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Archive for the ‘vintage australian bikes’ Category

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.

h

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 !

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at marks point

at marks point

Unfortunately I have no photographs or precise memories of how this bike originally looked. That’s not a bad thing as it allows me some free rein, and I’m not averse to modernising components to make it a better ride, unlike my blue Speedwell that I want to keep fairly original. I might mention that  ( in near faithful ‘Grandfather’s axe’ fashion ) only the steel frame itself – without the paintwork – is really original.

e-thirteen lg1+ pedals

e-thirteen lg1+ pedals

These flat pedals have good grip thanks to the many threaded studs, though I think I prefer the feel of Speedplay Drilliums. To me, the white finish suits this bike though some may see them as garish. It seems they run on bushes rather than ball bearings and have spin adjustability  for your personal pedalling preference.

some basic stencils

some basic stencils

I cut these stencils with a craft knife based on the blue bike’s stencilled lettering. It was hard to get a clean finish – if the foil is too thin it won’t stay put when you curve it around the tubes. If too thick, it is hard to cut cleanly. Nevertheless a little later repainting of the  area around it should solve the overspray and run problems. I stuck the fiddly bits down with tiny spots of blu-tack before spraying.

I took a lot of liberty with the seat tube decoration, making it a ‘modernised’  and simplified version, using the same letter “S” and some gold lines and trim with red and indian red.

after some tidying up

after some tidying up

The head tube was infilled with Indian Red enamel by hand ( without being too particular ), and I left some black around the home-made head badge to add visual depth. This head tube colour infill makes a big visual improvement over the previous all black finish.

infill headset

infill headset & rework lining

I accentuated the gold hand lining as well. I find that it’s best to use a slightly thinned gold enamel with a good quality pointed artist’s brush and to try for a continuous and confident brush stroke. A turps-y rag will wipe off mistakes.

getting close now

getting close now

It’s the best I think I can do without repainting all one colour, though I am still open to more  lightbulb moments regarding the decoration …

imperial narrow, with cut-out

imperial narrow, with cut-out & laces

From my humble collection of Brooks saddles I decided to use the B17 Imperial narrow – so far, so good. The B17 narrow is becoming a favourite saddle of mine on bikes with drop bars. I’m not yet certain if the cut-away is of benefit over the standard B17 narrow, but it’s comfortable anyway.

kt leather bar tape

kt leather bar tape & soma flares

The Soma Road Flares are a rather bling-y kind of safety feature. Just don’t drop the bike or lean it on a wall, and make sure they can’t hit the top tube on full lock … any bars with rear facing ends should be fine – albatross, gull-wing, drop, porteur etc. I guess they would also work as bar end caps using lock-on grips on upright bars, as well as with the bar tape used here.

soma road flare

soma road flare – what bling !

constant or flicker on AAA batteries

constant or flicker on AAA batteries

The switches underneath are hard to locate ( hence unobtrusive ). AAA batteries are a good idea. The flares fit firmly yet are easy to remove. The little top windows are a nice touch.

another view

another view

I didn’t really want reproduction decals on this, so why not D.I.Y. ? It’s fun, if a little time consuming, and a pleasant task in the winter sun. Decorating it was enjoyable, but best of all is taking it for a cruise-y ride on a sunny-cool winter morning off  …

at blacksmiths

mangroves at blacksmiths

Remember though, once any bike is re-painted you will have to wait a long time for that nice patina to re-develop.

Happy Re-cycling !

 

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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 ! ).

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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 …

IMG_2077

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at swansea

at swansea

Restoring an old bike  ( or several ) for practical use is as much of an ongoing journey as a finished work, as ideas present themselves from both riding and fixing that bike as well as from comparing it with the experience of other favourites from your (or other’s) stable. Can I swap those parts ? Is this stem the right length ? What about the grips ? Ride too harsh ? etc…

steering head & stem

steering head & stem

The added variable with lucky bicycle finds is the sizing — it is rare to find a cheap or free bike you love that is also your correct size. However, if you are fond enough of that bike there are a few things you can do to make it fit – to a point, of course.

An example is my beloved Cecil Walker early ’80s road bike which is only around 52cm frame size. This bike was obviously made for someone smaller than my average height which makes for some inherent difficulties. First is the ferocious toe overlap, caused by fitting 27 inch wheels to such a small frame. There’s little you can do to correct such a ‘design flaw’ other than fit smaller wheels, but even 700c gives plenty of overlap while losing originality. Particularly when I have effectively lengthened the toe clips with spacer washers to better fit my feet. Here then, it simply comes down to maintaining an awareness at slow speeds.

reynold's ghost

reynold’s ghost

The quill stem on this bike is a generous length and easily adjusted for height, but is problematic when it comes to forward extension adjustments – i.e. there are none.  Modern threadless stems allow easy removal of the bars and changing of the extension length via multiple bolts, but are not as easy to adjust for height. So, the stem stays as is. Otherwise I would also fit wider bars and more comfortable hoods, but again, the Cinelli / Modolo originals look so nice !

I am looking for some old style brown gel grips, but no luck yet.

The original 180mm seat post’s maximum safe extension was too short so I have invested in a new 27.2mm Dia Compe “Gran Compe” alloy post ( which almost cost as much as the original old bike ! ) it’s 250mm with twin bolts , a subtle classic look and works a treat with the B17 titanium. However as the head stem is at max. extension this also means that I will be leaning forward more …

neat-o

neat-o

180mm vs 250mm

180mm vs 250mm

head to head

head to head

Typically, if you are getting ‘front of knee’ pains on long rides, your seat post may be too short, or the seat may simply be too low – this longer post also allows a more powerful pedal stroke when correctly adjusted. Note that the older fluted seat posts need to have the flutes above the top of the seat tubes or they become little water traps to facilitate the welding together of these parts by corrosion – potentially causing headaches and damage at removal time.

a serious gear

a serious gear

The last recent alteration was fitting the original shimano ‘600’ threaded freewheel. As the 55cm Shogun is more comfortable and has now become the main commuter, the CW can be a bit more serious – though the loss of two bottom gears comes with some regret, even though it makes for a closer spread on flat terrain – bottom gear is now 42x18T – whew, that’s nearing low single speed territory !  The rear wheel is a non-original steel Ukairim/Shimano combo which adds weight, but it’s not easy finding quality traditional 27″ lightweight alloy 120 or 126mm hub width rear wheels these days.  “Patience, my son … ”

dura-ace levers

shimano dura-ace levers

So, I can’t say that I’m all finished yet, but it’s getting closer.

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on a test ride

on a test ride

Repco is a long standing name in this country, mostly known nowadays for its automotive products, and as far as cycling goes they once had a range of 10-speed bikes ranging from this model right up to superlight and triathlete chro-moly racing bikes. Of course the exotic models are much more rare, though there are plenty of Travellers still getting around.  The Traveller was the basic “pressed steel everything” model, and exists today in name as a vastly different freewheeling single speed commuter – a cheap, aluminium framed, department store bike selling for around $100.

This bike was bought for twenty bucks with a straight 58cm frame, a lot of component rust, and without me initially knowing what I would do with it …

a nice touch

a nice touch

So then, thinking how to approach a rebuild, given that I already have both a ten speed light roadbike and a heavy-ish commuter that I’m reasonably happy with. Keeping things simple I have opted for a five speed by removing the front deraiileur and small ring, sacrificing low gear but retaining simplicity and some flexibility.

wall flower

wall flower

I have to confess, I like my gears, I can only ride single speed for so long before I start to pine for them. I’m not greedy about it, I mean, an uphill gear, a neutral gear, and a downhill / tailwind gear and I’m pretty happy. A few more than this is a bonus but only until overkill is reached …

With my resto’s,  a lot depends on the parts that I have on hand… and my ‘semi – conservation’ style may not appeal to the perfectionists … I like to keep some character or imperfection here and there.

These are roughly the steps involved in this case :

Frame : Basic lugged hi-tensile “1020” steel, some surface rust, some scrapes on the paint and decals though the overall condition is not bad. Finish is a slightly metallic black with silver lettering on the decals which have started going opaque. I personally dislike new paint jobs on original frames, as uniform “perfect” paintwork lacks character and the bike can easily become prettily anonymous.

another person's take on the humble traveller

another person’s take on the humble traveller – as a commuter

Removed all fittings and bearings for overhaul or replacement, and to access, clean and inspect the frame. Fish-oiled the inside of tubes, steel wool and phosphoric acid converter on the rust spots, lined the lugs gold (always nice on black) and touch-up the worst scratches by hand, including the silver decal lettering where scraped off.. Clear coat the paint areas to regain some lustre and conserve the finish.

Wheels : Original Femco steel rims, very rusty chrome on the front one, replaced with a Shimano/Araya overhauled steel 27″ Q.R. Nutted rear cleaned up nicely with some TLC and I fitted new gumwall tyres.

Stem : Heavy chromed steel stem swapped for Nitto Dynamic 10 alloy 100mm – a beautiful looking stem makes such a difference. I overhauled the original headset as it was reasonable.

synthetic cork is comfy but lacks the looks of leather

synthetic cork is comfy but lacks the looks of leather

Bars : Unappealing rusty chromed drop bars replaced by the unused steel drop bars from my Malvern 2-star coaster braked bike. These have an old-fashioned deep drop and an unusual dappled finish, courtesy of some brutal rust removal and clear coat. I had some Serfas brand spongy black bar tape which I twined on the inner end and fitted with home made “shellacked wine cork”  bar end plugs. These give a bit of character and don’t cost.

Luckily the frame is relatively large so the bar drop relative to the seat height is not too bad for me, though I am stretched out a bit.

Cranks and bottom bracket :  Removed the bolts holding on the small chain ring and guard, keeping the original 52T chain wheel and crank. Replaced the original square BB with a slightly shorter used square tapered to help with the chain line. Tried to get the chain wheel as close to the chain stay as possible so I could use first gear 28T cog with the large ring. It works well without chattering. New SunTour 5-speed chain fitted. MKS Sylvan pedals fitted to replace steel rat-traps.

hard, but a good pedalling shape

team pro – hard, but a free pedalling shape

Saddle and seatpost :  I kept the original chromed 25.6mm seatpost. I find the variation in seat post width really amazing on older bikes e.g. 25.4, 25.6, 25.8 then into 26’s and 27’s, unlike say, with 1″ quill stems, there are so many slight variations  … and you really need a snug fit with these. The saddle was a throwaway plastic  item on base model bikes of this vintage, and a Brooks is always called for, of course ! I happened to have a spare team pro model on hand. These are as hard as rock to begin with, but even then, they are still more comfortable than plastic…

Brakes :  As I have no suitable light replacements, the heavy steel callipers have been retained for the time being, fitted with new basic Jagwire road pads. New cable inners fitted. Recycled Dia-compe alloy road levers of a similar vintage with the “suicide” levers removed.

Derailleur :  Original Shimano “Skylark” rear derailleur replaced with a better quality used Shimano. (The models were all named after various birds at one time ).

living green

living green

A Quick Ride :

The bike is heavy-ish, but fairly comfortable, and much more stable than my smaller, lighter Cecil Walker.

Sure, it would be better if a little lighter – alloy cranks, brakes, wheels and bars would have helped here. The 5 gears work well on the flat, but are a little limiting on steeper hills.

The ride is rough, but I think softer tyres would help here. More testing to do … well, someone has to do it !

night ride

night ride

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ahhh, green again...

ahhh, going green again…

Everything’s gone green again after days of rain, courtesy of the leftovers from tropical cyclone Oswald up north. I’m riding around on the pink “turbo” mixte to check out the effects …

at swansea heads

wild and moody – at swansea heads

back from the beach

back from the beach

 

alternative header shot, marks point

alternative header shot, marks point

Feeling mellow, so let’s change the blog header…

Here’s some recent bike miscellany :

rat-bike, belmont

loop framed rat-bike, belmont

cecil basks in the previous week's heat

cecil basks in the previous week’s heat

cecil at stockton

cecil at stockton

in the tunnel

in the tunnel

Happy Riding !

 

 

 

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