02 November 2011

Ferrara's Vintage Bicycle Fleet

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Many things amazed me about visiting Ferrara, Italy last week. It's a brilliant cycling city with 30% modal share. They don't have a congestion charge, they have a congestion BAN. You pay to get into the city centre if you have stuff to deliver and you can have a resident's permit if you live inside the old city walls. But other than that it's a no-drive zone. There are eight locations with cameras tracking number plates and if you're in there without a permit you get sent a €100 fine.

I've recently blogged about the amazing amount of elderly bicycle users in the city. Both the women as well as the gentlemen - over at Cycle Chic. I've never seen so many bicycle users over 'a certain age' in one place anywhere in the world.

Another thing that kept astounding me was the bicycles. Easily 80% of the bicycles ridden in the city are vintage. The bike racks outside the train station alone must be the greatest gathering of vintage bikes in one spot on the planet. Each and every day of the year. Seriously, if you're into vintage bicycles this is where you go to drool. I have no idea how to even angle this blogpost into any form of structure.

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Rod brakes. Everywhere. Easily 40-50% of the bicycles have them. Brilliant.
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It ain't just vintage bicycles by known brands like Bianchi. I spotted dozens of brands I've never heard of and am unable to google.

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Piaggio bicycle seat. Wider than thou.

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Retro (style) skirtguards and front/back racks and skirtguards abound in Ferrara.

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I'm quite sure I had grips like these as a kids. I'm also quite sure I miss them terribly.

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Don't even get me started on the chainguards.

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The number and style of the mini-bikes in the city would have Copenhagen fashionistas sobbing into their Gucci scarves.

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Like in any mainstream bicycle culture, personalisation is at a premium.

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Vintage head badges. Sigh.

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Anyone know what that rubber thing is? I saw them on loads of bicycles.

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I found a cool bike shop - mostly a repair shop but with vintage, restored bikes for sale in the window. A 1920 Raleigh with original components anyone? €1000.

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A Vicini ladies bicycle with toolbag - €450.

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A second world war British army bike with original leather straps for carrying the rifle. €400.

The girl who owns the bike shop was cool and we had a chat about all the bikes. I asked her - and at several other bike shops - where it was possible to buy vintage bikes like the ones on the street. Nobody knew. The girl said that it was hard to find them. "People don't sell them often", she said with a shrug. "They just like them too much." When I tried to press her a bit on the subject she shrugged again. "I don't think about bikes when I'm off work. I have other interests." Brilliant. She is a bike shop owner and mechanic who lovingly restores vintage beauties but bikes are not her whole life. I loved that comment.

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Her shop was filled with vintage parts, too. Lying around in baskets. I asked if some of them were for sale but she wasn't keen. "I need them to repair the old bikes in the city", she said rather matter of factly.

A few bits and pieces were on sale she told me.
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Wheel locks and bells.

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Dynamo motors, headlamps and head badges.

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I spotted this lifting handle on one of the vintage bicycles for sale. She said they used to be normal on Italian bikes but hard to find these days. No, it wasn't for sale. You may remember this lifting handle that used to be standard on Swedish and Danish bikes back in the day.

I did purchase a newspaper carrier for the handlebars from the shop... photos coming as soon as it is installed on my bicycle.

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And, rather appropriately given the fact I was attending a CycleLogisitics meeting, a cargo bike selling nuts.

See the whole photo set Ferrara's Vintage Bicycles on Flickr.


Kim said...

If you get the chance you should also visit Bozen/Bolzano in the north of Italy which also has a cycling modal share of 30%. Being in the Alps, it rather kills the myth than only flat paces have a high modal share of cyclist!

portlandize.com said...

I'm pretty sure I had grips like those white pokey ones on a BMX Bike I had in my early teens :)

Alexa said...

The rubber thing on the handle bars may be to keep bags from slipping down the handle bar and bumping against the front tire. Not that I've ever seen one, but that's what I'd use one for if it were on my bike.

The carrying handle seems like a pretty easy thing to make. Just a couple of pipe clamps and a handle between them, maybe made of wrapped rope or an old suitcase handle. Not as elegant, but just as serviceable.

Anonymous said...

Old Dutch bicyles had those rubber thingies on the steering wheel as well. I have seen them many times, as have some people i asked. We think it's to protect the chrome handlebars when you put the bike against a wall. Nobody is really sure about this though.
Why is it only on one side? It's always just one. And there have been kickstands for ages right? Why put it up against the wall?

I remember having an old bike with one of these. I never really knew what it was for. Now i want to know, and i want to know what its's called. I'll keep you posted. ;-)


Bolk said...

The rubber bands are to protect the handlebar when you lean the bike against a wall, and as a matter of fact they are usually located on the right side of the handlebar, on the opposite side of the bike stand. When you put the bike in the garage, beside the car, you don't have space to rest the bike on its stand, and you lean it against the wall. This has been my experience growing up in Italy.

Frits B said...

In one of the pictures the rubber "thingy" seems to be used to fit a bell, the thingy probably serving as protection of the chrome - not that the owners of these bikes apparently care much about their chrome parts. The theory of the thingies being protective stoppers when the bike is leant against a wall may hold truth, but I always thought that the grips were rather more efficient for this purpose.

Mikael said...

thanks for the comments! the leaning theory is cool. i'm thinking that the shopping bag theory is probably more logical. Whatever the case the rubber things I saw were all old - no new ones.

Anonymous said...

Ferrara by bike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfbb_TLeHag :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can confirm: the rubber thing was common to prevent damage to the handlebar and to not sign walls.
In the old days was common also a rubber coverture for horizontal bar.
Do not know why simple and practical things vanished. Our bike enthusiasts think that these are devices conceived and made in an historic period in which the bike was the only mean of transport for everyone. This changed in mid sixties. Ferrara and adriatic shores little towns apart we worship engine mousetrap.

Anonymous said...

Those rubber "things" were/are bumpers to protect your handlebar when put against a wall.
And it's not a theory!
Not all bikes had/have a kickstand.
Jos Helmer

Anonymous said...

Hello from Italy,
I have a old Dei with the "rubber thing"on the handle bar, and his italian name is "paramanubrio"(parare= to protect + manubrio= handle bar)
the paramunbrio allows you to put the bike against a wall avoiding scratchs on the handle bar

If you are a lover of vintage bike check this italian blog: http://paramanubrio.blogspot.com/