If you've been trying to place an order for an olive drab Orpington rando bag in our webstore, you were likely disappointed to find they were out of stock. Well, you're in luck... they're now back in stock. In fact, we've replenished our supplies and all bags and colors are now available just in time for the holidays. Also, we have gift certificates available on our homepage and in our web store.
This is the weekend the Mud Larks descend upon Ironweed's hometown for the cyclocross extravaganza known as Jingle Cross. Jingle Cross has grown into an impressive event over the past ten years, and we're proud to host it here in the sleepy little hamlet of Iowa City! Cyclocross is an exciting sport that attracts a community of spirited competitors and fun-loving fans, If you're in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by Jingle Cross and enjoy the festivities.
Meanwhile, I've dug up another British Pathé newsreel short for you to enjoy. The subject of this film is the 1967 British Cyclocross Championships in Birmingham.
In the 1980s, while on tour in Europe, I passed through Lyon, France. Lyon is considered by many to be the culinary capital of France. It is where the Rhône and the Saône rivers converge. Lyon is also home to the Henri Malartre transportation museum, which I thought might prove worthy of a visit.
After a brief visit to the court house where Nazi war criminal Claus Barbie was being tried, I made my way to the Malartre museum. Just north of the City Center and built around the remnants of a 15th century castle, the museum was rambling and quiet. As should be expected <sigh>, most of of the floor space was inhabited by motor vehicles – cars and motorbikes – including Hitler's armored Mercedes. But they also had an impressive array of bicycles.
It was at the Malartre that I learned of randonneuring and a little of the history of what the French call “cyclotouring”. I saw 50-year-old touring bicycles and tandems built by Lyon’s own Paul Charrel. These were not crude, antiquated machines, but brilliantly constructed and detailed bicycles. I remember staring up at a Charrel tandem and feeling a bit like an orphan that just bumped into the grandfather I never knew I had!
At that moment, gazing in slack-jawed youthful wonderment at the gorgeous Charrel rando tandem, two things occurred to me. First and most obvious was that travel by bicycle with panniers, handlebar bag and all the accouterments had a history that predated WWII. Second was the realization that these bicycles – 40 or 50 years old at the time – looked contemporary and familiar. Actually, they looked superior to contemporary bikes. The design, materials, and some components from that era were still valid. Not something you could say about many things from the 1930s and 40s. I could have taken a Charrel down from the wall, loaded it with gear, and ridden off down the Rhone River Valley and not sacrificed a pedal stroke in comfort or performance.
I took something I learned from my experience at the Malartre museum 25 years ago. You see, unlike in the realm of racing, when it comes to traveling by bicycles the technological advancements in materials and components are less important. The static state of equipment for bicycle travel is oddly reassuring to me. Knowing I could take that Charrel off the museum wall and tour with it today gives me great comfort.
Despite being longer of limb than the average human (6'6"), I am nonetheless captivated by the small and cute when it comes to bicycles. Don’t get me wrong, I like any size bike, really, but I find the small-wheeled version intriguing. Perhaps it's precisely because I‘m too tall (and truthfully, too heavy) to ride such a bike that makes them so damn fascinating!
I also love vintage, and the 60s and 70s were the heyday for these small-wheeled bicycles. Perhaps the success of the of early 60's British-made Moulton that triggered the teeny tiny bike craze. But whatever the reason, bicycle manufacturers of that era started cranking out these miniature marvels.
I have a couple of the mini velos in my collection and I do ride them. The Raleigh RSW and a Moulton "F" frame from 1964. I've made some modifications to the RSW such as adding a longer seat post and creating an extension for the stem. The Moulton, however, can actually be adjusted to work for me without modifications and it's pretty comfortable. But I worry that I'm too heavy, particularly for the rear fork, well known for failure.
Below is a random assortment of the offerings from that era. Several of the pics were borrowed from a blog entitled Mini Velo Vintage. The others are from the Embacher Collection. Both of these websites are worth a visit.