Archive for August, 2016

It’s funny how some of us who were into cycling in our younger days have returned to it as we’ve become older, and some such as myself still have a fascination with the bikes of our youth despite the many improvements in materials and technology since.

Anyone with money can walk into a bike shop and buy the latest and greatest, but some prefer the satisfying challenge of bringing an oldie back to life …

danny's healing bicycle

danny’s healing bicycle

One of the more interesting older bikes in the  Newcastle Tweed Ride this year was this Healing road bike.

A.G. Healing was a large cycle manufacturer in Melbourne, though this brand is much less common now in New South Wales than the more familiar Malvern Stars.  It seems, however, that at one time there were Healing outlets throughout Australia.

the non-drive side

the non-drive side

The company eventually moved out of cycles as did so many others as the industry began to decline, concentrating mainly on domestic appliances after 1959 when the bicycle division was sold. There is a reasonable amount of information about the company on the web – though, as usual, the detail on individual models is somewhat thin.

It seems that the top models had a brazed-on “H” on the head tube with very fancy lugs and colour schemes, with the medium-range models having a chrome badge like this one and the basic ones with a plain head tube.

The brand was raced by many well known Aussie cyclists ( including Russell Mockridge, one of the very best ) and they would have had the top ‘pro’ models, of course.

3 speeds - but not a planetary hub in sight

3 speeds and rear facing drop-outs – but not a planetary hub in sight.

This Healing has a 3-speed derailleur system that is an amazing mix of exposed clamps, springs and toggle chains. The drive chain is 1/8″, the same width as single speed, rather than the usual 3/32″ of  modern derailleur systems.

The cogs are also set further apart than is usual now, and I assume that with the limited number of ratios the wider chain doesn’t have to move far enough across the cluster to cause friction problems.

I can’t say I’ve had any experience with these older derailleur gears – they are a bit before my time !

neat shifter !

neat shifter !

The bike is running ‘singles’ ( i.e. tubular or ‘sew-up’ tyres ) as did the racers of the day and as do most racers now.

The owner, Danny, used to race bikes in his younger days and took up cycling again after he had quit long-term smoking and started to put on weight ( many of us can relate to that losing weight thing ! ). He now has a good sized collection of racing bikes from the early C20th to around 2000 – which would be great to see one day !
I didn’t get a lot of technical details about this bike, or even its age, but I think it’s a most enjoyable thing to behold.

Hopefully my somewhat hurriedly snapped photographs can convey a little of this.

The saddle is an Ideale, which was the French equivalent to Brooks – apparently this brand is undergoing a revival and will be releasing a new leather saddle too.

Happy Re-Cycling !


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brooks b5n

brooks b5n

The Brooks B5N is very similar in shape to the current B17N model (N = Narrow ) and was apparently fitted as OEM equipment to various road bikes of the 1970s. It has slightly thinner leather than is usual for Brooks saddles, perhaps as a result of the company’s attempt to compete with the cheaper plastic saddles of the day.

nicely aged

nicely aged

This one is in decent shape, though it had some cracking along the row of side holes that I’ve tried to fix with a little glue. I’ve added red laces to match the bike that it’s currently on ( without them being done up too tightly ) and some leather conditioner has been applied, as the leather was pretty dry. The adjustment bolt has hardly been used, so there is plenty of tensioning life left.

38 yrs old

38 yrs old

The code ‘A78’ is stamped on the cantle plate to indicate first quarter 1978 manufacture. Unfortunately the rear badge seems to be made of plastic and the lettering has worn off leaving only a faint impression.

nearly gone..

nearly gone..

There is some surface rust on the frame and rivets which I’m carefully attempting to physically remove. The top leather surface has a pleasantly dimpled texture much like the current B66/67 family of sprung roadster saddles and it has hangers for a saddle bag.

they haven't changed much..

they haven’t changed much..

I’m a bit of a fan of the ‘narrow’ saddles as they suit the ‘moderately leaned forward’ riding position that many of my bikes have. For those unfamiliar with the various Brooks saddles I would recommend the wide-ish B17 Standard or sprung Flyer where the bars are level with the saddle or only a little lower. The Narrow saddles have an advantage when used with lower drops, though for the most pedalling freedom, the B15 Swallow ( for light-ish riders ), or the Swift and Team Professional models have narrower noses and less leg interference than the ‘N’ models and may suit Brooks riders and bikes with more aggressive riding styles.

I’ve temporarily fitted the B5N to my 80s Vectre 58cm steel road bike, to see how it rides …

Don’t forget the Newcastle Vintage Tweed Ride on Sunday 28/08/16 – meet at Islington Park at 0930 hours.

tweedy cruiser with mangroves

tweedy cruiser with mangroves..

And Happy Re-cycling !

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It’s nearly time for the Tweed Ride, Novocastrians ! It’s on August 28 this year – refer to the Bicycles in Newcastle blog for details – and attend if you can – we should be grateful that there are people prepared to put in the effort to keep this great event going !
I do tend to get a bit reflective at Tweed Ride time, and sometimes think of such pressing things as “Which bike to ride ?” or “What clothes will I wear ?” and although my Gazelle is a perfect bike for this event I still like to use an old Aussie bike if I can, and I prefer to use a different machine each year, for variety.

bracing myself for things to come ..

bracing myself for things to come ..

The 2011 Toer Populair has been covered in detail in one of my earliest blog posts, and that post has the longest comment thread of any on this blog – which has probably also helped sell a few for Royal Dutch Gazelle !

Today I had the feeling to take it out for a gentle 20 odd km. spin, to clear the head a little.

This bike would have to be my favourite for seeking out photos when I’m out and about, because of the commanding views it encourages me to take in when I’m perched upright, high on its sprung B66 saddle.

I don’t use it all the time, but when I do it’s like a breath of fresh air. There are a few differences compared with riding a road bike of course, and these include the following —  My “Toerpopulati” !  :

toer pop art

toer pop art

1)   It’s best to spin, not mash, the pedals – this bike weighs about as much as two steel road bikes and accelerates accordingly ! To save the knees, I don’t usually go above 5th or 6th of the 8 gears on the flat, and I change down as soon as my cadence drops a bit in a headwind or up a rise.  I pretend I am driving a truck, and gear change accordingly !  Probably good advice for any geared bike, really..

Once up to speed it will glide along beautifully on the flat.

Unless one has iron quads and knees, 7th and 8th gears are for soft pedalling down hills. On the flat, wind resistance at speed will stop you from using these gears with a proper cadence unless you are in a paceline (lol).

2)   One can’t really stand up on the pedals – firstly, balance is compromised and second, it doesn’t look right ! One can, however, only if no-one is looking, lean forward and hold the bars near the stem for a slight aerodynamic advantage …

3)   When doing slow sharp turns one may need to shift the inside knee out under and beyond the inside bar grip when the inside pedal is down, and back again once the turn is completed – this is actually easier than it sounds !

4)   Due to the rack and basket, I often mount the bike by first starting to roll standing sidesaddle on the left pedal, then lifting my right foot over the top tube – easy if you have good bike balance.

( Taking care not to scratch the lovely paintwork of course ! )

5)    Much as with a tandem, it’s good form not to curse when climbing long hills … it will help to imagine the fun and speed you’ll have when the long descent finally arrives.

Spin the lowest gear you can cadence up on and if necessary be prepared to walk it – that gives your quads a little recovery time as well !

6)   The bike does beautiful long slow turns at moderate speeds and encourages one to lean in line with it – and that feels great.

7)    The Nexus 8 hub is pretty much faultless as long as one remembers to ease off the pedals when changing –  Sturmey Archer 3sp. users will understand what I mean here.

8)   Roller brakes are a very gentle way of stopping – think well ahead and you’ll be fine !

9)   You will look silly on a “ToerPop” wearing any kind of lycra – don’t even think about it !

10)    You will be dropped by any moderately fit person on a good road bike – but if you’re like me, you most probably won’t care.  Just keep going, and imagine the reverse if you two were to swap bikes.


I’ve had very few dramas with this bike : some broken spokes, some surface rust on the head fittings and a dicky switch and blown halogen on the Lumotec head lamp. Broken spokes are usually due to uneven tension, so I recently checked the front ones with my Park Tool tension meter and evened them out while truing.

The front roller brake is fairly easy to remove for spoke replacement, although the back wheel could be time consuming because of the chain case and Nexus cassette joint. Minor adjustment of spokes could be accomplished with the rear wheel in the frame.

Happy Tweed ‘n’ Toer-ing !!

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