I was reminded of some vintage examples of "stupid light" components by a recent discussion on the Classic Rendezvous group. One of these was this item:
|Plastic seat post - made by Shiba-Western in the mid/late '70s. Its design is based on the 2-bolt Campagnolo Nuovo Record seat post - but rendered in plastic, not aluminum. It's not even any kind of reinforced plastic - like fiberglass or whatever - so there was nothing to give it any strength or durability. It was apparently made in only one diameter, then plastic shims were slipped over the shaft to make it fit a wider range of frame sizes. These have been discussed in some of the online bike forums over the years, in addition to the CR group - and it should come as no surprise these had a reputation for breaking in very short order. One commenter on VeloBase said, "I had one. It failed on a ride after two years of use. I am told that is about two years longer than most of them lasted."|
Another "stupid light" component - from the late '60s through early '70s - was the all-nylon headset:
|Made by Nylfor in France, they were all nylon/plastic, including the bearing races. Some people claimed these didn't use bearings - but an ad I found on ClassicLightweights says it used 5/32" ball bearings. It's possible they were shipped without bearings, though - leaving the owner to supply their own. Most people who used these claimed they worked "OK" for a little while, but they had a lot of friction, and didn't last very long. I can easily picture steel bearings pressing into the plastic races to the point where the plastic would deform. Some people recommended using nylon ball bearings as well, which may or may not have helped. Another likely issue would be the destruction of the top nut from slipping wrenches. At least the headset wasn't a structural piece - that is, its failure probably wouldn't be catastrophic and cause a crash.|
|I don't think I'd be confident riding on any of these components. Just a little too much air, and not enough metal for my comfort zone. Some of them look cool (well, maybe not those brakes), but yikes!|
It's hard to be a bicyclist and not place a certain value on lightness in bikes and components - but I'm well past going after light weight at the expense of other factors. To sacrifice reasonable strength to shed a few grams makes no sense whatsoever if someone doesn't race - and even for racing, you can't win if you can't finish. And that was as true "back in the day" as it is today.