Viennese Mechanics' Bikes

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Late last year, Richard Hollinek sent me a calendar about Viennese “mechanics’ bikes” – bikes built by small builders in Vienna, Austria. The calendar hangs in our bathroom, and I smile every time I see it.
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The “mechanics’ bikes” are workmanlike in their quality and execution, but not without some artistic flourishes. They clearly were built to be ridden. Since Austria didn’t have a strong cycle industry of its own, the builders found their inspiration from all over Europe.
Some bikes are equipped with internally-geared hubs from Germany and Britain, others use Italian or French derailleurs. Bike with names like “Running,” “Sussex” and “Falcone” show the appeal of foreign cultures. Others, like “Degen” (Epée) and “Läufer” (Runner) are charming attempts to create positive associations of speed and strength in German. It’s a neat mix of cultures that seems fitting for Vienna, which itself is at the intersection of several cultures.
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Austria used to be hotbed for innovative technology, and this calendar illustrates my favorite example – the Cortina Suwe derailleur.
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It’s a relative of the Nivex, with a parallelogram that is attached to the chainstay, so the derailleur cage follows the contour of the freewheel. It’s a really smart design in many ways, and I’d love to try one some day. In the mean time, I am looking forward to the book about these “mechanics’ bikes” that will be published this month.

Photos by Philipp Horak, ©Verlag Brüder Hollinek.

7 Responses to Viennese Mechanics' Bikes

  1. Erik June 18, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Those who want to know more about Cortina derailleur: http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Suwe_Cortina_derailleur.html.

  2. marmotte27 June 18, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Nice bikes!
    Wouldn’t the Cortina derailleur have suffered the same problem than the Nivex without a chainrest, the difficulty of getting out the wheel as the chain wraps around it?
    I just found an old Peugeot randonneur bike that originally had a Simplex derailleur that screwed into two holes underneath the chainstay. It has been removed for a Simplex 532, maybe for the same reason.

  3. Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly June 19, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    You are right, derailleurs that wrap around the chain on three sides make removing the rear wheel difficult.
    It’s funny – on my Herse, I incorporated a chainrest, but with the Hetre tires, I’ve had only one flat in two years of riding… so the chainrest doesn’t get much use. It’s useful when the bike is on the stand, as you can pop out the rear wheel as easily as the front. (In fact, it’s easier to remove the rear wheel, because on the front I have to unplug the wires to the generator hub, since my bike doesn’t have the SON SL system.)

  4. RosyRambler June 20, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    I hope you will do a review of the book in Bicycle Quarterly. Will it be published in English?

  5. Goon June 20, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    This reminds me: I would love to see a BQ article on the Swiss bike industry.
    The KTM and Puch factories cranked out a ton of utility and recreational bikes, but Austria (or Germany, for that matter), never developed a high-end bicycle niche the way Switzerland did.

  6. david brumm June 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    has there been any study done on the best equipment for heavy(300+lbs)riders? Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 07:39:58 +0000 To: greatfulldude@hotmail.com