It’s good news when a bike doesn’t fit. To be clear, it’s good news only when it doesn’t fit you, but it does fit me, and obviously, at that point it’s only good news for me. Such is the case with this candy apple red Croll. My friend Noah originally bought it on CL for his girlfriend as the height (52cm) was just about right. At nearly 57cm, turns out the bike was more akin to a top-fuel dragster in the length department, not even close to right. For me, however, it was pretty much a custom fit, so here it sits. Hopefully I’ll even swing a leg over it from time to time (If only my riding habits matched the energy expended in such acquisitions).
From what I’ve gleaned, later Crolls were decent enough quality, but the early ones were fantastic as they were handbuilt by Walter himself. The Croll name was eventually sold, and as so often happens, when the namesake isn’t involved the product suffers.
I’m guessing this bike was commissioned in the early 1990’s based on the Shimano tri-color component group if nothing else. Also, the paint is as brilliant a red as I’ve ever seen and Walter’s bikes were known for their paint jobs. When you get this bike out under the sun it looks like it is plugged into an outlet. The old saying that the photos don’t do it justice is more than applicable here.
Schwinns could be badged and sold under a host of different names. Everyone from big department stores to little bike shops could contract with Schwinn to put their name on the bikes. One of my favorites is Haack’s, a little shop out of Madison, Wi. Their badge had a top-hatted little character named, “Mr. Bicycle” prominently positioned on the head badge. To make it clear who he’s working for, his body spells out the shop name. Fantastic.
From what I’ve seen, other Haack’s badges don’t feature him, which is why I like this particular one so much. …And with a name like “Mr. Bicycle”, you can bet he knew his stuff, even if it looked like he hadn’t been on a bike in a while.
This particular Schwinn also has the “Hat in the Ring” graphics on the seat tube. Not sure if this was a nod to Eddie Rickenbacker’s Flying Circus or not; nevertheless, I put a little Schylling monoplane on the handlebars in case any Pfalzs or Fokkers cross my path.
I recently went to Carson City to pick up an old British Dayton 3-speed. My attention quickly switched to this Faggin, which accompanied the Dayton in the storage unit. The current owner had bought it to turn over. The Faggin thus joined the Dayton for a trip back to the shop. It hadn’t seen the road in some time and was a bit roughed up. It was also missing some of its original bits, but I suspected it would come around well enough. It did, too: Heck, even the Cateye computer fired back up.
The biggest problem with some older Italian framesets like Faggins is that their decals aren’t placed and then clear-coated over. The decals, more like stickers, can also be put on crooked, or barely at all. I briefly considered a repaint since that would have solved the decal issue, but it would have created the “what’s this bike going to have to sell for now?” issue. So, it stayed as-is. Call it being cautious, or if you’re feeling more generous, sticking with originality. I do tend to get up on that soapbox at times, so go with that.
That other shop…
The frame sticker on the lower downtube states that the Faggin was originally built up and sold by Stewart-Hunt Cycles here in Reno. Back in the 1980’s the shop was a direct competitor to College Cyclery which is where I worked/lived. Among the bevy of competitors, S-H owner Jim Patterson was considered more kindred spirit than adversary, though. Stewart-Hunt was actually the first shop I frequented upon moving to Reno and I often think I might have ended up working there if College hadn’t picked me up.
Stewart-Hunt is long since gone, but I’m hear to tell you that the cycling community still misses Jim terribly. A Tuesday night race will never be the same without Jim’s happy demeanor and heavily mustached smile, drops of Moosehead beer hanging from the latter. The cycling community garners more than its share of one-of-a-kinds. Amongst them, Jim was the One-est.
To understand the history of suspension bicycles, you have to look way before modern mt. bikes, past the goofy spring forks balloon-tire bikes and head back some 120 years to the early safety bicycle era. There you’ll find the Pierce Cushion Line.
To be fair, George Pierce wasn’t the first person to add mechanical cushioning to his frames, but he was one of the first to do it well. One look at this 1904 Pierce women’s bicycle and you can see he had suspension nailed down pretty well. Over the years I’ve ridden many of the aforementioned ballooner springer systems and they run the gamut from moderately helpful to downright dysfunctional. Some of the earliest mt. bike shocks weren’t much better. Not so here. The “Pierce Hygenic” rear shock seems to actually work. Based on stationary tests I think it would do the trick of absorbing road shock quite well. The front fork, which resembles a leaf spring, is a wonder both in its functionality and beauty. It has a tightness which keeps it from bouncing about like a Schwinn knee-action fork. When it does flex it moves smoothly and has an amazing amount of travel.
Both suspensions lack the showy component of the later balloon-tire versions, another sign that these were meant to be functional, not just ornamental. These were meant to smooth out the roads of the era, often little more than rutty dirt paths. Pierce’s suspension not only made riding more comfortable, it made it possible.
…Or the horse. You choose. At more than 50 pounds, armor does come to mind, though.
The Swiss, ingenius folk that they are, figured out a long time ago that a bicycle could drastically increase the mobility of their troops. Where a foot soldier can walk 20-25 miles a day, a pedaling soldier can cover double that or more. Thus the Militarvelo was born. The idea must have had some credence since one or another version of the MO-05 was produced from 1905 to 1989 (this particular one was made in 1943).
Riding a Militarvelo is reminiscent of the old British rod brake bikes, though the quality is noticeably better and the bike fits better. That likely has something to do with the smaller 26″ wheels as opposed to the DL-1’s 28 inchers. As heavy as the bike is, it doesn’t feel lethargic of loafy. On a slight downhill there is a feeling of, dare I say, efficiency, as it glides quietly along, out-coasting most anything on the road. That might have something to do with shear weight and momentum but I contribute it to the bike’s Swiss bearings which I swear feel smoother and more precise than the Brit or American equivalents.
Like a Swiss Army knife, the bike is loaded with extra goodies, all which all stock. There is a front-wheel dynamo, head and tail light, frame pump, rear carrier, and three different storage areas (a canvas handlebar bag and a leather frame case and leather wedge bag behind the seat tube which holds a set of 4 bicycle-specific tools). There’s also a bell, a wheel lock, and leather saddle and mudflap. A set of riding googles were hanging from the canvas bag when I got the bike. I don’t know whether they’re original issue or not, but I do like the look of them and think they’re period correct so there they stay.
Maybe my favorite part of riding the Militarvelo is choosing how to stop; there’s a spoon brake that pushes down on the front tire, a rear coaster brake, and also a rear drum brake. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself trying different variants of the three to see which I like the best. The only sure conclusion I’ve come to is, when going down a steep hill the answer is always, “all three.”
I try to air out and air up the contents of The Wheelhouse at least once a year. Often it happens if the bikes are heading off to a local show or display. This year it was just a random day. Still fun, though. Here are some photos.
From the nether regions of the Buzz Bomb basement workshop, a fine example of “Donkey Wheel”.
I know, I know. I should be working and not goofing off, but I’m so easily entertained by sounds from my truing stand.