Posts Tagged ‘my old speedwell’

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 !



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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 …


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as it was — use it or lose it !

I have decided to remodel my old Speedwell popular diamond frame, for better or worse, as changed work circumstances have resulted in it getting less use than it should. Commuting is mostly on the red Road King now, but I don’t want to part with the Speedwell of my youth, so have decided to make it lighter and more responsive, a bike to take mainly on relaxed daytime rides rather than “must get there” practical commutes. I also wanted to give it a more integrated and simple appearance.  This bike is a collection of memories and modifications, it’s not meant to be either pristine or faithfully original.

the new look

It was with reluctance that I disconnected the Shimano “3s” three speed hub, but never mind – this bike was originally a single speed with coaster brake. The “3s” rim is a little worn and I wanted matching wheels this time. Yes, I could have searched for ages for good second hand 27″ or 28″ wheels perhaps, but thought I’d try these new ones that I found for a reasonable price .

new 27″ wheels and fork, centre pull brakes

The bike had lost it’s 28 x 1 & 3/8 inch (that’s the 642mm version) wheels long ago as I had fitted it with the 27″ 3-speed hub in the 70s, and as its original forks were also damaged it was later fitted with a 26 x 1.75 inch i.e. decimal front end, a little less than ideal as far as ground clearance goes.

I previously fitted it with a front rack to hide this mis-match but have since ordered a set of new 27″ chromed front forks and 27″ high flanged front wheel for it, from Vintage Bicycle Rebuilds, so the big front rack has gone, replaced by a little PDW Take-out basket. I’ll do a review on this useful bit of gear later…

it’s much lighter now ..

The fork caused some problems as it did not have quite enough thread and I had to shim the bottom crown race higher – so far it’s OK .. there is no play (fingers crossed). If that trial fails then it’s a new fork.

The rims are Chinese made Weinmann 4019 made of alloy in a kind of satin silver colour – maybe not my ideal style for a classic, but hey – this bike is so far removed from the worn out original that it’s really not worth being a perfectionist about it !

The look is growing on me, anyway …

sand in my shoes …

The front brake is a new Dia-Compe long reach centre pull caliper (just in case I have to fit 700C (622mm) wheels one day). These calipers will fit  27″ (630mm) wheels with the pads near their highest position. They are really classy looking brakes, I think,  and although the coaster is pretty efficient, I wanted the added security on this bike. I have fitted a N.O.S. (new, old stock) vintage steel lever to operate it. The gusset on the bolt-on seat stays was always a bit flimsy for a rear caliper brake. I will have to practise using the coaster more though – old habits and all…

Another temporary addition was a set of Tange moustache bars which I flipped just to be contrarian – actually they were too low the proper way up (down?) as this frame is just a little small for me and I don’t like leaning forward too much. I also tried a very well made Nitto “dynamic 10” alloy quill stem, however the 100mm offset with a low height stem and low bars made me lean forward too aggressively, so I just kept the previous high stem with low offset and “gull-wing” bars as being better for comfort – nice idea, I guess I’m just not the sporty type !

i get my kicks – on a bee sixty six

I’ve kept the saddle as a Brooks – a B66 in antique brown, and am keeping the old rack, but might remove the Miller dynamo and rear light because the front light will need an odd change of location as the stem has recessed bolts and will not take a headlamp bracket.

I am thinking to possibly front axle mount it as I have a bracket for this. Not sure, the cable will look ugly on a chrome fork, and maybe I don’t need lights at all on this one – K.I.S.S. as they say !

The mudguards are the existing Zefal plastic, at least for now. Any metal replacements will have to be be black also.

Tentative gearing is 40T x 18T, or about 60 imperial gear inches on a 27″ wheel – that’s on the low side of neutral, for greater flexibility and for my ancient knees. This isn’t a bike that you pedal down hills, but that does make it a little easier uphill, into headwinds  and starting. We will see, and that’s the usual single speed compromise isn’t it ?

Always locked into the same cadences at the same speeds, regardless of conditions. It is true that practising a high cadence improves your pedalling, well, that’s what I tell myself as I spin like mad in a tailwind …

never mind the horizon,  just smell the salt !

The bike performed well on a c.20km test ride I took today, it’s much smoother riding than the 10-speed Road King despite having the same type of saddle and alloy wheels, but is not in the Gazelle’s league of comfort. Steering is not as light as either of those two bikes, but responds slower than the Road King and faster than the Gazelle – geometry ?

Thank goodness the rain has gone today, I was going stir crazy for a ride ! BTW – the pictures are taken at Swansea Heads where I spent much of my youth messing about on this bike.

the rain has lifted

This is just a preview really – I am a long way from finished yet.

Happy cycling !

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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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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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not looking good ...


Yesterday I visited my folks on the central coast and took along my restored 3-speed Speedwell as my dad wanted to see “the real thing”.  On the way, I parked the van at The Entrance and went for a spin. It wasn’t entirely a great day as I was caught in rain a couple of times, but I made the most of it. I rode around to the sea and back over the high level bridge to North Entrance. There is a cycle path that follows the Tuggerah lake shore all the way around back from here almost to Wyong and that should be a great ride on a drier day with more time available …. I can’t wait !


my old speedwell


I once rode from Swansea Heads to the Entrance and back on this bike, that would be 30 plus years ago – and that was quite a way at the time, via the many (often gravel) roads I took.  I don’t know whether the Speedwell was happy to be back riding at The Entrance again – but I know I was.


from the high level bridge

and returning

it's a great view up here ...


The channel is one of my favourite spots, and from the bridge or channel edge walkway you can see seagrasses and sandbars, often with large fish casually swimming around over the light sand.

The Entrance is an interesting mix of wealth and disadvantage, like so many areas of the central coast. There are cycle ways and back routes too, if you look for them, but the main shopping precincts are often choked with parked cars and seem hostile to cyclists because of this. Perhaps though, this is true of Australia in general.


toward the beach


Finally I had to leave, and I later did some minor service work on my dad’s bike that he uses to ride 100 metres and back to collect his daily mail. It’s a roughie …. (he has a better one, but likes to use this) !


dad's mailbox beater ...

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