November 25, 2009

Ibis Scorcher

Recently my friend JVZ clued me in to both the existance of the Ibis Scorcher and the existence of a website dedicated to off road fixed gear riding: (defunct but still up).

Since I had never heard of it before I figured some of you out there probably hadn't either. So I decided to gather up some information because this bike is rad and you should probably know about it.

A hundred years ago, cyclists weren't sissies like today. With only one gear and not even one brake, not to mention no suspension or paved roads, they rode better than most do today. A few examples: In 1897, John George of Philadelphia rode 32,479 miles and John Noble rode 253 centuries in one year! The Ibis Scorcher takes its name from the renegade, rules-be-damned cyclists (proto-mountain bikers?) of this era that were scorned by pedestrians and "traditional cyclists" alike. The scorchers, while held in low regard, however, were immortalized in poetry:

I am the scorcher!
Please observe
The curve
That appertains to my spine!
With head ducked low
I go
Over man and beast, and woe
Unto the thing
That fails to scamper when I ting-a-ling!
Let people jaw
And go to law
To try to check my gait,
If that's their game!
I hate
To kill folks
But I will do it, just the same.
I guess
They clear the tracks for me;
Because, you see,
I am the Scorcher, full of zeal,
And just the thing I look like on the wheel.

The information below (above from First Flight) comes from a series of interviews from 63xc (named for the site owners prefered gear inches for off roading) with Scot Nicol, Wes Williams, and Jay Sexton. Pieces of the interview assembled ala carte for this post. You can read all three interviews here.

SN: We used Tange road tubing in what were then common road sizes. The bike wasn't really that laid back. I forget the head and seat angles, but they were probably 72/73 or something close. The bikes were tig welded.
JS: The entire batch of Scorchers went out the door in late 1993 or early 1994. 25 each of small and large, and 50 mediums.

SN: We manufactured the bars, using a talented local machinist/fabricator for the tube bending.
WW: [the bars] That's what they did back in the day, back in 1895. I just copied what they were doing. After years of having too short a position with those bars on modern stems, the 30° by 165mm stem has become my standard. I've probably made a hundred of those stems.
JS: The bars were designed after a bar made by Torrington, a company who was active in the 30s through 50s

WW: I'd been riding lightweight bikes offroad since 1972. The design of the Ibis Scorcher followed that of a Motobecane that I built up in 1982. The French had rougher roads. The offset on the French forks was two and a half inches, whereas the British was two. They're not road frames, they're touring frames from the 60s and 70s. Those heavy frames ride great! They absorb all the shock, they don't transmit it. I've got a couple of frames in front of my shop right now that are scorchable. One is an old Schwinn Japanese 70s touring bike with lugs, and it probably weighs 6lb. There's nothing better than that for this application.
I put a sloping top tube in it. We used double-butted and thinner tubing, so we got a 3 1/2 or 4lb frame. And it only fit a 45c tyre.

JF (me): I wonder if the reason this bike isn't the icon in the fixed community that its age, purpose, and pedigree warrant is because it lacks horizontal dropouts. There's certainly (for me anyway) a definite loss of that gut hotness with the semi horizontal.

SN: I think all these things are cyclic. Most cool stuff has been done before, in some way, shape or form. I could name a few examples of things we did that came around again later. And probably will again. I don't feel we were big innovators. But we were having fun, following our hearts, being passionate and real about what we did. Sure, we had to sell stuff to pay the rent, but we really believed in what we were doing, and people recognized that.

First Flight Bicycles spec list for the black bike with black tape shown

Wes Williams who was the bikes designer continues to build them under his Willits brand. (he even builds them with horizontal dropouts (or track ends for you Sheldon Brown nerds) which is a way sexier/better option (provided you're not a fender devotee) in my humble opinion)


MR said...

I raced cx fixie this season...hardest part is timing the barrier dismount. Some of the off camber turns got a little sketchy but it was big fun

Jeff said...

what brake setup did you ride? one or two? where?

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