Over the last 10 years we have seen old designs become new. Fixed and Free bicycles, the normal bicycle until the early 40's have become the New bicycles of today.
Simple and clean drive trains are now what's mostly seen on big city streets here in the U. S. Single speeds appeal to new riders for the light weight and lack of maintenance.
Walk through any large bicycle shop and you will see, one speeds, two speeds, three speeds, all the way up to Eleven.
Raleigh for years offered Sturmey Archer 3 Speed hubs as an option only. Bicycles for the most part came as a one speed. Freewheels were normal gear, but Fixed Cogs were found on all racing models.
Years ago, I was working at a shop that dealt with all new old stock as well as used classic lightweights. Everything we sold except for rubber and cables was antique. One day a older gent and a friend showed up with a Drysdale, "Red Devil" The Red Devil was one of the favorite of all the road racers back in the 30's. (The other was the Raleigh Golden Arrow) Fixed gear, simple and clean as a whistle.
As the gents unloaded the bike they were selling for a friends wife, who had passed away, we chatted about riding "Fixed."
I told them that I had my first in the early 70's, a Golden Arrow and now had 2 custom built bikes as well as 3 Arrows. I went on to say, I Love my Fixed Gears, People think I'm Nuts! I ride them everywhere! In the woods as an off road bike and once back from Montreal!
They looked at me like the child I was and still am and said, "Did you ever do it on wood rims? We didn't have paved roads when we were growing up. We knew a rider was out of shape when they would show up on one of those "Derailleur Bikes".
The fellow was Joseph Cote. He went on to tell me they use to ride 52-13 fixed. It was easer on the down hills. A normal training day was 180 miles.
Bill Vandell of Vandell's in New Bedford, Ma. was the same way. High gears and big miles, he would head out in the morning from New Bedford and ride up to Vermont and be back home for dinner. Dirt roads for the most part. He rode a Golden Arrow.
Times have changed. Riders prefer lower gears. Fixed for fashion and not proper form. Road racing is derailleur bicycle only but back in the 30's they were not allowed. Excepting the derailleur was hard here in the States and for some today as well.
Bill Vandell and his 1936 Raleigh Golden Arrow