Monday, March 14, 2011

Component Porn... Film Noir Style

When we talk about "bike porn," all too often the attention is on the obvious stuff: the frames, the lugs, the cranksets, the handlebars. But what about the more subtle components? I know what you're thinking: I must be into some fancy, handmade, outlandish stuff. But I am really a girl of simple tastes at heart. Take, for instance, the little brass bell. Round, shiny and boisterous, I cannot get enough of these perfect little creations. All the world reflects in their polished surface, and they have seen everything your bicycle has seen. Sometimes I will be rolling along, and I catch a glimpse of the sky and trees reflected in my bicycle bell. How delightful to see my surroundings in miniature form, right on my handlebars.  

And then there is my excessive affection for the classic Sturmey Archer 3-speed trigger shifter. God, I mean look at it! Something about the shape, the font, and the overall design just says "stare at me, touch me, use me!" That little notch on the trigger so eager for me to shift gears. No other shifter has inspired such emotion within me. Am I being weird?

Although if you want weird, I will admit that I also have a thing for indicator chains. That's right:  those little bits of chain stretching from the hub. Oh how I yearn for glimpses of their jewel-like elegance - unobstructed by the horrendous plastic enclosures in which they are often housed today. Please, manufacturers: Free the indicator chains!

And I must not forget my longing for classic brake levers. I have tried to cope with standard modern ones, but how can I forsake the curves of these VO classics? The gentle tapering and the ball at the tip... A cold sleek modern lever cannot hope to offer the same tactile experience.

With all of these things now installed on the same bicycle, the overall effect is overwhelming. And it makes me realise that I am more taken with the looks of simple 3-speed components than with anything more complicated. Having a visible indicator chain on a hub is more important to me than the kind of derailleur I use, and my preference for the trigger shifter is by far more passionate than my admiration of bar-ends on roadbikes. Give me a classically outfitted 3-speed, and I will swoon with delight. What is your component porn of choice?

43 comments:

  1. Your focus on the subtle components isn't weird at all! True beauty lies in the details and you've done a great job of capturing them here. It's nice to read an article by someone as focused on the details as I am.

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  2. Living in Portland, when you mention Bike Porn I think of actual bike PORN:
    http://bikeportland.org/2007/09/19/local-filmmaker-takes-bike-porn-on-the-road-5241

    Didn't see the most recent version...did see the first and third though.

    *cough* *ahem* Anyway!

    I think that this is something that many of us also do--obsess about tiny details. To a certain extent function is the most important thing, but many beautiful things are beautiful because of how well they work, like indicator chains and bells.

    At the same time that I look forward to the day when the roads are covered in bicycles and us fetishists are in the minority, I must say that I enjoy admiring the finer points of well-made bicycles.

    Last fall a friend of ours got a Sweetpea for her birthday--a local custom bike, really fantastic. A bunch of us stood around this bike, almost afraid to touch it, and making jokes about not drooling on the bicycle. So lovely. Later the birthday girl generously let us each ride it around the block!

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  3. aprillikesbikes - There is also the fixfixfix...

    But I don't think component fetishism will disappear as bicycles become more common. After all, cars are common as dirt, and people still obsess about them and find various parts sexy.

    And I confess that no one has ridden my Royal H mixte but me : )

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  4. Ohhhhh! I got that very brass bell as a Valentine's Day present from my sweetie--so perfectly apt. I am totally with you--it is all about the details!

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  5. I love classic touring bikes and after years of daydreaming am in the process at long last of having a very beautiful bespoke lugged-steel one built for me. One of the things that has been sitting in my 'hope chest' for just such a bike as I imagined is a new-old-stock TA Zephyr triple touring cranks, rings and a pair of new-old-stock TA quill pedals. I think they are beautiful, a wonderful pairing of art and function. When I saw them for sale, years ago now, I snapped them up and have held them close ever since, for just such a build as I am doing now.

    Sometimes I feel like I found a button and am sewing a vest onto it...

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  6. Hot. I get all feisty about friction shifter levers.

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  7. My preferences for bike porn?

    Brakes:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5519822686/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5519231189/in/photostream/

    Derailleurs:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5519235625/in/photostream/

    Lights:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5519821654/in/photostream/

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  8. I found a late 40s early 50s Schwinn Collegiate 3 speed at a thrift store over the weekend, They haven't priced it yet so it's not for sale, I'm living in hope that they put a $40 price tag on it like every other old bike in the store. BUT, if they want $200 for it I'm still probably going to buy it if for no other reason than the sculptured chrome Schwinn shifter. It's got a Sturmey Archer hub but this AMAZING shifter that looks like something off the dash of a 1930 Deusenburg. The whole bike is pretty perfect but I really don't need another old Schwinn, but that shifter...

    Spindizzy

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  9. @Roff-

    "I feel like I found a button and am sewing a vest onto it"
    What a lovely turn of phrase!

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  10. Man, I need to do a photoshoot with my Raleigh. I have the older, all-metal shifter, which I also find fantastic. The brake levers as well (I just replaced the front hub with a drum brake hub, but only after making sure I wouldn't have to change brake levers), and I love the indicator chain as well. I would add to that list, the cottered cranks, and the pinched front fender. Also, the hand-painted pin-striping and lettering. Hrm... time to give Mr. Raleigh a bath and put a new roll of film in the camera :)

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  11. Brakes. Centerpulls and cantis.

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  12. I now have a Pashley Guv'nor with a three speed shifter, small gear changing chain on the Sturmey Archer hub and a lovely brass bell. I agree, Pure bike porn!

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  13. I love hubs and spokes. I guess it is the radiating pattern.
    here are a couple that I took a while back. My dad's old Specialized hubs from the mid 80s.

    here are the links.....

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26259851@N03/5358823649/in/photostream/


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26259851@N03/5359439930/

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  14. Velouria,

    If you're being weird, then most (all?) of your readers are also weird. I, for one, am glad to be a part of this collective obsession that you so ably abet. Thank you!

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  15. whoa, somervillain, I am in love with your Shogun conversion. Seriously major. Great job.

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  16. I just bought a couple Ibis bottle cages from King Cage, I polished them out like chrome, they look very sexy and curvy on my bike, they look fantastic, and hold stainless bottles perfect.

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  17. If it's film noir, you need some men in fedoras suspiciously lurking in the shadows, staking out the bikes with which they intend to execute their nefarious plans.

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  18. Dave - do you mean Iris? the one that's kind of heart-shaped? I have that one on a couple of my bikes and love it.

    somervillain - you are supposed to imagine that without it being shown explicitly : ) Who do you think fitted all those components.

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  19. I was going to mention actual "bike porn", though my sweetie April has beat me to it!

    A funny story about that--we went to see a screening and ran into two guys who were also there to see it. They thought the "bike porn" was the type you (Velouria) are referring to in this post. When we told them no, this actually involved people having sex with/around bikes, they made a hasty retreat!

    And after restoring my Raleigh, I share your ah, appreciation with classic 3-speed components.

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  20. drum brakes. For some reason they catch my eye and I just love how chunky they look.

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  21. Peppy (the amazing basket-sleeping cat)March 14, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Does top tube length matter?

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  22. I agree with Rona about drum brakes. I just picked up and laced an SA XL-FDD drum/dyno. I laced it 4 cross because I so love to see spokes crossing.

    In the same vein, I like the contrast between 40 rear and 32 front spokes that my 51 Sports has.

    Drum brakes, spokes, and chromed rims.

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  23. Opps I meant Iris (bottle cages), but a do have a Ibis titanium stem that I think is one of the most beautiful stems ever made - just gleams.
    I love looking at any older (pre 1990's) Campanolo parts - pure jewelry.

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  24. I feel like I just stepped out of the peep show in Paris. How delicious!

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  25. In addition to SA 3-speed trigger shifters & brass bells, I love vintage Suntour ratcheting thumb- and stem-shifters, original Weinmann tourist brake levers (like the VO), metal fenders, Wald 8095 tourist bars and vintage sidepull brakes. To me these parts are the holy grail of the bike world.

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  26. A trigger shifter seems like nothing compared to the close ratio S3X and a bar-end shifter...

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  27. What, no reflector obsessions?
    And sometimes I think I value a bicycle entirely for it's decals, badge and fenders.

    Plastic fenders are one thing I can't stand about most LBS stores, where they say "Oh, yeah, we can throw on some fenders if you like!"

    This is NOT the same thing as fenders born with the bicycle!

    And let's not leave off the audible delights of the gear-hubs clicking as wheels spin and the sound of chains turning backwards. Then there is the Proustian transport of the smell of new bicycle tires in a wooden floored bicycle shop on a Saturday morning.


    lol!

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  28. Early S/A Quadrant shifters make my collar too tight.
    polished brass on a black japanned frame
    (or the creamy dark green Raleigh used C. 1915-30) is just plain steamy.

    I also like the drum brakes. And chrome rims.
    Early rubber and celluloid grips, too.

    Corey K

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  29. What, no reflector obsessions?

    Oh, we've got those:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5519821654/

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  30. reflector porn...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/4040398935/

    and I wonder whether this is the same thing they're showing in Portland:
    http://brattlefilm.org/2011/04/02/bike-porn-2/

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  31. and I wonder whether this is the same thing they're showing in Portland

    Yep, it is!
    RevPhil, man behind Bike Porn, has toured extensively around the country with the films.

    If you go, tell Phil that Shawn and April said hi. ;-0

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  32. Somervillan: I love those photos, especially the one with the rear light.

    Velouria: The old Sturmey Archer trigger control is such a classic part that it has noir, retro and modern appeal all at once. That, in itself, is almost pornographic.

    Check out these derailleur photoa:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/98285469@N00/3647549405

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Huret_Jubilee_derailleur_(2248)_files/IMGP7075%2520(1)

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  33. I too agree with Rona about drum brakes, at least as long as they have large flanges - I fear I am quite a bit obsessed with high flange hubs ...

    @Velouria: I would not consider the actual SA shifter shown above a classic piece - to me in fact it is a cheapo version of the classic all-metal shifters of the past that can be seen here: http://genetics.mgh.harvard.edu/hanczyc/pdfs/satriggers.pdf .
    I eagerly await the appearance of my new Pashley Guv'nor (... and I may say that it is all your fault again that I simply HAD to buy one ... ;-)) in 24,5" within the next few hours, and one of the first things that I intend to do is to exchange the stock plastic SA shifter by a 1949 GC2 with an aluminium front plate or a 1953/56 GC3A with a brass front plate both of which had been sitting here in a box for quite some time. Those truly classic SA shifters are intended to be mounted below the handlebar, so they will be barely visible which I think is a good thing on a Guv'nor. :-)
    Other parts to be exchanged is the crank set (I am going to stay with Sugino, but will use NOS PX cranks in combination with a NOS 53 teeth TA chainwheel) the much-to-long Nitto Technomic stem (which will be replaced by a beautiful chromed steel stem (soldered) from the 1950s) and the seat post that does not allow to mount the saddle in a foreward position.
    And maybe the North Road bar will have to go later, in exchance for a stainless steel bar of german make with more drop.

    Needless to say more about bike part fetishism on my side, eh ? ;-)

    Matthias

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  34. CoreyK--now you're talking! Quadrant shifters...rrrrowww!

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  35. I think my silver bar-end friction shifters are the sexiest things ever. Not only are they gorgeous, with their smooth finish and elegant shape, but they feel so smooth and sexy!

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  36. I liked the damaged indicator chains in my childhood.... (the bicycles used to fall on them all the time).

    I just boight a vase for my wife:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/precision-steel-thrum-scissors-21946
    (unfortunately their website http://www.fahrradvase.de is broken)

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  37. mmm lovely lugs, so delightful. But the general frame of a mixte always gets my heart a-flutter too

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  38. the wind in the eyes when shooting down a street. the carousel scenery when taking a perfect curve. - all that to me beats all product details by a million. - if i would have to name one: it used to be the gazelle tour populair chain guard - recently though i developed a certain obsession with our hand polished alloy handlebars.

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  39. jens - Entirely separate categories. I like both. Your handlebars are some of the nicest I have seen.

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  40. http://www.portlandize.com/2011/03/i-love-my-bike.html

    :)

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  41. I agree with Matthias...much prefer the older chrome shifters...Velouria must be showing her age (young) or I am showing mine :P

    I love the shiny chrome bits and pieces on the classic bikes, kind of like the chrome bumpers on cars and trucks of the not too distant past, they just belong.

    I have one of those black plastic shifters on my DL-1 Tourist, it will be coming off and replaced with one of the older style.

    For those who have destroyed indicator chains (toggle chains) by having the bike fall over. Brand new Raleighs came with a little plastic cover that went on the nut on that side to protect the chain, seems to have been the first part to disappear when a bike was serviced. I have a small stash and reinstall them on most of my three speed bikes.

    Aaron

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