1950 Drysdale Special
This is what an American-made custom road bike looked like in the 1950’s. A great representative for racing bikes of the era, made by Alvin Drysdale of New York City.
What are we looking at? The steel frame is made from Reynolds 531 tubing, brazed into fairly typical racing bike geometry. The seat tube is laid-back at a shallow angle, giving the rider good leverage to muscle around a heavy gear. The head tube angle is pretty steep, like modern frame geometry but the fork has more rake than we’re used to seeing these days. This is a medium to large bike, and the size seems odd. Doesn’t the frame seems tall for its intended rider? In this era seatposts were not intended to extend very far beyond the frame, likewise the handlebar stem is just a few inches above the top tube.
The parts are an assortment of brands, a greatest hits package from the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s. The saddle is a Brooks, handmade in England. Campagnolo furnishes some of the equipment (of course) with their hubs, shifters, and Gran Sport derailleurs managing the ten gear choices. There is a close-ratio Stronglight Crankset on the bike, a sensible choice for flat roads, not requiring the front derailleur to perform heroics lifting the chain over a wide gear spread. The svelte little sidepull brakes are GB Coureur Plus models. The brakes, when paired with aluminum rims (featuring an excellent braking surface), stop pretty well.
This is our friend Jeff’s Drysdale Special. This isn’t a bike that has had a big restoration done to it, rather it’s a bike that got ridden a fair amount in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and then hung upside down in a garage for the better part of forty years. If stored correctly, an old bike doesn’t have to rust away (and if you play your cards right, the Silca tire pump may remain in working order too).
This bike has remained in such nice condition that we recently tuned it up and sent it back out on the road for more adventures.
In 2018 we sent it back to the motherland, New York City, where our friend Eben Weiss rode and wrote about the bike for Outside magazine in what has to be one of the most overdue product reviews ever: