While searching through eBay recently, I spotted a fun little bit of Bridgestone memorabilia for sale: a 1994 Bridgestone Endangered Species Calendar
, at a buy-it-now price of $50. As of right now, it's still available. Who knows if it will bring the asking price, but I do know that I won't be buying it. You see, I already have
one. But seeing the auction made me get it out and take another look.
The calendar represents month after month of vintage components and accessories to make a retrogrouch drool. I thought readers of the blog might enjoy seeing some of what's inside:
|On the cover: a series of large-flange hubs. Campagnolo Record, SunTour Superbe, Zeus 2000, and Shimano Dura-Ace. Inside the calendar, the text goes on to mention how people used to claim that large-flange hubs added strength and rigidity to a wheel - something that turned out to be not really true. Still, they are very cool-looking, and even more uncommon today than they were in '94.|
|Zeus 2000, Huret Duopar, Simplex LJ, Mavic, Huret Jubilee, and Campagnolo Nuovo Record rear derailleurs. The text of the calendar goes on to say "In the days before indexing, rear derailleurs from different makers had distinct personalities. But with the advent of indexing, designs have been homogenized to the point where all modern derailleurs have slant parallelograms and look like the original SunTour design." That is generally true, though to be truly honest here, three of the derailleurs shown (the Zeus, Mavic, and Campy) all share basically the same design mechanically, while the differences are mostly stylistic. The Zeus was very obviously modeled on the Campagnolo Record, but with some drillium. I've always enjoyed the Erector-set aesthetic of the early Mavic derailleur. The Simplex has a similar design but with the addition of a sprung upper pivot for crisper shifting. The little Jubilee is probably my favorite in terms of its minimalistic design, but the Duopar was probably the most unique derailleur design of them all. It's also the only touring derailleur shown.|
|Even by 1994, lugged frames were already becoming scarce. On the left is a pair of Cinelli stamped upper and lower head lugs. On the right is a pair of Dubois upper and lower head lugs (made by Nervex - and used on Masi Gran Criteriums). In the middle on the bottom is a Nervex Professional lower head lug, but above it is sort of a Nervex-copy made in Japan, and not quite as ornate as the original (it also happens to be a lower head lug, and is shown upside down - oops).|
|Flat-topped fork crowns. I had featured a few of these in an early Retrogrouch article called "Lovely Fork Crowns." Upper row is Fischer, unknown maker, and a Masi double-plate. Lower row is Zeus track crown, Vagner, and Davis track crown.|
|Centerpull brakes were truly "uncool" in '94, though they seem to have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years - particularly in versions that have their pivots brazed directly to the frame or fork. Shown are (top row) Universal 61, Shimano Dura-Ace, Weinmann Vainqueur, and (bottom row) Mafac 2000, Dia-Compe 510, and Zeus 2000. Some of these would command good prices today on eBay.|
|Friction shift levers. I still use them on most of my bikes. From left to right: Zeus 2000, Campagnolo bar-end, Campagnolo Record down-tube, SunTour Power Ratchet bar-end, Simplex retrofriction down-tube, a Simplex retrofriction bar-end (good luck finding those today!), and a SunTour XC Power Ratchet thumb shifter.|
|Leather saddles. Clockwise from top left: Lepper sprung saddle (from The Netherlands), Brooks Swallow, Brooks Professional, and Ideale 88 Rebour model.|
Some other "endangered species" that are shown in the calendar include traditional quill-type pedals for toe clips and straps, single-pivot sidepull brakes, classic black leather cycling shoes (like the old Dettos and Duegis we all had back in the day), and thread-on freewheels.
There is a bit of retrogrouchy text that goes with each of the monthly selections that almost always ends with something along the lines of "Eddy Merckx won all of his races on ________."
Whether it's friction shifting, quill pedals, or lugged steel frames. That's practically a retrogrouch mantra. "If it was good enough for Eddy . . ."
So in 1994, all these items were considered "endangered." What is the status of these components 23 years later?
High-flange hubs? Still pretty hard to find, though not impossible - at least for track/singlespeed wheels. In fact, for people who still want to build their own wheels, just being able to buy hubs at all is becoming a challenge now that everyone (except us retrogrouches) wants pre-built "high-tech" wheels with super low spoke counts, or even carbon fiber wheels.
Friction shift levers? Thankfully still available. Dia Compe is still making versions of the old SunTour power ratchet (with a really fine ratchet, like the last-generation SunTours) that are sold under a couple of different names. Velo Orange is a source.
Centerpull brakes? As mentioned, they have made a bit of a comeback, though with the proliferation of disc brakes, they're still probably on borrowed time. Paul's centerpulls are super nice. Dia Compe still makes some, and Compass Cycles has a nice updated version of the old Mafacs. With posts brazed directly to the frame/fork, centerpulls give excellent stopping power and great modulation.
Single-pivot sidepull brakes? Gone. Just gone.
Quill pedals? Still around, surprisingly, and the quality is quite good. MKS seems to be the main source for them today.
Leather saddles? Somehow these are not just surviving, but maybe even thriving. Brooks is still the main one, but Gilles Berthoud, Selle Anatomica, and Selle Italia all offer high-quality leather saddles. There are some Taiwanese-made versions as well.
Lugged frames are scarce unless one is willing to shell out for something from a custom builder. Anything "off the rack" these days is going to be TIG welded, assuming it's even metal. Lugs and nice fork crowns are still out there for frame builders, but even a lot of steel frames nowadays use carbon fiber forks . . . (shudder).
It's kind of funny to think that after more than 20 years, the situation for many of these items hasn't changed a whole lot, but I think if I were to put out a new version of an Endangered Species
calendar today, I'd probably add traditional quick release levers, threaded headsets, and quill stems. Anything else to add? Leave a comment.