In Memoriam: The Funny Bike

Laurent Fignon's Hour Record Machine

We gather here today to pay our respects to one of the most exciting developments the Cycling world has ever witnessed: the funny bike.

For seventy years, the evolution of the bicycle was marked by incremental change; improvements to brakes, more gears, and better shifting followed one another as the sport grudgingly continued its slow journey towards progress and modernization.

Then, in an instant, disruption. Change. In the years prior to 1984, time trial machines were little more than finely-tuned road machines. But suddenly, spurred on by Francesco Moser’s success in breaking the Hour Record aboard a radical machine with double disc wheels and cow-horn handlebars, we entered a decade of innovation.

In the blink of an eye, we had broken from the shackles of traditional thinking and were suddenly free to think about a bicycle without constraint. Riders appeared in the start house with fairings attached to their saddles and bars mounted below the top tube. Riders toed up to the start line with broom sticks mounted across the drops of their handlebars. Aero bars appeared and with them, the triangular frame design that had graced our machines for three-quarters of a century disappeared. In the span of ten short years, time trial positions went from the standard tuck to the Super Man.

Then, in a crafty maneuver which demonstrates that the UCI’s incompetence is not a recent development, new regulations were introduced which effectively killed innovation in bike design. The UCI regulated the position of the bars, the saddle, the size of the wheels, the design of the frame; even the shape of the tubes are currently highly scrutinized. The UCI even offers an exorbitantly expensive frame certification process.

Join me now, as we examine some examples of the most innovative machines our sport will ever see.

A-Merckx.

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140 Replies to “In Memoriam: The Funny Bike”

  1. Well, shit on a donkey, this might be the best page on the internet. Seriously, check it out.

    And the crazy thing is, these aren’t even the best shots from that page, just the most relevant.

    Nice headgear, John.

    The British TT scene in the late eighties was the fucking bomb.

  2. He might not be effective in the TT, but I bet he’s handy to keep on the team anyway.

    Rule violation aside, this guy might be a genius.

  3. @frank

    He might not be effective in the TT, but I bet he’s handy to keep on the team anyway.

    Rule violation aside, this guy might be a genius.

    Is he using the fork travel to pressurise the keg? That is genius!

  4. @Bianchi Denti

    @frank

    He might not be effective in the TT, but I bet he’s handy to keep on the team anyway.

    Rule violation aside, this guy might be a genius.

    Is he using the fork travel to pressurise the keg? That is genius!

    Ah, correction. No he’s not. But he could, as the keg is a sprung mass. I hope he’s reading this…

  5. @DerHoggz

    Cinelli Laser:

    This, und This!!
    @sthilzy

    Always had Modolo’s Kronotech stuck in my head since seeing it the Gallery of Bicycle Guide March 1986. I’m very late for work as I searched through my 80″²s bike mags to find it, scan it and post it up. Carbone or what?!

    This was 26 years ago!
    Love the seat post fairing. Check out the built in computer on the bars. Looks like a Cateye solar. Still has downtube shifters! The ground clearance of the front wheel fairing.
    Oddly enough, this bike was featured on “Beyond Two Thousand” back in the 80″²s and I have a VHS tape of the segment – somewhere amongst the old VHS collection. I’ll endeavor to dig it up and post it up.

    I loved, and still love the Kronotech. Still one of the most beautiful bikes from that era in my opinion.
    I think that the seatpost fairing is a rubber boot similar to the ones that Modolo used on thier Kronos brakes.
    Thanks for that @sthilzy!

  6. @Bianchi Denti

    @Bianchi Denti

    @frank

    He might not be effective in the TT, but I bet he’s handy to keep on the team anyway.

    Rule violation aside, this guy might be a genius.

    Is he using the fork travel to pressurise the keg? That is genius!

    Ah, correction. No he’s not. But he could, as the keg is a sprung mass. I hope he’s reading this…

    Best part is; the trailer is way classier than the bike.

  7. @frank

    Well, shit on a donkey, this might be the best page on the internet. Seriously, check it out.

    And the crazy thing is, these aren’t even the best shots from that page, just the most relevant.

    Nice headgear, John.

    The British TT scene in the late eighties was the fucking bomb.

    Awesome site. My sensei, Ian Cammish:

  8. @frank

    Well, shit on a donkey, this might be the best page on the internet. Seriously, check it out.

    And the crazy thing is, these aren’t even the best shots from that page, just the most relevant.

    Nice headgear, John.

    The British TT scene in the late eighties was the fucking bomb.

    Going out on a tricycle for 24 hours in the rain armed with nothing more than a beard, pipe and NHS glasses is hardness beyond hard

  9. @Chris…and to get to your point about the wheel swinging; it never happened if you were careful, but the actual mounts you linked to were definitely safer, of course.

    P.S. Ian Cammish? How cool, he’s a seriously cred Sensei! How many times was he BBAR? Class act, no doubt.

  10. @Oli
    Nine times, bettered only (in the men’s category) by Kevin Dawson who has 11 wins. Beryl Burton makes them look a bit soft with 25 wins between 1959 and 1983!

    When he’s not turning me inside out on a two up twenty five, he’s a great bloke with a huge wealth of knowledge. A class act indeed.

  11. @tomb

    Why can’t you buy these things at the LBS?

    I built a pair of these in the late 80s for traveling to TTs by bike. Easy to do. Get a couple of pieces of aluminum stock (one inch wide, x inches long) cut two equal lengths, drill/cut out notches at either end and bend appropriately. Insert one end inside your quick release and then use two old toe straps to secure the wheels to the bars. Can be a bit dicey in the wind and makes your steering really bad, but they’ll get you there!

  12. @Oli
    You may be right about the wheels not swinging if care was taken but I don’t think I’d want to go far on a windy day without the mounts.

    A while back there was a rule proposed about riding to the start of group rides, these guys didn’t have much choice, it was Rule 5 and ride to wherever the race was being held or stay at home.

  13. Loving the front brake bolted on backwards for more ‘aero’!
    No bar tape, front derailleur – more weight savings

    Would you take it a step further to make the bike lighter by drilling/grinding out the shiny bits?

  14. @sthilzy
    Oddly enough, this bike was featured on “Beyond Two Thousand” back in the 80″²s and I have a VHS tape of the segment – somewhere amongst the old VHS collection. I’ll endeavor to dig it up and post it up.

    Eureka! Found it!
    Beyond 2k segment shows you inside Modolo’s office/factory and bits of an Italian bike expo.
    Now to find the firewire cable to get the vid uploaded.
    STAY TUNED! There’s some 7-Eleven gems on that same VHS cassette.

  15. Here’s and article of where ‘it’ all started – funny bikes that is.
    Winning Bicycle Racing Illustrated, No.16 November 1984 (Olympic Games Special Issue)
    Interesting read.

  16. Exactly what I described. Great memories! And let’s not forget another TT superstar of the late 70s/early 80s – Sean Yates. Alf Engers used to drill the shit out of every component on his bike: brakes, seatpost, levers, chainrings.

    Reading Cycling Weekly all through the 80s these were the riders I saw every week. They rarely rode in Scotland because we didn’t have the super fast courses they had down south. Occasionally English riders would come north and be shocked at how their times rose; it was because our courses were rarely flat and often had nasty winds.

    My winter bike was built around an old green Brian Rourke TT frame. Fag paper clearances and twitchy as all-get-out. Had to watch the fingers when changing gears as the front tire was VERY close to the downtube. My TT bike was a neon pink Cougar from Liverpool. Sloping curved top tube, super tight clearances, Mavic cowhorn and TT bars, 24 spoke wheels on Royce hubs and Clement tubs. Ahhhh . . . .

  17. How long some of you have been active in the sport is really impressive! I’m just a rookie compared to most. The black & white photos from the British road racing site are very cool.

    Damn, Big Mig in that Funny Helmet looks mean! Definitely not built like a skinny climber. Even his arms are impressive.

    And the dude with the keg – I’ll be standing a few meters behind whoever is going to inform him about his Rule violations. That’s a big fella!

  18. @frank

    I must admit, it was funny. Wrong, but funny.

    Nahhh, i meant the part that mounts to your front axel. I have toe straps. I am that old that rode with those.

  19. @Tomb
    You can attach the wheels at the forks with toe straps also. I have transported wheels many times like that in one of the windiest cities in the world without problems.

    @frank
    Cheers, Frank!

  20. @sthilzy
    Oh, Winning. Each month waiting in the pre-internet era. What a magazine. I must root through my parents’ basement and see if my magazines are still there.

  21. @wiscot
    Aaah yes… The 70’s & 80’s… There was no bike part that couldn’t be drilled out to save precious grams. Around 1985 bought a set of Ambrosio rims that were drilled out between the spoke nipples (on the tire side only) from a “friend”. Mounted my tubs and the first time I hit 30 mph my Gianni Motta went into total convulsions as the wheels were so out of balance from the drilling. I have learned to leave well enough alone.

  22. @Erik

    @sthilzy
    Oh, Winning. Each month waiting in the pre-internet era. What a magazine. I must root through my parents’ basement and see if my magazines are still there.

    If I have a regret in life, it is that I didn’t keep my old copies of Winning. The large format! So great!

    @Tomb
    *want*

  23. Each time I travel back to Scotland I rescue a few more editions of Miroir du Cyclisme from my parents’ attic. The Winnings and a few cool books are long gone . . .

  24. After finding that picture of my sensei/coach on the cycling info site that @frank posted up I thought I’d have a bit more of a dig round and found a few magazine covers featuring him. Interestingly, he seems to be sporting the dog leg crank arms here and here. I’ll have to ask him what that was all about and whether they worked.

  25. As a Bottecchia rider I knew about the Lemond Bottecchia TT but hadn’t seen the Modolo Kronotech before, the BatMobile of the cycling world.

  26. @sthilzy

    Always had Modolo’s Kronotech stuck in my head since seeing it the Gallery of Bicycle Guide March 1986. I’m very late for work as I searched through my 80″²s bike mags to find it, scan it and post it up. Carbone or what?!

    This was 26 years ago!
    Love the seat post fairing. Check out the built in computer on the bars. Looks like a Cateye solar. Still has downtube shifters! The ground clearance of the front wheel fairing.
    Oddly enough, this bike was featured on “Beyond Two Thousand” back in the 80″²s and I have a VHS tape of the segment – somewhere amongst the old VHS collection. I’ll endeavor to dig it up and post it up.

    Here’s the video article on the Kronotech from “Beyond Two Thousand” back in 1986.
    Enjoy!

  27. @sthilzy

    @sthilzy

    Always had Modolo’s Kronotech stuck in my head since seeing it the Gallery of Bicycle Guide March 1986. I’m very late for work as I searched through my 80″²s bike mags to find it, scan it and post it up. Carbone or what?!

    This was 26 years ago!
    Love the seat post fairing. Check out the built in computer on the bars. Looks like a Cateye solar. Still has downtube shifters! The ground clearance of the front wheel fairing.
    Oddly enough, this bike was featured on “Beyond Two Thousand” back in the 80″²s and I have a VHS tape of the segment – somewhere amongst the old VHS collection. I’ll endeavor to dig it up and post it up.

    Here’s the video article on the Kronotech from “Beyond Two Thousand” back in 1986.
    Enjoy!

    80’s Carbone?

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