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Fritz Köthke Champion Special Bahnrad

The list of Cologne’s frame builders is quite long, but Fritz Köthke was one of the most known among them even outside of Germany. It is not sure when he opened his shop, but there are ads of his shop dating back to 1926. In the 20s and 30s the man who actually soldered the frames in his shop was Wilhelm Hennerici (which is another story) while Fritz Köthke was busy in running the store commercially having a contract with B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms) as a retailer of their cycle fittings. In these days cycling was a very popular sport in Cologne and its surrounding cities. The world record holder in 1000m standing start and world champion Toni Merkens started his professional education in Köthke’s bike shop. Many riders came to Fritz Köthke putting the deposit for a new bike, worked or helped in his or other shops and after work they went to the local velodrome, which was run by Fritz Köthkes’s brother, for training and to race their bikes. You aren’t wrong calling Köthke’s bike shop in these days the pivot of a cyclist community of which some lads of the neighbourhood full of verve for cycling later became world champions. Having had a world champion cutting and filing his lugs and sweeping his shop, on the other side Köthke supported his career on the circuits; it is not surprising that Köthke named his bikes “Champion”. When Hennerici opened his own shop in the 50s, Köthke himself soldered the frames. In the 50s and 60s his bikes were still well sought-after. Possibly as reminiscence of the former glory times he kept putting the B.S.A. stickers on his bikes. In the 50s the Nervex lugs from Francolam made it unnecessary to the frame builders to cut their own lugs in-house. But it was often a question of professional honour or etiquette of the master builder to individually modify the lugs supplied by an industrial company. I generally prefer the Cinelli lugs on a track frame because they appear more elegant to me. But this Köthke frame is simply perfect with its modified Nervex professional lugs. The straight steel plates soldered to the top of the seat stays are pretty unique and a beautiful example of Köthke’s art of construction. Together with the specially made track fork (to my knowledge Nervex did not offer a smaller crown for track forks) and the lining around the lugs this frame set is a very beautiful example of craftsmanship of its time and it gives me a smile every time I look at it. As it hasn’t a frame number stamped into it, the year of manufacture needs to be estimated. But this seems a difficult task. I would date the way of lining to end-50s, but the geometry seems to me more modern. I would consider mid-60s as a reasonable estimation. Since it comes unusually with stickers of the German colours, I would guess it was used for some 6-days events in the past.

Frame:
Köthke, Reynolds 531 tubing, Nervex Professional lugs

Fork/Headset:
Reynolds 531 tubes with hand cut crown

Crankset/Bottom Bracket:
Stronglight

Front Wheel/Hub/Tire:
Campagnolo Super Record hub with Nisi rim

Rear Wheel/Hub/Tire:
Campagnolo Super Record hub with Nisi rim

Bike History

Click a link below to see past stages of this bike.

  1. Initial
  2. titan

Added by Thor. Last updated 9 months ago.

2 Comments

Vintage-Trackie

Vintage-Trackie says:

One of the most beautiful bikes on here!!

Posted 6 months ago

Thor

Thor says:

Thank you! The frame is really lovely.
Köthke was in the 20/30ties what Masi was in the 50/60ties.

Posted 6 months ago