The Cycle Industry/Chapter 13

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CHAPTER XIII

THE WEIGHT QUESTION

There is no subject in connection with cycle making that has been more discussed among riders and makers than the all important weight question. It is obvious, without much explanation, that where human power alone is employed for propulsion the weight of a bicycle is vital. It must not, however, be imagined that the lightest bicycle is the easiest to propel in all cases without other consideration. A bicycle frame may be so light that instead of resisting the torsional and other strains imposed on it by the rider it will "whip" and so cause power to be lost between the bottom bracket and the rear hub by setting up friction in the transmission.

Hubs and bearings that are too small cause undue friction by binding and so fail to roll easily. There is also the danger of making parts so light that they are prone to breakage.

There has been a great tendency during the past few years to make bicycles unnecessarily heavy. This is accounted for in various ways, the explanation being somewhat difficult to arrive at.

The chief reason is that makers with a reputation at stake like to be on the safe side, and they argue that it is unwise to send out light machines for indiscriminate use. All riders do not treat a bicycle in the same manner, and where A would use a feather-weight for years without meeting with breakage or other serious trouble, B would smash or otherwise damage an ultra light machine in the first few hundred miles.

There is an art in riding a light bicycle, it has to be ridden gently over bad sections of road. The rider must not sit like a dead weight in the saddle and free wheel down hill at full speed and rely on the brakes to stop him suddenly.

Light, thin tyres are, of course, much more easily damaged by sharp stones, although they do not, as is supposed, puncture more readily; that is a question of luck.

A light weight touring machine for an average weight rider should be procurable at 30 to 32 lbs. with three-speed hub gear, brakes, mudguards, semi-racing saddle, and rat-trap pedals, but minus bell, bag, and lamps. Unfortunately, the great majority weigh between 38 and 40 lbs., and some are much more.

If a tourist wants greater comfort and reliability than can be obtained with such a specification as above he must be prepared to push along about 45 to 50 lbs. Many full tourist machines with heavy spring saddle, gear case, 1¾ in. tyres, wide rubber pedals, and three-speed hub, weigh quite as much as 50 lbs. and sometimes more.

Comfort must be sacrificed to some extent to secure lightness, and it is for the individual to decide what he thinks will best suit his or her requirements.

Generally speaking, the clubman will have a fairly light machine; he is usually a practised rider and knows how to humour his mount. Club life tends to increase the demand for lighter machines, because the newly-fledged member with a heavy bicycle soon finds that he is outpaced, particularly up hill, by men of less strength but equipped with a machine perhaps 15 to 20 lbs. lighter than his own.

Omitting track racing machines, there can be said to be four classes of bicycles used on the road.

1. The road racer. An absolutely stripped machine. without brakes, free wheel, or mud guards. Fitted with very light tubular tyres on wood rims and the lightest possible saddle. Weight varies from 20 to 25 lbs.

2. The light roadster. This type has 1⅜ in. tyres, steel or wood rims, one brake, free wheel, celluloid or very light steel mudguards. A single gear is used and rat-trap pedals. Weight 25 to 30 lbs.

3. The light touring roadster. The specification of a typical model will be 1⅜ to 1½ in. tyres, steel rims, heavier mudguards than No. 2, a three speed hub gear, a slightly heavier saddle, two brakes. Weight 30 to 35 lbs.

4. The touring roadster. This type is sometimes facetiously termed a Dreadnought. Its equipment will be: 28 in. wheels, 1¾ in. tyres, two brakes, metal or leather gear case, three-speed hub gear, three-coil heavy saddle, wide rubber pedals, splashguard, and luggage carrier. Weight up to 50 lbs.

None of the above includes accessories such as bell, lamps, toolbag, touring valise, or other impedimenta which may be necessary when touring, and which may add from 5 lbs. to 7 lbs. to the weight.

Some riders will start out for a week's tour and ride one of the lightest of bicycles, say, the No. 2, and by sending on luggage by post or rail manage quite well and be happy and comfortable. Another would not think of going out for a week-end ride without carrying his own luggage on a No. 4, with lamps, bell, toolbag, etc.

The speed of the rider of No. 2 would possibly average 12 miles an hour, whilst he on No. 4 would be quite satisfied with 8 miles per hour, or even less.