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.
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 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 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 …
Christmas Greetings !