Classic Lightweights UK
Weinmann ComponentsSteve Griffith
Swiss precision and reliability for cycle parts
The most well known Swiss maker of cycle parts, Weinmann were a large volume supplier of brakes and rims, especially in the 1970’s when most British ‘sports bikes’ featured Weinmann as original equipment. This was true for Raleigh, Carlton, Dawes and Falcon. Weinmann were most successful with their brakes where they achieved a near dominance of the UK market, only top-end cycles would feature Mafac, Universal or Campagnolo. GB experienced a gradual decline throughout the 60’s and 70’s with no real innovation after the late 50’s. Other makes like CLB were rarely found on cycles outside of their country of origin (France).
First Weinmann advert in Aids to Happy Cycling 1958
Weinmann were based in the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland and have their origins in the late 1930’s. They started appearing in the British market around 1949 (1). They originally made steel brakes but in the late 40’s began to use forged alloy. Prior to 1946 the brakes did not have a model number.
In the mid 1950's the product range was as follows:
Side pull brakes: the 730 standard and the 500 for close clearances. These were made until their demise in the late 1980’s. These were, for over thirty years, the core product competitively priced. The 500 was always the cheapest option for equipping a close clearance frame, this design was extremely influencial for the major Far Eastern brake manufacturers. 730’s fitted to Dawes cycles in the 50’s and 60’s had the trade name Talon. There were longer reach versions the 810, 890 and 1020 originally for balloon tyred bikes. There was also a cheaper version for children’s bikes, the Junior. The 730 was also made in the 50’s under another model name, ‘Capella’ these are extremely rare.
Alloy wing nuts: larger than normal with a circular cut out on the two wings, stamped Weinamnn. Also anodised blue and gold versions only made in the 1960’s
Weinmann were initially imported by Walter Flory, a Swiss national who also imported Lucifer, Lapize and Huret. He advertised regularly in the cycling press especially Sporting Cyclist. From the early 1960’s they were imported by Holdsworth and featured in the ‘Aids to Happy Cycling’ catalogues right up until 1981. After this date they were imported by R J Chicken until the 90’s.
Walter Flory advert for rims and brakes in Coureur, forerunner of Sporting Cyclist Autumn 1956
Centre pull brakes were introduced in 1957 (the longer reach 750 and the shorter 610). The generic term for these was Vainqueur (victor) 999. They were first imported in Britain in 1959 (2). They were only used by racing cyclists in the first few years, Mafac and Universal were their major competitors. From the late 60’s most racers used side pulls, a change accelerated by the introduction of the Campagnolo sidepull in 1969. The 610 and 750 were popular amongst tourists. They were fitted on all Dawes Galaxy’s (the most successful ‘off the peg’ tourer) until the mid 80’s when there was a move to cantilevers. Writing recently on the CTC website the CTC Technical Officer Chris Juden described them as the best of the old brakes and still very servicable.
Aids to Happy Cycling 1961
The above components were the core Weinmann products. However they also made :
A dual pivot brake, the Dynamic, in the late 1960’s - similar to the better known GB dual pivot, the Synchron which was the result of joint venture between GB and Altenburger in the early 60’s. For some reason the Dynamic was not successful in the UK. These brakes it was claimed offered the advantages of the side pull (easy to set up) without the disadvantages (hard to centre) and were simpler than a centre pull i.e. did need the straddle cables and hangers. The bushing was made from delrin as were Mafac Racers from this date. In the 1980’s this was re- designed and became known as the Symmetric. Later in the 1980’s this was referred to by the initials PBS but by this time had become a very down market product.
Two piece handlebar stems (late 60’s to mid 70’s) the vertical part being steel, the extension alloy.
Alloy chainset and chainrings (five-pin). Not successful hence very rare.
Cantilever brakes. Two versions both made in the mid 80’s:
- A Mafac copy produced after Mafac went out of business around 1984; apparently they bought the Mafac tooling.
- a model aimed specifically at ATB usage.
Superior quality side-pull brakes:
- 605 with quick release on the stirrup
- Carrera a high priced Campagnolo copy in the mid 70’s. The top model.
- 400 black anodised close clearance
Carrera 400 stirrups - black anodised
Polished alloy mudguards, stays fitted in French style. Also short ‘racer ‘ mudguards which were popular in the 70’s and fitted to many ‘sports’ racing bikes and needless to say offered no protection against the elements.
Brake tools: allen keys, brake clamp bolt spanner, inverse allen key, third hand brake tool.
Late 70’s concave rims. These were extremely strong but could lead to corrosion of the spoke nipples due to the shape of the rim retaining road salt.
Valve inserts: model Alligaro( 1950’s). According to Weinmann: “makes pumping almost a pleasure….”
The 730 and 500 in gold, red and blue anodised. These were stamped De Luxe.
Lever sleeves, white plastic which covered ¾’s of the lever blade. Hooked to improve finger grip.
The numeric model numbers refer to the reach in mm with another zero added usually the mid point. Thus 500 was between 42mm and 56mm .
Early versions of the centre pulls have arms with a difference curve .
Last version of these brakes have the name and model on a black background as opposed to the earlier red. There is a version of this brake with solid flat metal instead of a straddle cable (model 737) produced in the early 80’s.
Original versions of the side pulls have the name stamped in large letters on the brake arm without any border until late 60’s. The larger the lettering the earlier the brake.
Final versions of the side pulls have the forward centre bolt replaced with a black plastic reverse Allen key fitting (see picture of the Carrera). I think this was designed to make centring easier although to me it looks very cheap.
Earlier rims had a smooth surface later ones have a recessed channel running near the edge on either side.
Later rims are marked ‘Made in Belgium’ at some point production must have moved there. Indeed rims are still made to this day under the Alesa trademark (and very good touring rims they are too).
Some brakes have the month and year of manufacture on the rear of the arms eg 0576 = May 1976
Levers up to about 1964 have ‘Made in Switzerland stamped on one side of the upper lever blade (visible when lever is open).
Progressively the writing on the brake arms become smaller and finally is enclosed in a rectangle
Later products are stamped ‘Made in Belgium’.
PERCEPTIONS AND PERFORMANCE
Weinmann brakes and rims are not highly regarded by club cyclists or by VCC members. They rarely sell at cycle jumbles lacking the period appeal of GB or CLB or the stylish appeal of Mafac or Universal. I think this is because they were used widely in Britain as original equipment on many ‘starter’ cycles. In terms of performance my view is:
1. Rims are generally excellent, hard wearing and trouble free and liked by wheel builders. Although on some 1970’s high pressures the braking surface is very narrow.
I find the side pulls always seem to need centring but provide smooth and effective braking. The longer reach 810 and 890 suffer from flex due to the length of the arms and are best avoided.
Apart from the first generation, the centre pulls are too spongy for my liking and not surprisingly, as the marque enthusiast, I prefer Mafac.
I personally don’t find the levers comfortable. I think this is because the top of the blade by the pivot is flat not curved. I find cable replacement can be fiddly as the nipple tends to pop out of the lever end when you are setting them up.
A further problem is the lever pivots become loose due to wear there is no easy way to tighten them.
4. Lever hoods are hard wearing; maybe its just personal preference but I find the ribbed design uncomfortable.
With the move of manufacturing to Belgium (starting late 60’s but a gradual process) there was a definite drop in the quality of products.
After the mid 1960’s there was very little innovation, Weinmann essentially produced the core products of rim and brakes for the next 25 years. Their popular 1970’s “Safety Levers” (an extra arm from the lever running parallel with the flat of the drop bar) were in fact a Dia Compe patent licensed by Weinmann. I am of the view that the presence of these levers automatically relegates a bike to low price/quality. They provide a benchmark for spongy braking and worsen the performance of the main lever. The fact they became a requirement for bikes imported into the USA shows just how little cycle braking is understood by non cyclists.
In the 1980’s they relied increasingly on licensing products from Dia Compe who at that time were the largest volume brake producer in the world. Thus Weinmann Aero brakes are in fact badged Dia Compe product. Surprisingly Weinmann first worked with this Japanese firm as far back as 1963 on technical development.
Weinmann ceased trading in the early 90’s. Like many other companies they failed to make the transition to mountain bikes. Mavic cornered the rims market and Shimano moved into brakes. Alesa still survives as a maker of rims based in Belgium and seem to be linked to Rigida formerly a French manufacturer. See news on Weinmann - USA at bottom of page.
TABLE OF BRAKE REACH
1. Cycling 25th August 1949 p213 ref to the importing of Lucifer, Huret and Weinmann by Walter Flory
2. Sporting Cyclist Jan 1959
Holdsworth Aids to Happy Cycling from 1958 to 1981 and late 50’s early 60’s Sporting Cyclists
Walter Flory’s advertisements in Sporting Cyclist 1956 to 1963
My thanks to Hansjurg Albrecht, a Swiss VCC member, for first hand information and Ray Miller for information from the VCC library
WEINMANN - USA
Sam Lingo from the States gives some extra details relating to Weinmann in the USA, Sam has some Mexico-manufactured Weinmann rims.
January 1, 1970 - Karl Heinz and Erika Schaette incorporate their new company KHS Bicycle Parts. KHS Bicycle Parts represents several European companies. The main focus are the products from Union Froendenberg, Weinmann, SKS, ESGE, Reich,and Eldi. An office is established in New York City and three years later in Houston Texas.
1975: To offset the high cost of transportion Karl convinces Union Froendenberg and later Weinman to open a manufacturing plant in the US. Olney is chosen due to the central location. KHS moves office to Olney. Weinmann follows suit and also opens manufacturing plant in Olney. KHS moves to Olney in 1979 after the production of the two companies starts.
Weinmann Closes Illinois Factory. Publication: Bicycle Retailer Date: Friday, May 24 2002
OLNEY, IL (BRAIN)--Weinmann closed its rim factory in Olney, Illinois, and shifted all Western hemisphere production to its plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Also, Alesa, its European parent company, declared bankruptcy. Alesa is owned by the Rigida Group.
"Weinmann Inc. isn't itself in Chapter 11--it isn't in bankruptcy. It has sold its [U.S.] real estate, it's winding down its business and it will exit the rim-making business in the United States because the market has disappeared," said Kevin Duffy, Weinmann USA's president.
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