This would be a cool book just for the photos, with top-level racing bikes over a 100 year period from 1894 to 1994 (plus one from 1880). But what took it to that next level is the inclusion of geometry numbers and weights.
For example, sticking to road bikes as opposed to track bikes (or tandems or mountain bikes):
- 1880 Cycles Barret high-wheeler: 11.7 kg, 25 mm trail, 115-135 mm adjustable crank length. (and you thought the Ruegamer VF cranks were new...).
On to "conventional" bikes:
- 1894 Humber: 12.5 kg, sloping top tube, 62 deg head tube, 64 deg seat tube, 60 mm rake, 130 mm trail, 167.5 mm crank.
The next bike reallly shocked me.
- 1910 Labor "Tour de France": 13.3 kg, 170 mm cranks, 67.5 deg seat tube, 79 mm fork rake, 53 mm trail, 67.5 mm head tube, "Lefty" fork, right-only chain-stay and seat stay.
Amazing! Left fork plus one-sided only stays (for increased stiffness). Boardman's Lotus Superbike, I'd thought, was the first bike with one-sided stays, and of course Cannondale gets credit for the "Lefty" fork. Maybe a "righty" fork is still untested .
Derailleurs were first allowed in the Tour in the late '30's. Curious fact: it took awhile for spring-loaded tensioners to catch on, as the riders thought they reduced transmission efficiency until Coppi showed this probably not the case when he thrashed the competition on his Simplex rear derailleur. Oscar Egg, former racer at the time, developed the first popular rear derailleur for the bikes he built, which worked like a modern front derailleur (of course positioned on the bottom part of the chain line) with an adjustable chain tensioner behind the crank. A separate lever controlled the tensioner, so that the chain wasn't loose, but there was no spring maintaining the tension. Cool design.
The chain tensioner from Gino Bartoli's 1949 bike:
- 1939 Oscar Egg: 9.9 kg, 165 mm cranks, 72 deg seat tube, 71 deg head tube, 68 mm trail, 45 mm fork rake, 700C tubular wheels with Al rims, butted steel frame. The crank looks like something which would cause Tour magazine to break out in hysterical laughter.
Weight-weenie winner of the era:
- 1948 Berralumin (Rene Vietto's Tour bike): 8.0 kg with pump, 73.5 deg seat tube, 71 deg head tube, 53 cm seat tube, 53.5 cm top tube, 167.5 mm cranks, 65 mm rake, 47 mm trail, 48/44 chainrings, 14-16-19-22 cogs, Al tubes (shaped for stiffness), Simplex rear derailleur.
This is VERY cool. Shaped Al tubes -- in 1948????
- 1949 Bianchi (Fausto Coppi): 10.0 kg, 170 mm cranks, 59 cm seat tube, 73 deg seat tube, 73 deg head tube, 450 mm chainstays, 70 mm rake, 31 mm trail (Bartoli's bike from the same year was 56 mm trail, so apparenly Coppi preferred twitchy handling), 580 mm top tube, Simplex rear derailleur (with sprung tension adjustment).
So steel frame weights had dropped from 12.5 kg in 1894 to 9.9 kg in 1939, then with derailleurs held their ground with even Coppi's large frame weighing only 100 g more. Then there's that sub-8 kg Al bike. Then?
- Greg LeMonds 1981 Gitane: 10.0 kg
- Andy Hampsten's 1988 "Huffy" Landshark: 10.0 kg
- Kelly's 1991 Concorde (won Lombardi): 10.3 kg
So bike weight of pro bikes made no progress over more than 40 years. Even J.P. Weigle's 1975 drillium-enhanced Witcomb time trial bike with 24-spoke wheels and a single chainring was 8.3 kg, heavier than that 1948 Berralumin.