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.
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.
Austria used to be hotbed for innovative technology, and this calendar illustrates my favorite example – the Cortina Suwe derailleur.
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.