Sunday, March 15, 2009

Racycle Chain: Another Unusual Feature

The Racycle’s maker, the Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company, often stated that “a Racycle differs from a bicycle.” Its chain was one of the more subtle ways in which this statement was true.
In 1897, Racycle’s second year of production, large, 30-tooth (1-inch pitch) front sprockets were introduced on two of the eight models offered. Miami Cycle had reasoned that the larger sprockets were preferable because they imparted less strain on the drive chain. Thus, with larger sprockets a neater, narrower chain could be used.
So it was that from 1897 on through 1913 (and perhaps later) Racycles carried unusually narrow chains on their unusually large sprockets. Perhaps the narrow chain also helped cement the notion in the mind of the customer that superior engineering and high-quality materials and construction made the Racycle more efficient and easier to pedal--how else could they get by with such a delicate chain? The second photo shows an elaborate Racycle display complete with weights and spring scales (left) to demonstrate Racycle efficiency. Future posts to this web log will evaluate at least a couple of Racycle's engineering conclusions, so check back for fascinating stuff!
When typical bicycles carried chains that were ¼-inch wide, the first large-sprocket Racycles (1897) carried chains that were only 3/16-inch wide. In 1900, the width was reduced further to 1/8 inch. The 1/8-inch wide chain was used through 1913 (as late as my sources go) and perhaps later.
Interestingly, in 1905 Miami Cycle introduced shiny nickel-plated chain on the high-end Racycles: the Pacemaker (Model 100), Racer (Model 101), and Roadster (Model 102). (These are the same models, with addition of the Roadster Model 104, that also received the improved crank hanger in 1905.) This arrangement of fitting plated chain to the top three models was continued through 1908. In the first and third photographs is a length of nickel-plated Racycle chain (circa 1905-1908) next to a standard 3/16-inch block chain for comparison.
Through 1909, only block chain was used regardless of width. Roller chain was first offered on Racycles in 1910 but only on selected models: the Pacemaker (Model 150) and Rideabout (Model 152). Both models used Diamond 1/8-inch roller chain. Diamond roller chain was also an option on The Racycle Yellow Flyer (Model 151-R) and Roadster Model 154, but only block chain (also 1/8-inch) was available on the lower-tier models: the Ladies’ Pacemaker (Model 153) and Roadster Model 155. The catalog text makes no mention of whether the chains were nickel plated. Diamond chains continued to be used on all Racycles through 1913 (as late as my collection of catalogs can take us), and by that year roller chains were standard throughout the Racycle range.
The only use, so far as I am aware, of ½-inch-pitch chain was on the Racycle Rideabout, mentioned above. The Rideabout was introduced in 1909 and continued through at least 1913, perhaps later. In addition to the chain pitch, the Rideabout was unusual in that it carried an intermediate-sized 70-tooth front sprocket that was sized half way between the Pacemaker and the roadster sprockets.

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