“Hope” is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops ... at all - Emily Dickenson

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Steel vs ALAN Aluminum Bicycle

A bar of steel—it is only 
Smoke at the heart of it, smoke and the blood of a man.

A runner of fire ran in it, ran out, ran somewhere else,
And left—smoke and the blood of a man
And the finished steel, chilled and blue.
So fire runs in, runs out, runs somewhere else again,
And the bar of steel is a gun, a wheel, a nail, a shovel,
A rudder under the sea, a steering-gear in the sky;
(A double-butted bicycle frame tube?)
And always dark in the heart and through it,
Smoke and the blood of a man.
Pittsburg, Youngstown, Gary—they make their steel with men.

In the blood of men and the ink of chimneys
The smoke nights write their oaths:
Smoke into steel and blood into steel;
Homestead, Braddock, Birmingham, they make their steel with men.
Smoke and blood is the mix of steel.

- selected from Smoke and Steel by Carl Sandburg

I have never owned a non-steel bicycle. Ever.  I love steel, handbuilt, lightweight bicycles.

In moment of weakness, I recently purchased an aluminum bicycle, a mid 1970s ALAN. The tube and lugs are glued and screwed together. It is the most successful aluminum bike to ever show up in the professional peloton - TdF stage wins, a couple of World Championships, etc. Its price proved to be an economic killer in the retail market. Or possibly that was never even considered. 

This one needs the lugs polished, ALAN frame stickers, .... some featherweight components, and wheelset. 6 1/2 pounds as shown, including frame, fork, BB, headset, seatpost. I plan on a single-speed with front brake only. As light as feasible and still be a rideable machine. 

Aluminum? Aluminum? I sold out; sold my soul for a few ounces... er, pounds.

- Gunnar 


George A said...

Gasp. What's next? Crap-on fibber? (half the weight of aluminum)

Gunnar Berg said...

For me, neither carbon-fiber nor TIG welded aluminum bicycles have a soul. They are fine machines mass produced in factories, not by artizans. This one somehow sneaked past my irrational standard.