Archive for February, 2012

the before shot (after restoration)

I have been enjoying getting around on the Road King bike since restoring it, finding that it handles well, goes reasonably quickly and looks kind of tackily snazzy, with all its red and shiny chrome. The ride is more harsh than I am accustomed to, (I even tried with only 45psi in the tyres) and the running gear is not of the highest quality, but that doesn’t stop me having fun on it!  I will replace the saddle as soon as I reasonably can though, as it is unsprung, thinly padded and quite painful over longer distances.

Like all my long term rides it needed mudguards fitted, and a proper carry rack – but where to get real chrome ones – I mean, 27 inch bikes are old hat at bike shops now, aren’t they?

After some searching I found this site online called Vintage Bicycle Rebuilds, they are based in Melbourne. Check them out if you are having trouble finding accessories for 27″ wheeled bikes.

new chrome guards and rack

These mudguards were reasonably priced, nicely finished, and look quite the part on 10-speeders. They are claimed to be rust resistant as well. The front guard fitted no problems, but the rear stays were a drama for me because firstly the dropouts on the road king flare out at the top, which fouls the stay’s line and also the stays are quite thick, and I didn’t have enough axle width on this bike to safely tighten the wheel nuts – something to check before ordering. I had to use a spare stay from a 26″ bike fitted to the small threaded eyelet holes provided on the dropouts. It turned out to be just the right length! I fitted them from the inside to clear the rear derailleur  The rear guard did not reach to the chain stay bridge on this bike, so I had to fit a small bracket to keep it steady, adding to the fitting time. As the brake brackets are fixed on these guards, very little adjustment is possible.

D.I.Y. bracket ...

Also purchased was a traditional style rear rack that fits the axles and seat posts of non-eyelet equipped bikes. Unfortunately the very same dropouts that turn outward at the top also foul the rack stays. The dropouts are fitted with 2 sets of eyelets however, so I have used these by filling the axle holes on the rack legs with small washers to stop them moving about, then larger ones with small bolts to hold everything in place.

the flared dropouts were a big problem

This rack should fit easily onto single and 3-speed classic axles, and probably some other 10-speeders as well. It’s almost the same design as the old rack on my vintage speedwell and I was pleasantly surprised that someone is still making them. For me, those black alloy bike shop racks looks awful on classic bikes …  However, I would point out that one further problem is that the two arms for the seat tube are incredibly far apart, and require some serious bending to fit the seat post. It’s hard to imagine why they needed to be quite that wide, so be prepared.

these arms had to be bent in from parallel ...

I took the opportunity to fit 2 new gumwall tyres while the wheels were off as the old ones were both worn and perished.

and a test ride ...

The final job for now will be to find a suitable mud flap for the front guard to give the chain some extra protection from stray mud and sand.


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As a second-attempt follow up to the previous post, I did the same journey today on my 8-speed Gazelle. You would think that it would be slower than the ten speed Road King, as it is much heavier, but that wasn’t the case. I actually shaved 5 minutes off the previous time to the ferry wharf. Delays were roughly the same, so what made the difference? The Gazelle is a comfortable refined ride and very quiet on the road, taking corrugations in its stride.

On the other hand, the old 27″ Road King has a freewheel that sounds like a swarm of bees and a saddle like stone, with the narrow tyres transmitting every corrugation. I think it only feels as though it’s faster because of its harsh directness. It’s still great fun to ride though, and its low speed handling is quite a bit more nimble than the Gazelle’s (perhaps because of the steeper steering angles?).

rough and ready - road king

The silence on Fernleigh Track in some places is such that I like to listen to dead leaves as they rustle behind me in the slipstream, accompanied by the faint creaking of the Brooks saddle, the wind in my ears and the soft whizz of 28″ tyres on smooth asphalt.

solitude - fernleigh tunnel - going home

Anyway, about half way along the track I saw road bike riders approaching behind me, and though I expected them to pass, they took longer than I thought to do that, and I noticed that some were my age or older.

i shot this one over my shoulder


Once they had passed I pedalled a little harder to keep up, which wasn’t too difficult. I followed them and kept with them the rest of the way which might partly explain the 5 minute improvement, as I normally ride alone, at my own pace.

climbing - and listening to the leaves - whitebridge


still following

After splitting off from the other riders and following Teralba Road from the Adamstown railway gates, I decided to take Everton Street instead of Dumaresq Street through South Hamilton. While Everton is a bit more hilly, it felt slightly safer than Dumaresq, from a dooring and car speed perspective.

held up in honeysuckle drive - around 5mins to 9:00am

Finally straight through the railway gates at Newcastle West, and onto Honeysuckle Drive – perhaps if I had been luckier or faster I could have made the 9:00am ferry – imagine riding for 70 minutes and missing the ferry by 30 seconds! That’s exactly what happened.

i missed the boat - again!

It wasn’t essential to cross the harbour today, so I headed home again via Wickham foreshore – a much longer but more pleasant route …. sigh.

one of the same riders later, near belmont - another over the shoulder shot

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morning on the track

Today I conducted an experiment to see how long it would take to commute from home to Stockton – via the Fernleigh Track, then Adamstown to the Queens Wharf and across the Harbour on the State Transit Ferry and further on almost to the Stockton Bridge.

toward stockton bridge and the home of hexavalent chromium leaks ...

The total one way distance I would estimate at 30-35kms., not including the ferry trip. As my long term steady average speed seems to be about 20km/h I thought it should take around 90mins. So it was that I set out on my racy old 10 speed Road King bike, fitted with a temporary front basket.

red road king

I needed to ride about 5kms to access the track at the Belmont end by road, which is moderately busy, including a Pacific Highway crossing that took me about 5minutes wait in an 80km/h zone for a break in the car traffic (no traffic lights). The Fernleigh Track went smoothly as usual, though I badly need mudguards on this bike – I really dislike crud all over the frame, brakes, BB axle and front derailleur every time it rains or there’s a puddle, and lately that seems mostly…

in fernleigh tunnel today

Anyway, I made the ferry wharf in 75 mins. via peak hour Newcastle 9am traffic. Without having a timetable, I then found that there is only a ferry at 9am and then one at 10am at this time of the morning and I was there at 9:15! Luckily there are plenty of distractions on Newcastle Harbour – and it was a test ride.

So ferry timing is very important to get right, if you’re in a hurry. In peak hours though, it leaves roughly every 20-30 minutes.

there's always something to see...

green with chromed wheels...

stockton ferry wharf

There is a neat bike path along the harbour side of the Stockton Peninsula which leads to the high level bridge and has many interesting views along the way – this bridge is not designed for bicycles or pedestrians at all, so it’s the ferry or nothing for the bike and I. That’s OK as is it a fun 5 minute ferry ride with great views. There are bike racks for 3 bikes on the ferry then it’s standing room only for cyclists. Bikes travel free with the $2-40 single one-way ticket.

queen's wharf newcastle from the ferry

The Stockton shared cycle path is a 15minute ride at a modest pace, with about 100 metres of road cycling half way. It all added up to around 90minutes ex-ferry then, as I had guessed.

stockton shared path

Could I do this trip and return 5 days a week ? I don’t know yet, it’s long as commutes go, but it’s at least worth a try.

The 10 speed bike will need a better long distance saddle and a proper rack if I am to use it regularly though.

toward kooragang island from stockton path

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I saw this bike at The Entrance today, and thought it worth a quick post :

long haul trucker and rider - the entrance channel

I don’t recall seeing one of these before, and I rather liked the restrained colours and somewhat traditional look of this bike. Though I have heard of the name many times, I don’t know a lot about the model other than that they seem to have a good reputation among knowledgeable cyclists.

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new spoke, nipple and eyelet

The front wheel trued up pretty easily but the rear one caused trouble with seized spokes and I had to cut and replace a few to get the wheel straight.  I’ve been doing some cosmetics on the pin lining, adding a faint dust of magenta in places, a sort of “lipstick for grandma” – we don’t want to overdo it though (or she might look like a bad wolf in drag)!  I’ve tried to keep it original looking but I have touched up some of the faint pin lines, I could’t help myself. I have also clear coated her after neutralising the rust to protect the paint from further decay.


The frame finish is basically as it was then, still with chips and scratches – it seemed a shame to remove 50+ years of character, and I didn’t want a “botoxed” grandma either, without any expression at all…

i need a kickstand now

The chain wheel crank turned out to be too bent to to use, which is a shame, and to get her going I’ve had to substitute the old cottered 48T from my old diamond frame Speedwell. This was a non-original Japanese crank and isn’t quite the look I wanted so I’ll keep looking for a set of proper period cranks. I exchanged the other diamond frame Speedwell’s crank for a 40T tapered one a while back, to lower the 3-speed gearing, so that bike is still perfectly rideable. The gearing on this is slightly higher now than with the original 44T. A new 1/8″ chain has been fitted, and that’s the only thing I have actually bought for it so far. Except the bell, which came with a bike attached for $10!

steppin' out stepthru

I haven’t finished detailing the bike yet, but you see the general idea, and it is now quite rideable. I fitted the Lucas 28″ cyclometer to the front wheel, but found that the clicking drove me mad on such a silent bike, so I’ll have to remove it soon I think! The handlebar is slightly bent too, but right now that’s a matter of acclimatising to it.

i need some tweed...

The BSA coaster brake is not brilliant but is noticeably better at stopping than the Perry on my Malvern Star and should be sufficient for an easy rider like this. My friend Vicki has kindly donated the tyres and tubes from her 28″ Speedwell, since her bike has now been upgraded to 700C wheels.

28" and 700c- 28" is actually larger

I would like to add a skirt (coat?) guard to it at some point using the pre-drilled holes, and the non-original sprung Royal saddle is the wrong style and colour. A black leather Brooks (or similar) would be better and is on the wish list!

There will be a more in-depth ride report and close-ups to come later – Happy Cycling!

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I know there are a lot of battery powered lights on the market, but you can’t beat the pedal powered dynamo for instant readiness and low maintenance. Having a backup battery “stand light” is a good idea though, for when you are stopped, if you ride in totally dark areas at night ( e.g. the Fernleigh Track ) especially.

miller switched headlamp

miller switched headlamp - 1950s ?

Here are some of examples of generator (dynamo) lights from my grandfather’s collection of bicycle paraphernalia. They are made by Miller of Great Britain. The generator is a 6V  and 3.24W output. They still work, although the lamp reflectors have dimmed somewhat and perhaps the generator magnets have weakened over time. A modern light and dynamo like the Shimano dynohub / Busch and Muller Lumotec combo on my Gazelle gives brighter results with less pedalling effort.

miller bullet headlamp - unswitched c.1950s

The little button opens the light to access the bulb. This light is mounted upside down under the front rack.

the miller name is moulded into the glass

Here is the Miller dynamo fitted to my old Speedwell – it all works, though I still prefer to use the Gazelle at night as it also has reflective side-stripes on its tyres and a capacitor stand backup on the tail lamp as well. The B&M light appears to be plated plastic though, and lacks the reflective surface lustre of these vintage lights

bottle generator mounted on my speedwell seat stay

my spare generator is probably unused

I found this bullet shaped tail light at an antique shop last year, while I was rebuilding the Speedwell, it matches the headlight shape better than the #598.

bullet tail lamp on my speedwell

the concentric reflector

I have a few of the “No.598” tail lamp/reflector – the plating on these fittings is of excellent quality and highly rust resistant – what has happened to quality plating since then, I wonder?

model no. 598 with full reflector

There are a few of these or similar Miller lights on sites like ebay, but information on the company itself is hard to find.

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While other bike blogs may review the latest high fashion carrying gear, I have chosen to tread the frugal path with my old Speedwell, via my latest freebie addition to its carrying capacity, which at least was made in Italy.  In its former life it was used to transport Italian grown Kiwifruit … see how intent on giving you money saving ideas I am, dear reader?

my old 3-speed "bitzer"

I  trialled it today, sitting it on top of the shallow mesh freezer basket that I normally use. This new basket flips up as it is cable tied at the rear and otherwise sits loosely on the basket below that is attached to my modified wood panelled Basil “Memories” rack.

Aren’t cable ties such useful things?

flips up from the freezer basket underneath

I think it will be just the thing for soft items like loaves of bread, and the extra height means that I am less likely to spill items out going over bumps. An elastic strap can be wrapped over it too. It’s quite a stylish crate, as crates go, though perhaps a little flimsy…


Never mind, as the price was right, and we’ll see how long it lasts!

with shimano click shifter and t-rusty bike bell


This decorative tin lid really caught my eye from the roadside as I was riding along yesterday, and as it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d post a picture of the little cupid on it.


Happy Cycling!

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