Friday, 26 September 2014

Public Art beside Lagan & Lough Cycleway

It has been some decades since I last cycled in Belfast. As a teenager I regularly cycled into Belfast to my summer job during the school holidays. Many things have changed, the heavy security presence has now thankfully been consigned to history, but many of the older once familiar buildings have been swept away, in the planner's vision for a brighter, more modern city. One of the new things that stand out as unfamiliar to me was the public art which is displayed either on cycle route NCN9/93 or close to it, as it traces it's course along the northern bank of Belfast Lough/River Lagan into Belfast.

The first piece of sculpture I came across by accident, when I cycled down towards the Harbour entrance from the direction of Fortwilliam roundabout. There is a large silver seahorse displayed on a plinth. 

The seahorse is represented on the city of Belfast's coat of arms and is a testament to Belfast's maritime role as a major Irish seaport, as well as a former centre of shipbuilding. Anyone familiar with the old Belfast Corporation trolleybuses/buses will remember the seahorse from the crest on the side of the vehicles. Belfast by the late 19th Century boasted three shipyards, with one, McIlwaine & Coll having closed by the turn of the 20th Century. The second to close was Workman Clark in 1935, with Harland & Wolff still surviving today as a ship repair and marine engineering business. Part of the former shipyard Harland & Wolff shipyard is now probably more famous for the production and filming of the TV series 'Game of Thrones'.

The next sculpture is also beside the Dock Street entrance to Belfast Harbour in Princes Dock Street. It is located at the side of the Harbour gate and represents the bow of a ship complete with a figurehead. 

It is easily missed and I have to say that I didn't notice it on my ride into Belfast. I only really noticed it on my ride back. Another interesting feature of Princes Dock Street is that there is also another tangible reminder of Belfast as a major port. There are still some of the harbour railway lines in the road surface. 

Many of the harbour roads also had rails, as much of the freight going in and out of the Harbour was moved by rail. These lines would have been originally worked by the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway on behalf of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Those on the other side of the River Lagan would have been worked by the Belfast & County Down Railway. Princes Dock Street leads down to a gateway giving access to Clarendon Dock.

At the back of the Clarendon Dock building and twin graving docks stands a large sculpture of a set of ship's dividers formerly used in navigation in the days of paper charts. The sculpture stands in square between the two entrance gates to the the old graving docks. 

The older buildings are cheek by jowl with new corporate development. This modern style of architecture in my humble opinion lacks any of the panache or architectural statement of the older Victorian buildings.

Beside the Lagan Weir and near the Custom House is the last and biggest sculpture along the cycle route into Belfast -  Belfast 'Bigfish'. This was the first piece of sculpture that I was aware of and has been there since 1999 and even has it's own Wikipedia entry! 

The most striking new sculptured building to appear in Belfast is the Titanic building on the south bank of the River Lagan. The building when viewed from certain angles is meant to represent the bow of the ill fated White Star liner RMS Titanic and is probably the best Titanic exhibition in the world and a fitting memorial in the city in which she was built and launched. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Taking your Bicycle by train

How easy it to take your randonneur or touring bicycle on a train? If the cycling press in Britain is to be believed, not that easy. You need a ticket for a non folding bike and even with that, space is limited and a ticket doesn't guarantee it will travel on the train you believe you are expecting to travel on. Train travel in Britain is very expensive when compared to other European countries.

France is very different. If you are travelling through Paris, there is no central railway station. You can check via the SNCF website before you go to France to get some idea of which Paris railway station you need to travel from. Train travel is cheap and the electric trains very efficient. Most of the Grand Lignes express style trains I travelled on did not stop for the first hour or so of their journey. The destination board at the platform ends will list the stops, so if the station you intend to travel to is listed, it will stop there. You will require a ticket for your bicycle, whether on the TGV, Grand Lignes or the local trains. There are limited places on the TGV trains, but so far I have not had a problem and that includes travelling on a French public holiday.

The local trains of the Nord-Pas de Calais have bicycle racks in one carriage in the multiple unit, very much like Translink in Northern Ireland. The carriage has a large bicycle icon on the outside, so it is easily seen. You are expected to move quickly onto the train as the trains are very punctual!

The local trains I travelled on in Nord-Pas de Calais were of the double deck carriage type, with the bicycle racks in one corner of the carriage. The bikes are suspended and hang by the front wheel. Again bicycle space is limited, but the service is frequent, so if no room on one train, there should be on the next one.

The TGV service south to Paris Gare du Nord from Valenciennes was the next service that I used. It was an ambition realised to travel by TGV and the fare was not much different to the standard Grand Lignes service. Bicycles are carried at one end of the train, with a luggage compartment in one of the driving ends. Each carriage and seat is numbered so your ticket is for a specific seat unlike the Intercity service. The bicycle space is limited in a TGV and your bicycle may have but the space is also shared with bulky luggage or children's buggies, etc. This will have an effect on how quickly you can disembark from the train, so bear this in mind if you are rushing to catch another service from either the Gare du Nord or any of the other Paris railway stations. The TGV service from Valenciennes runs on local lines to Arras and then runs on the high speed line to near Charles de Gaulle airport where it slows down and uses the existing rail network into the Gare du Nord.

I was catching another train from a different Paris railway station which required a cycle journey from the Rue de Dunkerque outside Paris Gare du Nord to the Gare St Lazaire. There is a cycle route using the bus lanes, but in my opinion requires some knowledge of the street layout between the two destinations. There is some signage but it is not as good as it could be, but again, it is a lot better than nothing. I had the biggest problem I had on the route was when I got to the Place d'Estienne d'Orves, where it crosses in front of the Eglise de la Trinite. There are a number of tourist buses which stop in front of the church and the road goes round the front of the church and then forks. The map I had was confusing, because it directed an immediate right turn on entry into the Place d'Estienne d'Ovres which is wrong and will take you onto Rue Blanche. You need to go round the front of the church and take the first left up the hill, (there was no street name visible at the end of the road), which is the Rue des Londres. From this junction you need the first road (as opposed to building entrances) to your left which should be the Rue d'Amsterdam which leads onto a tree lined square. There is a taxi rank along the side of the square and the entrance to Paris Gare St Lazaire is under a modern office block on the right hand side of the road. This is the best entrance to use as it is fairly level unlike the main entrance at the front of the station building which will require carrying your bicycle up flights of steps. The entrance from the Rue d'Amsterdam leads straight onto the station platform concourse.

I took the train to Cherbourg to catch the Rosslare Ferry. The first stop on the route was at Caen and we stopped at Carentan. There was a huge Stars and Stripes as well as the French Tricolour flying from the Hotel de Ville in Carentan ahead of the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration. I will certainly return to explore the Cotentin Peninsular by bicycle at some stage. The railway station at Cherbourg is some distance from the ferry terminals. It is easily cycled but you will have to negotiate all the ferry traffic especially the heavy goods vehicles. If you don't have a ticket, one has to be purchased from the ferry office.

An overnight sailing got to Rosslare at 15.30 in the afternoon. I disembarked with the vehicular traffic and had a friendly greeting from the Gardai before exiting the ferry terminal. The railway station is now located outside the port boundary. There is a limited train service from Rosslare northwards to Dublin and the service is often delayed by the suburban Dublin Dart trains enroute to Dublin Connolly station.

I was able to make the connection with the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise and got the last 20:50 service north. Rail fares like France are very reasonable, E27.30 to Dublin Connolly , and £50.85 first class on the Enterprise Express with a bicycle. The railway staff in Ireland were as friendly and helpful as their French counterparts. An onward ride home from the railway station In Belfast to my overnight accommodation was problem free using the dynamo lighting before travelling home the next day. I will do it again soon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Visit to Le Quesnoy, Nord - Pas de Calais

2014 has marked a significant change in my life, hence the absence of entries on the blog since February. Cycling has had to take much more of a back seat than I would like, due to these altered circumstances, but hopefully as things change there will be much more opportunity to use the bicycle. 

 One of the highlights of the year so far for me, was a trip to France at the end of April. I travelled via Paris and took the train from Gare du Nord to the Nord – Pas de Calais,Department. It was a pleasant journey through the countryside, but as the train neared the Belgian border, between St Quentin and Aulnoye-Aymeries a small British military cemetery was seen amongst the gently rolling arable fields. A stark reminder, if needed, of the terrible carnage of a century ago. I travelled to a town near the Belgian border, near to the Forêt de Mormal. The Forêt de Mormal offers some excellent off road cycling and is popular with the locals. After the kindness of a superbe lunch, a local dish of sausage and potatoes served with a fresh side salad, I was able to collect my bike and change into my cycling gear. Loading my handlebar bag (sacoche) with a present of two apples for the journey, I set off in the spring sunshine towards Le Quesnoy. The road was undulating, reminding me a little of County Down, but the fields were much larger and without the destinctive pattern of hedges found in that part of Ireland. The local houses, built of rustic red brick with pantile roofs and their painted wooden shutters, are un-mistakenly French. The trees were showing much more foliage than at home in Ireland and the dry soil and growing crops in the fields told their own tale, of a much drier winter . The temperature was much higher than I expected and I had to stop to peel off some of the clothing layers. I feel overdressed. 

On the road I am passed by some local cyclists out for a training run in their lycra club jerseys and carbon fibre machines. Each rider acknowledges me with a friendly 'Bonjour' as they pass by. It is in such marked contrast to the experience of riding my bike at home, where few if any speak, or acknowledge you, especially as I am riding a steel frame. I continue my leisurely journey towards the walled town of Le Quesnoy, as I want to visit the New Zealand War Memorial. I have been advised to purchase my train ticket at Le Quesnoy today for my onward journey to Paris in the morning, as this is a public holiday in France and most places will be closed. I reach the edge of the town of Le Quesnoy and take a wrong turn. This route brings me round the town on a ring road to a roundabout. I am finding riding on the right counter-intuitive, but of necessity quickly adjust. A right turn into the town brings my first experience of 'pavé' for which the region is famous. Even 650B tyres cannot iron out the effect of the cobbles completely, but thankfully the road surface is dry and even the steeper camber of the road surface is manageable as I am forced to the side of the narrow road by passing cars. I cycle through one of the ancient town gateways, through the walls fortified by Vauban in the 17th Century. This is contested ground and has been fought over for centuries. I enquire in the tourist information office for directions to the New Zealand War Memorial and about accommodation for the night. After sorting out where to stay, I ventured up onto the walls of the town and follow the path which will take me to the war memorial. 

The afternoon sun is warm and a family with two young children are on the path ahead. The joyfull, excited shouts of the children bounce off the towering brick and earthen walls of the old town, breaking the late afternoon stillness. I cycle leisurely towards my destination. 

I find there is a low narrow passageway from the gravel path through the walls up to the viewing area overlooking the memorial. I have obviously taken the wrong route, but the passageway is wide enough for the bicycle, and I have to adjust, by stooping down to pass through. The passage emerged onto a small square which overlooks the New Zealand War Memorial. The memorial is fixed to the town walls on the opposite side of the moat from the viewing area. 

There a number of floral tributes in front of the memorial. One bouquet, of exotic flowers and foliage, particularly marks the sacrifice and commemoration of the loss of life of their sons in 1918 in a far way country. The town was recaptured from the Germans on 4th November 1918 without a single civilian loss of life. The New Zealanders were not so fortunate, but they opened up the Sambre Gap in November 1918 to allow the allied armies into Belgium and Germany and force an armistice. In this foreign field they are still not forgotten. I linger awhile with my thoughts, before quietly taking my leave. 

Lest we forget. I'm glad I made the effort to visit.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Ideale Saddles

Ideale saddles were a brand of leather saddles made by Tron et Berthet from Pont Saint Pierre, Eure Department, Haute-Normandie, France. Tron et Berthet sourced their leather from two suppliers in France, one in the north of the country and one in the south. The leather for the best saddles had to be a certain thickness, too thin and the saddle top would stretch and sag, too thick and the leather fibres would break as the top was formed causing failure of the saddle. Even when cutting up the hide, knowledge was needed as to which parts of the hide were to be used for the best saddles, the rest of the hide being used for children's saddles. Tron et Berthet under Marcel Berthet, had started their Ideale saddle production in the 1930s and had an association with the Dunlop Company of Fort Dunlop, Birmingham before the outbreak of the Second World War. Tron and Berthet had sourced some of their machinery from England, which would later cause problems, as it was calibrated in imperial dimensions (inches) and of course, France was metric, which required time consuming conversion. 

Changing patterns in agriculture after the Second World War was to have an impact on Ideale, as cattle breeds were changed to facilitate greater food production. The newer breeds did not produce the type of leather Ideale required and made sourcing the required leather much more difficult and expensive for the company. The changing fashion, within cycling, from the 1960s onwards, for Italian plastic saddles like Unica-Nitor, would also have long term impact. As the fashion amongst cyclists changed from a purely leather saddle, in favour of leather covered padded saddles over a plastic base, (Cinelli, Concor, Milremo, Rolls) meant in reality, many cyclists were not prepared to invest time and discomfort in breaking in a leather saddle to achieve a comfortable seat. So Ideale's market share for bicycle saddles began to decline, as their top of the range saddles were leather, in addition to the other difficulties.  Ideale also had VAR Tools produce a saddle adjustment spanner which would fit both Ideale and Brooks.   
Unlike the English made Brooks saddles, Ideale leather saddles were waterproof, so didn't absorb rain water and sag if they got wet. Ideale had developed their own secret process which allowed the leather to be waterproofed in the saddle manufacturing process. Ideale also experimented with different materials for their saddle frames. Initially they used steel, which on some models was chrome plated. Chrome plating became harder to have done towards the end of production, as changing health and safety regulations forced many platers to close.  Tron et Berthet also experimented with alloy and produced saddles (Model 90R Competition) with an alloy frame. Towards the end of production in the 1970s Ideale made saddles with Titanium frames and seatposts. Special saddles were produced on occasion, an example of which I saw with the leather top drilled full of holes for lightness much like the fashion for drilled components used by time trialists in the 1970s. 

Ideale did produce a copy of the Brooks B17 saddle (Model 80 Record)) which sold well. They also developed the Daniel Rebour branded Model 92 'Diagonale' and Model 88 Competition.

The Berthet family sold the business to another company which wanted to modernise the business and mass produce the leather saddles. In reality, the new owners had little appreciation that the leather had to be hand worked. Their attempts at mechanisation failed and the company went bust approximately six months after the new owners took over. A sad end for an iconic brand. Ideale saddles are well regarded by collectors and were the saddle of choice of many French 'constructeurs'. Ideale saddles in good condition are now beginning to command high prices on French ebay.
Ideale saddles was one of the lines that Ron Kitching imported and sold from his Harrogate cycle parts business. They were considered expensive by many in the 1970s and I don't have any recollection of any local clubmen from that time using an Ideale saddle in this part of Ireland.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A car journey through Normandy

On my recent visit to France I had occasion to travel by train from Gare St Lazare to Rouen and meet up with my contact at the railway station there. The journey to his home was fascinating, as we discussed our passion for cycling. Franck had a long association with the French cycle trade and knew Daniel Rebour (a family friend) very well and a lot of the constructeurs personally. He also remarked that he knew the late Jacques Anquetil, who had a penchant for women and drink. 'Maitre Jacques' had retired to the village of La Neuville-Chant-d'Oisel and was often to be seen, in his lifetime there, driving about the roads on his tractor.

We took a detour past Chateaux Anquetil on the Rue des Andelys (D126) and past the memorial to Jacques at the edge of Neuville-Chant-d'Oisel. The memorial stands in black stone on an open green between the Rue des Andelys and the Rue des Jardins. There is a large 'maillot jeune' situated in the grass in front of the memorial. Unfortunately I was not able to photograph it from the car. We continued our journey along the Rue des Andelys to it's junction with the Rue de la Libération, Romilly-sur-Andelle. The T junction is marked by a large racing bike in tribute to 'Maitre Jacques'. Turning left onto the D321 we travelled to Pont Saint Pierre

 After crossing the Andelle river we turned right onto the Rue des Hautes Rives (D19) to see the Tron et Berthet factory where Ideale saddles were made. The former factory was located in an old mill that was originally water powered and only much later being converted to electricity. The former home of Marcel Berthet is located near the mill and the iron fence atop the garden wall was made from stamped out plates produced in the factory. 

Franck also was able to show me the De Dion Bouton car which was owned by Jean Francois Tron. Monsieur Tron had a badge made (like a bicycle head badge) with his name on it and fixed it to the grill of the car. 
This vehicle is belt driven via a narrow leather belt via a flywheel on the engine to a pulley wheel on the rear axle in the fashion of powering factory machinery from a line shaft. The vehicle had 4 spoked wheels, a basic carburetor and two speed gearbox.
Top speed was around 40km/hr. The car also shared space with a chrome Alex Singer Randonneur, and a Barra loop frame aluminium lady's bike. Franck explained that he had previously owned bicycles by Daudon and Sabliere

Franck is related to Marcel Berthet and told me that Tron and Berthet started in 1910 and the company had originally produced bicycle forks. Marcel had also been involved in the manufacture of gear boxes for early motor cars. Ideal saddles came later.  Franck then showed me a family photograph album from Marcel Berthet born in 1888. In it were photographs of Marcel riding semi-faired track bicycles used before 1914 to attack the hour track record. Marcel was an amateur rider but had ridden in the 6 day track races before the First World War and had won the Berlin 6 day race in 1910. Marcel had won the hour record three times, initially in 1907 in Paris with a distance of 41.520 Km. His friend and rival Oscar Egg had then broken his record in Paris in 1912 with a distance of 42.122 Km. This started a series of record attempts between 1912 and 1914, whereby Marcel would break Oscar's record, only for Oscar to take it back again. Final honours fell to Oscar with a distance of 44.247 Km before World War I intervened. Marcel had also raced against an Italian rider at the Vigorelli track in which the Italian was expected to win. Against the expectation of the crowd, Marcel won the race and received a stoney faced silence for his audacity. The hostility of the crowd was visible in the photograph.  

The UCI had ruled in 1914 against faired bicycles being used in record attempts and competition.  I was shown a programme from a track meet at the Vel D'Hiv track, Paris, in 1927 which Marcel took part in.   In September 1933 at the Parc desPrinces, Marcel, aged 47, was to use a fully faired bicycle 'the Velodyne', to break the hour record again. The early HPV was to attain a distance of 48.600 Km. A second attempt, using the same machine, was made on the record by Marcel two months later. The record was broken, increasing the distance travelled in one hour to 49.922 Km. 

Marcel's early record attempts before WW1 had been made on a Labor bicycle using a JOG handlebar, which was recorded in a postcard of the time. The Velodyne was a collaboration between Tron et Berthet and the French aircraft manufacturer Caudron. The records captured using the Velodyne were not recognised by the UCI, but it is an interesting early use of a fully faired Human Powered Vehicle (HPV). Marcel also developed a pedal in collaboration with Pierre Lyotard for use in the Velodyne. This was manufactured by Lyotard and was much favoured by touring cyclists. Marcel Berthet died in 1953 at the relatively young age of 65.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Travelling to Cycles Alex Singer

On a recent trip to France, I managed to achieve a long held ambition to visit 53 Rue Victor Hugo, Levallois-Perret, Paris, the shop of constructeur Cycles Alex Singer. The shop is located in the suburbs of Paris beyond the Boulevard Périphérique. As it is not located in the centre of Paris, I was apprehensive about travelling there. In reality it was easy. I checked information on the web before travelling and read all the dire warnings about using the SNCF Transilien suburban service, as being complicated. In actual fact, I didn't find that at all. 

I flew from Dublin to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The easiest way to get to Cycles Alex Singer from Charles de Gaulle airport is to take the airport shuttle from Terminal 1 or 3 to the SNCF RER station under Terminal 2 and take the RER route B train to Gare du Nord. The train I took was an express to Gare du Nord, so it couldn't have been simpler. At Gare du Nord, follow the exit (Sortie) signs for the Rue de Dunkerque which is the main entrance to the Gare du Nord. You come up onto to a concourse above the RER platform, with the exit signs directing you to the right up a flight of stairs to the main station concourse and the Rue de Dunkerque. You want to stay on the level you are on (first level) with all the ticket machines, walk straight past all the machines and turn left. You should see signs for the RER route E which is the train service which goes direct to the Gare St Lazare.  (You can try using the Metro if you want a slower, more convoluted and challenging method of travel to the shop!) 

The RER train ticket can be bought from one of the automated ticket machines, which offer English and Spanish language, by touching the appropriate flag on the touch screen. Once you have purchased your ticket, follow the signs to the platforms. The RER station at Gare du Nord is called Magenta. You need to take the train for Haussmann-St Lazare for the Gare St Lazare. The return train to Magenta, is the service to Tournan en Brie. You will need to check the TV information display screens on the platforms. They will tell you the direction of travel, time of trains and most importantly, the platform the train will use. If you are travelling early in the morning, be warned, this service is heavily used by commuters. The fact the carriages are double deck should give you an idea of how much this service is used. Once you arrive at Haussmann-St Lazare, follow the signs from the platform for the Gare St Lazare (trains) which will bring you into a shopping concourse. 

SNCF have a ticket office in this concourse.  There is also an information office on the same floor near the station door and second one on the platform concourse upstairs. You will need to go to this upper level and turn right to get onto the main station concourse area leading to the platforms. There is a regular 10 min train service to the Clichy-Levallois train station. The train service you need is the Nanterre University train, which usually leaves platform 7 or 8. Again you need to check the TV screen for train information, which will give you the departure time and platform the train is leaving from. Clichy-Levallois station is the second stop out from Gare St Lazare. 
The station entrance is under a railway bridge and you will need to turn left, to go out onto road which leads to the Rue Victor Hugo. Follow this road to the Rue Victor Hugo and turn left again. Walk down the street. The shop is located down the street on the right hand side. You can find a detailed map of the area of Paris on Google maps. If you scope down to the Rue Victor Hugo and the station details, print it and take it with you for reference, you can't go wrong. When I arrived on a Tuesday lunchtime, the shop was still closed. I had to wait until 14:00 hrs for the shop to open.

The interesting thing about using the train in Paris is the chance to have a look at all the bikes parked in the bike racks at the stations. I took a few photos of the one outside Gare du Nord on the Rue de Dunkerque.
Quite a few mixte bikes, Motobecane and Peugeot. I also spotted a Roger Riviere bike which I grabbed a photo of. 

What is striking when compared to Ireland is the complete absence of carbon. While cycle shops in Ireland seem to be wedded to selling carbon for every kind of use, the French are much more practical and pragmatic. Steel bikes are much in evidence and in use as a practical means of transport. What else can you expect from a great cycling nation?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The book 'Wiener Mechaniker Raeder'

I recently purchased the German language book 'Wiener Mechaniker Raeder' which has dusted down long forgotten and little used, A level German vocabulary. My computer keyboard is English, so I don't have the umlaut or eszett and have used the English dipthong 'ae' instead of the 'a umlaut' in the title. The book is subtitled 'A journey through more than a 100 Vienna bicycle makes 1930 – 1980'. The blurb on the back translates as:-

Vienna is big, but the diversity of Viennese bicycle marques was once much bigger; more than 100 marques existed in the city from the 1930s to the 1980s, among them innovative, oblique, noble, freakish, good dependable, solid and off the peg, - for example, noble racing bikes with paint finishes from another time (Rih), Aero bicycles from 50 years before the aerodynamic craze (RZ), prototypes from aluminium and small diameter steel tubes (Austria-Alpha), lugless welded frames (Degen), rethinking of frame design ( Wisent Einheitsrad), to name but a few examples.  For the first time, the complete history of the Vienna bicycle marques in a picture book, with all marques from Alpenrad to Ziel. 

I found the contents of the book fascinating. It educated me as to the variety of different bicycle makers working in Vienna, some from the 19th century onwards, others appearing for a few years after WW2, then disappearing. The bicycles used to illustrate the book are well photographed and in some cases I would have liked to have seen a little more detail, such as head lugs etc. However, I'm sure the authors were forced to cut down the amount of material, to be able to make the book format and they have done a superbe job. The book has the following chapters:- Introduction (Prolog), Authors thanks (Dank), The bicycle marques A – Z (Wiener Fahrraedermarken A - Z), Puzzling machines (Ratselhafte Gaule) , And now? (Und Jetzt?), Picture index (Abbildungsverzeichnis), Bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis) and finally about the authors (Uber uns). The book is printed on glossy art paper, and each marque is given an introductory text box showing the years of production, the company address, the owner details and whether they built their own machines or not. There is then narrative text, accompanied by the superbe photographs. The authors have a passion for their subject and have done their research well, as they mention some bicycle makers lost in the mists of time, of whom, only a printed advert from a newspaper or magazine show they existed at all.

The cast aluminium RZ / Err-Zett children's bicycle illustrated on page 235 of the book and on the front page of the publisher's website, predates the Kirk Precision cast magnesium frame by some years. The authors record 'Wem dieses Design einfiel, ist leider nicht uberliefert, vielleicht war es ja ebenfalls Ottomar Rosenkranze selbst' – 'Whoever came up with this design, is unfortunately not recorded for posterity, but perhaps it was Ottomar Rosenkranz himself'. The frame material used in the Kirk Precision may have been different, but the concept of a cast frame was clearly established much earlier by RZ / Err-Zett and gives weight to the old saying 'There is nothing new under the sun'.

The book has a small section pages 332 – 338 on puzzling machines (german jocular chapter heading meaning enigmatic old nag, or gift horse!) which the authors believe to be Austrian bicycles made in Vienna but of which they have little or no information. The book finally brings the story up to date with information on modern framebuilders working in Vienna.

The book can be bought via the publishers website and is now available through Amazon,  the ISBN number is 978-3-85119-342-8. If you order a book through the publisher's website, you will be sent an invoice in Euros, which will have to be paid through your bank. Once payment has been made, delivery to the UK takes around two weeks. The book is well worth the money and is cheaper than some of the recent Japanese and US books on Toei, Singer and Herse. The authors have set out to record methodically the custom built marques originating in Vienna over a 50 year period and add considerably to the body of historical knowledge. It shows what can be done and it would be nice to see a similar work published on the framebuilders working in the London area over a similar time period! The only caveat is that if you rely on an internet language translator, you will get a literal translation of the words. The danger here is that you often need to translate the concept, not the literal words, to make sense of what is meant by the authors. However, it has been a very enjoyable and educational time spent with my old German dictionary and this book, discovering the delights of the Vienna bicycle trade. I can heartily recommend it.