The 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Austin included some true standout bikes. One of my favorites at NAHBS this year was the Chug-a-Lug by Black Cat Bicycles. This was one of those bikes that you just couldn’t walk past without stopping to take a closer look. First the simplicity and the curves. Then the fillet brazing and the lugs. The rear dropouts, the seat tube angle, the paint. Wow, that paint! All this before finding out that those lugs are part lug, part fillet in construction. A beautiful bike.
Check out more about the Chug-a-Lug here: www.blackcatbicycles.com/2011/04/chug-lug.html
(click for a larger view)
I’ve always been notoriously fussy when doing cleat fittings. This contact point between shoe and pedal is where it all begins. Every good fitting session starts with an assessment or review of the cleat position while the rider spins on a stationary trainer. Get the cleat position just right and the pedal stroke will be smoother and more powerful. (And, the rider will be less prone to injury and aggravation.) Left unchecked, the cleat / pedal interface can cause all kinds of problems. No surprise then that the history of pedals and cleats has always been interesting to me.
This is a pair of Cinelli M-71 pedals from the 1970s. This is the fourth generation version and is the most refined or well-developed that Cinelli produced. Radically different in design, the M-71 that Cino Cinelli developed came to market at a time when the vast majority of riders were using cage pedals with toe clips and straps.
Getting in to the M-71 required the rider to slide their cleated shoe on to the pedal body from the rear. The rails along the top of the pedal helped to guide the cleat but had to be kept clean of dirt and grit in order to work smoothly. Once the shoe was pushed forward, the rider (or a coach or assistant) would reach down and engage the lever to lock the shoe in place. In theory, if you crashed or fell over, the lever would dis-engage and release your shoe. That didn’t always work well but, for track events and time trials the M-71 developed a cult following amongst riders looking for more power. In design terms, Cinelli deserves credit for developing a pedal that gave riders a solid platform to push against while eliminating the need for toe straps that cut off the blood circulation to the toes. More power and more comfort.
The M-71’s development in the early 1970s predates the popular Look clipless pedal by more than ten years. Without Cino Cinelli’s radical pedal design, it might have taken even longer for us to move on from toe clips and straps.
Bikes, bikes, bikes. An odd name for a company, I know. Unless, of course, it’s all about…bikes. There is a story behind the name:
A long time ago, a good friend of mine, somewhat frustrated with me at the time, said, “Bikes, bikes, bikes!! Is that all you think about?! I replied, (maybe a little too quickly) “No, I think about riding them. And, all the places I could go.” It wasn’t the right thing to say, of course. But, it was true. Now, many years later, it’s still much the same. Bikes aren’t the only thing in life, but they’ve been on my mind and part of my life since I was five years old.