|A heavily drilled pair of handlebars|
from one of Alf Engers' bikes.
(from Classic Lighweights UK)
According to Classic Lightweights UK, one can find examples of drilled components dating back before WWI, but many UK cyclists associate the practice with Alf Engers, a well-known time-triallist from the 1950s through the '80s. Engers inspired a number of British cyclists to adopt the practice as well, as reducing a bicycle's weight was believed to be the best advantage for time trials -- at least in the days before the introduction of aerodynamic tricks.
|Eddy Merckx in yellow. Note the drillium front brake.|
For many other cyclists around the world, particularly in the US, the inspiration cited for drillium would probably be Eddy Merckx, who was known to drill out many of the components on his bikes. One notable example of Merckx's obsession with lightening components would be his famous Hour Record bike. The Campagnolo cranks on that bike were reportedly re-profiled subtly, while the arms of the spider were milled out, and the chainring lightened with additional milling. The reinforcing ring or webbing was also removed from the Nuovo Record chainring. Some of the alterations to the chainring probably provided the inspiration for what would later be released as the Super Record chainrings and a common modification known as the "Mexico" crank. The handlebars on the bike were also drilled out pretty seriously, as well as the seat post (much of that drilling was hidden inside the seat tube).
|The crank from Eddy Merckx's Hour Record bike. Note|
the milling around the chainring (including the E-d-d-y)
and the spider arms that have been milled out completely.
|Bill Robertson's drilled Nuovo Record rear|
derailleur, as pictured in his '73 Bike World
article. Notice that the back plate of the parallelogram
is reduced to just two narrow strips.
If one searches the web for "drillium," a couple of other names are likely to come up quite frequently: Peter Johnson and Frank Spivey. Johnson was a racing buddy of Bill Robertson's who took his affinity for modifying components and translated it into building frames. Today he is a highly-respected machinist and frame builder. Frank Spivey was a machinist who turned his attention to modifying bicycle components back in the 60s. Spivey made a huge assortment of jigs and fixtures to aid the process of drilling out components, some of which can be seen on the Velo-Retro site.
|1975 Peter Johnson bike with Frank Spivey components -- reportedly the 12th frame Johnson had built. See more details at Velo-Retro.|
|Just one of the many fixtures Spivey made for drilling and modifying bicycle components. This one is for drilling brake levers. See more at Velo-Retro.|
|Some of Frank Spivey's exquisite work, as photographed for a May 1990 Bicycle Guide article.|
|More of Spivey's work from the BG article. On the left is a custom-made hub beside a pair of beautifully modified Mafac brake levers.|
|This beautifully drilled Stronglight crank was shown big as life on the title page of the 1974 Bike World article.|
|A heavily drilled Campagnolo brake lever -- the logo is just barely visible. This nice red Schwinn Paramount is owned by Classic Rendezvous member, John Barron.|
|And here are the brakes those levers attach to. Notice the milled caliper arms.|
|Some people would completely remove the center section of the Campagnolo shift levers, leaving just a thin "loop" of aluminum. I've sometimes seen levers modified this much either bend or break off. Got to be careful!|
|From the same Masi as above. Here you can see the slots opened up in the forks. All I can say is "Wow."|
|Bike "anti-porn" spotted on the London Fixed Gear and Single-speed Forum. The less said about this the better.|
|A Colnago-pantographed Cinelli stem -- spotted on Classic Lightweights UK. Items like this became a big element on Italian bikes in the later 70s and 80s.|
Another case would be the Campagnolo Super Record brake levers. Like the Huret Jubilee, Campagnolo must have added some beef prior to drilling the levers out, thereby ensuring that they wouldn't break due to the drilling. Again, most sources show the weight to be more than the otherwise similar, non-drilled Nuovo Record levers. But they looked cool.
|The classic Super Record brake levers, from the mid 70's through mid 80s, actually weighed more than the non-drilled Nuovo Record levers.|
|A Sugino Super Mighty factory drillium crank, as shown recently on my 1980 Mercian. The spider is completely opened up, and the rings are drilled all the way around. I don't know how the weight compared to the non-drilled version, though I do notice that the chainrings have a slightly "deeper" profile than at least some of the regular chainrings. Sakae Ringyo, or SR, made a similar version.|
|Sakae Ringyo made these bars with drilled-out sections in the center sleeve. They also made a couple versions of their stems with milled sections.|
|A beautifully detailed Nuovo Record derailleur|
done by Drillium Revival.
And back in the vein of "factory drillium" Velo-Orange is offering a drillium version of one of their cranks, which in turn has a style reminiscent of the old Campagnolo Nuovo Record cranks of the past -- but with a more user-friendly 110 bolt circle and compact chainrings. VO recently announced that they are also offering the drilled rings for sale separately, which would be nice for people with vintage Sugino and SR cranks -- as long as they have the 110 BCD versions.
|New factory-drillium cranks from Velo Orange.|
Hope you enjoyed the look back!