Volker Diehl’s 1988 Wheaties Schwinn
German track specialist Volker Diehl was known fondly by his Schwinn teammates as “Dr. Deutschmark.” A powerhouse in the velodrome, he was twice a German national champion in team pursuit, once won the European Madison Championships, and placed consistently well in Madison and 6 Day Racing throughout the late 80s and early 90s. He brought that track speed to the road when he joined the American Schwinn Team in 1986 (then known as Schwinn-Icy Hot before Wheaties came on as a sponsor the next year), racing with the likes of Alan McCormack and controversial Olympic Champion Alexi Grewal.
Though not a legendary name, he had his share of success on the road, including a 2nd place at the german Road Race Championships in 1987, and winning the 14th stage of the Coors Classic, shutting out the 7-Eleven team by breaking away four laps from the finish of the 47-lap (40 mile) race in downtown Denver. It’s no surprise that a fast track cyclist would be perfectly at home on a fast time trial bike like his Schwinn Paramount funny bike.
Funny bikes earned their name not only through their odd looks, but also from their displays of speed that drew comparisons to funny car dragsters. It was a revolution ignited by Francesco Moser breaking the hour record aboard a similar bike with a smaller front wheel and cow-horn handlebars. From 1984 to about 1996, manufacturers began experimenting with and making such bikes specifically for racing against the clock. The reduction in height at the front (typically achieved with a 24” or 650c front wheel) was intended to reduced aerodynamic drag. The rear generally remained the standard 700c size as it had less rolling resistance and didn’t require oddly large chainring tooth counts to obtain the desired gear ratios. Eventually the UCI outlawed such designs in the 90s, with the 1996 Olympics being the funny bike’s last real hurrah.
Riding the Schwinn is an interesting experience. Despite the appearance of abundant rake, the front actually feels quite steep and twitchy. The cow-horn bars which had their advent with the funny bike were made by chopping a pair of Cinellis and flipping them upside down. They are positioned to be about equal to where the drops are on a standard road bike. This low position lends itself to pushing bigger gears and engaging your glutes, perhaps perfect for a burly trackie like Volker.