In the previous five posts in this series (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4), (Part 5) we examined external factors that had a direct impact on shaping bicycle manufacturing early after the war; thereby greatly contributing to making bicycles from 1950's so exceptional.
In the second half of this series we will focus on the practical aspects of why bicycles from the 1950's are truly exceptional. With automobiles out of reach for the vast majority of households, the emphasis on bicycles was that they be good reliable transportation. Not flashy, not lightweight, not super fast, not high-tech, just simple solid dependable transportation. Thus, bicycles from the 1950s were rugged, practical, easy to maintain, comfortable and when viewed up close crafted works of art.
Let's take a look at the first item: Rugged
Road conditions in the 1950's were rather deplorable by today's standards. In addition, the role of bicycles in transporting people and goods, many times with trailers (called rear cars in Japanese) , dictated that bicycles had to be rugged to conquer the unpaved roads and carry or haul heavy loads. Bicycles were all steel lug constructed frames with fairly wide tires by today standards, BE tires (26x 1 3/8).
Rugged as they were, bicycles took quite a beating. To keep them in working condition, bicycle shop catalogs from this period have what were known as "reforming tools". Most of these were "straighteners" to take the bend or buckle out of forks, frames, chaincases, handlebars, rims, crank arms, pedals, etc. This is an entire subject in and of itself, old tools are fascinating and in the future I will devote an entire series to this topic. However, for reference, one example is provided below; a pedal and crank arm "reformer".