Archive for the ‘vintage cycling trivia’ Category


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 ) !


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“The racing cyclist, on the other hand, uses a light small perch which acts as a fulcrum for his efforts…a mere positioning knob, as it were, to keep him centrally secure on the machine. ”

(Extract from “The Art of Easy Cycling” 1946 by F.J. Urry).

it makes the current b17 'narrow' look like a new mini vs an old mini !

it makes the current b17 ‘narrow’ look like a new mini vs. an old mini !

Those words came to mind when I first saw this saddle, and the conundrum here is why the saddle has hangers for a saddle bag, since it was seemingly designed for short distance racing events !

Never mind, because it is a very charming saddle anyway and the frame and hangers are of a good quality, although it’s certainly not light for its size and intended purpose.

so narrow !

so narrow !

But it’s still in fine shape for 56 years old – and it will probably last another 56 if properly cared for, though it does have one broken rivet at the back …

"genuine leather - made in england" on the top

“genuine leather – made in england” on the top

And how do I know it’s a 1960 model ? Well a little research tells me that after Brooks was purchased by Raleigh in late 1958 (and perhaps up to around 1990), they stamped a code on the metal cantle plate at the back of the saddle underside. It has a 3 month letter (A,B,C or D) and the last 2 of the year digits, hence D60 is Oct-Dec 1960 …. easy !

you might just make out the D60 at the centre of the back plate

you might just make out the ‘D60’ at the centre of the back plate

This model had been introduced to the Brooks line-up from 1925, with a few detail changes along the way, of course – and even a current re-release (though quite dissimilar to this one).

The numbers stamped on the leather underneath saddles of this era are apparently batch codes and have little or no relevance to the date of manufacture.

again compared with a modern b17 'narrow'

again compared with a modern b17 ‘narrow’

This saddle generates an almost irresistible urge to put it on a bike and see how it rides, but methinks secretly …

“Ouch, I’ll bet it hurts ! ”

I’ll soon find out …

See Ya !

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no identifying features

Here are two of my vintage/classic bike tail lights, both “unswitched” – the first is unbranded, made of a thermosetting plastic that looks a bit like black bakelite. I believe it was Australian made but I’m not certain. It is about as simple as you can get, relying on screwing in the cap to make contact between the bulb and “D” cell battery via copper tracks that mate at a certain point of  rotation. This light is to be fitted to my old speedwell bike, and has polished up nicely with metal polishing paste on all external parts.


bulb and contacts

the neat bracket is obviously designed for a seat stay

on my speedwell diamond frame

The second is the Eveready, made in the UK, of aluminium. This one is slightly more robust in build and the lens doubles as a rear reflector. I may be fitting it to my loop frame Speedwell when it is finished – it needs a tidy-up, as the alloy has oxidised in places.

it’s working

the rubber washer prevents shorting the battery on the spring

the reflector/lens

The main disadvantage with both these lights is that the large battery tends to rattle around when the light is off and may also turn on at times because of this. Some tweaking with rubber washers should help with this issue. Alternatively, I can remove the battery till needed as these bikes won’t get a lot of night use.

The “D” cells back then must have been mostly insulated on the top (+ve) terminal as the holding spring will short out the modern “D” cells via the terminal plate, unless this part is insulated.

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Here are a few more old Schrader caps in my collection, to add to a previous post :

variously from the US, UK and Australia

neat, aren’t they ?

Also, here are the details of an old Dunlop cycle tube vulcaniser patch kit in unused condition, from my youth  :

the patch kit as well

patch and clamp details

the underside of tin is the tube roughener


the reverse and the striker

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Another one in my “Vintage Cycling Trivia” series, this single toe clip was found in my late Grandfather’s box of old bike bits. At least I know where it was made, but that’s about it !

ashby ace toe clip

Here also is a site for those interested in such vintage toe-clip trivia.

from the front

I rather like the diamond and heart shaped cut-outs and the interesting large strap cut-outs which are different from many other clip designs that have a small vertical strap loop at the very top. Having only the odd one means that it’s kept for nostalgia alone. I would be interested to learn of other  Ashby products, as there is not much info on the web.

upside down

from below

This clip looks very similar to the one called “Boa Constrictor” (lol !) in the attached link.

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Which bike part do you think is the one that can be easily interchanged between bicycles and cars?

That’s simple! – the Schrader valve caps…

old complete schrader valve made in great britain (lhs), valve inserts (centre), caps made in usa (rhs)

my collection of mostly woods (dunlop) valves and caps etc.

Apart from the occasional Woods/Dunlop (old roadsters?) and Presta (racers?) type valves, most bike tyre valves would be of the Schrader type. The obvious advantage of these is that you can use automobile tyre pumps, as well as fit automobile valve caps to them.

they would look nicer if the modern tubes had all metal fittings

I do try to keep nice ones on my “classic” bikes and I have a couple of jars that I keep them in, ready to swap them over to the next project. The caps help to  keep grit out of the tyre valves and may also help to slow a leaking valve in some cases, if they have an airtight seal on it.

gazelle – these dunlop valves have been fitted with new screw on schrader adapters

I wonder if anyone out there has a major collection of these – I have a few in my stash that I find vaguely interesting, and of course there are modern gimmicky ones that you can buy from auto shops too, like coloured anodised dice, bullets and 8-balls for example (I think that little skulls would be a good theme, e.g. for fixed gear or BMX).  I did see some flashing blue LED light versions for bikes advertised recently too…

my fave – i reckon this one is ancient – made in g.t.b. br.pat.no.361075_?

Though appearing much the same here, when I looked closer, the cheap plastic ones below  have a wide variety of brand markings on the tops – oddly collectable maybe, but they just don’t do it for me …

i just can’t throw them away..

I am more interested in the old metal ones, and though I haven’t gone out of my way to gather them, I think that if I were a collector of such things then at least they wouldn’t be taking up a lot of space, unless each one was attached to a classic bike, that is!

made in great britain

marked “schrader canada” – the end is a valve extractor tool, sometimes fitted with a rubber protector cap

a very nice one – brass w/ rubber cap marked “pacific” with 2 five point stars 

unmarked domed hex – 1970s ?

Of course, this smallness of scale also means that only the most ardent and obsessive of bicycle spotters will admire your stunning array of vintage valve caps – most will be too busy checking out the rest of your lovely restored classic to even notice … teehee.

When I was a kid, I can remember fixing punctures with vulcanising patches that worked by clamping a disc to the tube, scratching the back and lighting it (gunpowder in paper?) and then waiting for it to cool to peel off.

I think there are some pieces of these below, along with an old dunlop patch & glue kit and valve extractor tools :

note also the rubber and chalk tin “moseley”

Total trivia, huh?

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I know there are a lot of battery powered lights on the market, but you can’t beat the pedal powered dynamo for instant readiness and low maintenance. Having a backup battery “stand light” is a good idea though, for when you are stopped, if you ride in totally dark areas at night ( e.g. the Fernleigh Track ) especially.

miller switched headlamp

miller switched headlamp - 1950s ?

Here are some of examples of generator (dynamo) lights from my grandfather’s collection of bicycle paraphernalia. They are made by Miller of Great Britain. The generator is a 6V  and 3.24W output. They still work, although the lamp reflectors have dimmed somewhat and perhaps the generator magnets have weakened over time. A modern light and dynamo like the Shimano dynohub / Busch and Muller Lumotec combo on my Gazelle gives brighter results with less pedalling effort.

miller bullet headlamp - unswitched c.1950s

The little button opens the light to access the bulb. This light is mounted upside down under the front rack.

the miller name is moulded into the glass

Here is the Miller dynamo fitted to my old Speedwell – it all works, though I still prefer to use the Gazelle at night as it also has reflective side-stripes on its tyres and a capacitor stand backup on the tail lamp as well. The B&M light appears to be plated plastic though, and lacks the reflective surface lustre of these vintage lights

bottle generator mounted on my speedwell seat stay

my spare generator is probably unused

I found this bullet shaped tail light at an antique shop last year, while I was rebuilding the Speedwell, it matches the headlight shape better than the #598.

bullet tail lamp on my speedwell

the concentric reflector

I have a few of the “No.598” tail lamp/reflector – the plating on these fittings is of excellent quality and highly rust resistant – what has happened to quality plating since then, I wonder?

model no. 598 with full reflector

There are a few of these or similar Miller lights on sites like ebay, but information on the company itself is hard to find.

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