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  1. #1
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    Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?

    Cleland Cross Country bicycles were invented in England before anyone there knew about mountain bikes. In 1979 the first 650b x 54mm Cleland bicycles were created and by 1981 the first 700c x 47mm Cleland had been designed based on Nokia (now Nokian) snow tires from Finland.

    In 1980, Cleland inventor Geoff Apps told Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly about his bikes and their big diameter tires and they were intrigued. So Geoff sent them as many of these tires as he could get hold of and many US mountain bikes were made to fit them. But because they were highly taxed as adult tires and the erratic nature of the supplies from Finland, the mountain bikes developed with 26" tires. A size originally intended for use on children's bikes.

    However the big wheels were by no means the only alternative aspect of Geoff Apps' Cleland off-road bicycles. The Cleland bicycles remain uninfluenced by mainstream mountain bike design and ethos. The fact that they not only work, but work very well, will almost certainly challenge your preconceptions regarding good mountain bike design. But these bikes are designed to push the boundaries of where and when you can ride not only off-road, but off-trail.

    This alternative lineage of mountain bike design lives on with Geoff and other Cleland enthusiasts like myself making and riding bikes inspired by his unique way of thinking.

    So to start the thread here is a link to the Cleland website and a camera phone video of Geoff Apps' favorite off-road ride,

    Philosophy | Cleland Cycles

    Puffing up Mill Burn on Vimeo

    Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?-600247_455098351169739_2125616200_n.jpg

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    Preconceptions often get in the way of a good time. I'd love to take a spin on one of these.
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    Great pic demonstrating exactly what is meant by "...ride not only off-road, but off-trail."
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    You make riding in the streams look so easy!

    Impressive!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sand Rat View Post
    You make riding in the streams look so easy!

    Impressive!
    Especially when you consider that there are slippy rocks and soft gravel sections under the water. By the way, that's not me riding in the video, it is Geoff Apps the inventor and designer of the Cleland off-road bicycle.

    This is a photo of the bike that was ridden up the stream.
    Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?-5668723545_55fcbcb86c_b.jpg

    Here is a list of the design features that make this kind of riding easier:

    *a high center of gravity for improved stability

    *very low pressure tires fitted on narrow rims so that the tires can snake and weave between obstacles

    *wide large diameter low pressure tires for improved traction

    *a rearwards weight bias to reduce the effect or front wheel skidding on balance and to encourage the front wheel to hop over obstacles

    *elliptical chain rings for improved low cadence efficiency and traction control

    *a high bottom bracket height to help keep the riders feet dry
    Last edited by GrahamWallace; 09-17-2012 at 09:34 AM.

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    Here is a video that shows a modern Cleland Aventura TT riding along another stream.

    The inspiration for these bikes comes from motorcycle trials riding so the ethos is to clear obstacles without putting a foot down. Going fast is not important as failure in this context is when you have to get off and walk. However riding through deep mud as fast as you can is great fun especially as the mudguards will keep the rider clean and dry.

    WateryLane2 on Vimeo

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamWallace View Post
    Cleland Cross Country bicycles were invented in England before anyone there knew about mountain bikes. In 1979 the first 650b x 54mm Cleland bicycles were created and by 1981 the first 700c x 47mm Cleland had been designed based on Nokia (now Nokian) snow tires from Finland.



    In 1980, Cleland inventor Geoff Apps told Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly about his bikes and their big diameter tires and they were intrigued. So Geoff sent them as many of these tires as he could get hold of and many US mountain bikes were made to fit them. But because they were highly taxed as adult tires and the erratic nature of the supplies from Finland, the mountain bikes developed with 26" tires. A size originally intended for use on children's bikes.

    However the big wheels were by no means the only alternative aspect of Geoff Apps' Cleland off-road bicycles. The Cleland bicycles remain uninfluenced by mainstream mountain bike design and ethos. The fact that they not only work, but work very well, will almost certainly challenge your preconceptions regarding good mountain bike design. But these bikes are designed to push the boundaries of where and when you can ride not only off-road, but off-trail.

    This alternative lineage of mountain bike design lives on with Geoff and other Cleland enthusiasts like myself making and riding bikes inspired by his unique way of thinking.

    So to start the thread here is a link to the Cleland website and a camera phone video of Geoff Apps' favorite off-road ride,

    Philosophy | Cleland Cycles

    Puffing up Mill Burn on Vimeo

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Great Pic

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    Over 5000 miles from Marin County and a group of Cleland riders take a short break before heading back onto the muddy trails and hills of 1980's England.
    Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?-389174_455098137836427_1996628470_n.jpg

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    Precedence is hard to establish...

    Just over 1000 miles from Marin County, a group of American calvary soldiers pose for a photo before heading back out onto the muddy trails and hills of 1897 Montana. They averaged over 45 miles a day for 41 days, riding 1900 miles to St. Louis, MO.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?-bestbicyclecorps_01.jpg  

    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

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    Your great great grandpa's Surly Krampus ^ ^
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    Give it up Graham. I am not really sure why it is so important for you blokes over there to try and be recognized as the "original big-wheeled off road bicycle".

    Yes, you guys predated the more modern movement currently enjoying a certain degree of popularity. But Gary Fisher got the credit for this round and he does tend to dress like an Englishman so maybe you could just adopt him in to your club?

    At the end of the long day the use of larger diameter wheels off road has been going on since the invention of the wheel. Your little club movement over there in the eighties, while significant, cannot hold a candle to the current version that started here in 1999 with the introduction of the "tire", thanks Mark!

    What has happened since that time is the result of at first a core group of "believers" if you will, not unlike your little band of Merry Men, weaving Bigwheels in to the fabric of the bicycle industry bit by bit and taking a good deal of crap along the way from many of those that fully embrace the concept today, and you know who you are. Now that they have gained such a degree of popularity it seems fashionable for others to gain the recognition they feel they deserve for being the first on the block but really, nobody gives a shite because the big guns of the bicycle industry now hold the reins of the movement and their marketing departments can spin the wool over the publics eyes faster than you can say 700c.

    So keep riding your Clelands with pride and the knowledge that you were riding around at all off road before lots of people. Perhaps use your energy to come up with some new innovation because innovation is the blood of the bicycle industry and transfusions are needed every once in a while.

    Carry on.

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    A bike by any other name is still a bike.

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    Interesting read, thanks for posting!

    There is one thing that makes me scratch my head a bit. This:

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamWallace View Post


    *a high center of gravity for improved stability
    Can you explain this a little further? From my experience a lower center of gravity makes for better stability.

    Thanks!
    Airborne Dude.

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    That's just dandy, where's my knickers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT View Post
    Just over 1000 miles from Marin County, a group of American calvary soldiers pose for a photo before heading back out onto the muddy trails and hills of 1897 Montana. They averaged over 45 miles a day for 41 days, riding 1900 miles to St. Louis, MO.
    And why not Horses?

    They graze as they go, water at any stream, can carry more gear, and are faster...LOL

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    Hi Bigwheel,

    You may note that my use of the term "Cleland: The original big wheeled off-road bicycle?" is proposed as a question not a statement. Of course as a general statement it isn't true as pre- tarmac cycling history is all about riding big wheeled bikes off-road. And some of the wheels were very big indeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel View Post
    .... it is so important for you blokes over there to try and be recognized as the "original big-wheeled off road bicycle".
    No it is not important and the modern 29ers did not evolve from Geoff Apps' 1980's 700c bikes. However the facts about the large diameter tires he exported to the US in the early 1980's maybe of some interest to those who are curious about the true history of 29er bicycle innovation: Most commentators miss this bit of the history out because it happened so early on.

    The fact that from 1980 onwards Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly corresponded regularly with Geoff Apps in England. They also talked on the phone, exchanging many ideas of including the advantages of bigger wheels.

    They asked Apps to export his large Finnish snow tires which he did by the hundred. Frames to fit these tires were built by the top Marin frame builders including Tom Ritchey. Fisher, Kelly and others had success at the races using these early large wheeled bikes.

    In 1988 one of these tires, a 700c x 47mm version was copied by Bruce Gordon and Joe Murray to become the original "Rock n' Road" tire. Ibis frame builder Wes Williams then built bikes to use these tires and became the main evangelist for the use of bigger wheels off-road. It was he solicited the support of Gary Fisher in pressurizing a reluctant Mark Slate of WTB to produce the Nanoraptor. Not that Gary Fisher needed much persuading as he had previously experienced racing success on Apps' big tires.

    Is this story Important? Well the idea of big wheeled mountain bikes is logical and would have happened eventually anyway. At best Geoff Apps incidental involvement meant it happened a few years earlier than otherwise?


    By the way, I started this thread because a Fat-Bike thread on chain-cases was drifting off topic towards that of Cleland innovations in general. I could have placed a Cleland lineage thread almost anywhere, but as I placed it here I thought I had better come up with a title that explainanatory title.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel View Post
    So keep riding your Clelands with pride and the knowledge that you were riding around at all off road before lots of people. Perhaps use your energy to come up with some new innovation because innovation is the blood of the bicycle industry and transfusions are needed every once in a while.
    Cleland Innovations here:
    R and D | Cleland Cycles
    Last edited by GrahamWallace; 09-18-2012 at 04:07 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    Interesting read, thanks for posting!

    There is one thing that makes me scratch my head a bit. This:



    Can you explain this a little further? From my experience a lower center of gravity makes for better stability.

    Thanks!
    Here is a concise explaination from Wikipedia:
    "A bike is also an example of an inverted pendulum. Just as a broomstick is easier to balance than a pencil, a tall bike (with a high center of mass) can be easier to balance when ridden than a low one because its lean rate will be slower."
    Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Full explanation of inverted pendulum theory here:
    Inverted pendulum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sorry but I am a bit busy at the moment but I should have time to explain the positive and negative implications of this later. If anyone is interested?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEPMTBA View Post
    And why not Horses?

    They graze as they go, water at any stream, can carry more gear, and are faster...LOL
    I don't think you'll get a horse (with a rider) to go over 40 miles a day for 41 days...it will break down or die before that -- you certainly would (at best) finish with less than half your troop. But if you read about those guys in the Calvary with bicycles, it seems to have pretty much been an experiment, just trying to see what was possible.

    An interesting aside -- I live and run and ride on trails in the "Wild West" with many a would be cowboy doing the horse thing out on the trails. I NEVER get passed by them -- wether I'm running or riding, I'm always the one wanting to get by. And every other group has to tell me that they could go faster if they wanted to -- clearly getting passed by pudgy middle aged guys on foot or an old bike doesn't set well with them. I just don't understand this fascination with horses -- they're slow, they stink, they're expensive as hell. They do, however, look good grazing in a green meadow with the sun setting behind them...
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

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    I'd like to chip in a bit here about centre-of-gravity (or mass) and stability in relation to the Cleland Aventura design. I may ramble on a bit, so why not put the kettle on and make yourself comfortable?
    Those readers with a huge emotional and financial investment in current mountain bike design are not going to want to read this.
    OK, let's start with stability in bicycle design. You hear it all the time: this tyre/chainstay configuration/handlebar stem/anything will make your bike more stable. Even Graham fell into the trap above. This phase 'more stable' assumes that a bicycle is to some extent stable in the first place; it has inherent stability. You may have noticed how bicycles, when left to their own devices, fall over. So much has automobile technology wormed its way into our brains that the 'low-centre-of-gravity-increases-stability' thing has become received wisdom in all vehicular design. It is a true statement when referring to a car; a car has inherent stability, but not true about a bicycle, which does not.
    Are you with me so far: a bicycle is not stable, never has been, never will be.
    So, we should be thinking along the lines of 'maintaining balance' or 'controlling instability'. Using phrases like this help all of us understand and address the problem; it is as important that the rider recognises these factors, as it is incumbent on the designer to incorporate features that take this fundamental into account.
    I think I'll roll a cigarette before starting on the next bit.
    Having established in my own mind that a bicycle in inherently unstable, I'm wondering how many people reading this would agree? In essence, I don't care. All I really care about is my own bike. Oh, yes, and I'm quite keen to let others know, just in case they may be able to benefit from what I have learned over the past forty years of riding off-road, like shareware.
    Back to bicycle design. Unstable bicycle being ridden by a hooman bean is still unstable. You may, or may not, be aware that as you ride along, you are constantly weaving your front wheel from side to side. Just look at cycle tracks in the snow; one steady one (rear wheel) and one weaving back and forth across it (front wheel). This action is you trying to stay upright. The bike wants to fall over to the left, you steer to the left and bring the bike back up to equipoise, only for the bike to immediately want to fall to the right, you steer to the right, and so on for the entire bike ride. These adjustments to the steering are really quite small, but they are most certainly there. Every time you twitch the steering to maintain balance, you use energy because it requires effort. What I want to do is make that effort both easier and the action more controllable.
    Now think about levers. Think about a nut that is done up really tight. To undo it we need a long wrench, not a short one. With a long spanner (oops, wrench) we can get more leverage; it is easier to turn the nut, your hand travels further to do so and you are able to control the operation more. These factors are important, it's easier and you have more control if you travel a greater distance (no, not on the ride, idiot!).
    Now think back to riding a bicycle, you are using a lever to stay in balance; the lever (spanner, er, wrench) is the parts of your bicycle that are between your bum and the ground. Where the rear wheel touches the ground represents the nut; your bum, aided by your upper body, is like your hand turning the wrench.
    We're nearly there.
    With a high centre-of-gravity on a bicycle, you make that lever as long as possible. This gives you the ability to better control the instability of the bicycle to maintain balance, and it takes less effort, even though you are moving your upper body more than a rider on a bicycle with a low centre of gravity.
    I hope this has got you thinking and not yawning.
    This is one of the many design factors in the Cleland concept that contradicts conventional 'received' wisdom about bicycle design. Everyone says something, so it must be true; to go against the common sense of this used to be called heresy, nowadays, you simply get ignored by the vast majority. However, you and I know what the truth may be, and probably is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamWallace View Post
    Here is a list of the design features that make this kind of riding easier:

    *a high center of gravity for improved stability
    Quote Originally Posted by GeoffApps View Post
    OK, let's start with stability in bicycle design. You hear it all the time: this tyre/chainstay configuration/handlebar stem/anything will make your bike more stable. Even Graham fell into the trap above.
    OK Geoff. What I meant to say was... *a high center of gravity to allow a larger angle of lateral lean from which equilibrium can be recovered.

    I feel happier now I have made that clear and so corrected my little faux pas!
    (excuse the French)

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamWallace View Post
    Here is a concise explaination from Wikipedia:
    "A bike is also an example of an inverted pendulum. Just as a broomstick is easier to balance than a pencil, a tall bike (with a high center of mass) can be easier to balance when ridden than a low one because its lean rate will be slower."
    Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Though counter-intuitive, a tall, top heavy and unstable object will take longer to reach the point where balance can no longer be recovered than an identical but shorter object. So with a bicycle balance is really about human reaction time with a taller bicycle giving its rider more time to react to being thrown momentarily off balance.

    Despite appearances penny farthing bicycles have a high degree of lateral stability whilst small children's bikes are much more laterally unstable and especially so at low speeds.

    If you watch a cyclist attempting a track stand you will notice two things: They will stand high out of the saddle so as to raise their center of gravity as high as possible. They will also move their weight forwards towards the front wheel as this reduces to a minimum the amount of forwards or backwards movement needed to maintain balance.

    Received wisdom is that it is predominantly steering geometry that effects handling. And so the fact that the position of a riders center of gravity has profound effects handling is usually given little consideration..

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    The discussion on low center of gravity versus high is really interesting... I understand that reaction times have to be faster on a lower bike, but in all other respects my personal experience as a tall guy has been that a lower bike OR motorcycle is much more stable. My 29er is much more stable with a longer wheelbase and being in the bike instead of on top of it. If any of you guys ride dirtbikes or streetbikes you may have heard about the guys who invented the Gurney ALLIGATOR... it was based on a Honda XR650L, and they put the seat way down low... everything about the bike improved... cornering, stability etc.

    Here's a quote from Gurney:

    "The Gurney ALLIGATOR has a look and riding feel unique and different from anything on the road. Unlike other motorcycles, the rider sits below the top of the tires with feet in a forward position. The fuel tank is mounted below the seat and behind the engine. Gurney originally moved in this design direction because he is tall and many bikes made him feel as if he were pitching forward when going downhill. The Alligator is this concept taken to its logical extreme. What works so well for tall people works equally well for people with shorter legs. They do not have any trouble getting on or off the bike, are no longer worried about falling over at a standstill and being closer to the ground, they feel much more comfortable and safe. This low CG concept has been developed and refined over the years into something quite extraordinary: a motorcycle with a confidence inspiring riding feel, obvious and significant aerodynamic benefits and most of all: a fun factor to match."


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    Thanks for your input 2tall.
    With regard to the motorcycle, I suspect there are other factors at work.
    My initial thoughts are that the relative weights of the rider and fuel, and the overall weight of the motorbike, mean that the lowered C/G has less impact than on a bicycle, where the weight of the rider is possibly two thirds of the overall weight. Additionally, the motorbike is designed for relatively high speeds on smooth surfaces, whereas my proposition refers to much slower speeds on rough terrain.
    Nevertheless, riders of this style of motorbike are reporting improved handling characteristics over the conventional motorbike configuration.
    There is possibly an element of perception here?
    Also, being a tall person, almost any configuration of bicycle you ride will have a relatively high C/G.
    There is another factor that concerns me in this regard, and that is spinal health. I have given some thought to how I would design a Cleland to suit a tall rider. However, since no-one has asked me to do so, I don't know what the outcome would be.

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    Hi 2tallrid3r,

    I completely understand your point of view as the whole topic appears contradictory and confusing.
    For stable vehicles like cars a low center of gravity well within the wheelbase improves stability. But without external interference, inherently unstable objects will always fall over even though taller objects will take longer to do so. Compare the time taken for a telegraph pole to fall to that of a pencil?

    The best way that I know to test this on a bicycle is to try riding a BMX bike whilst standing bolt upright compared to crouching down. You will find that lowering the body's center of gravity makes balancing more difficult and that this applies at both low and high speeds. This is even easier to test by riding a children's kick scooter.

    Another thing to notice is that moving the center of gravity towards the front wheel makes it easier to balance at low speed but more difficult at high speed. At high speed your better to have your weight towards the rear where the effects of the steering are more subtle.

    In reference to the Gurney ALLIGATOR. If this low approach is effective in improving handling I do wonder why it is not used for racing motorbikes? I suspect that It may be because the inverse pendulum effect is even more extreme when motorbikes corner at speed. In this instance it's not only gravity that is trying to destabilize the motorbike but also some very large centripetal forces.
    Last edited by GrahamWallace; 09-20-2012 at 10:07 AM.

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    Recumbent v. Upright.... .....Who is most wobbly?

    One Hour Recumbent Bike Race - YouTube


    Tall Bike
    tall bike asheville nc - YouTube
    Last edited by GrahamWallace; 09-19-2012 at 05:06 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeoffApps View Post
    There is another factor that concerns me in this regard, and that is spinal health.
    From the Cleland Cycles Philosophy" page: "Geoff’s competition motorcycle observed trials experience was his key influence. In this sport, the competitive riding is done ‘standing on the pegs’. This position provides a high centre of gravity for manoeuvrability, allowing rapid and extreme upper-body moves to adjust balance, traction and steering, with a minimum of effort.
    In his bicycle design, Geoff placed the saddle and handlebar so as to replicate this stance. The resultant upright riding position proves gentle on the wrists, perfect for low-speed riding and beneficial to long-term spinal health."

    I would disagree that siting upright on a saddle transmitting impacts up a vertical spine is conducive to "long-term spinal health". The relevance of observed trials experience and 'standing on the pegs' is irrelevant as you don't have a seat slamming on your coccyx, compressing your discs. I believe you've done a disservice to good traditional bicycle design with respect to how the spine is appropriately supported and protected -- think of the spine as being like a suspension bridge rather than a vertical I-beam. Most casual observers would consider my frames too long in the top tube, but the position I can achieve comfortably (as per the old cyclotouriste and old-road racing school dictums about frame design and positioning -- hips rearward, back loosely swayed) allows all day comfort, good handling, power application, and aerodynamics. Here I thought it was fat Americans driving the trend towards upright riding positions (can't bend over 'cause of the gut)! I can believe the 'standing on the pegs' seated position helps handling in certain situations, but sitting in that position? -- not so much.

    A couple of questions for you you Cleland Cycle guys -- what's an average speed for a ride, like for the one in the video? (not so different from my rides, sans water -- I live in a desert). What's kind of distance does a good weekend ride on off-road terrain cover? I have formed some opinions based upon what I've learned from the Cleland website about where and how those bikes would be fun and where they might not be so much fun, and it would be enlightening to have some input on average speeds and distances covered. Thanks!
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

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