The Simplicity of it All



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Sometimes I think about bicycles and their sheer simplicity. Their sparse technology is especially true of the timeless single speed coaster brake bikes. I used MS Paint to label the basic rotating points of a cruiser. On my first attempt I overlooked the pedals. To me the minimalist theme of these bikes is one of their best features. Maybe I think too much . . .
Rotation x 4.png
 
Jun 27, 2017
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I agree. Gears and hand brakes are great, but the single speed coaster brake is a classic.

I guess an internally geared rear hub with a coaster brake is a good compromise.

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Jul 16, 2019
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In design school, I was taught that simplicity is the soul of good design. Funny thing about simplicity... It takes time to get there. The cantilever style frame used for the illustration above was designed fifty years after the derailleur was invented.
Funny thing about complexity, it's never enough. I rode my 21 speed yesterday, and it fell short on top end, I wanted more gears at one point. But for most of the time I had it locked it in a mid range gear and rode it like single speed:rolleyes:
 
Nov 24, 2019
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As someone who, prior to getting into bikes, didn't know how to wrench on much with confidence, these classic cruiser bikes are ideal for someone wanting to learn how to take something apart, fix it up, and put it back together. Plus, you don't need to spend a ton of money on a ton of tools to work on an old bike either. A couple screwdrivers, a few wrenches, some PB Blaster, and maybe some needle-nose pliers, and you can can have a whole bike apart in less than an hour! Heck, that's part of what got me into bikes in the first place; I wanted to learn how to wrench on something simple, and what better way to start than with an old bike!
 
Feb 26, 2017
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It's not just a matter of simplicity. It's where on the spectrum of simplicity to complexity you want to operate. Using Kevin's example of a coaster brake cruiser, there are simpler machines, e.g., a draisine, a 19th century two-wheeler that the rider pushed along with his feet on the ground (like the balance bikes now popular among toddlers). And there are more complex machines, e.g., a carbon-frame bike with disc brakes and electronic derailleur shifting. We won't even get into electric bikes.

As costs rise, benefits rise. But the benefit curve tends to flatten out (after a while, no matter how much you spend, it's only a little bit better) and the cost curve tend to shoot up (it's easy to spend more). The goal is to pick the optimum point where you get adequate benefit without spending too much. Spending includes not just the initial cost of purchase but the cost (and labor) of maintenance. Of course, it's hard to put a price on coolness.

Have fun!
 
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Jul 10, 2018
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Fixies are the simplest bicycles. Requires more stamina and skill to ride. I believe anyone could learn how to maintain and repair a basic coaster bike in a short time.
 
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Oct 15, 2008
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I wasn't trying to dismiss those advantages. My intention was more to emphasize the rotational points.
Got it. My rear derailleur would add two more rotating items.
The Schwinn style springer fork moves the wheel in an arc, so that is another one.
Finally, the drum brake arm scribes another arc, so that is one more.
 
Oct 15, 2008
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I enjoyed hour long rid
Fixies are the simplest bicycles. Requires more stamina and skill to ride. I believe anyone could learn how to maintain and repair a basic coaster bike in a short time.
I enjoyed hour long rides on my fixie, but I couldn't do an MS-150 on one.
 
Jul 10, 2018
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Actually, recent demonstrations have shown that neither gyroscopic and caster effects are necessary for balancing a bike but rather contribute to balancing. Bikes can be made to stand upright without both effects or a rider. Properly distributed mass also keeps a bike up.
I'd post the science behind the findings, but last time I did here it gave people a headache.
Pretty easy to search for.
 
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Thanks for the clarification. I have thought about starting a companion thread "The Efficiency of it All," but it is way above my pay grade. I have read several articles that say the bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation. I found one tongue in cheek article that contended to go 20 miles on a bike cost about 1.5 Big Macs in calories. Evidently bicycle efficiency is in the high 90s of efficient output. Doubt I phrased that right but it still is amazing.
 
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Sep 26, 2012
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They're only simple because we take industrialization for granted.

Even if you got the idea for a safety bicycle earlier in history, things get a lot less simple when you have to make each chain link by hand.
(Speaking of, there's probably one or two rotational points in the chain, but maybe don't include all of them on your diagram.:bigsmile:)

Pre-industrialization the only one who could make a chain as fine, delicate, and strong as a bicycle chain would be a watch maker, or a locksmith, sometimes that's the same person.
And at the time they worked on what was considered the pinnacle of complex technology.

So I guess simplicity is relative.

Though... you could argue that the bicycle is a massive simplification of the horse.
A simplification that enabled the first true egalitarian mass mobilization of people.

Maybe I just negated my own point. Hard to tell because I kinda forgot what my point was. :39:
 
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