“The racing cyclist, on the other hand, uses a light small perch which acts as a fulcrum for his efforts…a mere positioning knob, as it were, to keep him centrally secure on the machine. ”

(Extract from “The Art of Easy Cycling” 1946 by F.J. Urry).

it makes the current b17 'narrow' look like a new mini vs an old mini !

it makes the current b17 ‘narrow’ look like a new mini vs. an old mini !

Those words came to mind when I first saw this saddle, and the conundrum here is why the saddle has hangers for a saddle bag, since it was seemingly designed for short distance racing events !

Never mind, because it is a very charming saddle anyway and the frame and hangers are of a good quality, although it’s certainly not light for its size and intended purpose.

so narrow !

so narrow !

But it’s still in fine shape for 56 years old – and it will probably last another 56 if properly cared for, though it does have one broken rivet at the back …

"genuine leather - made in england" on the top

“genuine leather – made in england” on the top

And how do I know it’s a 1960 model ? Well a little research tells me that after Brooks was purchased by Raleigh in late 1958 (and perhaps up to around 1990), they stamped a code on the metal cantle plate at the back of the saddle underside. It has a 3 month letter (A,B,C or D) and the last 2 of the year digits, hence D60 is Oct-Dec 1960 …. easy !

you might just make out the D60 at the centre of the back plate

you might just make out the ‘D60’ at the centre of the back plate

This model had been introduced to the Brooks line-up from 1925, with a few detail changes along the way, of course – and even a current re-release (though quite dissimilar to this one).

The numbers stamped on the leather underneath saddles of this era are apparently batch codes and have little or no relevance to the date of manufacture.

again compared with a modern b17 'narrow'

again compared with a modern b17 ‘narrow’

This saddle generates an almost irresistible urge to put it on a bike and see how it rides, but methinks secretly …

“Ouch, I’ll bet it hurts ! ”

I’ll soon find out …

See Ya !

A Brace of Speedwells :

Or should that be a swarm ?

not so 'flash' - at the moment, anyway.

not so ‘flash’ – at the moment, at least – also, this saddle isn’t the original.

I’ve recently acquired a number of Speedwell frames and associated parts from a down-sizing collector, mostly of the ‘Special Sports’ model but also including this roughly re-painted (but at least straight-framed) ‘Flash’ model.

pretty rough..

interesting, but pretty rough..

The Flash has a mix of components – a Speedwell stem minus the red “rocketship” end plug, a lovely Pelissier ‘Plume’ high flange alloy rear hub on a 27″ Mavic alloy rim and Weinmann 610 “Vainqueur 999” centrepull brakes are some of the interesting parts.

pelissier 'plume' french made hub

pelissier ‘plume’ french made ’36H flip-flop’ hub

after some effort

and again, after some effort..

appears to be a replacement ? - an atom front hub

appears to be a replacement ? – an atom 36H front hub

From a recyclist’s point of view the Special Sports models have the advantage of a solid brake bridge and properly brazed on seat stays which means that a coaster rear hub isn’t necessary, however the rear spacing is the same 110mm as the Popular so it will take either a period fixed/free hub, an internal gear hub or even a coaster if desired.

The bikes have rear facing horizontal dropouts – i.e. ‘track style’ ends – rather than the cheaper style pressed down ends of the Popular.

this green one is in the best overall condition

this green one is in the best overall & original condition

At the front end, the forks fit the typical 90-95mm hub with a 5/16″ axle, the same as most old Aussie bikes. Older models have the fork tips that must be pulled wider to allow wheel removal, due to the flange on the cone ends that mates with the drilling out of the fork tip.

Sort of early “lawyer tabs” I suppose .. The dropout and front axle widths also mean that modern front hubs can’t be used without modification. Modern track front hubs have thicker front axles and are 100mm O.L.D. , and the rears are at 120mm over the locknuts.

this one had been re-painted with new repro decals

this one has been re-painted and has new reproduction decals

The Special Sports rims are 27″ chromed steel with 40 hole rear drillings, which makes life a little difficult if one wishes to convert to alloy rims while using the original hubs. 36 hole rears would have made things easier – ah well.

On the front the hole count is 32. The 27 inch ( 32 – 630 ) rims at least have a basic but decent range of tyres still available (including Conti Gatorskins if you can find them !) which is a definite plus when compared with the 28 x 1 & 3/8 ” ( 37- 642 ) size of the populars.

the oldest one is my favourite, but it has damaged forks

the oldest one is my favourite, but it has damaged forks – note the different down tube stencil to the others, and the chromed fork legs.

i love the flag decals

i like the colour and decals on this oldie

The blue one above looks to be mid 1950s and is the only one to have the older style flared head tube – the remainder have removable cups for their loose 1/8″ bearings.

I have a feeling that the flag and crown motif somehow relates to the coronation of Q.E.II in the early 1950s.

AW-63, SW-57, SW-59

AW-63, SW-57, SW-59

A number of 40 hole Sturmey-Archer hubs were purchased with the  frames, including a 1971 coaster, a 1966 FW 4-speed , a 1963 AW 3-speed and 2 x SW 3-speeds ’57 & ’59 – apparently a somewhat unreliable model that did have some good points, but was fairly quickly dropped from the S-A catalogue after 1959 or 60 !

The early SW (centre) has the double indicator rod with left hand window. Note how much more compact it is than the usual AW model due to having one less planet gear (i.e. 3), and they also have slightly wider ratios than the AW.

Sheldon Brown’s site has quite a bit of info on this somewhat obscure hub. They should make for some curious tinkering fun down the track…

the typical later down tube stencil

the typical later down tube stencil

seat tube decal 'made in sydney'

seat tube decal


the top tube decal is - at this age - usually badly worn

the top tube decal is – at this age – usually badly worn

There are also some fixed/ free ( or flip-flop ) rear hubs, including some Speedwell branded ones and also a single sided Brampton freewheel hub in fine shape.

Front hubs include a rough BSA, an excellent condition Bayliss-Wiley, some Speedwells and a Phillips – all 32H, and the chainsets are all cottered Williams 5-pin.

The Special Sports models feature the lovely hand applied pin lining and the typically detailed decals of the era, and would originally have been very brightly metallic coloured over a gold or silver coloured base – that is until the Australian sunlight typically faded their brilliance – however that deterioration now tends to complement the bikes’ age and grace.

a nice patina on the red one ..

a nice patina on the red one .. flashes of the original brilliance here and there

They would have come with mudguards, I think (?), but not many guards will have survived after 50 odd years. The above red frame came with a pair, at least.

Perhaps my favourite is still the early model blue one with the flag decalled and chromed forks, and even though the paint is very worn on the top tube, and the forks somewhat bent, I would still like to try and repair this one later on.

I can’t show them fully in the space of this post, nor do I have the space or time at the moment to build them all up, so I shall be selectively presenting their progress in future posts.

And Happy Re-Cycling !

Farewell to the King :

back to nearly original

back to nearly original

The time has come to part with my 1984 Road King which was one of my first hard rubbish salvages featured early in the life of this blog.

Though I now have many more bikes to choose from, I’ve revived, experimented on, and travelled many fun miles on this Woolworths Ltd. ten speeder. Lack of storage space had me disassemble it a while back and really, an old bike needs to be used and appreciated at least occasionally …

it just needs bar tape & maybe cables ..

it just needs bar tape & maybe cables ..

The new owner and his brother had each owned one in their youth, and would like to indulge in a little nostalgia, so I’ve converted this red one back to as close as I could to original, with a couple of changes – mainly a better cluster and a square taper ( but still period ) crank set.

Hopefully he will have many similar fun miles pootle-ing along all over again on this now 32 year old blast from the past.

P.S. As the new owners are also looking for a ‘brother’ bike in silver finish with the blue trim I would invite any reader, preferably local to Newcastle/Maitland /Central Coast areas, who has a silver ‘gents’ model Road King for sale to post a reply here so I can pass it on.
The main requirement is that the frame and fork themselves be in reasonable to excellent condition, and with the original silver paintwork and decals intact.

Thanks in Advance – and Happy Re-Cycling !

it looks good from a couple of metres

it looks good from a couple of metres away – the paint is a little rough from previous neglect

I’ve mostly enjoyed the time spent riding this bike and have taken some time to make a few needed improvements to it. The general idea is for something that can be easily ridden at a steady 25 km/h or so, all day, in decent comfort as it’s not going to be a very light bike – no matter what lightweight accessories are fitted to it.

as discovered last year

as discovered last year

It has a strong frame with no noticeable flex and a very comfortable ride, but with responsive steering for such a large frame – its 61cm seat tube is technically ( but not practically ) too large for me, but this allows a traditional low seat relative to the bars resulting in a very comfortable ‘distance’ riding position.

Have a look at some distance racing bikes from decades ago – such as long distance record holder Beryl Burton’s – the saddles are only around an inch higher than the bar tops … and in my case the drops can become the default position with the hoods and tops giving an ‘almost upright’ position that’s great for traffic or scenery watching.

This Protour also takes most bumpy asphalt – even in corners – in its sedate, unwavering stride.

What I felt really needed changing were the tyres, the shifters and, now since I’d found a decent triple chainset that suited, then I would try that too.

I finally located a second 27″ Continental Gatorskin tyre to replace the previous sluggish Kenda ’27 inchers’ — hooray ! These tyres are hard to find now in this size, but at 85 psi they roll further, grip better, don’t squirm when cornering and are comfortable at 32-630 ETRTO – or 27 x 1 & 1/4″ size.

The Shimano Ultegra 8 speed bar end shifters were just the ticket because down tube shifters can be a pain to reach on large frames like this. Surprisingly the indexing seems to work nicely on the 7 speed cluster – I did think I’d be using it in friction mode ! These shifters aren’t cheap but they do come with all cables and fittings, and are pretty good value as such.

As there are no braze-ons for down tube shifters I used old style 10 speed clamp-on cable stops instead of the supplied down tube adjusters.

The front derailleur doesn’t really need the adjuster ( friction ) and the rear can still be adjusted at the derailleur end, as well as at the cable clamp itself. The only real difference is having to stop to adjust the indexing – if ever needed.

So far the indexing hasn’t missed a gear which is more than I can say about the front friction shifting, at least while I’m acclimatising to the changes on the triple !


Speaking of which, the previous derailleurs were replaced with the Shimano Exage 400 long-cage from the Shogun MTB chuck-out I found last year. The chain rings have been replaced with T.A. 48/38/30 and the cassette is a 13-28T which should cover any hill in my area. The 110 mm PCD Exage 400 crank set would have allowed a ( 74mm PCD ) 27 or 28T inner if I had wanted to go that low..

As the bottom bracket from the donor Shogun was shot, I had to invest in a 122.5mm Shimano cartridge to suit.

Lightweight mud guards would be nice on this, but I cant seem to find any that clear the Tektro R539 brakes.

The bike rides like new – as it should when nearly all the bearings and components have been replaced or serviced. In this case it was worth it for such a competent frame to be given a second life.

Other things that have happened recently –

1) the Wheels on Wheeler event was a fun day, though I thought it would have been really brilliant if it were on the same day as Olive Tree markets at least as far as numbers go. Ah, well…

2) I’ve discovered Lycra (!) and it’s comfortable – but I still don’t ride in it everywhere, and I’m pretty fussy about not trying to look too much like a road-geek !
Well, I can always put my baggy shorts over the top of my Funkier gel ones when I get off the bike. Along with my budget Aldi jersey and $10 Salvos Fila shoes I’m well ahead in the comfort and dollar stakes, though I am looking at better Morvelo & Maloja gear online as well. Nothing ‘team’ for me though, readers !

Oh, and rear jersey pockets are great for wallets ( compulsory I.D. in N.S.W. — groan ! ) but where on earth is one supposed to put a decent camera ?

Happy Re-Cycling !


1984 apollo capri -hard rubbish rescue.

1984 apollo capri -hard rubbish rescue.

This one featured in the post ‘Apollo Capri Part 1′ a while back, and in the end I decided to make it a simple flatland city run-around with nice wide bars for easy low speed steering. I’m coming to the view that any basic bike with pressed rear drop-outs and no proper built-in derailleur hanger is probably better off as a single speed or hub geared conversion anyway.

The single 46T chainset was borrowed from another salvaged Apollo ladies’, and the 27″ wheelset swapped from “Grandfather’s Axe” ( another story ! ). The Hi-Stop coaster hub and alloy Weinmann branded rims were bought new a few years back.

One of the problems often encountered doing this sort of conversion is the 95mm fork width and 5/16th” axle sizing on the Apollo front drop-outs. The newer front wheel had 100mm spacing and a thicker axle.

While some might not consider these ‘sports-roadster’ style bikes to have much value, they happen to be what I mostly find as local throwaways and if I only accepted 100mm wide forks I’d be missing out on a lot of good rebuilding opportunities !

reconditioned front hub & new spokes.

reconditioned 95mm front hub & new spokes.

The favoured method I used here was to de-lace the front rim from its original Quando 100mm hub and re-lace it to a restored salvaged 95mm hub – more wheel therapy for me !

To deal with the 110mm rear coaster hub I merely put spacers between the cones and locknuts to widen it out to the approx. 126mm of the previous thread-on 5 speed hub, taking care to maintain chain line and centring. Luckily the axles were easily wide enough to cope with the extra spacers. This negated having to bend the frame and thus kept the drop-out alignment as it was.

110mm ---> 126mm with spacers

110mm —> 126mm with spacers

I’ve used a 22T sprocket for easy pedalling around town and the offset of these larger cogs gives a little adjustability for chain line by flipping it either way as required.

That’s about it for such a relatively simple conversion, and the fact that modern ‘retro’ versions look remarkably similar to this step-through is an indication of the practicality of such a straight forward design.

Perhaps the only disadvantage with this conversion was that derailleur bikes don’t usually come with chain-guards, as one of those would have been perfect for this single speed .

Now, I did have an ideal rear rack for this somewhere … or perhaps a basket ?

P.S. — Don’t forget ‘Wheels on Wheeler’ 4th March 2016 — see previous post for details.

See Ya There !



Attention Novocastrians !

There will be an ‘old bike recycling – pop-up’ event for two hours in Wheeler Place ( Newcastle Civic Theatre Precinct ) on Friday March 4th 2016 – from 12 midday – 2 pm, courtesy of Newcastle Council.

Among the bike attractions will be Sanjex Seratti and his eye-grabbing high wheeler ( penny-farthing or ‘ordinary’ ) that some of you may have seen at the 2015 Newcastle Vintage Tweed Ride. Also available will be the ‘old bike restoration’ skills of Iain “Woody” Wood and yours’ truly, the “New Recyclist” – King of the council kerbside chuck-out – [ and some other ‘legends in your own lunchtime’ too ] !

You’re welcome to bring along an old bike – preferably original and 1980s or earlier, (a) if you need some overhaul advice – or, (b) just to show it off ‘cos you already know it all !

Just follow the above poster !

Happy Re-cycling !

old faithful ..

old faithful ..

I’ve made a couple more changes here – firstly the bars and stem, where I’ve refitted the early Cinelli stem with a set of steel Alps bars.

The bars are a little wider to give me better steering leverage and alloy bars don’t look right with this stem. Also, as the ( roughly ) 11mm Cinelli stem hex bolt head was rounded off, I have replaced it with an allen head bolt, hopefully not offending any purists in the process.

complete with twined bottle cage

complete with twined bottle cage to hide the modernity

I am a bit fussy about the bar tape on this bike and can only seemingly tolerate the texture and colour of this brown Brooks bar tape However, it’s quite thin if wrapped along the full length of this narrow diameter bar. My way of making things more comfortable here is to very much overlap the tape around itself for the drops and ramps, and then use heavily wrapped cotton tape for finishing off the tops – which I then shellacked.

The result is more thickness – i.e. comfort – but without the clashing newness of modern tape. I think the effect is nicely ‘retro’, not least because the tape is somewhat deformed due to being re-fitted and removed several times !

Used alone, I find plain cotton tape to be a bit harsh on the hands.

the sturmey-archer s2c

the sturmey-archer s2c

The second alteration was to fit a Sturmey Archer S2C Duo-matic kickback hub, and because I like the classic look of the Alesa alloy rims that were already fitted, I spent an afternoon dismantling the single speed coaster wheel and re-lacing the S2C. There were two hesitations here and they are worth thinking about. One is the weight of the S2C, it seems heavier than even a typical 3-speed like the Nexus 3C. The other is the loud freewheel noise it makes compared to a silent single speed coaster hub. This is particularly noticeable in top gear when coasting Moving the pedals back a bit here will help make conditions less noisy.

Regarding the weight, at least the wheel is no heavier than the original all steel 700A that it replaces !

The top ratio, as in the S2, is 138% of normal gear, and that 38% is a pretty big jump ! To work it out, if you begin with a 22T cog such as supplied with this hub, then that will be your normal ( lower ) gear. Your high gear will be roughly equivalent to a 16T on the same front ring. In this case with a 46T the gear inches are approx. 56 and 78.

It’s better than single speed, but either gear is not always low enough nor first always high enough. Changing the front ring alters both ratios of course, and one needs to personally decide whether to set it up for spinning or grinding, or possibly both !

the old school 'millbrook' saddle bag..

the old school ‘millbrook’ saddle bag..

The beauty of this hub, though, has to be the “zero cables” thing, and there’s a whole lot to be said for that on an old bike such as this, in terms of uncluttered appearance and simplicity of operation. The Speedwell Popular models only came fitted with coaster brakes as far as I know and I’m still reluctant to fit a front brake even though I know it would make sense.

The other plus is not having to mash the pedals so much at low speeds, thus making life easier for the old knees, while retaining a top gear that won’t spin out so soon.

Purists please note that the original wheels have been safely stored away for future re-fitting… but the relative lightness of these alloy wheels with modern tyres is hard to ignore.

Even so, the extra weight and laid back geometry is hard to get used to after stepping off the ‘criterium style’ quick handling Vectre. Ah well, all in good time …

greetings from the land of the summer Christmas

greetings from the land of the summer Christmas

Christmas Greetings !


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