Not so alien resurrection

Although the current exhibition on historic bikes and bicycle history in Hamburg has found its home at the “Labour Museum” (Museum der Arbeit), strolling through it is a real pleasure – no work at all, all play.

And a lot of eye-openers with respect to what we perceive as cutting edge, very recent developments in bike tech developments.

Take folding bikes, for example: That the high-tech urban hipster commuter bikes only mark the resurrection of the folding (or falling-apart) clunkers we had in the 70s, is not really news. But a decade earlier there was already Hercules’ AutoVelo which could be “folded” into a handy package no less compact than any modern Dahon or Brompton.

Highly compact when folded: Hercules’ AutoVelo, a big hit in the 1960s that even came with a hard case for transportation, e.g. on the train

Hercules had apparently a better sense for what people were looking for at that point in time then, say, Union. It was also in the 1960s that Union thought they could jump the bandwagon of the emerging folding bike hype with what they called a “short bike”. Although this was pretty avantgarde when Ernesto Pettazoni built the archetypical short bike in the 1930s, Union was either too late to make it a big trend…

"Kurzrad" or short bike is what Union called this 1960s addition to the emerging folding bike market; but they never hit it big.

"Kurzrad" or short bike is what Union called this 1960s addition to the emerging folding bike market; but they never hit it big.

In looking at all sorts of funky bikes you are seeing on urban streets today, though, you may come to the alternative conclusion, i.e. that the Union short bike was still too far ahead of its time. And that it took another 50 years before the city dwellers of today really dig a design which has definitely been inspired by those of a “Kurzrad”, although the front wheel has grown again and are driven directly by the pedals mounted to the front axis.

And the author finally knows where the softride concept of the late 1990s came from: It also dated back some 100 years even then – to bike riding comfort concepts such as the one realized here:

Godfather of softride frames - in those ancient days, however, form followed function already, but the element of style did not get neglected in the way it did in the 1990s

Inspired by the 1960s "Kurzrad"? - The compact frame may indeed be pretty agile when riding through today's crowded cities, although the look is somewhat ... ahem... funky

Not just the bike concepts have all been thought through and built decades, if not a century or more before they all got re-discovered and re-invented. Also, our biking forefathers put quite some inventiveness into things that make the life of a biker an easier one, especially in difficult situation.

E.g. in case of a flat tire. Today we have the “Schlauch-o-Mat” solution that will get us back on the road in no time (if we happen to have the flat close to those very few machines that actually made it to being hung up somewhere). Although we tend to believe that this smart service idea was born in the 21st century, it sure wasn’t. It is the incarnation of a machine that catered to those bikers who still knew how to properly patch a punched tube (and had an interest in saving the money on a new one as long as there were cheaper ways of getting back on the road).

It’s a good thing, though, that there is no urgent need for bringing back some of those bikers’ accessories of the old times: Not that many wild beasts in our villages and cities any more to think about reinventing a bobby pistol to defend yourself from their attacks.

Biker's bobby pistol which was used in the early days of the 20th century in scaring off attacking animals

Culinary Stereotypes Go Culture

It’s already a year since the premiere of the “VeloRace” in Dresden, so time for the author to go back there – not so much in defense of her age group victory of 2013, but rather to revive and expand the really good city experience that first-time visit left in her memory.

It does not take much for a fun and hopefully successful sightseeing-bike racing weekend in Dresden

The time on the Autobahn passed a little faster by the wonderful scenery and sights of history and culture we passed, e.g. the “Drei Gleichen” – which literally translates to the “Three Similar Ones”; only that this assembly of three castles goes back to the family of Hohenlohe who owned part of what is now Thuringia and was then called “Gleichen”. So, it’s only homophony and, therefore, a “false friend”, this attempt to translate to “Similar Ones”.

Veste Wachsenburg, your chance to sleep a night or two in a 1100-year-old building

One could easily believe, thought that this were the right translation, as at least two of the three castles do resemble one another quite a bit, only that the crowning tower has a circular footprint with one of them and a square footprint in case of the other. The one with the round tower is Mühlburg, the oldest one of those three castles. It was given, as documented in writing, to the church by the secular owner (and builder?) as long ago as in the year 704. Secular ownership is still (or rather: again) the case for the second-oldest of the three castles: Veste Wachsenburg was built in the 10th century and is in pretty nice shape, due to the fact that it is a family-owned hotel restaurant with a little museum today. Check all three of them out, if you ever pass by them in the area of Gotha, Thuringia; especially, since there is also the world’s only museum nearby which is dedicated to the famous Thuringian sausage.

Not quite as old as "Die Drei Gleichen", but the original Feldschlößchen building has seen four centuries pass already, too.

In going with the German culinary stereotype, the natural thing to visit after talking about a sausage museum is of course: a beer museum. And when in Dresden, go to the one in the original building of Feldschlößchen brewery. Especially to bicyclists this is highly recommended as carbo-loading food stuffs of the highly enjoyable kind are easy to come by; and highly palatable!

Feldschlößchen sampler: Carbo-loading made easy and enjoyable

At the end of the evening it looked like this year’s VeloRace will see quite a few participating racers who have decided for the same form of race preparation as the author:

When passing the little river of “Wilde Sau” (translating to “Wild Sow” …) which, like the author, was on its way to Dresden to join the river Elbe in its vicinity, it became crystal clear:

It will be a hot catch-as-catch-can race ;-)

Nomen est omen? A harbinger of the kind of race we are heading to?
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