The Formicone Bikes

While browsing through the Canberra bike museum's for sale section, I came across a strange set of cycles with the name "il Formicone" or "The Ant". The bikes looked to have a variable frame design, and mine do as well. I did a bit of research on the net about the bikes and found, a brochure and some pictures of them. They have the dubious honor of being listed on mountain bike pioneer Charlie Kelly's Weird Bike Stuff Page. Comparing the brochure and what's for sale from the bike museum, it seems that one whole family of bikes has arrived at the museum and has been sold.

I took the plunge and started negotiations to buy a bike from the museum. After some argy and quite a bit of bargy, I spoke to Nevil who would not only sell me the bike but would deliver it as well! Within a day, I'd posted a cheque and within a fortnight the bike was here.

It arrived last Thursday, on Saturday I put oversize ape hangers on it, stealing them from this older bike which I'd made. The Fomicone was then set up in the same way as the older bike. (As a solo rider you can use either set of pedals, the rear to climb hills, the front on the flat or downhill.)

I rode to the op-shop with my son on the Saturday morning, to CERES in the afternoon, and the next day about 60 or 70k on the Vichpv ride to Craigeburne and back. One of the bottom bracket bearings and 2 of the pedals came loose and my bottom was a bit sore, otherwise no bad consequences for bike or rider. Part of the ride was with George Durbridge and he recognised the Italian word for patent on the frame: so I looked and found the Italian patent specification.

My thoughts on the bike? Basically a good construction, but let down by having tacky wheels. From what I've seen, the frame was designed to fit either 16 or 20" wheels, and even the front forks are custom made for this purpose. The gearing is low, so you are often spinning like mad just to get to a decent speed.




Steve Nurse