Vintage, yesteryear and retro biking
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I have a question for those more versed in Aussie cycle history than I am.
As an ex-Pom I have always assumed 'Major Taylor' style adjustable stems consist of two basic bits. A stem which is round into the frame and square arm pointing forward with a sliding clamp which fits on the square part of the stem and holds the bars.
However, often in Oz I have come across a variation on the theme I have not seen before where both arms of the stem are round, with the forward facing arm having the 'key' to prevent the clamp holding the bars rotating.
Here is a picture of one I am 'fixing' after a previous owner ground the 'key' off to use it as a seatpost.
note the nifty clamp bolt with the curved cut-out to fit the bars.
Also a pristine (slightly different) version attached to my half-finished 1930's Malvern Star rebuild
So is this round version of the Major Taylor stem an Aussie variation or is it a well known item?
In all the photos of Major Taylor that I have seen that show the head stem front on, the stem profile is round. (or oval). Oval was good, wheras the round stem need the track referred to above to stop the bars from twisting under load. As far as I know, the term 'Major Taylor Stem' originally referred to the adjustability of the length of the stem rather than the shape of the extension.
When Major Taylor visited Australia he revolutionised the accepted racing position, which up until then was usually shorter (reach wise) than what he used. Photos of his races from that time show him as the odd man out, with a flatter back compared to his rivals.
I dont know when the 'Diamond Adjustable' stems first appeared, but I have always assumed that it was somewhat later, maybe around 1910?, and 'Major Taylor' became the generic term.
This is another one of those terms that has grown dramatically in the last few years, (largely due to ebay?), where a 'Major Taylor' stem attracts a lot more attention than a 'Diamond Adjustable' stem.
The round and oval stems are much rarer, and older, than the diamond stems. I usually assume that a round or oval stem is pre WW1. They would have been around after that, but I think most were diamond between the wars.
The 1930's Malvern Star models that came with adjustable stems as standard all came with diamond section extensions.
I too had never heard of the term 'Major Taylor' being applied to the diamond stem until quite recently.
They were always just diamond stems, diamond outrigger stems, or diamond adjustable stems & these terms will remain in my vocabulary until old-timers disease erases them from my memory.
Once a good idea was invented, it was patented. If it sold well, others tried to find ways to get around the patent.
The round & oval outriggers were two such examples of the patent evaders art.
This is my own example.
Notice that it had provision for mounting the bars above or below the outrigger.
Carbine & SJH cycles, & Quicksilver BMX
Now that's AUSTRALIAN to the core.
Ah this may be one of those Oz/UK naming difference things. Where I come from in South London (circa 1960' onwards) steel diamond or outrigger stems were always known as 'Major Taylor' types. The fancy Italian alloy adjustable track stems were just track stems for some reason .
Maybe this has something to do with the British propensity for naming generic goods by maker or label. For example we had 'Hoovers' not vacuum cleaners and you would send for a 'JCB' to dig a hole not a back hoe.
Re Kid's last point, I must admit I found it quite clever that there was a slot in the clamp piece to take the key when the bars are below the stem but the key fits neatly into the clamping bolt 'split' in the clamp piece when the bars are orientated above the stem (providing you fit the right size bars )
probably a few on here who remember being asked to "hoover" the floors.... I have an early diamond style but its a nicer one with a removable brass bush in the bar bracket to clamp onto the diamond section, nice, slides up and down to adjust without the struggle of cheaper ones, but probably a bit heavy...
Correct, put out by Holdsworth Cycles, and a guide to what equipment was available in Britain each year.
Velobase and publications like this help for novices like myself to be aware of the equipment available in the period appropriate to the date my frame was manufactured. And then the forum fills in more.
The National Cycle Collection has a near complete collection of the Aids to Happy Cycling, later named as Bike Rider's Aids from 1936-39 then 1949-64 available for download for a small fee.
Just do a search for "Holdsworth"
I recently bought a round extension stem without a key but with provision for one on the bar clamp. I bought it fully aware so I am not whinging (thank you silverlight).
My penchant of old iron and the fact these stems are so rare meant I didn't care if the key has been removed. Or has it? There is no evidence of a key at all.
Does anyone know of a keyless version? If it has been carefully filed off then trip to my preferred cycle engineer will sort it.
As an aside, I have a photo (taken about 200 metres from where I live) of riders who had participated in a race in 1910 - of the 20 or so bikes in the pic, most had round extension stems and only a few had the earlier stems with no extension ie. bars sitting immediately atop the stem
Cinelli produced a version known as the Stayer (Mod. 4) in which the round extension was serrated, presumably to negate slippage. These were aften seen on motor paced machines (stayers) and also in six day races, sometimes with the bars turned up when riders had to stay on the track during neutralisation periods.
These stems are now highly collectible, and expensive. I think other Italian makers (Ambrosio??) may also have produced similar models.
Re the use of the term "Major Taylor" on diamond extensions, my understanding was that it was a recent innovation. But Finlay Bros - makers of The Barb - offered a "Major Taylor Diamond Extension" on its Barb Utility and Clubman models in the 1930s. Perhaps the inclusion of "diamond" was necessary to distinguish it from the original (round) Major Taylor extensions.
My guess, the diamond extensions were more reliable on a utility bike and also allowed the makers to produce a minimum number of frame sizes while meeting the needs of most customers.
And here is another type of adjustable stem.
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage-50s- ... 3ccf42b68d
The quill is fixed in the fork before the extension is attached.
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