Posts Tagged ‘loop frame speedwell’

pretty as a picture ... not

pretty as a picture … not

Chuck-out season isn’t finished yet, but so far I’ve had very mixed results – I first cut my finger on an unknown wreck of a bike while trying to assess whether it was worth dragging out of the rubbish for a Sturmey Archer hub. The wheel rims were so badly rusted they were like knives. I’m not usually so superstitious, but I then decided to leave it well alone.

Later on, I was lucky enough to find another ladies’ Speedwell Popular loop frame, though it falls in the category of ……”maybe I should just leave it alone too ? ”

green, gold, and rust

green, yellow, and rust

I think it would be suitable just as it is – for a wall display in a shop or cafe. It’s missing the chain guard but is otherwise complete.

I’m not sure, however, that I could make the paintwork look good again, as it’s really rusty in places.

oh dear....

oh dear….what have i done ?

The bike came from a low lying suburb of Eastern Lake Macquarie, which is a large salt lake known to mercilessly devour old and uncared for bicycles. It has the typical Renak 40H coaster with a track cog and lock-ring, and a Durex 32H front hub. The coaster has a very bent brake arm, but it may be save-able. Interestingly, the galvanised spokes are hardly rusted at all.

a no frills williams - i'm yet to check the date code on it

a no-frills Williams – i’m yet to check the date code on it.

The chain set is a Williams, and it’s the version without a removable ring, but at least it’s in good condition. Bottom bracket fittings are T.D.C., with a No.4 axle.

Wheels are 28″ – the 642mm version and are colour matched in green. I don’t think they are suitable for actual use anymore, however.

The saddle is a Bell ‘model 80’ in dreadful condition but the seat pin still has most of its chrome due to being left in the lowest position. This bike was parked next to a much newer MTB ready for collection – the people there probably thought I was mad, as I left their newer bike behind !


If I do fix this one up it will be a proper challenge, as it’s a frustrating example that is rustily tempting a repaint, yet still has enough of its original finish to hint .. “no”.

If the original finish is kept, a clear coat would be needed to stop the remaining paint flaking away completely.

See Ya !


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Having had to use a larger chainwheel on the Speedwell popular, I found the gearing too high on starts and grades at 48x18T, up from the original 44x18T.

The “new” cottered crank set is one that I have had for many years and while it’s not as nice as the delicate spidery original one, it was the best I could find at short notice without using a tapered square modern crank that would be even more out of character.

a different bike - but this is the proper style of crank

So changing the rear cog was the way to go, and like the Malvern Star 2-star the cog on the old coaster hub is a standard thread “English” 1/8″ track style cog. These are relatively cheap up to 16-18T but beyond the 20T mark they are harder to find.

Surly 22T looks huge ...

Surly makes a range right up to 22T in both 1/8″ single speed and 3/32″ derailleur widths however, so I ordered a 22T to try. Believe it or not, while not horrendous, this cog cost more new than the entire bike did on ebay !  (I did get the bike at a very good price though, as it was neither going nor complete).

The top secret cog supplier was an online UK outlet – if you google them you will most likely see 1000 sites for a kid’s pop group that rhymes with “giggles” so just leave off the “s” on your search (teehee).

compare the old 18T with new 22T

To do this “gear change” you need a chain whip to move the (right hand threaded) cog and a C-spanner for the lockring – (it’s left hand thread btw). I use copper-slip anti seize compound on the threads too, so it’s not a nightmare job next time … put the new ones on by hand at first for a few turns – if you have to force them then something is wrong, so re-check before going further (The Golden Rule of Threads).

Also check the tightness again after a few rides, as the lockring can become loose when the cog tightens further under pedal pressure.

It’s also lucky I didn’t shorten the new chain when I fitted it a while back – it now fits about right with the wheel lining up more evenly with the mud guards (fenders) …

the hub's cog thread is now not visible - the thread showing is waiting for the lock ring

With the drilled holes and silver colour this cog (compared with the old one) somehow looks like the bike equivalent of fishnet stockings on the grand old dame, but I like it anyway !

now 48T x 22T on 642mm westwood rims (28 x 1 & 3/8 ")

Single speed gearing is always going to be a compromise – too high on starts and hills and/or too low at higher speed – I hope I don’t find this gear too low, I used 48x20T on the Malvern Star and that’s a good all round gearing for me, but I thought this bike should be a fraction lower. It feels right on a quick ride. We shall see.

you can just see the lock ring here

Incidentally, with a back pedal coaster braked bike the braking effort should also change along with the gearing, in this case needing less pressure but with a longer stroke, though it’s not all that obvious here.

Anyway, enough philosophy, I’m off riding.

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a lady of leisure


I think that my old Ladies’ Speedwell Popular is the perfect shape of bike for this new saddle, as the bars are quite high relative to the seat and all of the rider’s weight is on the sit bones. As an upright single speed with coaster brake only, the Speedwell is most suited to comfortable shorter distance rides on flattish terrain.



The broader saddles from Brooks have been designed for this upright seating position. The lower the bars relative to the seat and the more the rider’s weight is on hands and feet the narrower the saddle that is required, at least in my experience, because broad saddles may interfere with the free movement of the legs on longer, faster, “leaning forward” rides – so it’s worth thinking about what your bike will be used for when buying a Brooks (or any saddle), as well as considering your riding position. Narrow saddles are generally less comfortable on upright bikes, as I noticed after converting my Road King bars to “North Road” style.





In the true spirit of the Speedwell Popular, the B18 “Lady” saddle or the unsprung B68 would perhaps have been the right aesthetic choice for “Her Ladyship” as I think the Popular models may have originally been fitted with an embossed unsprung or semi-sprung broad leather saddle. Never mind, I have been anxious to replace the old white “Royal” Italian white vinyl saddle, as it was out of character with the rest of the bike, and much too softly sprung (worn?).


a non-original saddle came with this bike


Incidentally, the “S” on a Brooks saddle number like B66S refers to a shorter version of the (e.g.) B66 that is said to be more suited to the female build. This “S” is only around 20mm shorter than the standard B66 on the road king.


the b18 "lady" saddle


I did also want a black saddle for this bike so as not to clash with the bright colours and black grips, and as far as I know the B18 only comes in brown.


it's coming together now - b66s and mks pedals


On a recent ride I became aware that the gearing is too high for grades at 48x18T, and have ordered a larger rear track cog for it to improve low speed flexibility. A 2-speed hub would have been perfect with this current gearing as the second one – ah, well.


a classy platform - mks3000r


Problems with the substitute used left hand pedal have also led me to order some new MKS3000R rubber platform pedals – although larger than the original pedals and not-quite-right aesthetically for this bike, they are at least very well made replacements for classic bikes, the best I’ve seen recently of this “hard to find” pedal style.


the winged wheel ...


Here is a close up detail on this bike – and can you see why I would not re-paint this frame ?

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The Speedwell Popular at Swansea dual lift span bridge today :

don't waste the day ...

Mudguards, hub brake, relaxed steering angles, a new Brooks and new pedals … what more could I want on a rainy day?

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Just a couple of snaps from a recent ride along the Tuggerah Lake Path that follows the lake shoreline from The Entrance toward Wyong. When I have a little more time I will do a ride report on this enjoyable path. I chose my classic Speedwell loop frame bike for the journey – the first decent ride I have had on it : 

Note the seahorse motifs – a nice recurring theme along the track.

my reward - a fish and chip shop, at the entrance - excellent!

To be continued…..

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new spoke, nipple and eyelet

The front wheel trued up pretty easily but the rear one caused trouble with seized spokes and I had to cut and replace a few to get the wheel straight.  I’ve been doing some cosmetics on the pin lining, adding a faint dust of magenta in places, a sort of “lipstick for grandma” – we don’t want to overdo it though (or she might look like a bad wolf in drag)!  I’ve tried to keep it original looking but I have touched up some of the faint pin lines, I could’t help myself. I have also clear coated her after neutralising the rust to protect the paint from further decay.


The frame finish is basically as it was then, still with chips and scratches – it seemed a shame to remove 50+ years of character, and I didn’t want a “botoxed” grandma either, without any expression at all…

i need a kickstand now

The chain wheel crank turned out to be too bent to to use, which is a shame, and to get her going I’ve had to substitute the old cottered 48T from my old diamond frame Speedwell. This was a non-original Japanese crank and isn’t quite the look I wanted so I’ll keep looking for a set of proper period cranks. I exchanged the other diamond frame Speedwell’s crank for a 40T tapered one a while back, to lower the 3-speed gearing, so that bike is still perfectly rideable. The gearing on this is slightly higher now than with the original 44T. A new 1/8″ chain has been fitted, and that’s the only thing I have actually bought for it so far. Except the bell, which came with a bike attached for $10!

steppin' out stepthru

I haven’t finished detailing the bike yet, but you see the general idea, and it is now quite rideable. I fitted the Lucas 28″ cyclometer to the front wheel, but found that the clicking drove me mad on such a silent bike, so I’ll have to remove it soon I think! The handlebar is slightly bent too, but right now that’s a matter of acclimatising to it.

i need some tweed...

The BSA coaster brake is not brilliant but is noticeably better at stopping than the Perry on my Malvern Star and should be sufficient for an easy rider like this. My friend Vicki has kindly donated the tyres and tubes from her 28″ Speedwell, since her bike has now been upgraded to 700C wheels.

28" and 700c- 28" is actually larger

I would like to add a skirt (coat?) guard to it at some point using the pre-drilled holes, and the non-original sprung Royal saddle is the wrong style and colour. A black leather Brooks (or similar) would be better and is on the wish list!

There will be a more in-depth ride report and close-ups to come later – Happy Cycling!

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So, what to do now? The paint is a little flaky and there is some rust as well. The magenta has discoloured badly with sunlight, rust and wear to a dull red-brown in places, especially on the guards. The blue has been chipped quite badly in areas too.

signs of neglect

I initially thought that the silver paint was added later by an owner, but now think that it was factory applied under the magenta, to give it the original metallic brilliance, and its re-appearance is because of wearing away of the top coat :

and silver patches

And what about the magenta? Would it be possible to restore a little of this colour without destroying the bike’s overall character, or have it looking amateurish ?

chain stay - under the chain guard bracket


Also with the pin lining, I will keep it of course – but should I try restoring it where it has almost vanished?    Hmmm…

the ghosts of lines on the seat tube

While thinking over such things I re-assembled the wheel hubs and tightened all the front spokes 1/4 turn each. I will check for any wobbles later. I’ve used fine steel wool and rust converter very gently on the rims, while taking care not to remove any paint. The painted and lined rims are an important part of the look and implied age of this bike, and seem in good structural condition at least.

bsa hub, cleaned, shined and greased

The “poor person’s re-chrome” is to remove or neutralise the rust, then wipe over the area of lost plating with silver sheen paint on a rag or brush – the silver adheres to the dull metal but wipes off the remaining shiny chrome, then the whole thing can be clear coated leaving the old chrome but unifying the surface appearance. Well, it works for me. I don’t want a factory finish, rather to have the bike looking as if the care had been consistent over the years and the surface had simply aged gracefully without neglect. The silver can be rubbed back when dry, if considered overdone.

Here are the head badge and cranks before clear coating :

brings back memories


a "poor person's re-chrome" it may be, but it better keeps the nice "aged" look of things


I have decided to use the original right pedal and fit the unused left one from the old Malvern Star just to get the bike running, and only worry about matching them later. These old pedals are wonderful in the way they can be fully stripped down and overhauled. Most of today’s pedals are made to be thrown away rather than serviced – even including the ones on my 2011 Gazelle.

nearly ready for a new lease of life at 60 odd years

They seem to spin so freely, as if inherently of a better quality, and are easily overhauled as well.

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