Posts Tagged ‘old cecil walker bicycle’


cecil today

cecil today

With the imminent closure of a local bike shop there has been the opportunity to gather some cut-priced parts, and with some careful thinking there have been a few opportunities to upgrade some of my fleet.

some serious shoe-horning going on here ...

some serious shoe-horning going on here …

With the purchase of this 700C Bontrager alloy rear wheel I had a possible candidate for the rear of my Cecil Walker, currently sporting a heavy steel 27″ rim out of sheer desperation. The original plan was to find a quality 27″ wheel that would take the Shimano 600 series 5-speed screw-on cluster, but that has proved difficult.

last time we met ..

the last time we met ..

The story of Cecil so far had been to compromise for his slightly small size with some minor modifications, while retaining most of the original parts, or closely similar. But the handling was stiff and slow compared with my 90s Shogun.

I hadn’t previously thought about adding more speeds, but I have now taken the plunge and converted to an 8-speed hub and a close ratio 12-21T hyperglide cassette, in the spirit of the original “corn-cob” close ratio 14-18T cluster.

I’m not sorry to see the 27″ wheels go though, as I feel this bike handles much more responsively with 700C wheels. Not only that, with new 25C tyres fitted as well, the dreaded toe overlap has almost completely disappeared !

and with new mods.

and with new mods. – spot the differences !

The biggest problem with this sort of mod. is Cecil’s narrow dropout width, around 120mm and a bit which will require some serious shoe-horning ( I originally thought the freehub was 7-speed, it turned out to be 8-speed ! ).

There are only two ways to make a modern 130mm wheel fit old 120 or 126mm dropouts – ( well, three ways, but I don’t want to widen this frame as I may find vintage wheel parts for it later on ).

First – if the axle spacers allow it on both sides – an equal amount can be removed left and right then the axle shortened by hacksaw. This keeps the wheel central in the frame, but with the space requirements of an 8-speed or greater cassette there isn’t any spare space on the drive side between the freehub cassette and the dropout. The only solution then is to take all the excess width off the non-drive side spacer and increase the dish of the wheel by tightening the drive side spokes and loosening the non-drive side spokes.

This pulls the rim to the centre of the narrower dropouts and then finally the excess hollow axle is sawn off to fit the quick releases. A lot more fiddly, and it requires wheel truing as well.

a tight fit

a tight fit

I hope the extra tension on the drive side spokes that I had to apply to do this is not going to weaken the new wheel long term, but it seems to have worked well so far. With relaxing of the High and Low limit-stop screws, the Shimano 600 Arabesque rear derailleur copes with the extra 3 speeds admirably. The front 600 derailleur requires more trimming adjustments on the go, to avoid it rubbing the ( new ) 8-speed chain on larger chain angles, that’s all.

Considering the reduced width, the wheel dish is probably more like that of a 10 or 11-speed cassette on a 130mm wide hub – pretty severe.

The Dura-Ace down-tube shifters cope well with the 8-speeds ( being friction types — this mod. would have been more difficult and costly with indexed shifting ).

the friction shifters

the friction shifters

I fitted better brake pads for the alloy rims, in this case Jagwire ‘Pro’ with adjustability for toe-in. These are rather good pads and braking is now smoother, lighter and better modulated. Tyres are Bontrager ‘race’ all-weather 25C

jagwire pro pads

jagwire pro pads

The very narrow Cinelli “Campione del Mondo” handle bars have been swapped for wider Cinelli “Giro d’Italia 64” and at 44mm wide there is more steering control and I can breathe better when in the ‘drops’. I’ve kept the bar tape more toward the ends to increase the comfort and thickness there.

The Modolo levers are difficult to reach from the drops – they are a long way out from the bar and a very old fashioned shape. To be honest, modern levers like the Cane creek SCR-5 would be much more comfortable, but I still want to keep the originals there. I could do with some soft gel hoods for them though …

The stem is a longer Nitto 100mm ‘Dynamic 10’ and helps me stretch out a little more than the 60mm original did.

the b17 narrow is a real classic

the b17 narrow is a real classic

The saddle is now a Brooks B17 narrow – and this is the best fitting saddle I’ve tried so far on this bike – a keeper.

I don’t mind the black and white rims as the white Halo ‘track’ front highlights the lettering on the downtube and the black tyres and white letters seem to hold the look together at both ends. Not exactly traditional, I know, but it works well.

All in all, a big improvement, and yet this may not be the end-all for Cecil’s alterations.

ofmega cx chainset - no complaints here

ofmega cx chainset – no complaints here

He’s always been a work in progress.



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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 …



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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A cool wind change has dropped the temperature – now’s my chance to take CW for a longer ride, to Newcastle and back in a morning. I can only do hermit-like bike restoration for so long before I have to get out and about  in the world :

a bush break at whitebridge

a bush break at whitebridge

And some fun in the tunnel on the way in :

exiting hyperspace

exiting hyperspace

Newcastle is full of bikes and riders in holiday mode – the young girl’s step-through was a refurbished classic small 10-speed. Very cool.

the yacht club at wickham - bike central ?

the yacht club at wickham – bike central ?


school holidays means a ride to town - at throsby creek

school holidays means a ride to town – at throsby creek

There’s plenty to see along the harbour : it’s always the same, but different.

the harbour - ever changing

the harbour – ever changing

And I’m getting used to that “flip of the toe clip”, but they can still catch me out. You won’t see me wearing those clipless thingys though – at least I can choose my own shoes with these, not some daggy pseudo-runners.

thanks mr christophe

thanks mr christophe

what-the ?

what-the ?

Can anyone tell me what the above eccentric looking quasi-recumbent bike is ? Spotted leaving the tunnel … it may be home made.

who's that nutcase ?

whose is that nutcase ?

Tunnel’s so bright I gotta wear shades ! But so cool and breezy heading home.

fun in the tunnel

cecil in the tunnel

The Brooks hammered copper rivets do shine up very nicely after a 3-hour bum polishing ! ( Makes note to do that more often ).

home and shiny

home and shiny

The End

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here comes the sun

here comes the sun

That’s the forecast maximum temperature here today, so it’s time to get riding early, taking Cecil for a speedy spin The heat is coming from the inland heart, so it’s dry and draining, but not like the sweaty sea-breeze humidity more usual at this time of year.

And Cecil’s configuration is settled – for the moment – with the fitment of the original alloy front wheel and a salvaged steel rear one. I have decided to postpone a new rear alloy rim until I get a feel for how much I will use the bike.

Unlike some of my other bikes, Cecil wants to just go and go, having a more loose and temperamental feel. It doesn’t like being parked ( no kickstand either ) and wants to run off from where ever I leave it, like an edgy racehorse  …



It likes to go fast too, and seems to turn just by thought, rather than by any physical effort. The B17 “titanium” saddle was quite unnoticeably comfortable from new, at least on the c. two hour rides I have so far done on it, I’m impressed.

The whole bike has a very free-running nature, though I still have some derailleur fine tuning to do. The steel rear wheel hub was actually 125mm ( not 120mm ) over the locknut width, so I cut 5mm off the axle and the hollow locknut spacer with a hacksaw, leaving the locknut on the axle in case the threads needed help afterward. This has properly centred the rear wheel in the frame, but of course requires re-setting all of the derailleur stops ! The steel wheel adds to the weight and well negates the minuscule titanium saddle advantage, but who’s that serious about such things anyhow ? It’s still the lightest bike I own and I’m not a boy racer …

fill that bottle...

fill that bottle… it’s hot out there

The smallest cog is now quite close to the dropouts and is giving some adjustment trouble that I haven’t been able to sort yet. I could do with some gel grips on the levers too, as they become hard to hold after a while, and the drops have the most comfortable grip position for me, so I change hand positions quite often, unlike the all-day easy grip of my swept back roadster bars…

pavement eater

pavement eater

For those wanting for a good non-gumwall 27 X 1 & 1/4″ tyre, have a look at the Bontrager “select K”. they ride pretty well and are a modern looking semi-slick kevlar design that works well on older bikes too.

smooth and grippy

smooth and grippy 27s

find some shade...

gotta find some shade…

Finally, what is perhaps the best thing about riding a well made old steel framed road bike ?

You can go relatively fast, but don’t feel obliged to wear all that lycra advertising – I mean really, when you, the rider, have to pay good money to buy gear that overtly advertises corporate brand names ?

Why doesn’t some clever person make lycra that looks like normal clothes ? Perhaps a safari suit and tie, for example ?

Just kidding, but that’s the modern world for you !

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stage 2 – ten speeds

Ahhh,  hindsight’s a wonderful thing … I’ve now fitted the overhauled steel wheels from the pink mixte onto Cecil to change him back to a ten speed. As mentioned before the rear is a 120mm wide 27″ that slots straight in. Braking feel isn’t as good, they are much heavier and the tyre treads don’t really suit, but I am working on the old rear hub, aiming to get a new alloy rim fitted later, as I also want the mixte running on it’s own wheels again.

The Reynolds tubing and many alloy fittings mean that it is still relatively light, at least.

lezyne micro-drive light

I also had the recent opportunity to buy a Brooks B17 Titanium saddle at a great price, and while I’m yet to do a long ride on it, it looks wonderful and feels fantastic to sit on. The titanium is a very light saddle too.  Now I can’t wait to get lost on it somewhere !

the brown is the nicest standard brooks colour, i think

Two more additions – a Soma “Torpedo” retro style AA battery LED head light and a Lezyne micro-drive USB tail light both of which I will review at some later date.

retro torpedo

led + reflector

My feeling is that this bike will be a great ride when all is properly finished…

the suntour freewheel and shimano mech.

I think that the freewheel’s sound has a big part to play in the enjoyment of coasting downhill – some have a raspy, abrasive sound, but this old Suntour “Perfect” sounds relaxed and easy. The cluster is 28T-14T, not as gung-ho as the original 18T-14T, but much more practical for my location on a hill.

Happy Cycling !

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woo-hoo !

The rebirth of Cecil is underway, and he’s now rolling free again, albeit as a single speed with freewheel. I have fitted some Halo brand white “Aerorage” track wheels and they both slotted neatly into the dropouts. Remember this is hopefully an intermediate stage in Cecil returning to a ten speed so don’t be too harsh in judgement of appearance – everything here can be easily reversed if there is a suitable 120mm over locknut dimension wheel that will take the original 5-speed cluster.


Also, I have found a cheap Suntour 2-prong tool on the “web” and successfully managed to remove the old freewheel today, though I am yet to check on the hub bearings.


rolls, baby, rolls …

Cecil’s new ‘permanent seat’ is a San Marco “Rolls” – these are padded suede leather over a nylon base and fairly similar to the original Concor saddle. The gold trim gives it a slight touch of “bling” though I prefer the look of this to the gold rivets on some other San Marco models.

rolls v concor

This saddle is totally non-slip, unlike the smoother leather on the Brooks saddles, and though I will refrain from calling it comfortable, perhaps it somehow is – for this type of narrow saddle at least. It’s no B66 , that’s for sure !

in profile


The Halo 18T freewheel lines up nicely with the 52T large chain wheel giving gearing which is high compared to my other bikes but not that high for faster road riding. It’s equivalent to around 6th gear out of 10 on the old close ratio chainset, and that’s pretty high for starts and hills, yet still too low in tailwinds on the flat or fast downhills (sigh). This freewheel is a 72-click model – it’s very responsive, and while freewheeling it has a quietly smooth and pleasantly busy sound.

click, click, drone …


The bike is quite light and twitchy, of course, compared to my roadsters and certainly is not upright as they are. I hope I can get used to it. The drops are too low for me except perhaps in emergency headwinds, but the tops are reasonably comfortable.

It’s a fast bike in the right conditions and can accelerate quite quickly, though I am not really able to compare it to any modern bikes. I am still getting used to its lightness both when parked ( watching out for wind gusts ! ) and riding.

too much ?


Tyres are Dia-Compe “Gran Compe Ene Ciclo” in two tone brown, 700x28c. Rather good looking, I thought. The overall ride is rough but reasonable – it’s no Gazelle in that department !

Close up, the wheels seem to exaggerate the weathered appearance of the frame and some may not like this contrast – I’ll leave the viewer to decide but it’s growing on me – albeit slowly. The Halo hubs are said to have sealed bearings and they certainly spin like silk.

attempted street cred …


I don’t see myself trying fixed gear on this bike because of the toe overlap, among other things, but the rear hub is a reversible one in case I also do an existential flip-flop on this too…

More adds to follow…

spin me ’round

Happy Cycling !

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the seat post freed

The imperfection and impermanence of older weathered bicycles has nostalgic appeal for me and so I like to keep some of the markings of use, but at the same time I like bikes to be well maintained and safe , and that can give me tiny dilemmas at times…

the non-adjustable cup — if it ain’t broke, don’t force it …

Having had a chance to look more closely at this bicycle, it’s obvious now that the big stumbling block is the rear wheel. Repair or replacement will be difficult for a few reasons. For a start, I don’t have the two prong “Suntour” freewheel remover and it’s probably not worth buying it for a hub that may be ruined inside anyway, as the axle is visibly slightly bent. I’ve been advised that the tool may break because of possible electrolytic corrosion between the steel cluster and alloy hub. Given the other bits that were “welded” together e.g. the seat post and tube and the headset nut and fork tube I don’t doubt this !

a little preserving clear coating

Also, the bike’s rear dropout spacing is an old 70’s width of 120mm and most recent bikes have 130mm dropouts. Most new road wheels are 130mm width and have wider gear cassettes (more speeds) as well. I’m not that keen on buying old wheels on the web either, sight unseen…

overhauled nice SR pedals, cleaned up straps

Perversely,120mm is the width of most rear track hubs and this bike has semi-horizontal dropouts, suggesting that single speed is an option, although I rather wanted to keep it as a ten speed. Also the downtube shifter bosses will not look good with the shifters removed, but I won’t be grinding them off in case I do find the correct rear wheel and cluster one day.

the story so far …

However, as long as the frame is kept original and I keep all the gear parts together, it wouldn’t be a drama for me to convert to single speed on a temporary basis and the shifter bosses could be neatened up a little with a couple of small bolts and washers.

er, yes boss …

Also, I have since found out that Sturmey Archer make the S2 Duomatic two-speed kickback non-coaster brake version hub in a 120mm O.L.D. ( over the locknut width ). With the right choice of sprocket this would be more flexible than single speed for where I live and also allow the original brakes to be used as designed.This hub could be fitted to a new “plain” 27 inch 36 hole rim, e.g. a Velocity “twin hollow” or even a trad. style 700c rim.

testing —— oh, crap — toe overlap

It’s a good idea to check for toe overlap when inspecting this kind of sporty bike, and sure enough it’s there – this is with a 27 x 1 & 1/4″ tyre (above), but it does the same thing with a 700c x 35 that I tried. It’s an annoying trait that can really catch you out at slow speeds, though becoming irrelevant as speed increases and the front wheel is stabilised.

show stoppers

Going 700c would mean a much better range of tyres and rims available and I know the existing brakes will reach. Incidentally, the Modolo brakes look very well made and have cleaned up nicely.

…and not too shabby

Hmmm – I’m still thinking about all this — should I simply remain in a patient wait for an old 5-speed wheel that may never appear ?

in another life, i could have been…

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