Not a pretty picture, but useful, at least.

This is the only Special Sports that I have ever found as hard rubbish, and it has been quite obviously repainted and re-decalled with non-period decals.  Still, there are some original components and, as always, a mix of goods and bad features.

shame .. these monitor ‘speedster’ callipers can look great when in good condition..

The chain set, head set, rear wheel, bars and stem, and the brake callipers all seem to be original, and I like the look of the Monitor ‘Speedster’ brakes. From long storage in a beach side suburb, the external corrosion is heavy in places, but at least the internal bearings seem well lubricated. 

It’s always interesting to see how the parts will clean up, with the brakes having lost most of their plating. They couldn’t look any worse than before, at least !

not quite mint …

Noting the condition of the frame and the non-original paint, the best use of this bike will be as a spare parts donor, as I have much nicer ‘original paint’ Special Sports frame sets to build up. It can be roughly dated at 1956 from the ‘AW’ code on the Williams cranks and chainring, and I believe them to be original. 

williams 48T

There’s often a problem removing these stuck Phillips ‘Apollo’ pedals as the spanner flats are pretty inaccessible, given their narrowness and the extended cage ends. I’ve often found it necessary to dismantle them down to the axle, just to get sufficient purchase to remove them from the crank.

I think I’ll have to pull these apart..

I don’t have a cotter press to remove the pins, so I use a 100mm bench vice, hand held, with a socket spanner fitting over to isolate the head of the cotter while pressing the nut side. This usually works well, but it’s heavy to hold the vice up for too long.

non-drive side tools

drive side tool – easy !

The bottom bracket was easy with the right tools .. plenty of grease in there ! The Bayliss Wiley spindle’s bearing surfaces are in reasonable condition – these are often heavily pitted in old bikes.

a lotta grease !

Removing stuck freewheels and track cogs can be a drama, in this case I used a CR-Mo pedal axle as a punch, with plenty of penetrant applied – success !

fixed + free hub

later Shimano 333 18T free & T.D.Cross 16T fixed. Pedal axle ‘punch’.

The freewheel almost looked new when fully cleaned, but the fixed side is cactus…

It’s a good idea to de-tension a wheel before cutting out spokes, and here I was hoping to at least save the hubs, as the rims are a bit far gone. The hubs had both been overhauled at some stage, and the 40 hole rear turned out to have worn out races, but the 32 hole front Atom was in excellent internal condition, under the grime.

The rear shell is a steel French 40H ‘Mega’, but with German Weco cones and axle replacing the originals at some point. The bike has been maintained and greased over time, to a point, at least.

the hubs

but as you can see, the bearing cup is shot … and so the cones and balls are discarded ( pitting ). Only the axle was saved.

in good nick..

The 32H French ‘Atom’ has a later Japanese axle and new cones . These old 5/16″ front axles are prone to bending if abused. This one looks in great shape.

All in all, a fair bit of work so far, and no pretty pictures, but some useful parts have been salvaged.

Stay safe, and at home, but keep cycling solo if you can…

Happy Re-Cycling !



a late 90s shogun hybrid

Another project, part of the ongoing quest to build the perfect ( re-cyclista’d ) commuter bike. I’ve been re-reading “Just Ride” by Grant Petersen ( Bridgestone, Rivendell ), and I think the influence here is apparent ! 

a milk-carton mud flap, a la “just ride” ..

As the name suggests, the original Metro was a flat bar 700C hybrid, and, as usual, had seen better days than when I found it, on a hard rubbish day, some time ago, again minus the wheels. A heavy suspension seat post and a very heavy adjustable alloy quill stem were fitted, neither of which I saw as being essential to comfort – if the bike is otherwise set up correctly, that is. 

This Shogun frame is late 1990s, Chinese made, in TIG welded chromoly with ‘Tangaloy’ forks. The frame has a sloping top tube, with the seat tube stickered as size 50cm ctc., which sounds small, but as the effective top tube length is 57cm I am thinking that it will fit me well.

I used an aftermarket top-cap Garmin mount on the rear rack, clearance issues mean the light has to be mounted inverted..

There are lots of scrapes and some surface rust and ‘snail trails’ under the paint, but the dark colour hides them pretty well. I don’t think bikes justify respraying in these cases, it’s better to keep the patina and its story with only an occasional clean and wax needed to keep the rust at bay, provided the bike is not stored out in the weather. 

Also, the factory dark metallic green colour is quite appealing in the sunlight as it fades between brownish and greenish with the angle of light. ( Not obvious in the photos ).

quill to a-head adapter

Like the Nishiki MTB, the Metro hybrid has a threaded 1 & 1/8” headset, ( which was worn out, but basic replacements are quite cheap ). A quill to a-head converter and separate stem again seemed the best way to go, for lightness and convenience, and allowed a modern ‘compact’ 31.8mm alloy handle bar. Classic quill stems are beautiful, but for a practical bike, I have to say that being able to easily remove the bars and change the stem without removing the tape and levers is a great advantage. Good modern compact bars are also very comfortable – these are ‘budget’ Deda RHM02s.

If you’re planning to do this type of conversion, I.e. from flat to drop bars, you’ll either need V-brake specific brake levers, ( or possibly convert to cantilever brakes with normal road levers ). Tektro make a decent drop-bar V-brake lever ( RL-520 ), and that’s what I’ve used here.  

Sugino micro chain set : 42/32/20T

The 94mm b.c.d. Sugino CSS II micro-compact crank set was salvaged from the Nishiki 26”, and wasn’t used on that bike at the time, because the rings were somewhat worn. They have now been replaced, except for the plain inner 58b.c.d. x 20 tooth, which I have reversed, to extend its life. I couldn’t find an inner for sale anyway. The triple will be 42/32/20T, which was its original configuration when on the Nishiki. I was surprised how much different spinning on 175mm feels, having been used to used to 170mm cranks for some time.

Such low gearing should be great for commuting and carrying, and with a 13-26T x 8speed rear, I am confident that it won’t spin out too much for me, even at a fairly low 42 x 13T. 

Although triples seem unfashionable now, they do allow a closer ratio cassette combined with a wider overall range. With a 20 x 26T low gear, this bike should be able to climb trees !! 

the Suntour VxGT – perhaps I overdid the cable a bit..

I’ve gone retro Suntour with the derailleurs, a Mountech on the front and the classic VxGT on the rear. The shifters are bar-end Dia-compe / Rivendell friction “Silver Shifters”. I don’t think the VxGT would work  accurately with any index system anyway..

The fewer cogs on the rear, the more important I think it is to have a triple for a good low range. The cassette on this bike has nearly all either 1 or 2 cog steps, whereas the Nishiki’s 2 x 8-speed 11-34 is quite gappy in places.

The linear pull ( V-brake ) callipers allowed the easy fitting of some re-cycled front and rear racks and mud guards, which I wanted for, but couldn’t manage to fit to, the Nishiki. The front rack is a lightweight Jim Blackburn, and the rear a classic Nagaoka.

The racks have fixed length stays, so I couldn’t get them exactly level, but I am pleased with the result anyway.

dual banana power … more about selle SMP in an upcoming  post.

As to the bar tape, saddle, and cable colours, maybe they are a bit too loud, I thought they would tie in with the edge trim colour on the graphics…well, they are growing on me.

on a 27km test ride..

Happy Re-Cycling !




typical roadster geometry – a well laid back seat tube,  it also has the roadster’s pressed rear fork ends.

Another kerbside find, one that I have had for a few years while occasionally, and quietly, contemplating its future. It came from the nearby suburb of Boolaroo, which was also the home of the notorious Pasminco Metals Sulphide works, until a few decades ago. The legacy of soil borne lead fallout still lingers in places there, and it also makes me imagine this bike being ridden from its home, to the works and back each day, as many of these bikes were used, with the traditional upturned drop handlebars .. and perhaps even a Gladstone work bag nestled in between the hand grips.

OK, back to reality then, and by now I am well aware that a basic 2-star utility roadster is not worth much in financial terms, especially one without its original paintwork, and with many parts either worn out or replaced. But a bike that has survived in decent shape for around 85 years is surely worthy of some small amount of respect.

this number relates to c. 1935 build date

I am fairly confident of the year from the serial number, by studying the Bicycle Network Australia forums, and from the BSA parts used, as I am by no means a Malvern Star guru. Also, Malvern Star did have a component supply arrangement with BSA from around 1933.

BSA piled rifles on spindle, both cups, and steering top nut

piled rifles on the fork steerer – BSA all the way !

I find there is some advantage in re-cycling this type of bike, in that there were plenty made, and it’s not financially valuable or highly collectable, nor is it practical or sensible to give it a full “as original” restoration job. I therefore won’t feel guilty about doing the few small mods. needed to get it going again…

worn out teeth – bit of a shame, but we’ll find something else appropriate.. 

One of the lower seat stay bolts was flogged out, and had to be re-tapped with a larger thread, but at least the frame is straight, without the oft dreaded tube – or fork – deformation from a hard frontal impact – yay !

plain lugs, but always with the elegant 6-point stars, even on the base models..

Somewhat comically, it was found fitted with BMX bars and stem, plus the usual non-original saddle and a hodgepodge of wheels. These roadsters generally came fitted with 700A or 28 x 1 & 3/8 inch wheels ( ETRTO 37C x 642 ) and a coaster brake rear, as did the Speedwell Popular roadsters. They don’t look right with smaller sizes either, but at least tyres are still available.

No front brake, indeed, there is not even a drilling for one in the fork crown, merely a drilling in the back of the crown for a mudguard bracket screw.

Bikes and traffic were more sedate back then..

As much as I dislike re-painting old bikes, ( and I never do this if any of their original liveries remain ), this one had nothing at all left, so it was bite the bullet time. Scraping old paint off is not my idea of fun, however…

the little dark patch under the axle is a BSA emblem !

I’ll use the Eadie coaster hub, as it is more or less period correct, and ( I only just realised ) has the BSA piled rifles stamped on the brake arm as well.

with these slots, the drive side spokes had to be held in place with a spoke nipple when building this wheel, to stop them falling back out !

To be continued…

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 !