A brief outline of the racing bicycle in Sweden


Bicycle competition is as old as the bicycle itself, but began in earnest with the advent of the safety bicycle in the 1880s. The early diamond-frame bicycles used in racing were mostly similar to the standard models but soon dedicated racing models became available.

American Victor from 1896

In Sweden the racing bicycles were part of the line-up of local producers but also imported from Germany, UK and the USA. But from the 1910s the home industry took over almost entirely probably as a result of imposition of customs duties on bicycles.

The road standard in Sweden was really dismal with gravel roads prevailing right up to the 1950s. So sturdiness and comfort was more important than light weight and elegance. Therefore the frame design for racing purposes was almost the same as on the standard bicycle of the time but with lighter frame tubes. A common feature was the cranked seat stays secured at the top by the saddle bolt. This was a feature retained on Swedish bicycles until the 1940s. Another carryover from earlier American designs was the "Ashtabula" or "Fauber" crank with the crank arms forged in one piece united with the axle. This was a very strong and fail-proof albeit slightly heavy piece of machinery used on Crescent racers until the end of the 1950s.

Typical early long wheelbase pre-WWI racer with case for food and drink needed during long races. Note the forged crank and curved seat stays.

In the 1920s frames became somewhat shorter. Hand brakes of the Bowden type appeared at that time, at first only on the rear wheel, made necessary by the common use of freeweel gears. As most of the riding was done "on the bend" only the lower parts of the handle bar were taped. The most commonly used bicycle brands in racing were Crescent, Hermes, Fram and Nordstjernan, forming factory backed teams.

Look at the 1920s pictures on the web pages av the CK Hymer Cycling Club

Union was unique by using external lugs showing influence from European frame building practice. By the 1930s lighter chrome molybdenum steel tubes became available for frame building and with fillet brazing or gas welding light and strong frames were produced. As an example a 1938 Husqvarna weighted 10,9 kg. By the end of the prewar era derailleurs appeared. The Simplex was the best changing device but was considered too fragile for competition use. Therefore the Cyclo and Super Champion designs were preferred.

Ingvar Ericsson with his Union Special Racer showing a much tighter frame and a Super Champion derailleur. The crank is still of the standard forged type.

After the second world war racing bicycle design continued almost unchanged apart from some new equipment made available. In competition the factory teams were dominant and for the management similarity with the standard product was more important than technical development. Those riders who had to pay for their own bikes were largely ignorant of bicycle development in the rest of Europe. Not until the end of the 1950s did influence from abroad change racing bicycle design. During the early part of the 60s the combined companies of Monark and Crescent began selling a Reynolds tubed, Nervex lugged frame produced in quantity for almost 20 years. During that time commercial interest in racing bikes in the Swedish industry dwindled and from the 1980s almost all racing bikes sold in Sweden was imported. The shop brand Champion sold by ECI were made by Legnano and later Torpado, Razesa and some japanese brands and and the Flamingo from the same shop by Patelli and others.

After MCB (Crescent) stopped making their own racing frames they worked with the partly owned Racerdepån with the Fåglum brothers importing Eddy Merckx. Later the racing models were produced by other Italian and Asian builders.

Between 1989 and 2001 Hallman Sport imported Cyclepro bicycles and sponsored teams in racing. The Octagon were developed and produced in Sweden.

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