04-28-20, 10:02 PM
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GCN Video: Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?

https://www.globalcyclingnetwork.com...tour-de-france

Just watched and enjoyed this little video, and would highly recommend it! Two elite cyclists (I couldn't catch their names, but one has ridden around the world) use turn of the century bikes to complete a grueling 467km stage of the 1903 Tour de France from Paris to Leon, in 25 hours with minimal stops.

Very fun! Obviously as young chaps with little interest in classic bicycles, they were mostly disparaging of the technology (can't say I wouldn't be either if I attempted that ride) but very appreciative of the historic riders!

-Gregory
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Old 04-28-20, 10:29 PM
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Excellent program. Looked incredibly difficult.
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Old 04-28-20, 11:14 PM
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They did a great job with it. "Hank" (James) is the younger guy, Mark Beaumont (the Round the World By Bike record holder, set a couple of years ago) is the older. Beauty in the suffering, eh?
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Old 04-29-20, 12:03 AM
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Oh those tires look fresh! Hardly a crack on the sidewalls.
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Old 04-29-20, 02:23 PM
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Bowden-type brakes were not available in 1903. The road conditions were so much worse then too.

But in 1903, they rode new bikes, not bikes 100+ years old.
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Old 04-29-20, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Bowden-type brakes were not available in 1903. The road conditions were so much worse then too.

But in 1903, they rode new bikes, not bikes 100+ years old.
Yeah, having old bearings throughout, even with fresh grease, must have been the issue with James's bottom bracket. The tremendous differences in road conditions was probably mentioned a dozen times in the video...

And it sure seems like Bowden brakes were around by then, unless if this is all wrong:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowden_cable

"The Bowden Brake was launched amidst a flurry of enthusiasm in the cycle press in 1896. It consisted of a stirrup, pulled up by the cable from a handlebar mounted lever, with rubber pads acting against the rear wheel rim. At this date bicycles were fixed wheel, additional braking being offered by a 'plunger' brake pressing on the front tyre."
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Old 04-29-20, 02:48 PM
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Everything I've seen in photos suggests that few or no riders of the big road racing events at the turn of the century used brakes, and of course Maurice Garin's original winning bike is still around and doesn't seem to have been equipped with any... But apparently Bowden-cable brakes were available to be used at the time. Neither of the bikes these guys use in the video seem to perfectly resemble the mounts from 1903, but I'm sure they probably performed similarly for the purpose of the experiment!

-Gregory
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Old 04-29-20, 03:31 PM
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There should have been someone to sort the bikes out before.
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Old 04-29-20, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
There should have been someone to sort the bikes out before.
I have a feeling there was and that the guys were being rather dramatic about the "picked them up from the museum yesterday" bit. What kind of world-class riders would put up with that nonsense for such a serious endeavor? Obviously the tires were new(ish) and the grease had to be reasonably fresh. I imagine the bearings might have been the same old ones in that BB that froze up, but otherwise a combined 600 miles or so on two antiques could hardly be accomplished in a day's time if the bikes weren't maintained.
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Old 04-29-20, 05:19 PM
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I don’t understand why the bikes weren’t overhauled properly before they began
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Old 04-29-20, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
I don’t understand why the bikes weren’t overhauled properly before they began
As I mentioned above, I'm sure they were exaggerating. You can't just take century old bicycles off a museum floor and ride them 470km in a day without some sort of maintenance. Various things would be unbelievably squeaky!
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Old 04-29-20, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
Everything I've seen in photos suggests that few or no riders of the big road racing events at the turn of the century used brakes, and of course Maurice Garin's original winning bike is still around and doesn't seem to have been equipped with any... But apparently Bowden-cable brakes were available to be used at the time. Neither of the bikes these guys use in the video seem to perfectly resemble the mounts from 1903, but I'm sure they probably performed similarly for the purpose of the experiment!

-Gregory
There you go, I stand corrected. I thought it was later.

But as you also mention, all of the road bikes I have seen from the teens, 10+ years later, either have no brakes or the type that presses down on the fun tire.
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Old 04-29-20, 08:21 PM
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As noted, Bowden cable operated brakes existed in the late 1890s. However, it seems there was a lot of national peference when it came to braking systems. Bowden cables were used primarily in England. The USA favoured coaster brakes. The French seemed to prefer spoon/plunger brakes that operated on the front tyre.

There are some 1903 TdF photos showing riders with rod activated spoon/plunger brakes. There's a famous picture of 1905 TdF victor, Trousellier, with a rod activated spoon brake. The earliest TdF photo I've seen showing a Bowden cable brake is from 1909. Bowden cable caliper brakes were standard TdF equipment by the Great War.

Last edited by T-Mar; 04-29-20 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 04-29-20, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
I have a feeling there was and that the guys were being rather dramatic about the "picked them up from the museum yesterday" bit. What kind of world-class riders would put up with that nonsense for such a serious endeavor? Obviously the tires were new(ish) and the grease had to be reasonably fresh. I imagine the bearings might have been the same old ones in that BB that froze up, but otherwise a combined 600 miles or so on two antiques could hardly be accomplished in a day's time if the bikes weren't maintained.
yes, mod era mechanics that did not know traditional bottom brackets and how to set cotters properly.
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Old 04-30-20, 07:50 AM
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Awesome! Thanks for sharing it.
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