Torpedo March

'Torpedo-Naben-Marsch' sheet music by Carl Alfredi
Torpedo-Naben-Marsch‘ by Carl Alfredi, published by Musikverlag Metropol (Berlin, s.d.), unknown illustrator

Look at the lady freewheeling elegantly downhill. The speed doesn’t scare her because she can rely on her Torpedo brake. The other cyclists, although well equipped with the right sportswear, don’t trust the gravity and have to walk beside their fixies without brakes.

Carl Alfredy, a specialist in writing music for advertising purposes, composed the Torpedo-Naben-Marsch promoting the famous bicycle hub patented by Ernst Sachs.

Ernst Sachs with his penny-farthing

Ernst Sachs (1867-1932) was an athlete who raced penny-farthings (or high wheel bicycles), tricycles and two-wheelers. He had a keen interest in mechanics and filed his first patent for a bicycle hub in 1894. Together with Karl Fichtel he established the Schweinfurter Präzisions-Kugellagerwerke Fichtel & Sachs, ultimately simplified to Sachs. In 1898 Fichtel & Sachs started to produce coaster brakes (a rear brake on a bicycle that is activated by pedalling backwards). Five years later Ernst Sachs patented the torpedo hub, which combined drive, freewheel and back-pedal brake. Previously, he had sent his entire development department out to camp in the Alps to fine-tune the hub. There, his team tested the brakes at breakneck speed on the Passo dello Stelvio. The local press was fascinated by ‘the column of cyclist flashing down the mountains, almost without moving their legs. And they could miraculously bring the bicycle to a full stop, without apparently doing anything.’

testing de brake
Sachs’ team

Helped by an elaborate publicity campain, the Torpedo turned out to be a huge succes and was produced throughout the twentieth century. One of Torpedo’s most famous faces was the superstar Alfredo Binda, triple worldchampion on the road and five-time winner of the Giro d’Italia.

alfredo binda
Alfredo Binda, world champion in 1927

2 thoughts on “Torpedo March”

  1. Günther Sachs, le 2ème ou 3ème époux de B.B., était un industriel allemand fortuné, propriétaire d’une usine de fabrication de roulements à billes, si mes souvenirs sont exacts. De la famille ?

    1. Quelle mémoire Etienne, you are right! Gunter Sachs, jet-setting playboy par excellence, was not only the grandson of Ernst Sachs but also the great-grandson of Adam Opel, the founder of the automobile company. This spells dollars indeed! No wonder he got BB’s attention.

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