Archive for the ‘single speed bikes’ Category

lost in the greenery – with original westwood rimmed wheels

The basic Australian roadster bicycles of my youth, such as the Speedwell Popular or Malvern Star 2-Star were typically fitted with only a single speed coaster “back-pedal” brake in their – now fairly rare – 28″ ( 37-642) 700A wheel sets.

Simple and practical, for reliably commuting to work or riding about town in pre-1970s traffic, there is very little to go wrong with them if properly adjusted.

In a modern traffic environment, they lack stopping power, as the performance of the coaster brake has usually deteriorated over many years. Many older roadsters were fitted with Westwood rims that don’t have a decent braking surface, and it’s also very, very rare to see an old Australian roadster that is fitted with either front drum brakes or rod brakes.

with 700x42c tyres, this bike has been through several changes – the s2c hub is geared too high in top gear with 46 x 16T equivalent — a 42T chainwheel works best for me with this hub…

Using smaller wheels such as 27″ just doesn’t look right, as it leaves oddly gaping gaps between the tyre and guard. 42c x 700 (622mm) actually looks a little better than 27″ (32 x 630mm) – with the right looking rims, I tried this at one point ( see above ) with a 2-speed S2C Sturmey-Archer hub, and it worked reasonably well. 

I recently decided to revert my 1956 Popular back to having 28″ wheels, but not the original westwoods. I wanted a more effective coaster brake and also a front brake for those scary moments at speed.

shimano 36h and 21T cog – remember, the gearing is increased by the larger wheel/tyre diameter in this case.

In my spares bin I had some (110mm width) 70s-80s Shimano coaster hubs, but in 36 hole, whereas most 28″ wheels were traditionally 40 hole rear and 32 hole front.

The Shimano coasters are compact and light weight ( compared to 50s & 60s models ), and stop pretty efficiently as well. There are several models, O-type, D-type, B-type but they are all the same basic design, and easily overhauled.

Although adding the front brake means that even the old 40H coaster brake models should be satisfactory, the problem of the westwood rim style remains for a front brake set-up  …. Catch-22 !

all ready for back street cruising, and a bit of traffic too

It seems though, that in the dying days of 28″ ( 37-642 ) wheels, that some of these rims were made in 36H Endrick, and chromed, not painted, ( i.e. with standard braking surfaces ). So, I’ve used a couple of these rims re-cycled, with a Joytech front hub, also 36H, and the Shimano coaster.

Now I have a rear brake that is strong enough even to lock the wheel with a bit of pressure applied, and a reasonable front brake to assist. The one benefit of the 80s ‘sports 10 speed’ bikes is that they mostly used the same width front hubs ( approx. 95mm ) as the older style bikes, which can also be easily recycled, usually, but not always, with new cones and bearings fitted.

These 36H hubs look very similar to the originals, apart from not having the cone flanges to fit the older keyhole fork ends.

mudguard clearance is a problem, but these long-armed side-pulls fitted, and are at least better than no front brake at all !

While obviously not period correct, having such a spare wheel set helps both to preserve the originals, and to provide a further degree of safety to the rider in modern traffic. Sadly though, I only had one pair of the Ukai 36 hole rims in 37-642 size, but these wheels can be swapped between bikes if needed.

Makes me wonder too, if these rims were ever made in alloy ?

these bars were chosen for comfort, not originality, and needed a 26mm stem bore. both are easily changed back to original though !

Fitting a front hand brake can still present problems if the fork hasn’t been drilled for one. Some roadsters like Malvern 2-stars may only be drilled for a mudguard bracket on the rear fork crown.

While it’s possible to drill the forks through on these, it’s not something I would like doing to an old original …. maybe it’s better just to ride them slowly in this case ….. sigh.

Happy Re-Cycling !


Read Full Post »


ready to roll ...

ready to roll …

It’s entirely possible that I may one day get this bike closer to original, but in order to do that I would have to know just what that ‘original’ was. This is a problem with many old classics that have been altered here and there over the years by owners like me, perhaps just attempting to keep them going while still looking ‘respectable’.

I don’t always see the point of keeping un-rideable totally original bikes either, unless they are in unsafe condition – or are so rare or unique as to almost be museum pieces.

the driveline

the driveline

The serial number is A94488 on the bottom bracket, and from the Williams chain ring code (AU) the bike might date from 1955 – but this assumes that the chain wheel was the original.

As the non-drive crank was a rusty fluted Magistroni, it’s hard to be absolutely sure that this was the case. Some research also indicates that these particular Weinmann brakes likely date from the early 60s, so they may ( or may not ) have been later additions. That means the frame number is perhaps the only real clue to its exact age…

I wanted to use the existing rims at first, however the alloy was somewhat pitted so I declined that. Anyway, they didn’t match either – like the hubs. The half price new grey “CD” finish Mavic reflex rims were too good to pass up. I originally wanted silver ones but I’m getting to like these now.

The bike rides really well considering the tyres are 23mm but then they are Tufo tubulars ( model : C-Hi composite carbon ).
I used 23mm as this is the recommended size for the Mavic rims, otherwise I would have gone wider.

this is not a 'path racer'

this is not a ‘path racer’ – it’s too modern !

In spite of the skinny tyres the Flash rides better than my other single speed, based on a Cr-Mo Malvern Star L.A.84 frame set, and that’s on 27″ wheels with 1 & 1/4″ ( 32mm ) Bontrager clinchers. Also, any bike that can make a fairly new Brooks Team Pro saddle feel relatively comfortable must have a decent amount of compliance to it !

Based on my experience with these tyres and my other Tufo ( S33 ) tubs I would describe the Tufo tubulars as having more of a “papery patter” to their ride on typical corrugated suburban road surfaces as opposed to the “thump and bump” that some other frames and some clincher tyres can give.

The Weinmann 610 ‘Vainqueur 999’ centre-pull brakes work surprisingly well, even at near maximum drop for the 700c wheels and I’m happy with the Dia-Compe levers too, which were salvaged from an old cantilever braked MTB. The curved levers also seem to visually match the curved wing nuts on the hubs.

an attempt at comfort - grips and tape

a successful attempt at comfort – grips and tape

You’ll notice the bars have a ‘mixed-up’ look with Cardiff cork grips butting onto the lever clamps then some short lengths of bar tape finished with shellacked twine. This isn’t just for decoration as the combination makes the ‘bar’s grip area wider and more evenly comfortable and it eliminates pressure points when my palms are on the lever clamps – ( as that’s my preferred hand position here ).

I’ve always liked these Cardiff cork grips…

At 46 x 20 on the freewheel, the bike will spin out at speed in a tailwind or going downhill, but it’s a joy otherwise, being easy to accelerate from low speeds or spin up short sharp hills with a little run-up.

If using the fixed cog I would probably fit an 18T or 19T just for the sake of downhill runs.
Even though the cranks, bars and stem are all steel, the bike overall is about as light as any of my other more modern steel framed road bikes.

In the end, I’ve tried to treat this old Speedwell with some respect – albeit in my own way – although I have taken some liberties as well and there’s now even more departure from whatever was the original.

Happy Re-Cycling ( and riding ) !

Read Full Post »


how it was

how it was

So, what would you do with a sadly rattle-canned Speedwell Flash ? Would you wait patiently for the perfect parts to restore it ? Ride it as it is ? Or maybe re-birth it in semi-modern Flashness ?

no hate mail thanks ... lol

no hate mail thanks, speedwell lovers … lol

Given that the original finish, decals etc., were long gone I decided to repaint it and make it a mix of classic and new – I don’t know, perhaps some Speedwell afficionados will be horrified. Suffice it to say that had the bike been in possession of it’s original paint no matter how sad, I would absolutely have kept it that way.

Although I don’t know a great deal about the ‘Flash’, it was a fair step up from the ‘Special Sports’ model – the wheels were alloy, the frame lighter and with fancier lugs, a more compact rear triangle and lovely pencil thin seat stays, alloy brakes and chromed fork legs. The original colour of this one was a metallic translucent red over a gold base – which as is often the case with resprays was discovered from the old paint remnant on the fork steerer. The steerer is stamped “F” as opposed to the “S” on the Special Sports forks – that makes me wonder whether the Popular was stamped with a “P” — I must check that sometime.

there wasn't much stable chrome left either

there wasn’t much stable fork chrome left either

I can’t say what sort of saddle it had and I haven’t decided what to use yet – I’ll have to trial a few for comfort once I’m able to test ride the bike.

this took some time by hand ..

this lettering took quite some time by hand ..

Frame painting is not always one of my favourite activities but I couldn’t leave it in the rough rattle-can-over-everything state it was in.

Painting took me a long time, including the preparation and the masking and hand lettering, and is a modern take on more classic paintwork. I’ve also used some Langridge decorative rust finish in places and it’s quite lifelike as a rust effect – I would like to hand paint a complete frame with it one day … but you’ll either like it or you won’t.

Using reproduced decals is fine for recent bikes, but without the period fine hand lining on a bike like this it seems a bit pointless – and my own shaky hand is unable to recreate such detail. Maybe next time I’ll find an expert ..

a flip and a flop

a flip and a flop – 20x20T

I want to fit tubular tyres to this bike ( ’cause I like the way they ride ) so I’ve altered the wheel size to 700c with new Mavic Reflex 36H tubular rims. Hope it works !

I kept the Pelissier flip/flop rear but didn’t have an exact matching front – I’ve gone for the closest visual match I have in 95mm and 5/16″axle – It’s a recycled 80s Kun Yu steel hub, but it at least runs smoothly. The flanges aren’t as high but at least the holes are round ! It looks OK I think.

a woody stem ...

a woody stem ! … and i’ve left the lugs as clear coated metal

Because the frame is only around a 55cm seat tube I am not going with drop bars, instead I’ve chosen some flipped over upright bars for a little more height, with nicely shaped Dia-Compe levers to operate the original Weinmann centre pulls. The stem once had a plastic ‘rocket-ship’ end cap but I thought “why not use some timber?” It makes sense to me, even if it’s not original, and I can always change later if desired.

I wanted to keep the spidery look of the period Williams chain ring so had to use a cottered axle ( unfortunately ! ). I have several Williams crank sets now, but finding a suitably straight one isn’t always easy ! Had to do a little bending of the chainring to get it true as well .. and it’s amazing how close fitting these old bottom ends are.

love the williams rings - but disregard the pedals at this stage

love the williams rings – but disregard the wellgo pedals at this stage

Gearing will be a tame 46×20 to begin with so it’ll be a spinner not a masher – I mean, I can go to 18 teeth later – but I say take care of the knees first, I want to still be riding at 80+ years of age !

New seatpost, new brake pads, and now new cables and chain to follow, and stick the tyres on – I’ll post an update when it’s done .. should be well in time for the Newcastle Tweed Ride 2016.

See Ya !

Read Full Post »

This one was something of an exercise in how to refurbish a bike without making it look refurbished.

The longer I go on bike restoring, the more I like to take the softly softly approach, at least with bikes that are in original condition. I don’t see the point in repainting and re-chroming things unless there’s a very, very, good reason for it. So often the new bit will look out of place..

Of course I always like to make sure that everything is working as well as possible mechanically, as that’s half the pleasure of riding a bike.

There are a few things I like to do cosmetically like neutralising the worst rust, brightening up the paintwork, chrome, or alloy – in this case I merely applied a liquid wax to the paintwork so as not to damage the hand lining. On a bike that will be garaged and well maintained, a small amount of surface rust can be tolerated.

It’s a slight shame the head and seat tube decals have almost disappeared on this bike. Sometimes I will clear-coat the decals to prevent further deterioration. Stencilled or hand-painted graphics such as on the down tube generally last better than old decals.

i think it looked better dried out !

i think it looked better dried out !

Mechanically speaking, the steering head was overhauled with new 1/8″ loose bearings, the bottom bracket was re-assembled with new 1/4″ bearings. New cones and 3/16″ bearings were fitted to the ‘new’ front hub shell, and then the rear coaster brake hub was overhauled.

the 'new' hub

the ‘new’ hub

Thanks to good sealing on the old coaster hubs the bearings are usually in good shape, with the common exception being the bearings that run inside the outer drive screw of the coaster brake. As these only operate when the sprocket turns they’re not super critical, and I have replaced the pitted caged bearings with loose new ones sometimes, if needed.

something old, something older

something old, something older

I had to change the chain set as the right hand crank was bent, so I used the one off ‘loopy’. Finally a new chain and rear track cog – 19T. Bikes with chain guards need a good gap between the crank and chainwheel and not all cottered cranks are suitable.

reversed surly cog & a lock ring

reversed surly cog & a lock ring

Though it probably doesn’t appear so, I dismantled the wheels and re-spoked them. I used the original spokes to rebuild them so that they still look authentic ( Plus, 312mm spokes aren’t that easy to find anymore ! ).
It’s also much easier to clean dismantled wheels than built ones and I find the result makes the extra time worthwhile.

Upon cleaning the rims I found they were stamped near the valve holes with “Dunlop” and “Made in Australia”. They seem to be date stamped too, but I can’t make out the numbers.

I decided not to re-fit the front basket as it was broken, and so the bike looked a bit bare when re-assembled. I fitted my grandfather’s old Miller light set ( which should be roughly period authentic ) and I think this gives it just enough decoration along with the de-rusted bell. The lights do work, by the way, and I may fit a rear rack too.

ta-da !

ta-da !

I used plastic zip ties for the lamp wiring so as not to damage the paint with metal clips – not quite authentic, but there you go.

Happy Re-Cycling !

Read Full Post »

conqueror loopy

conqueror loopy

I recently had the kind offer of a bike to restore from reader Justin, in the shape of a ladies’ Conqueror loop frame. Just like yours truly, he didn’t want to see a bit of Australian history just thrown away in his local council chuck-out …

stencilled and lined...

stencilled and lined…

It seems that Conqueror was a company from northern New South Wales but there is little info on the web, as is typical with many things ‘old Aussie bike’. I spotted only one other, a red diamond frame 3-speed in the web forums.

Interestingly when I googled the brand, I came across one of my own photos from the 2013 Newcastle Tweed Ride !

another one seen at the 2013 newcastle tweed ride !

another one seen at the 2013 newcastle tweed ride !

This bike is very complete, and that’s mostly what appealed to me. It is also in pretty reasonable condition for age, and sports an original Bell ‘Lady’s’ model 80 saddle which bears a close resemblance to the current Brooks B18 ‘Lady’ leather saddle.

made in oz

made in oz

bell 'lady's'

bell ‘lady’s’

Serial number under the bottom bracket shell is V59158 and the Czech ‘Velamos’ 40H coaster hub is stamped ’58 10′ so I assume the bike was finished in 1959. This hub is virtually identical to the Favorit and Renak European coasters of the period and is very weighty compared with later 70s Shimanos.

can you believe it ?

can you believe it ?     – the original colour

As with my Speedwell loop frame the original colour was completely different to now, showing the remarkable fading power of our southern sun on bright 1950s paint. Seeing is believing – the original main colour was a bright candy red as is shown under the chain guard bracket.

The bike must have been truly spectacular when new !

lovely lining work ..

lovely lining work ..

There is a gold coating under the transparent red to reflect light through it, though it has now all degraded to a very sedate ‘vintage port’ colour. The seat stays are bolted on, much like Speedwells and Malvern Stars of the period.

Given the lovely hand-lining details it would be crazy to repaint it, still, the paint is oxidised and quite fragile.

There are hooks for a skirt guard under the back axle nuts, and the matching holes are drilled in the guard. The plastic coated wire basket has a support on the fork crown that doubles as the mud guard fixing.

an old 'woods' valve

an old ‘woods’ valve

The 28 x 1 & 3/8″ rims are Australian made and painted & lined to match the frame, the front hub is a German Durex ’55’ – 32H – in very poor internal condition. I have a much better almost identical hub shell in my box of tricks, so I should only need cones and bearings to make it go again.

'three arrows' crank set

‘three arrows’ crank set

The 37-642 tyres are one Australian made Dunlop Atlantic and one later Vee Rubber ( Thailand ) though it’s more rounded in profile than the current ones.

Stay tuned for another restoration …

Read Full Post »

loop frame - as found

The last day of the spring heatwave and I’m out early, spinning on the Shogun, before the worst of the furnace.

It’s still chuck out season here, but there’s slim pickings so far. Yet something made me double back, and in the last dead end of the last street, with council pickup trucks circling ominously, I spotted this bike.

graceful curves

a graceful curve – if one ignores the lever

Always a sucker for an old loop frame I did the time trial thing back to the van and, dripping with perspiration, returned to the scene.

no-name centrepull

no-name steel centrepull brake

It was still there !

original bayliss-wiley hub with oil port

original bayliss-wiley hub with oil port

Sadly, it has been repainted and covered with cheap looking “Belmont” decals, so I may never know what it was. It is a typical old Aussie bike with 28″ ( that’s the 642mm version } 700A wheels.

While the front wheel is 32H the rear is a 36H, rather than the typical 40H, and sports a Shimano coaster brake. The rims and other chrome have been silver over-painted.

mid 70s shimano coaster

mid 70s shimano coaster

The frame looks pre-1950s to me and I wondered if the wheels were updated later, yet the front hub sports an oil port, and the locking flanges match the fork perfectly.

this is an obvious addition - as there's no hole in the bridge !

this is an obvious addition – as there’s no hole in the bridge !

I’m certain that both the hand brakes are late additions, and of course the plastic saddle and  the chromed fenders are too.

In fact, I’m beginning to think that the old bike was refurbished around the mid 1970s and given a new back wheel.

The front hub is a Bayliss-Wiley – probably original – and there is paint on the rim underneath the silver that is not present on the rear.

never seen one of these - in aluminium !

never seen one of these before – in aluminium too ! i’ve no idea if it’s original ..

looks like a williams but with no markings ...

looks like a williams, but with no markings …

Other interesting features include a patterned cut away aluminium ( ! ) chain guard, the unusual horizontal rear drop outs, the elegantly curved handlebars with their dainty short cut-off and stubby green Italian plastic grips. The seat stays are bolted to the drop-outs but fixed to the seat tube. I have seen similar drop-outs on 1930s bikes and I’m now thinking that this frame may be the oldest one in my collection.


old style loose ball brampton headset

As a project it will be a lot of hard work, but could make a great looking ride once I lose that horrid blue house-paint colour !

Already I’ve had to drill out the frozen cotter pins and the fixed bottom bracket cup ain’t goin’ nowhere either… but it does look to be in good shape at least.

vintage drop outs, these - and i assume that's pet hair on the chain !

vintage drop outs, these – and i assume that’s pet hair on the chain !

Thinking, thinking …

See Ya !

Read Full Post »

love this bike ...

love this bike …

Ahhh, late autumn and a young person’s fancy turns to tweed …

So it’s time to dust off the old bike and make ready for the annual Newcastle Vintage Tweed Ride on this Sunday 7th June ( the 3rd time, I think ). Which got me thinking about my 1956 Speedwell Popular, I mean what would it ride like with a more modern pair of wheels ?

I have temporarily fitted some 700C wheels with a Falcon coaster brake rear – not quite as classy as the BSA New Eadie original, but it definitely works better. The rims are Alesa alloys from Belgium, salvaged from an old Apollo hybrid, being about the most classic looking 700C alloy rims I have.

The front is radially spoked, which looks trendy but doesn’t have much vertical ‘give’ unfortunately ( short, stiff spokes ), a decision I made a while back for a different bike.

Fear not, classic bike purists, this is easily reversible back to the originals, unlike, for example, a respray of the frame ( no way ! ).

Anyway, what happens when you go from 700A – 28″ ( 37-642 tyres ) to 700C ?

Well, the bike sits lower, is much lighter, turns more quickly, and gives a rougher ride. Pros and Cons.

just the right amount of patina ?

just the right amount of patina ?

Although this change opens up a wider range of current tyres than the block patterned 28″ Vee Rubber oldies the problem is that most of them are too small. As the rims are now 20mm smaller diameter it helps to go for a bigger tyre, these being Continental SpeedRide 700 X 42C ( 42-622 ).

While there are still bigger gaps to your guards ( fenders ) than with 28″, these are larger than any commonly found 27″ wheel/tyre combo ( usually 32-630 ).

continental speedride

continental speedride

The Conti SpeedRide is very light and rolls well for a city tyre – it’s designed for hard surfaces mainly and the recommended pressure is up to 85psi, quite high for such a tyre.

Pretty impressive then … the bike still has stable geometry and is geared low – it’s probably best to keep it that way, with one rear coaster brake only I don’t want to be going too fast. You can tell this bike is a favourite as it sports my B17 special ‘titanium’ saddle …

It should be fun to play with for a while !

at swansea bridge

at swansea bridge

Will I take it to the tweed ride ? And what will you be riding, dear Newcastle reader ? Maybe it will make it into this blog …. 0900 hours, Islington Park , Sunday 7th June 2015.

See Ya there !


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »