Posts Tagged ‘coaster brake bikes’


as it was

as it was

I’ve not been leaving well enough alone in the perfecting of the imperfections of some of my bikes – this one is my grandfather’s ( and my ) old Speedwell.

home of my youth

home of my youth

Having decided to approach ever so slightly closer toward originality, I’ve used the forks from the Malvern two star, and its mudguards to aid the cause. Both these bikes have non-original paintwork so I can feel okay about playing around with them.

The Speedwell frame is long and low with a 60cm top tube and a 56cm seat tube so it looks smaller than it really is if you judge it by the head tube length. The previous chromed forks were bodged a bit to fit the short head tube and I decided to correct this by using the Malvern star forks and a new head set.

campag record head set and home made headbadge

campag record head set and home made headbadge – pedals are temporary – i think !

The headset is a Campagnolo Record which has an ISO 26.4mm crown race. This was too small for the flange on the fork steerer but a JiS 27.2mm was too big – I had to gently file away the flange ’til the Campag fitted …

The wheels are the same, Weinmann alloy rims with a Quando front hub and generic coaster rear. I had toyed with the idea of going to 3-speed but canned it as I like the simplicity of single speed and that was its original format. There is a real aesthetic purity in a bike with no cables and I’m sure that’s a big part of the appeal of track bikes too.

I’ve used a set of SR “Road Champion” bars which are waiting anxiously for some luxurious bar tape. You’ll notice the tall head stem with very short extension – this is so I can sit up like a roadster rider on the tops, yet still get out of the wind more in the drops without leaning too low on these deep bars. The other nice thing about this type of stem is the ‘vintage’ appearance it lends.

With no cables it’s very easy to swap to and fro with the gull wing bars I was using before – just one allen key !

The bottom bracket is new, a Genetic 107mm that seems to work well chain line- wise with the narrow coaster hub. The cheap and heavy non-original steel cranks have gone, replaced by a Charge Rotisserie 42T ( really an FSA, I think ), nice and light and classy looking in a ‘modern but traditional’ kind of way … I changed the rear cog to a Nexus 19T ( the old set up was 40x18T ). It’s a little low geared but that’s how I like single speeds. The small ring doesn’t quite have the old-fashioned look though.

A new micro-adjust alloy seat post ( 26.4 mm ), a B17 flyer saddle and a new chain tensioner complete the many changes. There are still some details of the finish to tidy up – I added a little Indian Red colour to the seat tube and chainguard to tie the look together with the new fork and guards – now I wonder if it’s worth getting some repro. Speedwell decals ?

Old frames like this tend to ride well, though they can be a bit heavy and this one does, and is, too – but because of the many alloy bits and the simplicity, the weight isn’t bad. Steering is only a little slow but the trade off is good stability. The 27″ tyres and alloy wheels mean it’s quicker steering than the original blue Speedwell 28″ in the header shot.


I’ll show some more pics when it’s completed.

Happy Re-Cycling !



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at swansea

This is my re-vamped old Speedwell – a bike that was already old when I was given it by my grandfather  in the early ’70s. I’ve now converted it back to a coaster braked single speed from it’s 3-speed conversion in the late 70s.

But this post is more about the virtues and vices of single speed versus gearing than about my old bike itself – so what do I think now I’ve had some long rides on it ?

I have deliberately left the gearing low, at 40T x 18T – that’s around third gear equivalent on my ten speed commuter. Why ? Because I find that gearing too high puts a strain on my knees on the local uphills on long rides, while faster spinning seems to better alleviate that.

To compensate for this low gearing at speed a technique that I sometimes use when wanting to ride faster than my comfortable cadence allows is to spin then coast, spin then coast … I think it’s good to practise mastering a faster cadence too, as it can help improve pedalling action and control at all speeds.

in town

On the steady uphill of the Fernleigh track this gearing is about as high as I would want. I could manage a 16T cog if I needed to, but for now it stays as is. Of course, if you are unwilling to get off and push occasionally on hills, a single speed is probably not for you anyway. I can stand up and pedal if necessary, but personally prefer to remain in the saddle or push it up the steep ones.

Otherwise, I will just cruise along more slowly on the flats and downhills. On my work commute though, I do like to pedal continuously down hills to maintain a higher average speed, and you can’t really do that without a good top gear. This bike is therefore not used for such “timed” commuting.


This new hub has some real braking bite that is lacking in my old restored pre-’70s coaster hubs, and so I reckon that the “modern” coaster brake really is the thinking person’s single speed – it has operational silence and reassuring wet weather braking with fine low speed control while still having the freedom of the freewheel to coast.

Unlike a fixed wheel, your gearing is not restricted to higher ratios by the “eggbeater” effect down hills. With the addition of a front handbrake you have an easier way of braking while dismounting as well as a backup brake for sudden stops. And don’t forget that while they aren’t common, you can have coaster brakes with hub gears too …

All this perhaps with only one cable !

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In my typical re-cycling method I have dismantled the bike to see what I am up against before I get too involved with cosmetics. It’s nice to know that your old bike will last after putting such a lot of time into it!

i started here - steering head detail

The results so far show that the steering head bearings are good and the frame is straight. I have an identical replacement steerer lock nut in better condition in my collection. This old spanner (below) is for cone adjustment and the two pins are for this type of steering locknut and also fit the bottom bracket races on old bikes. The little square cut-out fits the little chainwheel pins, and possibly the old square ended wheel axles too.

a handy tool

The front wheel needs new cones and bearings as one side has been run dry and pitted the cone. Some spoke tightening is needed as well so I have run some penetrating oil into the spoke nipples in readiness.

The crank axle has some slight pitting and may need replacing, certainly with new bearings. There is an oiler fitted to the BB but “grease is the word” here. I want to keep the old chain wheel and I have a replacement left crank in the same size, but a slightly different style and also some new cotter pins.

wheels - some attention is needed

With the rear hub, cleaning off the oil has revealed the 3 rifles BSA logo. I have disassembled and cleaned the internals ready for reassembly.

Here is the C-spanner to remove the L.H. thread lock ring :

conveniently marked to indicate L.H. thread

And the chain whip to remove the cog :

chain whip tool - cog is R.H. thread

There is a very small amount of pitting here and there but overall it’s in reasonable condition and the bearings look OK. Rear hubs like this generally remain lubricated inside for long periods. A felt seal has protected the outer axle bearings better than the plain seal on the Perry hub of the Malvern Star.

I like to keep track of the order of things using wire ties :

It's not too hard, but if you haven't done this before, take lots of photos!

Many of the hub components are stamped “BSA”, and the brake arm “New Eadie”.

Here are the brake parts from the hub centre :

driver, brass brake shoe, roller bearings etc.

All good fun on a rainy day – I could do with a ride though …

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