Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ceci N'est Pas une Bicyclette: a Peek at the Brooks Two Wheel Display

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
Has anyone else noticed that mystery bike Brooks of England uses to display their wares? You know the one - It's army green and you can see glimpses of it in their catalogues and advertisements, though never enough to identify what the bike is? Turns out, Harris Cyclery now has one of these up on display. Last time I was there, they were kind enough to get it down and even let me drag it outside for some photos - extracting a promise that I wouldn't attempt to ride it.

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
Because you see, it is not a bicycle. It is a two wheel display ("Warning: Do not ride!") What makes it unridable is mainly the lack of brakes, though I suppose there might be other issues. It felt very bike-like to roll. 

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
Usually this bicycle is laden with panniers and stuff in the basket, so being able to examine it bare was quite a treat. It is an odd bike with no manufacturer markings I could find. Lugged steel frame with unicrown fork. Same colour of powdercoat as the Bella Ciao I used to have. Step-through frame, the top tube at a slightly shallower angle that the downtube. Fenders, rack and chaincase powdercoated to match. And of course Brooks saddle, grips and basket.

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
The Brooks advertising panel is painted on a thin sheet of metal and affixed between the top and down tubes. Notice that the clips holding the banner in place are part of the frame. The head lugs are unusually filigree-esque for a transport bike, but there is nothing fancy about the frame otherwise. 

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
The rear rack resembles the rack on the Bobbin Birdie

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
The chaincase looks identical to those used by Abici

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
The wire and wood Hoxton basket affixes to the handlebars via a quick-release system. 

Brooks Hoxton Basket
The leather washers on the handle are a nice touch.

Brooks '2-Wheel Display'
The obvious benefit of the Brooks "Two Wheel Display" is that it allows them to demonstrate their products on an actual bike, without associating themselves with any particular bicycle manufacturer. I do wish the bike was ridable though. In general, it would be neat if bikes with advertising panels came back into style: Local shops could use them for errands, advertising their business along the way. I still don't know what exactly the Brooks bike is, when it appeared, how many of them are out there, etc. - but it was fun to examine it up close.

43 comments:

  1. I was in Northpark mall here in Dallas yesterday and was surprised to see a number of shops had bicycles in their window displays. I believe a couple of them had the store's logo painted on them, although some were clearly just part of a "summery" window dressing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is the first BLO I've heard of that wasn't spotted at a big box store.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. at least they are honest about it...

      Delete
  3. Advertising panels are everywhere!! I'm for minimizing them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cars are everywhere. I'm for minimizing them. I am also for making cycling more acceptable and desirable in our cities. Small businesses using bikes with advertising panels to run errands is a great idea. For the business it is extremely cost effective. And it benefits the community by making biking a normal part of city life.

      Delete
    2. It's a double edged sword. This morning in my coffee shop a bicyclist appeared covered in advertising and the bike was no different. On the other hand, another person discretely handed me a card with his business....bicycle delivery....we talked and connected. That, I like.

      Delete
    3. This is subjective of course. Personally I dislike seeing aggressive corporate advertising all over a fleet of rental bikes - forcing me to promote a bank/detergent I don't like in order to ride the bike. On the other hand, I would welcome a bike advertising a local business, ridden by that business owner.

      Delete
    4. Brooks is the most distinctive saddle on the market, and I appreciate understatement on their part. Ultimately, advertising is a necessary evil....Can we make it better?

      Delete
    5. You may not like the corporate adverts but they go a way into subsidizing the bikes, the rates of which local businesses may have a hard time matching.

      It's basically a business.

      Delete
    6. I think there are several local indie businesses that now have bikes with panels displaying their "shingle"-- Redbones, for example, has their logo on a custom-fit panel affixed to their delivery bikes. And Broadway Bicycle School now has a cargo bike sporting their logo on a panel, too.

      Delete
  4. Some shop rats I know tried hopping on theirs anyway and found it to really be an unrideable "bicycle shaped object" worse than the majority of BSOs out on the floor at walmart.

    It quickly began wiggling all over the place with play in all the components, and they didn't bother dumping hours into fixing it as they found the handling awful, like it was bastardized to fit on a sales floor and be pushed around (though that could just be them hating what you love).

    It sounded like it had been a barrel of fun for them to screw around on but they didn't want to deal with the consequences of its eventual destruction if they'd continued.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't know about "worse than the majority of BSOs out on the floor at Walmart," but it is a so-so frame with somewhat awkward proportions and inexpensive components. Either way, I don't think it's fair to judge the quality of the Brooks display in bikey terms. The reason they made it so the bike could roll at all is for ease of transport across shop floors and events like Eurobike I am sure.

      My main interest in this bike was wanting to know what it was, since in catalogue pictures it did not resemble any bike I knew of. Now that I've seen it up close, it still doesn't. I am guessing Brooks had it made just for them.

      Delete
    2. I think you missed Fred's point. The first thing I would've done after reading that warning is find out why it sucks as a bike and ride it and if it could function as a bike.

      Of course it's a mannequin.

      Delete
    3. PS Walmart bikes suck but with a bit of tuning and/or parts replacement they can function as a "real" bike. I've ridden one 60 miles; my ass hurt but it was fun.

      Delete
    4. i'd be fascinated by what it was, who designed it, what informed the geometry, call me nuts if you will, but i'd feel tempted to do it to death/destruction, whack on a roller break and take it on an audax, really get to the bottom of its design, pros cons and otherwise - the lugs and tubing certainly doesnt look that wiggly, but i have a fondness for curious stuff..

      Delete
    5. @Fred Do you mean the bike poorly assembled, or was the frame itself wacky?

      Delete
  5. You sold your Bella Ciao? The one you added the Dynamo lights to?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Bella Ciao bike I put lights on was a prototype for the Superba model. I am working toward having a minimum # of bikes for personal use.

      Delete
  6. I remember seeing a much older, ridable Brooks demo bike on a visit to England a decade ago. I am sure some of your readers could provide more info.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am so amused at this because I've actually seen one of these close up, in person and I never realized that it wasn't an actual, rideable bicycle. Interesting. Now I feel like I need to go back to check it out in person (again - because apparently I'm not horribly observant at times)! Thanks for sharing the info and the pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Did you check to see if the rear hub was a coaster brake hub? Did the pedals just freewheel backward? If it had a coaster brake, then it technically should be ridable. Some bikes have coaster brakes only.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is not a coaster brake bike. Singe speed freewheel, no brakes.

      Delete
    2. It seems silly to equip a bike with real parts (cranks, BB, chain, pedals, etc), but then intentionally cripple it with a freewheel and no brakes. Why not just put a damn coaster brake hub on the bike if you've already gone so far as to make it 99% ridable? From a liability perspective, even with the warning not to ride the bike, if some idiot tried anyway and crashed because it had no brakes, there could be a serious lawsuit against Brooks and the poor indie bike shop that had the display (notice the warning is in fine print? That totally would not hold up in court). A better solution altogether would be to have a crankset that just spun around, unable to propel the bike. Then said idiot couldn't actually ride the bike if he tried.

      Delete
    3. This idiot would ride it and possibly crash it.

      It would take an idiot beyond are recognition to sue.

      That said there are a lot of them out there; it's easier than working after all.

      Delete
    4. I feel the same, poor thing. It's like having a pony and making it hold a pot plant. I would have had the irresistible urge to slowly take it round the block a time or two. Just so it didn't die a virgin! Sniff!

      Delete
  9. If it were rideable, the shops would just sell them eventually, and Brooks would lose its display. An unrideable bike stays on display, as intended, indefinitely, and doesn't get worn out and decrepit.

    Brooks is not selling bikes; it is selling bicycle accessories--expensive saddles and bags. The bike is, as someone mentioned, a mannequin. Do you complain if stores don't use live people as mannequins? Do you complain that the plastic food in sushi shop windows isn't real food, rotting away as you watch?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing is, since the bike is already 99% there, all a bike shop needs to do is re-lace the rear wheel around a coaster hub, or add a cheap $20 pair of caliper brakes and they can sell the bike as a real bike. Why Brooks went 99% of the way to a real bike is my question.

      Delete
    2. Fred said it above -- it's frame isn't rigid enough to function.

      Delete
    3. It all sounds like those abominable Ralph Lauren ads that try to make flaccid yuppie cubicle slaves imagine themselves as somewhat louche inter-war English gentry. I disagree that this is acceptable: using a "mannequin" instead of a bicycle is a good example of the general fantasy world of the corporate advertising/marketing/consumption/disappointment/do-it-again cycle. Ie, it is in general a cycle of illusion, cheating and disappointment -- not in every instance, of course, but in its general tendency; inevitable when things are made for sale and profit instead of for use and the manufacturer aim is share price instead of the good of the object made.

      It also sound so bogus and silly: why couldn't Brooks have simply powdercoated a nice old DL-1 or Sports or clone? I hate riding them, but they undoubtedly have "style" and they are historically bikes that have been heavily used for real uses.

      Delete
  10. My Berthoud saddle is made by a company that makes real bikes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are they any good? Never seen them in person. The website shows bikes are pretty different in style from their bags and saddles.

      Delete
    2. I have only seen one in person. A Swiss rider chose it as the bicycle for a start of Alaska Highway to the end of Tierra del Fuego tour.

      Much closer to a French version of a Tout or Co Motion tourer than a King of Mercia.

      Interestingly, front and back panniers were Arkel, but it did have a Berthoud Handlebar bag. Be darned if I can remember which saddle!

      Delete
    3. M.Berthoud's bicycles, bags, and saddles are all modern exampies of the French constructeur tradition. See, for example, Herse bicycles, Solour bags, and Ideale saddles.

      Delete
  11. Hi, noted: Your comment regarding the Bella Ciao.. you wrote ' you used to have...' Do you no longer have this bike? We absolutely love our Bella Ciaos which we ordered from New Zealand and picked up in Berlin. Riding all throughout this great bike city for the week we were ther, then a train to Dresden and rode our bikes from Dresden to Prague along the Elbe Valley. Great bikes for long distance & was delighted! P.S. the army green is stunning... still get head turning here in NZ when i ride this beauty!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I spotted this bike years ago and wondered what it was. Disappointing to learn that it isn't real, but thanks for the close ups!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Brooks is owned by Selle Royal of Italy, so vestigial elements of Italian bikes might not come as a surprise :-).

    ReplyDelete
  14. In Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s delivery bicycles with painted signs were a common sight. The most common were deliveries for drugstores and groceries. It waned through the 1970s and the last one I know of, an anomalous Raleigh cycle truck in a sea of Schwinns, quit delivering for a Rogers Park drugstore in the early 1980s.

    Life was different. There were a lot of retailers who sold strictly to a small neighborhood market.Travelling more than a few blocks to buy groceries would never occur to anyone. Traffic was much much lighter. A delivery took less time. There was nothing like the intrepid fearless warrior ethic of current bicycle messengers. Just get on the bike and go. Only a handful of businesses employed anyone just to make deliveries. Getting on the bike was something anyone available for a few minutes would do. The bikes sat outside the stores unlocked.

    ReplyDelete
  15. A bunch of hopeless romantics! I used to do the same thing with guitars, trying to make playable the cheapest, most busted thing that resembled a GSO.
    Let the thing be what it is, a product display appliance. There are too many bikes out there already. What we need are more riders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this looks like any-old-bike given a cosmetic makeover to use as a display stand for the company's products. Why are we so insistant that a advertising prop have the utility of the thing it resembles?

      Delete
  16. I see bikes with advertising panels used at various business's in my city. Pretty cool :)
    -kraemouse

    ReplyDelete
  17. on the brooks web sit under the hoxton basket is a question and answer which i have copied and pasted:
    Written by Sean O'Connor from usa 9/20/2009

    Q > May I ask who makes the bicycle in the photo showing the basket in situ?
    A > We had the bike made for us in Italy, but it is actually simply a display bike, without brakes, lights, etc. Similar bikes to that are produced by many of our customers including:
    Pashley from England www.pashley.co.uk
    Abici from Italy www.abici-italia.it
    Skeppshult from Sweden www.skeppshult.se
    Retrovelo from Germany www.retrovelo.de
    Sparta from Holland www.sparta.nl
    Have a look at their websites.

    hope that helps.
    Tim

    ReplyDelete
  18. This beautiful bike really should be brought into production. And pricing shouldn't be an issue. It looks far more functional than the Hermes monstrosity: http://www.industryoutsider.com/?p=3197

    ReplyDelete
  19. I own one of these bikes. The undridable part was because of the head stem and the lack of brakes. The dealer I bought it from made it ridable by adding the brakes from a Schwinn lightweight 24" girls bike and a functional stem and bars. Based on the fact that Abici is a Brooks customer and that the chainguard, fork, paint color, front fender and head lug are exactly like that on some Abici models, I sent Abici an e-mail asking if they made the bike and if so, how many did they make? They denied making it, but I suspect they had a non-disclosure agreement with Brooks.

    ReplyDelete