Yes, it was the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Farley’s handmade frames came out of Croydon in Victoria, a leafy suburb nestled somewhere in between Ringwood and Mooroolbark and whose main drawcard is a 19-aisle Coles Supermarket – the second largest in Victoria.
Croydon is famous for more than just large supermarkets.
Just another Bob Farley.
If you attended Slaughterfest V hoping to meet framebuilder Bob Farley, you would have been sorely disappointed. But on the upside, you would have been treated to a barrage of Sludge Metal, which helps calm the nerves.
So Bob’s bikes were labelled Farleigh and are still quite popular on many of the track, fixie and bicycle restoration forums where they have become somewhat of a collector’s item. In fact, if this collectability continues to rise, hints from Farley’s marketing team suggest that a re-launch of the brand might not be too far away. Rebranding will obviously be in order and Farleigh by Bob Farley seems to be the most likely candidate at this stage.
Farley’s proprietary “F” cutout serves to reduce critical bottom bracket shell weight without affecting stiffness.
As a cyclist, Bob achieved great success, with an incredible 6-year stint as Eastern Vets club champion (1983-1988), ending the reign of previous triple champion Alan Sandford.
He has always been very much involved in Australian cycling, attending the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games as team mechanic and working with the V.I.S. as a mechanic and coach…and still manages to hold his own against the best of the V.I.S. Women’s Pavlova Eating Team:
The subject of this week’s post is a rather unusual Farleigh bike – a mountain bike. It was picked up second hand by Melbourne-based Foctor (female doctor) Jacinta O’Neill (who also moonlights as an ultra-endurance trail runner in her spare time):
“…when I saw him [the bike] it was love at first sight and I knew we were meant to be."
Based on the components, this bike appears to be mid-1990s era. It’s not known exactly how many of these were ever made but (an admittedly rather cursory) Google search revealed zero photos or information online about any other Farleigh mountain bikes.
Obviously there are more rigorous research methods out there, some of which require one to actually move away from the laptop, but in reality, who has time for that kind of painstakingly thorough fact-checking? Certainly not the people in the Fondriest factory who are in charge of spellchecking the English translations on their frame decals.
The Monolithic Bottom BrakeT Shell always promised so much.
Hubs are Shimano Deore LX and are laced to a pair of Araya alloy rims that are still looking quite spritely considering their age. However, the major highlight of the component choice for this bike is most certainly the Shimano Exage 500 LX cranks with Biopace chainrings.
Needless to say, Biopace chainrings are somewhat of a contentious issue amongst bicycle component historians.
The non-circular shape of the Biopace chainrings was claimed to help eliminate the “dead zone” in the pedalling rotation, thus providing a more efficient pedal stroke. Effectively, they change the gearing ratio as the cranks are turned.
While Biopace eventually fizzled out, the idea of elliptical chainrings has since been revisited by a few different companies. In their infinite wisdom, modern manufacturers of non-circular chainrings decided that Shimano had got their ellipses all wrong and changed the orientation of the rings.
Component company Rotor claims that their Q-Rings assist by:
“…extending the time you spend in the power stroke…and smoothly accelerating the legs through the critically weak “dead spots”, simultaneously magnifying the feeble input in these zones, Q’s give that extra advantage you need to get ahead.”
2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and multiple road World Champion Marianne Vos have used Rotor’s “feeble input magnification” technology to achieve great success.
OSYMETRIC from the USA have some seriously weird-shaped chainrings, but don’t go calling them “elliptical” or “oval”:
“The OSYMETRIC ring is not an oval nor an ellipse – it is a twin cam shaped to win.”
It’s hard to disagree with their tagline, given the recent success of Team Sky riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome with OSYMETRIC chainrings.
Depending on who you talk to, the Biopace chainrings on the Farleigh represent either the cutting edge of technological equipment or nothing more than a design fad that neither "magnified feeble inputs" nor "was shaped to win."
But for any Biopace diehards out there, you can always take comfort in knowing that you had "...a computer-designed chainring whose non-round shape produces a pedalling cadence that more closely matches the natural speed changes in the human leg when walking or running."
“Shimano thoroughly analyzed the biomechanics of human pedaling, and finally came up with the efficient connection in the human/bicycle power train: the Shimano Biopace Chainring. Applying computer analysis to the biomechanics of human pedaling, we succeed in discovering the ideal chainring shape, for greatly rationalized use of the legs’ muscle power and improved pedaling efficiency.”corporate philosophy:
“It is with this firm belief that we passionately produce belts for the new age and the good of mankind. Belts embracing infinite possibilities. We want to touch human hearts.”
It's clear that the Farleigh Mountain Bike not only touches human hearts, but also the feline variety. During this photo shoot, a curious ginger cat showed its appreciation for the bike, after the obligatory phase of disinterest and contempt, of course.
The Brunswick Mess Hall.
Reappropriated as an urban commuter bike in its current iteration, and with a few modern gizmos added for safety, this Farleigh by Bob Farley is sure to turn a few heads on the local bike path.
When this frame was made, builder Bob Farley would not have dreamed about the futuristic world that it would one day be reborn in to.
If you want to find out more about Bob Farley (the man, not the bike), without having to leave the comfort of your smartphone, then the best you can hope for is to visit the Bob Farley Facebook page, which has been set up as a bit of a tribute. There are some funny quotes from Bob as well as a couple of videos.
“Before chuck Norris, BOB FARLEY ruled the world.. the slayer of the dinosaurs. With that cute face of his and mild temperament, how can he not be loved? Don't be the odd one out.”