new wheels !

A while back, I posted about a Special Sports that I named “Almost Forgotten”, which, at that stage, I had fitted with Shimano 3S hub gears. This bike was heavily altered, with many new parts, from what would have been its original spec., partly due to it having had no fork when acquired.

I’ve since converted the bike to single speed with a beautiful set of 27” touring wheels. These wheels could, in some ways, be considered as overkill, because I won’t be doing any touring on this bike, yet they are lovely wheels, probably the best riding 27” wheels I have ridden.

not sure if these are true sealed bearing – but they are as smooth as !

The hubs are high flange, sealed bearing Suzue, both 40 hole, laced to Mavic ‘Module 4’ alloy rims in 27 x 1 & 1/4”. 

I fitted a pair of Serfas Seca tyres, and the combination works really well. If I find 27” tyres I really like, I have vowed to buy several in future, because, as with these Serfas, it has happened so many times that I have later been unable to source more !  

I had to modify the rear wheel, by adding or removing spacers on each side of the nutted axle, until the wheel was centred and the lock nut width reduced from 135mm to the 110mm of the Speedwell rear fork ends. This has resulted in a somewhat ungainly axle width, but never mind !

the non-drive side

I’ve also left the rear wheel dished, just in case I want to put it on a geared bike in future. The front hub has a standard quick release, so I can only use it on this particular Speedwell because of its 100mm fork mod.

The hubs are silky smooth, and I believe that this smoothness can actually be felt while riding the bike, enhancing the enjoyment. The wheels ride and corner really well, perhaps partly due to their weight, the tyres, and the generous rim width.

As to the ‘two brothers’,  I have since acquired another Special Sports frame set which, I have been advised, would have been manufactured on the same day as ‘Almost Forgotten’ (A.F.), though which actual day that was, I cannot say !  My guess is very early 1960s.

down tube decal for “almost forgotten”

This latest frame has the serial number W23714 compared with the 11 higher number W23725 of A.F. and, according to the previous enthusiast owner, these bikes were built in daily batches of 100 !

the “brother” frame set

This ‘new’ frame set left the factory ‘trans’ red in colour, while A.F. was more a purplish red, as far as I can tell. The ‘trans’ tag refers, I think, to Speedwell’s bright transparent top colour being applied over a silver or gold base for a ‘candy’ effect. 

detail showing original red colour

Sadly, unless these bikes have been stored perfectly, time and UV light degrade the top colour, as you can easily see by looking under the cable clamps, and other once hidden areas.

Red colours seem more affected by this than do blue or green ones.

down tube decal

It also seems that these frames may have been treated with some kind of surface varnish, which discolours badly with long-term sun exposure.

All of this makes an immaculate Special Sports quite hard to come by, but they still look nice, even when faded.

Happy Re-Cycling !  

Ahh, so you thought this blog was finished, dear reader …. Not so, but hey, it’s been a while, and how the time has run away from me…

Anyway, I’ve had this pink peril for some time, occasionally entertaining myself by wondering what sort of Velo-Re-Cyclo masterpiece I would  create with it. As usual, the price was right, but the condition was a bit hairy.

as acquired, a bit of a mess.

Swifts were made by Guthrie Cycles ( Brisbane ) whose other brands included ‘Local’ and ‘Ashby’, before becoming Cycles Australia with the ‘Madison’ brand, then finally exiting bicycle manufacture, like so many others of the era. I don’t know whether the pink frame was locally made, or imported, though I also have a 1964 Swift frame ( below ) that I’m sure was made here.

there is also a 1964 swift, underneath the grey primer on this one !

Once upon a time, it was a typical 1970s ten-speeder, before having been unsympathetically fixie-fied with an ancient Williams crank set that had the five bolt chain ring mercilessly spot welded to its spider ! It did, at least, have a nice set of 27″ Fiamme alloy rims that I have since used elsewhere.

Another thing to deal with was a badly bent rear triangle, which I corrected with the aid of some large lumps of wood and a steel pipe as levers, a string line, and my trusty dropout alignment tools.


an earlier version with 175mm cranks

Post the re-build, I can do the hands-free ride thingy on it easily, so I have vainly assumed alignment success, despite the unsubtle means.  Given the basic pressed drop-outs, I didn’t want to go with bolt-on derailleur gears, and I also happened to have a set of 700C Alesa rimmed alloy wheels from the Speedwell Popular, following the 28” re-conversion of the previous blog post. They had a 95mm front hub and a Sturmey Archer S2C 2-speed  kickback coaster – perfect !

The 42mm tyres only just clear this frame and fork, but will stay, for the time being, though 35mm would likely have been my ideal choice. 

latest version -105 cranks

You may wonder why I have used dual hand brakes as well as the coaster hub. It’s because they look better, and function better, as hand holds on the drop bars, than a single front hand brake would. I can use the hand brakes when I don’t want to change gear when slowing down with this idiosyncratic hub. The coaster isn’t exactly a screaming stopper on it’s own either ! It is useful though, when I’m wanting to change gear while gently slowing at low speeds in high gear.

 To my mind, the S2 hubs work best with a 42 x 22T combination, which gives a reasonably low low, and a moderately low high gear of 42 x 16T equivalent. At 90 rpm, I am looking at 20 or so km/h in low and around 30km/h in high for my typical ‘commuter’ gearing. Remember, you can vary the overall gearing, but not the ratio between the 2 gears, which is a large 33% jump !

So, using a 2-speed hub, either low is going to be too high, or high too low. I am generally happy to sacrifice a little top speed for an easier low, though a 44T chainring would likely have been OK too. The cranks are early Shimano 105s, in 170mm ( FC-1050 ). 

Any bike with the S2 coaster version is going to be a little weighty, and the lowish gearing helps compensate. It’s always going to be a bit more flexible than a single speeder, at least. 

Hand brakes are Tektro long drop callipers, with cane Creek levers on a Genetic Bar and stem, and the frame is approx. 57cm seat x 55cm top. Paintwork is in pretty average nick, but holds the metre ( or two ) rule – just !  

a handful of pink-ness

As to the bar tape, I thought “ why hide it ? “, and went for the cushy Fizik ‘performance’ in pink, of course …

One must be prepared to accept a mix of comments when riding a pink bike – thankfully, they are mostly favourable, perhaps a reward for the unconscious efforts to help neutralise gender stereotypes ?

I can’t decide whether the shiny 70s decals look ‘too glitzy’ or ‘quite flash’, but I’m sticking with the latter for the time being.   

looking heroic …. and i’m off to the beach – see ya !

 Happy Re-Cycling !

lost in the greenery – with original westwood rimmed wheels

The basic Australian roadster bicycles of my youth, such as the Speedwell Popular or Malvern Star 2-Star were typically fitted with only a single speed coaster “back-pedal” brake in their – now fairly rare – 28″ ( 37-642) 700A wheel sets.

Simple and practical, for reliably commuting to work or riding about town in pre-1970s traffic, there is very little to go wrong with them if properly adjusted.

In a modern traffic environment, they lack stopping power, as the performance of the coaster brake has usually deteriorated over many years. Many older roadsters were fitted with Westwood rims that don’t have a decent braking surface, and it’s also very, very rare to see an old Australian roadster that is fitted with either front drum brakes or rod brakes.

with 700x42c tyres, this bike has been through several changes – the s2c hub is geared too high in top gear with 46 x 16T equivalent — a 42T chainwheel works best for me with this hub…

Using smaller wheels such as 27″ just doesn’t look right, as it leaves oddly gaping gaps between the tyre and guard. 42c x 700 (622mm) actually looks a little better than 27″ (32 x 630mm) – with the right looking rims, I tried this at one point ( see above ) with a 2-speed S2C Sturmey-Archer hub, and it worked reasonably well. 

I recently decided to revert my 1956 Popular back to having 28″ wheels, but not the original westwoods. I wanted a more effective coaster brake and also a front brake for those scary moments at speed.

shimano 36h and 21T cog – remember, the gearing is increased by the larger wheel/tyre diameter in this case.

In my spares bin I had some (110mm width) 70s-80s Shimano coaster hubs, but in 36 hole, whereas most 28″ wheels were traditionally 40 hole rear and 32 hole front.

The Shimano coasters are compact and light weight ( compared to 50s & 60s models ), and stop pretty efficiently as well. There are several models, O-type, D-type, B-type but they are all the same basic design, and easily overhauled.

Although adding the front brake means that even the old 40H coaster brake models should be satisfactory, the problem of the westwood rim style remains for a front brake set-up  …. Catch-22 !

all ready for back street cruising, and a bit of traffic too

It seems though, that in the dying days of 28″ ( 37-642 ) wheels, that some of these rims were made in 36H Endrick, and chromed, not painted, ( i.e. with standard braking surfaces ). So, I’ve used a couple of these rims re-cycled, with a Joytech front hub, also 36H, and the Shimano coaster.

Now I have a rear brake that is strong enough even to lock the wheel with a bit of pressure applied, and a reasonable front brake to assist. The one benefit of the 80s ‘sports 10 speed’ bikes is that they mostly used the same width front hubs ( approx. 95mm ) as the older style bikes, which can also be easily recycled, usually, but not always, with new cones and bearings fitted.

These 36H hubs look very similar to the originals, apart from not having the cone flanges to fit the older keyhole fork ends.

mudguard clearance is a problem, but these long-armed side-pulls fitted, and are at least better than no front brake at all !

While obviously not period correct, having such a spare wheel set helps both to preserve the originals, and to provide a further degree of safety to the rider in modern traffic. Sadly though, I only had one pair of the Ukai 36 hole rims in 37-642 size, but these wheels can be swapped between bikes if needed.

Makes me wonder too, if these rims were ever made in alloy ?

these bars were chosen for comfort, not originality, and needed a 26mm stem bore. both are easily changed back to original though !

Fitting a front hand brake can still present problems if the fork hasn’t been drilled for one. Some roadsters like Malvern 2-stars may only be drilled for a mudguard bracket on the rear fork crown.

While it’s possible to drill the forks through on these, it’s not something I would like doing to an old original …. maybe it’s better just to ride them slowly in this case ….. sigh.

Happy Re-Cycling !

We cyclists all know the dangers of the one we didn’t see coming … well, this could be the essential device you may not know you need – until you actually get hold of one, and use it.

a neat vertical unit with small side lights

The Varia RTL 510 makes a lot of sense if you already own a recent Garmin computer ( I bought an Edge 520 a while back ). Buying the version that comes with its own dedicated head unit may seems harder to justify, as it’s quite a bit more expensive.

I’d think of that extra cost perhaps as money better spent toward part of payment for a Garmin computer, unless you really, really don’t need one at all, or you feel that the dedicated unit might be a bit easier to read. I haven’t seen that yet, so I can’t really say.

typical small garmin (520) on an “out front mount “

The radar + light has to be a better primary safety feature than the alternative ‘tail light + camera’ combos on the market, which may only be useful after an unpleasant event occurs. One can, and should, use eyes, ears and common sense, simultaneously with the radar, to help prevent such an event occurring in the first place.

As keen as I am, I don’t intend to do a technical review here, there are plenty of those to be Googled and YouTubed, Have a good look at the ‘DC Rainmaker’ review if you’re interested in the idea.

I’m just here to say how clever and useful I find it. Think of overtaking a parked car, and being able to watch the door opening distance without looking back – or zooming down a hill with the wind in your ears, yet also being aware that there is a vehicle bearing down behind.

There may be an oncoming vehicle near you that drowns out the sound of others following you – you now know that they are there, usually from beyond 100 metres back !

Your Garmin computer gives a warning beep, and a simple linear display of the relative distance appears, via moving dots travelling along the edge of your Garmin’s screen. The beep is clear, but not annoying, and the dots disappear as the corresponding cars pass by. The radar won’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from looking over your shoulder when necessary, but it really helps in instances where concentration ahead is required, and it’s less safe to look back.   

On a busy road there will be a constant stream of dots, which is admittedly less useful, though at least you can see how many cars there are, however, in this situation you also get an indication when the road behind is well clear, and that’s handy too, say when there may be roadside obstacles coming up ahead.

I often ride on local back streets, and this is where the radar also shines, as a further reminder to take care.

Occasionally there may be a false reading, e.g. cars crossing at an intersection you have just gone through, but these mostly drop off the radar quickly. Of course if you are on a cycle path next to a main road, you will also still get readings from the road behind you.

simple mount for the rtl510

The tail light can be put on constant, pulse, and daylight flash modes, with the latter giving a claimed 15 hours battery life. It uses the same type of quarter turn mount as the computer, is simple to set up initially, and one button operates everything on the light. The light is easy to transfer from bike to bike, as are the Garmin computers, which is one of the reasons I bought one, having as many useable bikes as I do, including the old classics.

Sure, it’s one of the more expensive tail lights on the market – but what price the extra safety ?

Check it out …

See Ya !

nishiki 26er ‘road’ mtb – plus gravel, grass, etc.

Reading the cycling magazines lately, one would think that one’s collection just wasn’t complete without having a “Gravel Adventure Bike” in it, so here’s the latest “Re-Cyclo ‘2×8’ model” ! 

As suggested, there’s no “1×11” transmission here ( oops, now it’s “1×12″ – or  even Rotor’s latest  .. “1×13″ !! ) and no disc brakes either – but this was heaps more DIY fun !!

the derailleurs were in great nick

I had to build a pair of wheels for it, and so bought a new pair of Deore XT hubs at a reasonable price, to suit the 8 speed XT derailleur and an 11-32T  8 speed cassette. 

quill-to-threadless mod., with comfortable fizik performance bar tape

I’ve changed the bars to drops, so different brake levers were needed. I had a compact Deda Piega 26mm handlebar to use, but the Deda bar wouldn’t fit through a single bolt quill stem, due to the tight bends, so a 1 & 1/8″  ahead stem and a universal quill – to – threadless adapter were purchased.

classic gran compe straddle wheels & genetic cantis

Brakes are Genetic lightweight cantilevers, that ( handily ) use standard road style brake pads.  I later had a nightmare moment coming to an intersection when both brake cables slid through the straddle wire pulleys – note to self.. “check and double check the cable tightness before test riding” – Yikes .

The Sugino triple crank was replaced by a ( 34/44T ) double Sugino VP 110mm BCD,  on a 115mm square taper BB, giving gearing that should be adequate for 26″ wheels – i.e. from 34 x 32T  to  44 x 11T.

The 10T chainring difference means that front changes are smoother than with, say, a 50/34 compact, and the midrange gear options are greater as well.

the driveline

Sometimes, when ordering spokes, one makes a slight miscalculation, but it may still be possible to use them by changing the number of spoke crosses, either up or down, when building the wheel, which I had to do in this case with the now 4x front. Oops ! In the case of the rear, I had the old wheel, and the dimensions were pretty much the same with the new hub and rim, so I could match the 3x spokes.

On the subject of building wheels, some say it’s a black art. I would say it’s relatively easy to learn the basics and be competent, at least as far as simple general purpose 28/32/36/40 hole traditional wheels like these go. I learnt the basics from Lennard Zinn’s road bike maintenance book.

On the other hand, mastering modern high tech / high performance wheels and truing race wheels to ultra-fine tolerances would seem quite difficult.   

Lacing a wheel is mainly a matter of repetition, taking care to avoid simple mistakes or at least to pick them up quickly before the mistake is repeated on and on … DIY niceties include lacing up so as to see the hub logo through the valve hole.

I haven’t made up many wheels with new rims, but it seems naturally easier to true them than with re-cycled rims like these, which are in the majority for me.

a reliable commuter with a comfortable brooks c17 saddle

I’ve tried a couple of ‘touring-style’ rebuilds like this before, one on a Giant Boulder 550 MTB, the other on a Protour 27″ that was a decent frame, if a bit too large. Though I enjoyed both, I think this will be my most successful attempt. It’s a really nice frame, in my size, and not too heavy either, well, not considering the larger diameter MTB down and top tubes at least. The seat post is 27.0 mm ( Tange MTB ), which is the same as for my Tange Infinity tubed Shogun.

Most other parts I had already, either lying around, or borrowed from other bikes. The excellent 8 speed Ultegra bar-end shifters and the blue flat pedals have been borrowed from the Protour .. it’s nice to now have a completely matched set of 8 speed shifters, cassette, chain and derailleurs for reliable index shifting. I also think that bar-end shifters are at least as easy to use, and in some ways easier, than modern integrated brifters on drop bars.

trad 90s cable location

Because the period MTB triple cabling runs along the top tube, I didn’t need much cable outer, and managed to salvage some unused blue offcuts for the whole lot – yay !

The top tube is so long at an effective 63cm (!) versus an effective seat tube of around 55cm, that it gives a fairly leaned forward position. One possible disadvantage of MTB geometry is the high bottom bracket, which means it’s a little tricky to touch the ground from the saddle when stopped, at my preferred road seat height, at least.

This is quite a big bike for what Nishiki call a 55cm (22″) frame size !

Overall, the cons. are : slow acceleration compared to a good roadie, and still fairly weighty from a hill climbing point of view. The pros. are : great low speed handling, good low to mid gear range ( if a bit gappy ) , and a steady, comfortable ride on rough city streets,  And again, I can’t complain about the cost ….

gone ridin’

Happy Re-Cycling !

A foray into the world of composites – I’m not sure of the model, could be an R660 late 90s, early 2000s ? Anyway it has an aluminium frame with carbon forks and seat stays.

Size is a (virtual) 54cm ctc square, which I thought would be too small, as it came with a very slammed stem and thus a very low front end. So I bit the bullet and bought a Deda adjustable ahead stem and set it to 30 degrees !  Now, I’m not a bike snob, but I do know that the cognoscenti would be aghast … well, I say ‘whatever works’ !  And it works quite nicely too.

shock, horror and so on … bars are deda RHM02

Scattante was / is a home brand of Performance Bicycle Shop in the U.S. Likely made by one of the factories also manufacturing the ‘name’ brands, it seems they were a competitive bike at the price, but lacking in brand kudos. There are plenty of pics on-line of various different models, but I haven’t yet seen any others with a full period Campagnolo group set.

these new miche hubs are really smooth – i hope they last as well.

Even without said stem, it’s not the prettiest two wheeled object by a long shot, with its angular tubes and burnt-orange-plus-carbon colour scheme.  Speaking of “shot”, that’s what the cones in both hubs were. The Centaur hubs have oversized hollow aluminium axles and tiny little ring-like cones … at an LBS I was quoted around $30 per (1) tiny cone, and even on-line they are still seemingly around $20 each..

No thanks, and welcome to the world of Campagnolo spares prices – and therefore forced obsolescence ! ( but I still have the hubs – just in case ! )

Sadly, or happily, it was both cheaper and probably easier for me to buy a set of Miche ‘racing box” hubs 32H, and they spin like a dream, with their butter-smooth sealed bearings. Of course these required re-lacing the wheels, so more therapy for me as well…

the ‘new’ driveline & tioga spider pedals

The original sealed bottom bracket was as smooth as, and so were the steering head bearings, both of which saved me some hassle. Chainrings were a bit worn, and I decided to replace them and go 10 speed, as the rear derailleur and the brifters were getting on a bit. Also, the existing 9 speed cassette only went to 21T, just so, for the hard men only …

the traditional looking veloce r.d. is kind of pretty

Veloce is the only 10 speed group that Campagnolo have now, and I think it has already been discontinued, but for me it was a cost effective way of upgrading. I needed shifters, a 10speed, cassette (12-26t), a chain and the rear derailleur to make it work. The front Centaur derailleur was marked “10 speed”, so it was quite compatible. Campag. freehubs are cross compatible between 9/10/11 speeds too, which is nice.

yowser ! so many choices of cog

Crikey though, that’s a lot of close cogs to shift through, for an old timer unused to such transmission excesses !

What, it’s twelve speed now, you say  ?

not quite right, but hey.

The somewhat worn chain-rings were replaced too (52/39t) – no point half doing a drive line job … I could only find Chorus/Record 135mm b.c.d. big rings new, they work with the Centaur cranks, but aren’t quite the right match. The inner ring is a 39t T.A.

centaur dual pivot brakes

The bike came with a 27.2mm Felt seat post, and a rather attractive looking Selle San marco ‘Aspide’ saddle, which I’ve kept. Don’t think I’ll ride it too far without the padded shorts though !

not a bad looking saddle – if a little hard ..

New pads for the excellent Centaur dual pivot brakes and it’s done.. Not a super cheap build, but worth it for a virtually new bike with a Campag. group set, ‘only’ being 10 speed Veloce not withstanding. A Veloce drive line is what’s fitted to the recent Bianchi ‘L’Eroica’ historic re-make, so it can’t really be a bad thing, can it ?

the ribbed Campag. brake hoods remind me of whales, for some reason.

This bike came at a good price, at least given what the parts would be worth to sell if it didn’t work out – and it’s my first experience with the world of Campagnolo, apart from rebuilding a few old Record hubs.

The plan was, if it didn’t ride well, I would strip the parts and look for a nice replacement steel frame with 130mm rear spacing … but there was no need. I assumed the ride would be sharpish, so I chose a set of cushy Veloflex Master 25 clincher tyres before I had even ridden it.  Along with Cinelli thick gel-cork bar tape. Yes, the ride is ‘informative’, and a little more chattery than a good steel frame, though not unpleasant.

This is now my lightest bike, and I know that’s not the most critical thing for me, but it is a nice feeling when accelerating, or going up hills, that’s for sure.

Happy Re-Cycling !

No More 26″ MTBs ? :

Well, that’s what I had decided a while back, because even though they are the most common local chuck-outs by far, very few of them are worth the time and effort reviving, as so many of these are steel-wheeled department store cheapies.

the bushwhacker !   –   note the long top tube

However, occasionally, one finds a gem amongst them, such as this 22″ framed Nishiki Bushwhacker. This bike was designed and manufactured in Canada, and has some Norco components ( flat bar & seatpost ) – so I think it was made by Norco. The tubing is Tange MTB, a CroMo 4130 tubing which was, I think, a mid-range Tange, similar to the excellent ‘Infinity’ road tubing. The name “Bushwhacker” seems to be an Australian derivative too, maybe there were some Aussies working at Norco in the 90s !

yumm !

The bike came with a broken-spoked rear wheel and no front wheel, and is fitted with Shimano Alivio canti brakes, Deore XT and LX derailleurs and Gripshift 3 x 8-speed twist shifters. Also, a Sugino CSS2 micro-chainset ( 42/32/22 ) and threaded 1 & 1/8 inch fork steerer were on it.

i think the middle ring was default position

These chainwheels have an unusual PCD of 94mm with 58 for the triple’s granny ring, as opposed to the 110mm of current compact double road chain sets. TA have rings available in 94mm if required, though these Suginos seem in reasonable shape, and have all the ramps to aid shifting. I might use them, though a 46/34 double may be another simpler option, as the cassette I will use starts at 11T.

I’ve dated the bike to 1994, and the frame is straight, with decent condition of the paintwork and decals. One thing that puts me off MTBs a bit these days is that for road use they generally have heavy frames and sluggish wheels, thanks to the usual wide tyres and the perceived need for off road ruggedness, so there may be some weight reduction required. Starting with a relatively light frame like this will be a big help !  I am getting spoiled using lighter road wheels lately, so tyre width will need to be 1.35″ – 1.5″ at the most.

nishiki / norco ? — designed and manufactured in canada.

Looking at the larger on-line shops these days, it strikes me that parts for 26″ ( -559 ETRTO ) rim braked MTBs are becoming rare. Most hubs are now for disc brakes, and most rims no longer have machined ( or indeed any ) brake tracks. The change in size to 27.5 / 650B  ( -584 ETRTO ) and 700C / 29er ( -622 ETRTO )  hasn’t helped either.

While I understand the appeal of discs for off-road use, I don’t like the complexity of such things, though if one has to deal with servicing bicycle suspension systems as well, I guess hydraulic brakes are only a further slight inconvenience.

Unsprung ‘gravel road’ bikes seem to be the latest thing for a novelty hungry bicycle industry, well, hopefully this would be an economical way for some to get there – if they really need to, that is. I also wonder if any of these newer aluminium / carbon bikes will be easily restorable in 25, 35 or 50 years time – or will anyone care ?

A major appeal of bicycles for me is that they are, or were, or should be, so much simpler and cheaper than motorbikes to maintain…. so if this one even only had suspension forks, I would have said “forget about it !”

More to follow.