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:
|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.|
|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.