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Archive for April, 2017

1960s flash – with original paint

This one came as only a frame, forks, headset and bottom bracket so I don’t know the exact running gear. While I realised that I could almost make a complete ‘period’ bike with this frame plus the parts off ‘ Flash No. 1’ , I decided that’s a project for sometime down the track. I am estimating an early 1960s build, but don’t quote me on that !

Serial number is W19788 whereas most of my other gent’s Speedwells have a “V” prefix. Seat tube is 55cm c-c and top tube 58cm c-c. I call it ‘over-square’.  Though the frame is technically a bit small for me, the longish stem and top tube combine to negate the slightly short seat tube.   

downtube details

It does seem a few years younger than my other Flash because the head and seat tube lugs are less ornate and there is no bottom bracket oil port.  The box lining is simpler and there’s more use of decals rather than paint stencilled decoration.  The main heavy box lining looks as though it was masked off for painting, then finished off with fine free-hand lining in certain places. I wonder if there’s any old footage around anywhere showing this type of lining being done – or perhaps it was a ‘trade secret’ type of work.  It would certainly be a great skill to keep alive nowadays.

With the faded candy red paint now turned to a mellow and patina’d ‘old wine’ red-brown, this frame somehow reminds me of a well thumbed leather bound book. The Speedwell Flash frames use a lighter (or thinner) steel than the Special Sports or Popular, which makes them nice to ride, but they are also more prone to dents, especially on the top tube, where it can be knocked by the bar ends. Unlike my older Flash, there is no letter “F” ( or anything else ) stamped on this fork steerer, though the ornate fork lugs are very similar, as are the chromed and painted fork legs.

The main difference in geometry between this and a modern steel frame is the somewhat laid back seat tube, but the short-ish chain stays and less fork offset mean that it’s a bit more responsive than some other 27″ bikes of its era. The seat pin diameter is 27mm versus the 27.2mm of my older Flash.

The cottered crank axle was badly pitted, as are most others on these old Speedwells. The new chain set, for the time being,  is a Shimano Exage 300, 170mm, converted to a single ring 44T on an FSA 103mm JIS square taper cartridge BB. 

I’ve found that a 103mm bracket works best with most 80s alloy cranks when running as a single speed with 110mm rear spaced frames. If you look at the original cottered Williams chain-sets on these Speedwells you’ll see how little clearance they have from the bracket cups and the chain stays, and the same should apply with an 80s chain set on a square taper, in order to get a decent chain line.

In this case, the freewheel and chain wheel are 3/16″ capable, so with a 1/4″ chain there is also a little bit of room for any slight chain line error.

pretty close – but works well

The pedals I fitted were Phillips, but I soon changed them to Wellgo B144s as the Phillips are designed for steel cranks and have really short threads – maybe they’re not such a good idea for thicker alloy cranks. The red Wellgo pedals somehow look out of place, yet at the same time, appropriate. Perhaps it’s the colour, reminiscent of the bike’s original hue but I’ve come to like the appearance. The same goes for the non-period chainset, and anyway, all these things can be swapped back if more originality is required.

normandy rear hub w/- huret wing nuts, halo freewheel

The wing nuts I used on the front and rear axles are Hurets, with a modern chain tensioner on the drive side rear.  Hubs are the converted Suzue front and Normandy rear shown a few posts ago, with a Halo 18T freewheel, laced to 27″ Ambrosio Extra 36H rims. The tyres were Continental Ultra Sport ( 27 x 1 & 1/8″ ), however following a couple of punctures I fitted my only pair of Gatorskins in 27 x 1 & 1/4″ and even though these look a little bit wide for the rims, I won’t be pushing them too hard.

love this stem !

The stem is my early Cinelli track stem with 25.4mm bar clamp, ‘negative rise’ and a 110mm length, paired with some 1960s (?) steel drop bars. These 25.4mm bars have a long reach, long drops and narrow tops, though at least the long ramps offer a reasonable hand hold and the drops are reasonably wide for the period.  I still think the wide topped Cinelli ‘ Giro d’Italia ‘ 42 or 44cm alloy are my favourites, but they neither fit this stem, nor suit this bike’s appearance. The older steel drop bars do seem to transmit more ‘hurt’, perhaps because of their thinner diameter compared with more modern alloy bars.

before the extra bar tape

The brakes I used are currently available ( ! ),  Dia-Compe centre pulls with Dia Compe Q.R. levers, though I would like to use some fancier drilled levers if I can find a nice pair.

I’ve fitted some period steel cable clips on the top tube, but put some thin leather strips underneath them so as not to scratch the patina —— ( lol ).

These callipers seem considerably heavier than older Weinmanns and Dia-compes that I have used, and the overall bike is heavier than ‘Flash No 1’ too.

Bar tape is Ritchey Classic with used  Cat Eye end plugs. To help hold the tape ends in place, I’ve used some short sections of 23mm inner tube ( see top pic. ).  

I am aware that the dinky little mudguards may be more 70s than 60s but hopefully they will help keep a bit of dirt out of the callipers and lower steering head bearings ! I’ve since wrapped the bar tape more thickly and added more length – for extra comfort.

it’s a nice ride ..

Hope you like it !

And Happy Re-Cycling  !

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I have been fortunate enough to have done some travelling in New Zealand this year, South Island – to be more accurate, and while browsing in a back street charity shop in coastal Oamaru I came across this book called “The Impossible Ride” by Louise Sutherland.

Louise was a native of New Zealand, a registered nurse, and a lifelong cycling enthusiast and traveller.

soft cover book

She was aged in her 50s when in 1978 she took on the challenge of a lifetime, to be the first person to cycle the Tranz-Amazonica highway, and right across Brazil.

inside cover

I’d never heard of Louise previously, and was short of good reading material, so I parted with the required $4NZ ( ! ). I was pleased to later discover the author’s signature from 1990 inside the cover, which made the find even more special.

the basic story

The expression “It’s not about the bike” somehow came to mind, at least in regards to Louise’s admitted mechanical naivety, and she had to rely on the assistance of others for most mechanical help.

The bike was a blue Peugeot mixte, donated by Peugeot themselves for the journey,  having an upright riding position, with 5 derailleur gears. It looks like the kind of bike that one might ride to the local shops on !

louise & peugeot

At times Louise mentions that she would have preferred the Sturmey Archer 3-speed gears that she had always used on previous journeys, because they had never given her any trouble, unlike the derailleurs !

The bike was fitted with a front handlebar carrier and a rear pannier rack and bags whereas she was used to using a trailer on her earlier travels. From the description of some of the roads encountered, perhaps that was just as well.

The journey was solo, of around 4000km distance, from Belem, at the delta, to the Peruvian border, and there were many struggles – with the biting insects, the storms, bike falls, and the dust and mud. Small in stature, she travelled with an open heart, having her faith in humanity and the local indigenous people (mostly) confirmed, and she completed the journey, contrary to the warnings of many.

sharing a brazil nut

“I was never lonely while cycling, I always had my bicycle to talk to.” she would say. Sleeping was mostly in a hammock, wherever she could find a village, town, hut, or even two trees, and there were many off-route diversions and new found friends along the way.

My copy was the second edition of her book, the first being after the actual ride, self published after much difficulty, in 1982. The main purpose of the book was to raise enough money to buy a VW Kombi fitted out as a mobile clinic to help improve the health of the Indian people living along the Tranz-Amazonica ‘highway’, which was relatively new at the time, being without many services and mainly surfaced with dust, dirt, or mud, depending on the weather conditions.

There is a reasonable amount of information about Louise on the internet including a Wikipedia entry, and an interview by British TV on YouTube.

Sadly, for someone so full of life and determined, she suffered a brain aneurysm and died suddenly in 1994 aged 67.

Hers is a wonderful story, shining brightly among many great legends in the world of cycling.

See Ya !
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