I was looking through pictures of bicycles ranging from 1930 to present. It just boggles my mind how the bicycle has remained virtually unchanged for over eighty years. Certainly there have been some slight alterations in the frame and materials used, but the basic design is still the same. It got me to thinking about a Schwinn frame I found recently. Yes, it is a modern frame, but I am wondering how close can I style it to look like a Schwinn from the 1940's, and yes, Schwinn was a thing back then too. So far, I have painted the frame completely black, save for the Schwinn logo. The front rim looks fine, but the rear rim is a multi-gear, as is the front crank, thus the bike will be a 15 speed. This shouldn't be too distracting, as there is some evidence of multi-gear bikes in the 1940's. My biggest issues are seat and handle bars. This may have been a cheap Wal-Mart Schwinn mountain bike when I found (most of the parts were missing), but I am rebuilding it as a road bike, so I am wondering what the best possible fusion of past and present can I do to make it look 1940's, even with some modern shifting and braking amenities?
The attached image is of a shifting mechanism from the 1940's, thus some evidence that multi-gear bikes were not unknown.
Most multi-speed bicycles from the 40s were actually internal speeds, commonly 3 speeds, but in the 1890s, there was briefly a 2 speed bicycle with what is called a retro-direct drive. I have built one, and it works very well. Pedal forward, one speed, pedaling backward is the 2nd gear.
Regardless, there's no need to be a slave to what was or wasn't there at the time. You can have a 15 speed that otherwise is styled after a bike from the 40s.
Bicycles are the main way that I express my inner dieselpunk. Here is my retro-direct drive bike modeled after a 1920s boardtracker. It also started out as a mountain bike.
Wow. I love how that looks. I am working on the derailleurs currently. I will post pictures once I get closer to completion.