26 December 2010

The Twins: 1983 Norco folders

Allow us to introduce the Twins:

They're folding bikes! Here they are in the back of Angel's mom-mobile after she bought them back in mid-November.

The red one is Angel's, the blue one is mine, and they are practically identical. They have a Raleigh Twenty style folding mechanism (ie, a big hinge in the middle of the frame - and that's all), 20-inch white wall tires, and to our enormous surprise, Sturmey Archer 3-speed shifters and hubs. They were cheap like borscht, and look like they'll be reliable little bikes once we tune them up and add milk crates to the rear racks.

After some digging, this is what little information we have been able to find:

- Norco are a Canadian marque based in British Columbia, who started selling bikes (mostly copies or rebadged bikes from other makers) in 1964. They're best known for 1970-80s BMX-style imports and the suspension-fork mountain bikes they manufactured starting in 1993 with names like the Sasquatch and the Wolverine. Unfortunately there is very little information on their history or their older bikes online.

- A wonderful History of the Folding Bike helped us identify the frame style as a U-frame, produced in quantity by a number of European makers starting in the 1970s.

This is the only other photo we have been able to find floating around out there of a Norco folding bicycle. It turns out it's the subject of this bike forum discussion, which confirmed that it's called a U-frame.

- Another discussion of U-frame folders on the same forum yields this nugget from user LittlePixel:
It's one of a slew of similar 'U' frame [as they are wont to be described] designs that enveloped Europe in the late seventies/early eighties that were cheaper to make than their earlier more sturdy cousins by Puch, Raleigh, Dawes. I don't know the name as a lot of these kind of frames were pretty generic and perhaps not even a Peugeot design at all. They can be fun bikes (my sister had a non-pug one named a 'Marathon' as her first real bike aged about 10) but most people in these forums would not consider them beyond occasional or light use as the position of the fold and single downtube without extra strengthening can make for a slighty flexy ride.
(Emphasis mine.) Meh, we can live with that.

- A discussion of U-frame folders on Bikehugger tells us that the Phillips Folda was a U-frame. Since Phillips was a TI-owned marque, that could explain why our bikes have Sturmey Archer parts. This recent discussion at The Raleigh Twenty confirms that TI sold U-frame folding bicycles starting in 1984 - and their History page indicates they started calling it the Compact in 1987. And photos in Flikr's Foldr vintage-folding-bike pool show Raleigh-badged, Raleigh-badged and Hercules-badged U-frames with similar curved rear stays and rack as our Norcos - along with Italian-made Cinzia, Graziella, TicTac and Bianchi Aquiletta (which has a 3-speed SA hub). More about Cinzia's folding bicycle can be found here

- Back to that bike forum, someone asked a question about a Norco 3-speed folder that's marked Made In Italy.

What we know from careful examination of the bicycles:

The stainless-steel fenders are stamped INOX.
The brake calipers and levers are stamped WEINMANN.

The shape of the brazed-on rack and rear stays is fairly unique.
Interesting Y-shape in the chainwheel. Cottered cranks. Stainless steel chainguard.
Aluminum kickstand on blue bike is marked Made In Italy; red bike is missing its kickstand. 

Italian-made AMBROSIO rims with SUPERGA SPORT 20 x 1.75 nylon whitewall tires.

The saddle is stamped on the painted underside of its metal pan:

The headtube is stamped SIGUR BREVETTATO. 
Brevettato is a word associated with adjustable handlebars.
The top of the ring is stamped OMEGA, and the lever is marked SIGUR BREV.

The lever on the folding mechanism (seen here from the front when not folded) 
is also marked SIGUR BREV.

Folded. Those are the three-speed and brake cables.

ITM stamp in triangle on top of handlebars. (ITM Italia are still a component manufacturer.)

NORCO decals on headtube (above) and U-tube (below).

Made In Italy decal and sales decal from The Sports Stop, Edson, Alberta on the seat tube.

COMPACT decal on rear stay.

Front hub marked IMB.

Rear Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hubs stamped 83 2 (red, shown) and 83 3 (blue, not shown).

Plastic 3-speed Sturmey-Archer shifter

Union pedals.

Both bikes are missing the axle nut on this side of the rear wheel for some reason,
but otherwise need very little work.

Can anyone tell us more about these bikes? Does anyone know which Italian manufacturers Norco was working with?

Update: It appears that (Illinois company) KTC's Hyda Bike was made by the same Italian manufacturer, and sometimes has the Cinzia's star-shaped chainwheel and sometimes the Y chainwheel seen above. Here are links to one on eBay, two with the Y chainwheel on IBikeDB, and one with the star chainwheel on a blog.

12 December 2010

Gift Ideas for Bicyclists

In no particular order, here are some things we're coveting for Christmas.
We thought we'd post them in case anyone is looking for last-minute ideas at all price points -
although it's possibly too late for shipping from the online vendors in time for the holidays,
maybe your favourite LBS carries them or something similar.

The Pageant Queen Reflective Sash from Aussie e-tailer CycleStyle
(did they airbrush out the model's belly button?)

Angel is obsessed lately with owls (ob.sessed!) , so she'd wear her sash over this t-shirt,

or maybe this one from Threadless.

We LOVE the genius Pinko buttons & magnets from Toronto-based Spacing magazine 
(in response to hockey commentator Don Cherry's ridiculous diatribe last week).

Mr. Cherry needs to evolve (it's a sticker or magnet).

An uber-pretty sterling silver bicycle necklace by Rachel Pfeffer (Etsy's luckyduct shop)

There's also no shortage of vintage sterling bicycle charms and other jewelry out there on eBay and Etsy; we especially love this bracelet that reminds us of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters logo.

A proper winter helmet. This one is the women's Bern Brighton with hunter knit liner.
(I think it may be the exact one Miss Sarah uses, come to think of it.)

For when the weather warms up, Bird Industries' brilliant skirt garter to keep our skirts in place.

A cargo bike or bakfiets of some kind for kid-hauling with ease. This one is the Nihola Cigar, which has a detachable rain cover, so all it would need for winterization is some fleece blankets for the kids.

More vintage bicycle photography for Deb's fabulous collection
but if you search on "bicycle" and "photo" you'll find many lovely snapshots 
and photo postcards for US$5-$20 each).

Screenprinted bike art posters (this one is by Etsy's Eggplant Elephant - LOVE).

So what's on your wish list?

31 October 2010

Antique Cycle Chic: part 2

After months of watch-listing, I have finally added to my collection of antique real photo postcards (or RPPCs) showing stylish women on their bicycles, which I wrote about previously.

I love RPPCs because they weren't mass produced (Our site stats show the last Antique Cycle Chic post has had hundreds of pageviews, so I guess I'm not alone!). RPPCs are actual photos of real people (that is, usually not models), printed onto postcard backing papers or stamped after printing with postcard markings, and the cameras that were used to take them very quickly became standard studio equipment and soon after were sold to the general public. This means they're unique historical documents, with only a handful of copies in existence, and they often show objects or events that were of interest to the subject, photographer, and recipient of the postcard - but not necessarily to anyone else. They're also relatively inexpensive to collect.

{By the way, I'm no expert. I haven't taken photography classes or learnt about the history of photography myself, so if anyone wants to add some information in the comments about to help contextualize RPPCs or describe the type of prints they were for people with those interests I'd really appreciate it!}

I already have great black-and-white or sepia portraits that show off womens' outfits and bicycles with skirtguards to best advantage, so I've concentrated on rounding out my collection with group shots, which are somewhat harder to find, and hand-tinted RPPCs, which were mostly studio portraits - not always true-to-life, with their painted backdrops and weird props, but great for showing the fine details of clothing.

(Temporary note: These images were screen-captured and cropped from the auction images on eBay after I purchased the items, so I could share them with you right away. As my items arrive in the mail, I'll edit this post to replace the images with higher-resolution scans, and add close-ups and more information gleaned from the backs of the cards.)

Detail of RPPC addressed to Miss E. Roberts of St. Clements, and postmarked Oxford (England) August 8th, 1905. The ladies are seen at a distance, but you can pick out straw boaters, puffed sleeves, ankle-length skirts, and bicycles with front rod brakes. This must have been a beautiful ride, as the photograph shows the most idyllic setting imaginable; that house behind them is the only one visible on the whole treed lane, which takes up most of the photo's foreground.

France, 1910s RPPC, postally unused. Long scarf on hat, long striped skirt, puffy sleeves, very Edwardian - this is pretty similar to a lot of the images in my previous antique cycle chic post. I wonder how many of the women in studio shots from this period are actually just using the bike as a prop? I can't imagine she really would have ridden a bicycle with a double top bar, no matter how covetable we now think it is.

1900-1920 RPPC, postally unused, in the French Fantasy style, with printed labels in French and German on the back. The red tint is gorgeous, isn't it? This sailor-suit type cycling costume seems to have been fairly popular, and her hairdo and lace-up boots suggest this was taken before 1920. Does anyone know if that's a culotte-style split skirt that would have been worn with this? Also notice the front rod brake, pale tires, and the placement of the bell on the head tube instead of atop the handlebars.
(Update: the vendor who sold me this RPPC is now selling reprints of it if anyone else wants a copy! Mine is the original though. =P)

This RPPC is from a Parisian studio and stamped in Dutch, "Happy Birthday". The vendor says it was postally used in 1926 (so stay tuned for more details from the message on the back). She has a sailor-suit too, and it does look like a split skirt here, but she's wearing it with a cloche, bobbed marcel-waved hair, and covetable t-strap heels. I do wish we could see more of her netted skirtguard. His outfit has the high-waisted dress slacks that you see all the actors wearing in pre-1950s movies, a shirt with cufflinks, a medium-width tie, and a newsboy cap that would do Yehuda Moon proud.

French Fantasy RPPC postally used in 1909 and stamped in French. Love the drop-bar bike with the huge chainwheel, and isn't he dashing in his newsboy cap, a tweed jacket, and cycling knickers? Maybe his moustache can inspire some of our friends who are fundraising for prostate cancer for the Movember campaign.

Circa 1910-20 RPPC, postally unused. The writing translates literally from Dutch as, "my kindnesses" (yes, I know, Google Translate has its limits). This stylish outfit would be so easy to replicate today: oxford shoes, accordion-pleated skirt, white button-up shirt, narrow tie, and a beret or tam with a pompom on top. The hat's the only part that looks dated, really - isn't that amazing? Her step-through frame with front rod brake, lamp bracket, and netted skirtguard are swoonworthy, too. Maybe someone can identify it based on the unique chainwheel and headbadge shape.

Update: that last one is actually part of a set of four found with another eBay vendor! So maybe she is a model, and these ones were printed as larger editions:

Printed in France, mailed from Bilbao to Lisbon, Portugal at the end of December 1927. He has quite a fine tweed suit, and her oxfords and teal dress are really divine! Why weren't any of the dropped bars wrapped back then? Google Translate confirms the note is written in Portuguese; on the front it introduces Yoana (Joanne would be the English version of the name) and her travelling companion, and on the back:

...that is a rather torrid love letter to the girl in the teal dress! "Good (priminsa) eve, a happy new year darling, prosperity and fortunes and the burning desire to press you see desired (untranslatable) and give you lots of kisses - Maria my queen" ...Wow. {Update: apparently Google Translate really sucks. See the translation below provided by Zizzo B by email. Thank you Zizzo!}

The seller didn't provide any information to date this RPPC, but the back is stamped "Fotografija K Audze, Viesite", which Google Translate says is Latvian for Photo Stand K - and Wikipedia has an entry for the town of Viesite. So these gorgeous girls and their beautiful bicycles with knitted skirtguards are probably from Latvia. I think their dresses and frame purses date them to the late thirties or early forties, don't you?

RPPCs seem to have fallen from favour around the time of the Second World War, so any later images I have are just regular photographs...

1940s snapshot, somewhere in the United States. They're riding rented tandem bicycles! The sign on the balloon-tire tandem with the springer fork reads, "...KE Attic / ... & BICYCLE STORE / 9702 - 51 AVE".  Their outfits look perfect for the cool weather we're having now: boiled-wool jackets, leather gloves, berets, and skirts with opaque tights - and a cosy knit cardigan and dress slacks with a lovely drape to them on the lady in the rear with her feet in the air. If those are cross-shaped brooches, perhaps they're from a church group, about to embark on a delightful outing.

Pre-1950 8.5" x 11" ACME wire photo (ie, it was part of a newspaper archive's collection) taken in Palm Beach, Florida. Halter tops, t-shirts, and short shorts: classic fifties cheesecake.

15 Nov 2010 Update: the typewritten caption glued to the back of the photo reads:
Four young misses discuss "shoes and ships and ceiling wax" --- and cocoanuts and bicycles under a cocoanut tree in Palm Beach, Fla. 
I think the writer meant coconuts and sealing wax, yes? The headbadge of the cruiser with the handlebar toolbag identifies it as an American Flyer; I can't read the other headbadge even using a magnifying glass.

Late 1940s or early 1950s, somewhere in the United States. The flip side of the snapshot reads, "Eeeegads it's Gracie". Check out Gracie's sweet balloon-tire cruiser! I think it might be a Rollfast. Penny loafers, bobby socks, rolled-up pedal pushers or jeans, thin belt, and a crew-neck t-shirt... she's wearing an early variant of every teenager's uniform for the next half-century.

I'm totally going to let these photos inform my everyday personal style. Clearly I need to go out and get myself a pair of t-strap dancers' heels, black-and-white oxfords, a beret, and an accordion-pleated skirt - and I'm still dying for a set of skirt guards. What about you? Do you see ideas here that you'll use for your everyday wardrobe or your next tweed ride?

18 October 2010

Trudy Got An Upgrade

Remember the 1972 Phillips step-through that I had dubbed Mary Poppins' Little Sister?

She's finally gotten some much-needed love. I got her back from RedBike today.

Those are Cheng Shin 26 x 1-3/8 nylon tires that I scored on eBay from a guy who was offloading parts he hadn't used from a fixie conversion, a period double kickstand, the Canadian Tire Everyday saddle that had been on Mary Poppins (as a more-comfortable stopgap until I can get a Brooks), and a Nantucket Bike Basket Co. wicker basket and giant chrome ding-dong bell from RedBike.

In the not-too-distant future she'll also get a BoBike Junior child seat installed on her, and Dom will ride in the back while Audrey rides her own bike to school.

We'd been thinking of her as Ms. Phillips, but with the white tires and all that shiny chrome, I decided that she needs a 1960s stewardess' name. So she's now Ms. Trudy Phillips (after the author of a famous kiss-and-tell book).

Now that it's safe to do so, I took her for a quick spin around the block. She's a Raleigh-built three-speed. The lowest gear is ridiculously low and will only get used on the steepest of hills; second gear (big jump) feels like the third gear on the five-speed I had as a teenager; and third gear feels like the fourth gear on my old five-speed. This steel-frame bike will never go as fast as that five-speed... well, maybe if I'm headed down a steep hill. Also: hand brakes! I realized tonight that I have missed having hand brakes.

Can't wait to do a longer ride on her!

17 October 2010

Everything Looks Better With Bicycles

It seems like I have been seeing bicycles in every second magazine I open.
Okay, I get that bikes are being treated as this year's must-have accessory, 
but I think it's more than that: tastemakers have discovered that 
everything looks cooler when it's photographed with a bicycle.

Ironic dust-collecting sculptures of wild animals.
{The otherwise covetable apartment of editor Kevin Sharkey 
in the September 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.}

Ridiculously unwearable floor-length skirts.
(Love the cloche though!)
{Promotional email sent 13 Oct 2010 by Anthropologie.}

Huge padded eighties-style shoulders.
{Jean-Paul Gaultier via Fashionising, from July 2010}

{Saks Fifth Avenue print ad campaign from Sept 2010 via Benepe's Bike Blog}

Shorts as office wear.
{Anna Kendrick in ELLE's October 2010 issue.}

Beauty is a state of mind, but please buy our skin cream.
{Marcelle cosmetics print advertisement in ELLE Canada, March 2009}

Seventies-style chunky-heeled boots and a Relic toque on a hyper-skinny model.
Of course, this bike is a vintage Raleigh-built Robin Hood,
so it naturally has the power to make things alluring enough to make out with.
{Print advertisement is from the October 2010 issue of In Style.}

Wait, the guy you were just snogging with has a bike with rod brakes and a double top bar?
Is that a Brooks B-33 saddle?
...Carry on, then.
{Print advertisement from ELLE Canada, September 2010}

...Powerless to resist ...the allure of ....vintage rod brakes
...combined with mothering instincts
...must ...buy ...cashmere ...scarves