Archive for August, 2013

looks like a normal BB ...

looks like a normal cottered set-up …

Though hardly a classic, there is one thing that I found thought  provoking while disassembling this bicycle, and that is the mysterious bottom bracket. It’s a proprietary unit, I think, with standard BSA right hand threads on the non-drive left side cup, but the drive side is an extended cylinder that mates with the left cup to form a sealed unit that can be disassembled, complete with standard 1/4″ plain ball bearings and a cottered crank axle. The whole setup is wedged into a threadless oversized bottom bracket shell by tightening the assembly, fitting the wedged lock ring, first matching a keyway in the shell to a notch cast on the large cup, much the same way as some old seatpost pins and quill stem pinch-bolts slot in to stop them rotating. Rubber seals on the axle holes help stop outside entry of water and grit. Perhaps modern sealed BBs have evolved from this idea ?



Why make such a big deal about an old non-standard BB ? Well, this is an old bike blog, so you won’t be seeing octalinks, hollowtech IIs, BB30, BB90, or that sort of newer thing, but this one made me take notice because the bearings and surfaces inside were in truly excellent condition considering the bike’s age and assumed usage. This is because the rust, grit and water build-up inside the frame remains outside the casing as you can see from the corroded exterior. Often this accumulated gritty gunk finds its way into the bearings and a completely new BB is required, but not here !

minus the standard cottered axle

minus the standard cottered axle

As well as that, they are user serviceable unlike the modern sealed bearing square taper replacement BBs that are long term throwaways. And they need to be in this case because if this fixed cup had worn out 30 years later it would be very difficult to replace, perhaps then making the bike useless ! What else would one fit – with no threads ? Of course, that’s true only because this system didn’t become a standard arrangement…

I am going to experiment with converting it to a square taper axle, as I have said before I’m not a fan of cotter pins unless on a ‘valuable classic’  and even then that’s only for originality… if that works the bike can be modernised with a  lighter chainset, with the hope that this bracket will stay put.


Read Full Post »

the lonely one

the lonely one

‘Popular’ is such a quaint old fashioned name for a bicycle model suggesting an everyday bike for the average person – which is what it was. Nowadays, however, the Popular is pretty rarely seen, though some are still around in Newcastle if you look out for them.

Speedwell designed it for robust simplicity, to be a relatively affordable, sturdy, basic single speed transport and leisure machine with a little bit of flair in the decoration, perhaps inspired in this case by the post-war and post-coronation aspirations and hopes of ’50s society – despite the general lack of affluence compared with today.

red, white 'n' blue

red, white ‘n’ blue

Those days of a more simple life are long gone now — or are they ? A bicycle doesn’t have to be complex, as the fixed gear movement has shown, and we know that sometimes the least desirable bikes can have the most gears, features etc.  – witness the average low quality department store suspension MTB.    Things are as simple as one wants them to be, really.

detail - seat tube

The bike is all steel, with big wheels  – ( 28″ x 1 & 3/8″ – i.e. 642mm,  not  635×1 & 1/2″ ), painted and lined Westwood rims, a generous fork rake, and a comfortable Bell 12-40 model leather saddle (not sure if it’s the original one though).

the flying kangaroo - i always wanted one of these !

the flying kangaroo – i always wanted one of these !

I purchased it from a Speedwell collector who is more interested in the Speedwell “Special Sports” models, of which he had a number of lovely examples to show me.

Originally it came from Yass, and still has much of it’s original frame paint intact, though the guards have been sympathetically resprayed.

The generous quantity of  hand lining looks art-deco influenced, and is typical of so many Aussie bikes of its era, though perhaps not as elaborate a flourish as on the more upmarket ‘sports’ models.

transfers have aged

transfers have aged

It’s unusual for me to buy a bike and overhaul it only to have it look much the same as it was, but even so, I checked and adjusted the steering and front wheel bearings, replaced a missing spoke after disassembling, cleaning and re-greasing the BSA ‘New Eadie’ Coaster hub. You can see the same brake internals on a previous post about my ladies’ Popular, suffice it to say that photography is difficult when your hands are covered in grease !  This was an important job for a bike that is to be used, as the old coaster hubs eventually become dry and/or rusty inside, and can then wear out quickly. There is a grease port on the hub, but this is mainly for the braking surfaces, and injected grease is unlikely to reach the bearings, especially the ones nearest the cog that have their own little cone and race chamber separate to the rest.

I find that serviced coaster hubs can sometimes become a little idiosyncratic in operation, but generally do ride much more sweetly as a reward for the overhaul. It will sometimes take half a turn to re-engage drive after using the brakes – probably a sticking clutch assembly. This particular ‘New Eadie’ coaster brake stops very well, unlike the same soggy model on my ladies’ Popular … perhaps it comes down to wear, though I also didn’t use teflon grease on it this time … hmmm?

the speedwell bell

the speedwell bell

As an aside, many other old bikes that I find seem to have been unnecessarily abandoned partly because tight front wheel bearings have made them mysteriously unpleasant to ride, so it’s worth checking these often on your “classic”, and adjusting them for play & free running …  to check, lift the wheel and see if it rotates back and forward freely ’til it comes to rest with the heaviest point of the rim – usually either the valve or the plastic reflector – at the bottom, while making sure there is no brake friction stopping this, then check there is no serious play side to side ( a minute amount is OK on an old bike if it’s necessary to keep the wheel running free ).

with brooks millbrook bag

with brooks millbrook saddle bag

Even with the hard plastic grips this ride is comfortable thanks to the relaxed frame angles and those large tyres and softly spoked wheels. I’ve changed the gearing by going to a 20T rear cog (to replace a worn 18T) while retaining the original 46T front ring. ( Please forgive me the modern Surly track cog excess – but I do like those round holes ! )

This gives an overall low 60s gear inch measurement as recommended in “The Art of Easy Cycling”, and is a good compromise for this single speed, giving a feeling of pedalling lightness at sensible speeds … though it isn’t overwhelmingly heavy  anyway, thanks to the spartan simplicity.

cool kanga !

cool kanga !

The straightforwardness of a single coaster brake is always appealing – no untidy cables, just a bike, pure and simple.

curly bars

curly bars

Initially I had thought that the drop bars would be uncomfortable, and it’s true that they are difficult to hold on the tops – having no ‘hoods’, and being a continuous curve except for the straight drop ends — but they also look just right for this bike, as I found by trying ‘north road’ style bars. I quickly swapped them back ! Because of the smooth ride it’s relatively comfortable for someone now used to riding old road bikes. The turning circle is large and cornering is slow compared with modern bikes.

The broad saddle doesn’t interfere with my pedalling when leaning forward, and that surprised me. As sold, the bars were rotated 180 degrees to ‘upright’ mode, but this just felt clumsy to ride, as well as looking less attractive.

In short, it’s a pleasure cruise – and quite graceful too, if one “rides it steady”.

( there you go ! ).

Read Full Post »

my day off ...

my day off …

Well, after carefully checking  over my new-old Speedwell Popular, I took it for a ride around Swansea, and some sort of magic happened there – firstly,  a kindly cyclist saw me photographing it and stopped to comment. I was remarking on how hard it is to photograph yourself on a bike and he offered to take my picture.

i'm a rollin' rambler

i’m a rollin’ rambler

Then, a few kilometres later and discovering that it was hard rubbish day next week, I saw a flash of yellow and heard a tiny voice calling “save me”.

Voila ! – a rusty but complete Malvern Sportstar ! The owner was outside chatting with the postman, so I asked him if it was OK if I took the bike, but that I had to go and get my van.  He kindly put it away for me, and later told me that the scrappies went past only ten minutes later .. whew !

it's not what it is - it's what you can make of it ...

it’s not what it is – it’s what you can make of it …

I must say, I’m not the fastest rider around, but if you told me there was a freebie bike at the end, I might just win a  stage of the Tour de Swansea … I bet that old Speedwell hasn’t gone so fast in ages.

the only word

the only word

Anyhow, I’m trying hard not to be a bike snob, but this Sportstar seems a bit of a clunker to be honest – it’s very heavy with cottered cranks and steel everything, (save the brakes) but the frame definitely has possibility.  I don’t mind weight in a heavy comfortable upright, but a heavy and un-comfortable “sports bike” doesn’t work for me at all ….

the best detail

the best detail

I couldn’t figure out the lack of decals at first – it has a Sportstar decal on the head tube and a serial number sticker?? on the BB, no other decoration on the bike save for the stars on the chromed fork crown cover.

Late 70s, very early 80s perhaps ? It has Shimano Eagle II and Thunderbird II derailleurs. After looking online I am guessing it’s been repainted and only a new head decal stuck on – shame !

The owner said he was given it in Sydney by a friend and had only recently stopped riding it himself. There’s plenty of Swansea rust on it, that’s for sure.

Oh, and did I say ? —- More details on the beautiful 1956 Speedwell Popular in an upcoming post …


Read Full Post »

i think i'm going crazy...

i think i’m going crazy… check the mummified snake combination lock

Something about this frame I found at the local bike hoarder’s yard appealed to me — perhaps it was the rusty orange patina, chrome fork lowers, decent lugs and the traditional Apollo head badge, harking back to times when there was a little more prestige in bicycle making.

I think it’s of 1981 manufacture, but it does look older because of the horrendous condition. It isn’t anything exotic either, being your typical mid-range ten-speed ‘sports bike’, not particularly lightweight and having those trendy (at the time)  useless little cut off mudguards with no stays.

Some times I question my own sanity, but I do like the perverse freedom of a hopeless bicycle repair challenge.

in fact i'm sure ...

in fact i’m sure …

I inquired about the price – “Two dollars is OK, but it’s no good for anything but maybe parts … !”

sigh ...

sigh … that was chrome

Then – “Wait, just take it no charge, it’s been sitting in the yard for 15 years … ! ”

So I may make this an occasional project to illustrate some problems in getting an old ten-speed up and running, though not necessarily in it’s original form. As you can see, the stem, bars, brakes and gears are missing and the rear wheel is a very rusty non-original single speed coaster that has been bodgied into the rear dropouts.

Armed with a can of the excellent  “PB blaster” penetrating spray, and a few well chosen tools, it looked like this after a short period :

the nitty gritty

the nitty gritty

The Sugino double chain set has heavy steel rings with forged 165mm alloy cranks.  I still think it’s a lovely shape for such a basic model.

lovely shape with the guard ring ...

puller still in — a lovely shape to the guard ring …

Removing taper square alloy cranks should be done with care, as it’s really easy to strip out the threads that the puller engages. First disassemble the puller and screw the big thread in by hand first, and then by spanner once you are sure the threads aren’t crossed. it needs to go in as far as it can before the centre pin is screwed in. Make sure you have taken the crank nuts off first (with a 14mm socket spanner generally). In this case both cranks came off very easily – that’s not always the case ! The well greased bottom bracket came apart easily with a c-spanner, a pin spanner – and my Cyclus BB tool for the drive side cup.

there's the nut

there’s the nut – is that 1981 ? – probably

then the puller

then the puller

fork talk

pretty sad

I need to think about which wheels to use, as one of the problems with these old ten speed frames is that the forks are designed for front wheels with spindly axles and being around 95mm width over the locknuts as well – whereas most new wheels are 100mm – you can widen the drop-outs by hand and force them in, sure, but it isn’t good practice to do that.

The “U.V. free” fork stem paint gives the best look at an original colour :

stamped "tange - japan"

stamped “tange – japan”

Also, the rear dropouts on this are around 120mm across, which is too wide for coaster hubs and too narrow for modern derailleur wheels (130mm) – without some modification.

More on this later …

Read Full Post »

ride the bat-mo

ride the bat-mo

That’s what I’m thinking as I ride along on the purple Giant’s back … oh yes, I’ve changed my mind again about this machine and fitted the Tange moustache bars. The drop bars in the previous Giant post felt a little too narrow in the end … but it was fun trying them.

the final version ?

the final version ?

So, how does this setup work ? Well, as it has “v-brakes” – or, more correctly, “linear pull brakes”, you need the appropriate levers, as those for calipers have a different cable pull rate to those for v-brakes. As these bars are like drop bars bent through 90 degrees ( and vice versa ),  road v-brake levers  will still work in the horizontal plane, by having the lever curve following the curve of the bar. This is the only place these levers will work properly on these bars. The other alternatives would be normal MTB levers,  which could impede hand positioning – or perhaps reverse levers on the bar ends  ( designed for v-brakes in this case … if such levers exist  ).

not your average mtb

not your average mtb

Because of the wide range of hand positions on moustache bars it pays to think ahead about where you want to put your levers. In the position I have them here, they are close to hand when leaning forward on the front of the bar, which is generally when riding faster. Levers positioned at the end of the sweep back are easier to access when sitting more upright. The wide range of available hand (and therefore body) positions is one of the best things about these Tange bars – they do take up a fair bit of  space though.

The levers I have used are Tektro model RL520, which are rather nicer to hold and better looking than the equivalent Dia-Compes in this case, and better designed too, in my opinion – the Dia-Compes do however have a neat adjustable noodle for pad wear compensation. The Tektros have quick releases built in, though they are perhaps not entirely necessary on v-brakes, where you can do the “squeeze” and free the noodle by hand, but at least it’s a little easier.

the devil's in the detail -- RiBMo ! ( teehee )

the devil’s in the brilliant detail — RiBMo ! ( teehee )

The Panasonic RiBMo ( Get it ? —> Ride with Batman’s Mo’ … !!!   Groan ! , O.K. I’m sorry ! ) tyres are excellent. They are a folding Kevlar belt 26×1.75″ for urban / commuting use and have a kind of pointed shape in cross section. This seems to give a smaller road contact for lower straight line rolling resistance along with the ability to turn quickly without the drag of more rounded tyres – at any rate, that’s how they feel to me. They appear to be very puncture resistant and have a greatly improved speed and precision of handling – without losing any of the 1.75″ comfort over rough roads. Altogether great 26″ tyres for “Road MTBs” .

let's roll !

get yer happy shoes on and let’s roll !

Regular readers might notice that I don’t do many posts on MTBs – well, they aren’t quite my scene generally, but can of course be excellent all-terrain commuters as we all know. Only please, dear readers – don’t let the following Wardrobe Malfunction happen to you —- it’s what gives MTB riders a bad reputation in some circles ( heehee ! )

OMG --- lovely bicycle, it ain't

OMG — lovely bicycle – NOT !

There goes my last shred of cred …  Bye !

Read Full Post »