Monday, July 20, 2009

Ron's Alenaxes

My slant on how these things work

Alenax bicycles were an attempt during the 80s by a Taiwanese company to revolutionize the basic mechanical concepts underpinning bicycles by changing the rotary motion of the pedals to an up-and-down movement. This was supposed to approximate a natural walking motion.

The chainwheel has been replaced by two pivoted arms called transbars. The tunnel that a normal bike's crank would pass through has simply been blanked off on what are clearly generic bike frames modified for the purpose. The frames are heavy and nothing special, but not as heavy as other Chinese bikes I've ridden. The workmanship and attention to detail is pretty good, given the age of the bikes.

Gears are selected by moving a familiar, early style, non-indexed shifter. The shifter has a cable which bifurcates in front of the downtube to two cables which engage ratchets housed within each of the long arms of the transbars. Each transbar pivots on a fixed shaft near where the crank would be on a normal bike and is linked by a chain to a cog on the hub of the rear wheel. Gearchanging changes the arc of the transbars, effectively shortening or lengthening the pull of the chains on the rear wheel cogs.

Unlike normal bikes, there are two chains and two cogs. A connecting cable returns the pedals for the next downstroke of the rider's foot. As one pedal goes down, the other comes up.

There are a lot of clanks and clunks as the ratchets engage and, what Jan calls "cicada noises", as the two chains move back and forth with the up-and-down motion of the pedals. These are very much "character" bikes.

All the early ones that are in original and complete condition have a distinctive sidestand. Because of the construction of the bike, a sidestand won't fit anywhere else.

Alenax touring bikes in original condition also have distinctive "gold" trimmed pedals which adds to their cheesy charm.

In my opinion, they are an interesting failure and a lot of fun. They are also evocative conversation pieces and, in good condition, quite decorative. Buy one for a den or wall hanging; ride one down to the coffee shop and impress people with the whimsical side of your personality. I've already done that and now I need the space, so it's your turn if you want to buy some of the bikes pictured below.

Extra reading

Have a look at http://www.alenax.com, the official Alenax site.

In fact, if you Google "Alenax" all sorts of stuff comes up, including my eBay auctions. Notable is an American named Jobst Brandt who has been highly critical of Alenaxes for about two decades (http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/alenax.html). I think he gets teased about this obsession on chat sites.

There are some other oddities here http://www.classicrendezvous.com/Bike_Shops/First-Flight2.htm

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/10/business/advances-a-bicycle-easy-to-ride-hard-to-sell.html

The Patent: https://www.patentstorm.us/patents/4630839.html



That's a copy of the original US patent, US04630839, above, where it all began, I suppose. If you click on the image, it will enlarge. This where I found it in the company of other oddities: http://ihpv.free.fr/index1.php?mainpage=http%3A//ihpv.free.fr/mylinks/fr.Illustrations.htm). I don't know how the enlarging trick works, but I think it's pretty neat.

My Alenaxes

The pictures below are of my collection. Brian Gilbert was the photographer. I had two more, a TRB250 men's MTB and a TRB1000 road bike. Both were virtual twins of the two pictured. The TRB250 was purchased off eBay for about $100. It was living in West End at the time. The TRB1000 was also purchased off eBay for about $40, but I had to do a fair bit of work to it (including new crank bearings and tyres)

I gave the TRB250 to a friend for his 60th. I rationalized this by telling him that Alenaxes choose their owners. He riposted that it was probably "one crank following another". He regards the gift as a loan. However, I don't regard his gift to me on my 60th (2 months before his) of a carton of Guinness as loan. No, not at all.

I sold the TRB1000 on eBay for $130 to a bloke in Sydney who has declined to give feedback. Maybe it was too big a shock. Ridgway's Cycles in Stafford arranged budget packaging and freight.

I should put in a plug for Ridgway's. Simon Ridgway and his crew are enthusiastic, friendly and helpful. They don't like Alenaxes at all, but they do fix them when I've been unable.


Alenax TRB100 child's bicycle

I bought this from Bicycle Revolution in West End a few years ago for $100. They saw me on the TRB190 on a city ride and told me they had one. I think it's my most valuable Alenax and I want $250 for it. Slightly unoriginal, but not butchered. The blue colour has supposed to have surfaced in the late eighties and I've heard stories of a few blue ones scooting around the 1988 Brisbane Expo.


Alenax TRB100 child's bicycle (detail)

This bike is a single speed. To make it go, you pedal furiously. 20 inch painted steel wheels and later alloy brakes.


Alenax TRB190 men's bicycle

Where it all began, with Alenaxes and me. I found this bike at the Pine Rivers Trash and Treasure about 6 or 7 years ago and bought it for $120. I rode it on a Brissie to the Bay about 6 years ago. One of the rear cogs broke in half, so I rode it home on one pedal. Simon Ridgway found a cog amongst his junk and fixed it. The bottle carrier is not original. It still has the original seat. Yours for $250


Alenax TRB190 men's bicycle (detail)

Another "Expo '88 blue" Alenax. Note the sidestand. The blues ones seem to have rubber pedals, like a normal tourer of that vintage. 27 inch chrome steel wheels.


Alenax TRB190 men's bicycle (detail)

This Alenax is a four-speed.


Alenax TRB190 women's bicycle

I bought this from Ridgway's years ago for $130, and it is now sold. The companion bike in every way to the men's bike. Another example of Alenax blue.


Alenax TRB190 women's bicycle (detail)

Also a four-speed and with the same sidestand. 27 inch chrome steel wheels.

*Now sold to Brian Gilbert.


Alenax TRB190 women's bicycle (detail)

Non-original seat, but a decent period item. I'd say this has done more work than the men's example.


Alenax TRB1000 road bicycle

I bought this bike about 3 years ago from a couple from Coff's Harbour. They managed to fit this bike and another Alenax into a very tidy 1975 Ford Escort panel van and deliver it to me in Brisbane on a visit. At $300 for the pair, I paid too much, especially considering they both needed work, but I wanted to get a road bike because it was the only Alenax type at the time that I didn't own an example of. I've since sold it. The road bikes are somewhat rare.


Alenax TRB1000 road bicycle (detail)

*Now sold to a bloke who wanted to get an Alenax group going.

The sidestand is fitted to the road bikes too. This has decent alloy 700c wheels and is fairly frisky if you wind it up. Same four-speed gears. I had to fit new crank bearings, tyres and tubes as well as a general service to get this bike mobile. The road bikes seem to come in one colour and this is quite original, including the seat, as you can see from the tear.


Alenax TRB250 women's bicycle

I was a bit surprised to find an original red bike in this style. I bought it on eBay for $60 and picked it up down at Redland Bay. It needed new crank bearings, but that was a very easy fix. With alloy 700c wheels and much better components, it seems to be for the female cyclist who wants to go faster than she would on a TRB190.

*Now sold to the sister of the bloke who wanted to get an Alenax group going.


Alenax TRB250 women's bicycle (detail)

Again, four-speed. The sidestand is missing, but I don't think it ever had mudguards. It does, however, have those gold-trimmed pedals.


Alenax TRB250 women's MTB

Another eBay score about 2 years ago from somewhere in Logan and was one of two Alenaxes I bought for $250. I had no idea that they made a Women's MTB. I don't think it had been used very much, but I've since put a fair few klicks onto it.


Alenax TRB250 women's MTB (detail)

Four-speed again, dead original and in very good condition. Note sidestand and gold pedals. Alloy 26 inch wheels. $250.


Alenax TRB250 men's MTB

The other MTB I bought the same day as the women's. It's done more work than the women's MTB, but is in very good original condition.


Alenax TRB250 men's MTB (detail)

Also four-speed, with the characteristic sidestand and pedals. Alloy 26 inch wheels. Now sold.



Alenax men's bicycle awaiting reassembly

The other bike from Coff's Harbour hanging from the rafters of my shed. It has a larger frame than my other men's TRB190 tourer. I've fitted new crank bearings to this one and had the 27 inch chrome steel wheels straightened at Ridgways.

*Now sold to a bloke who wanted to get an Alenax group going.


Alenax men's bicycle awaiting reassembly (detail)

No Alenax graphics on this one.

I don't just collect Alenaxes, I ride them. Jan and I have a regular 60km Sunday ride from the Nundah criterium track to the Redcliffe end of the Hornibrook Bridge and back. I might end up keeping one in the end. It's good to know such mad things are around and even better to own one.


A lyrical shot of the Alenax TRB250 men's MTB on the Shorncliffe foreshore on 22/10/08


Alenax TRB250 women's MTB at the Redcliffe end of the Hornibrook Bridge keeping company with Jan's Shogun MetroAT hybrid on 8/3/09

3 comments:

  1. I've got a question... i bought an alenax at a swapmeet and i need to source the screws that attach the metal plate that holds the chain to the transbar. do you have any information on those screw sizes and where i could get them? thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's 11/03/2010. I hadn't noticed this comment before, but Jack has contacted me via eBay. He lives in Delaware N.J.

    He has a TRB500 road bike. With the screws I supplied, he's now got it going.

    ReplyDelete
  3. yes... i do.
    speaking of which, i saw a NOS alenax at a swap meet about a week ago. a guy paid $150 for it. i was amazed.

    ReplyDelete