I have decided to remodel my old Speedwell popular diamond frame, for better or worse, as changed work circumstances have resulted in it getting less use than it should. Commuting is mostly on the red Road King now, but I don’t want to part with the Speedwell of my youth, so have decided to make it lighter and more responsive, a bike to take mainly on relaxed daytime rides rather than “must get there” practical commutes. I also wanted to give it a more integrated and simple appearance. This bike is a collection of memories and modifications, it’s not meant to be either pristine or faithfully original.
It was with reluctance that I disconnected the Shimano “3s” three speed hub, but never mind – this bike was originally a single speed with coaster brake. The “3s” rim is a little worn and I wanted matching wheels this time. Yes, I could have searched for ages for good second hand 27″ or 28″ wheels perhaps, but thought I’d try these new ones that I found for a reasonable price .
The bike had lost it’s 28 x 1 & 3/8 inch (that’s the 642mm version) wheels long ago as I had fitted it with the 27″ 3-speed hub in the 70s, and as its original forks were also damaged it was later fitted with a 26 x 1.75 inch i.e. decimal front end, a little less than ideal as far as ground clearance goes.
I previously fitted it with a front rack to hide this mis-match but have since ordered a set of new 27″ chromed front forks and 27″ high flanged front wheel for it, from Vintage Bicycle Rebuilds, so the big front rack has gone, replaced by a little PDW Take-out basket. I’ll do a review on this useful bit of gear later…
The fork caused some problems as it did not have quite enough thread and I had to shim the bottom crown race higher – so far it’s OK .. there is no play (fingers crossed). If that trial fails then it’s a new fork.
The rims are Chinese made Weinmann 4019 made of alloy in a kind of satin silver colour – maybe not my ideal style for a classic, but hey – this bike is so far removed from the worn out original that it’s really not worth being a perfectionist about it !
The look is growing on me, anyway …
The front brake is a new Dia-Compe long reach centre pull caliper (just in case I have to fit 700C (622mm) wheels one day). These calipers will fit 27″ (630mm) wheels with the pads near their highest position. They are really classy looking brakes, I think, and although the coaster is pretty efficient, I wanted the added security on this bike. I have fitted a N.O.S. (new, old stock) vintage steel lever to operate it. The gusset on the bolt-on seat stays was always a bit flimsy for a rear caliper brake. I will have to practise using the coaster more though – old habits and all…
Another temporary addition was a set of Tange moustache bars which I flipped just to be contrarian – actually they were too low the proper way up (down?) as this frame is just a little small for me and I don’t like leaning forward too much. I also tried a very well made Nitto “dynamic 10” alloy quill stem, however the 100mm offset with a low height stem and low bars made me lean forward too aggressively, so I just kept the previous high stem with low offset and “gull-wing” bars as being better for comfort – nice idea, I guess I’m just not the sporty type !
I’ve kept the saddle as a Brooks – a B66 in antique brown, and am keeping the old rack, but might remove the Miller dynamo and rear light because the front light will need an odd change of location as the stem has recessed bolts and will not take a headlamp bracket.
I am thinking to possibly front axle mount it as I have a bracket for this. Not sure, the cable will look ugly on a chrome fork, and maybe I don’t need lights at all on this one – K.I.S.S. as they say !
The mudguards are the existing Zefal plastic, at least for now. Any metal replacements will have to be be black also.
Tentative gearing is 40T x 18T, or about 60 imperial gear inches on a 27″ wheel – that’s on the low side of neutral, for greater flexibility and for my ancient knees. This isn’t a bike that you pedal down hills, but that does make it a little easier uphill, into headwinds and starting. We will see, and that’s the usual single speed compromise isn’t it ?
Always locked into the same cadences at the same speeds, regardless of conditions. It is true that practising a high cadence improves your pedalling, well, that’s what I tell myself as I spin like mad in a tailwind …
The bike performed well on a c.20km test ride I took today, it’s much smoother riding than the 10-speed Road King despite having the same type of saddle and alloy wheels, but is not in the Gazelle’s league of comfort. Steering is not as light as either of those two bikes, but responds slower than the Road King and faster than the Gazelle – geometry ?
Thank goodness the rain has gone today, I was going stir crazy for a ride ! BTW – the pictures are taken at Swansea Heads where I spent much of my youth messing about on this bike.
This is just a preview really – I am a long way from finished yet.
Happy cycling !