Posts Tagged ‘road king bicycle’

back to nearly original

back to nearly original

The time has come to part with my 1984 Road King which was one of my first hard rubbish salvages featured early in the life of this blog.

Though I now have many more bikes to choose from, I’ve revived, experimented on, and travelled many fun miles on this Woolworths Ltd. ten speeder. Lack of storage space had me disassemble it a while back and really, an old bike needs to be used and appreciated at least occasionally …

it just needs bar tape & maybe cables ..

it just needs bar tape & maybe cables ..

The new owner and his brother had each owned one in their youth, and would like to indulge in a little nostalgia, so I’ve converted this red one back to as close as I could to original, with a couple of changes – mainly a better cluster and a square taper ( but still period ) crank set.

Hopefully he will have many similar fun miles pootle-ing along all over again on this now 32 year old blast from the past.

P.S. As the new owners are also looking for a ‘brother’ bike in silver finish with the blue trim I would invite any reader, preferably local to Newcastle/Maitland /Central Coast areas, who has a silver ‘gents’ model Road King for sale to post a reply here so I can pass it on.
The main requirement is that the frame and fork themselves be in reasonable to excellent condition, and with the original silver paintwork and decals intact.

Thanks in Advance – and Happy Re-Cycling !


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out testing

out testing

No, no, it’s not really about the fine art of component weight reduction via filling everything full of holes – or at least only vaguely …

full circles

full circles

I’ve been investigating flat pedals for a couple of my bikes and have found two pairs of metal platforms of interest. I assume these are designed for technical MTB-ing down hills but they also make good commuter pedals for urban use in traffic where my regular “long distance” toe clips are too ungainly.

kinda honeycomb ...

now sort of floral …

The first is the Speedplay “Drillium”, a really neat looking and grippy pedal with concave surfaces. They feel like suction cups on your feet and even though quite costly – they are the most expensive pedals I have bought to date – they are very well made and very “different” . Not exactly old school or classic looking for your old bike, they form endlessly fascinating honeycomb patterns at different viewing angles. Too cool for words !

road king & b144s

road king & b144s

The other set is the Wellgo B144 in red to match my Road King, these are well made and grippy, though not as much as the drilliums – at around half the price. Both these pedals are equipped with tiny metal studs to hold your shoes fast.

Will the simple rubber O-ring inner bearing seals on the B144s last the distance though ? – we shall see !

The Road King has gone full circle with its bars, as I have gone back to drop bars. The upright bars I had felt strange as I am becoming more used to road bars, which is odd because I used to dislike them …

Cane Creek SCR-5 are my fave road levers for old bikes too – they are really great to grip .

I found some new cotton bar tape that I have shellacked for the bars, and rather like the look and feel, at least with a cushiony double wrap on the drops anyway.

worth a try, anyway

CL7 – worth a try, i suppose

On the Fernleigh track the 2-speed Sturmey-Archer hub shows its limitations, as you would expect. However it wasn’t planned to be a world-beater, merely a suburban tourer and it does that well. Although I don’t have a computer on it, the gearing allows around 30 ( or so ) km/h in top at a comfortable fast cadence. That’s all most people really need isn’t it ?

It’s a matter of slowing down in first sometimes or grinding out in top when your requirements are somewhere in between the two speeds. If you insist on perfection in such a gear system then you could be disappointed, but it’s still much better for my riding style than single speed !
Some more thoughts on this hub :

When coasting down hill, I kick it back to the lower gear as the high gear freewheel sound is loud and graunchy as opposed to the typical sweet Sturmey low gear sound.

It is difficult to tell which gear you are in at traffic lights when you backpedal for the restart of motion, as the sound is the main clue. Another good reason to not gear it too high – bogging down !

In spite of this it’s a great hub, and you can’t beat the feeling of a fast back pedalling upchange when accelerating.

Big mistakes department — the Dunlop CL7 Narrow classic 50s saddle I tried on the Road King looks cool, but it left a big black rubber stain on my jeans after I tried to revitalise it — it’s back to the trusty B17, I guess !

it doesn't seem like nearly winter ...

it doesn’t seem like nearly winter …

Happy Re-cycling !

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not the road king - i just polished the brass bell !!

not the road king – i just polished the brass bell !!

I hadn’t ridden this bike for some time due to a wonky rear wheel, and was thinking of fixing and selling it, but of course as it was one of my favourite early rides, I had a feeling my thinking would come around !

The frame is a nice size( 58-59cm ) and the original 1984 model bike was only little used and straight framed, but the old SunRace derailleurs were clunky and have a splined freewheel in an old size that I can never find a tool for.

two-in-one - and no cables !

two-in-one – no cables !    and an 120mm O.L.D.

Then along came a new Sturmey Archer S2 Duomatic 2-speed hub laced to a 700c Vee-style rim at a price too good to overlook. These hubs have been available for a few years in their modern version and I had seen them fitted to some new cruiser bikes too.

The hub has a normal ( direct ) gear and one that is an 1.4x ( or 40% higher ) overdrive. My take on this is not to have ” high and higher ” but to have a useful low gear and a normal gear. To that end I used the inner 42T ring on the double chain set and adjusted the chain line in this case by using a dished 22T rear cog with the concave facing inward, to give a straight chain line.

The wheel came fitted with an 18T straight S-A cog – that would have been OK on a 34-36T ring for my purposes.

the new look

the new look

The 42 x 22T combo gives a first gear of around 51 inches and a top gear of 70 inches, giving brisk acceleration in low from low speeds and the equivalent of around a 42x16T “urban” top gear.  If you are the sort of rider who likes to chase down road bikes you will want a smaller rear cog, but with this combo you have an all-round flexible top with a bonus low for those short sharp hills. In this form, it is the rough equivalent of the second and fourth gears of a classic 10-speed, so the idea is to coast, not pedal, down the big hills.

the protector ring hides the outer chain wheel

the protector ring hides the redundant outer 52T chain wheel

As a rider who likes to always remain seated I find this a great set-up, and on a howling windy day like today i could appreciate the headwind cutting ability of the lower gear.

crikey - try pedalling against that !

crikey – try pedalling against that !

On a ten-speed on flattish ground I will often change from the big to the small ring all day, as required, leaving the rear mech. set around the middle cog, and this hub gives a similar feel …

new reflector, no rack

new reflector, no rack

The S2 makes two distinct types of freewheel clicking noises when coasting in either gear, high-loud and low-quiet. This is a simple way of telling the gear, and your gear will hold while coasting unless you pedal backward.

Gearchange is via a quick back-pedal, and while it takes a bit of getting used to it’s really no more fiddly than the trimming of friction shifter gears. The up-change is almost foolproof, backpedal to the first click and you are there ( approx. one-eighth revolution ), changing down is quieter and more tricky, though it’s not a problem to have to have a couple of goes now and again.

hiding from the wind ...

hiding from the wind …

Other alterations to the Road King included changing of the brake levers and callipers, bending the calliper arms to correct the toe-in, a 1/8″ single speed chain, new handgrips, a longer and lower stem, and of course removal of the redundant gear mechs. and levers.

The 27″ wheels are now 700c with Duro ‘Ene Ciclo’ 2-tone tyres and a Brooks B17 saddle replaces the trusty sprung B66, due to the less upright seating.

The bike is now refreshingly simple and a bit lighter, though the S2 hub is pretty hefty – similar in weight to a coaster brake or a 3-speed hub.

Even though the seating is only semi-upright, I found it a real ‘sit-up’ – since I have been mostly riding with drop bars lately !

new stem, no shifters

new stem, no shifters

I would really recommend this S2 hub as a simple yet clever bit of useful gear. I can only assume the coaster brake version may be a little more difficult to use because of the possible shift/brake movements conflict, but I am only guessing in this case.

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I’ve spent a fair amount of time and money (but no more than a cheap bike shop model might cost) bringing my old Road King up to speed as a practical commuter – guards, saddle, bars, rack, lights, pedals, etc.

multi mode commute

on a multi mode commute

I didn’t mind doing this because the basic bike was in such good condition for an almost 30 year old ride, even though some cycling forum threads cruelly describe Road Kings as low end clunkers fit for the rubbish  tip ! Tsk tsk …

I take the different view, however, that a well set up straight framed and properly maintained bike like this is well worth keeping and improving upon if you can accept its few basic limitations – which are mainly the weight of the steel frame, wheels, and also of other components along with the slightly clunky drive train (mostly things that can be improved).  I even think it has quite a bit of classic style – so there !

Just don’t pay too much for one if you are thinking of buying it – I’ve noticed “buy it now” prices rocketing on ebay lately for this sort of thing :

a repco traveller - a similar low-end '80s 10speed

a repco traveller – a similar low-end ’80s 10speed

I have almost always disliked cotter pins as they can be imprecise and fiddly things that have a tendency to wear out and loosen prematurely, which is a hindrance on a long distance commuter when you’re “pressing on” or pedalling hard. Maybe they are OK on “high end” classic bikes where the components are more accurately machined, but not on this old Woolworths beastie. These steel cranks and chain wheels are quite heavy as well as looking inaccurately made :

cheap pressed and riveted crank-set

cheap pressed and riveted steel crank-set

For the sake of originality on a genuine collectable classic bike I wouldn’t change  the cottered bottom end unless I really had to, but this bike arguably isn’t one of those. Anyway, you can always hold onto the original parts for the future if they are in working condition or repairable.

with mks sylvan alloy pedals

with mks sylvan alloy pedals

So it wasn’t a difficult decision to replace the cottered crankset with the square tapered one from an old Ricardo 12 speed MTB – a Tracer brand that has also done some brief service on other bikes. It has alloy cranks with steel rings, and surprisingly fitted in and worked without even needing the derailleur stops adjusted !

You may need to adjust the height of the front derailleur to fit the new ring size however. As long as the new crank axle is the right width and you have non-indexed friction shifters this kind of mod. is easy. The down side in my case is a slight reduction of top gear chain wheel teeth from 52 to 48 without a corresponding drop in low gearing – they have the same sized 40T lower chain ring – oh well, it was a freebie I suppose.

old and new (size difference exaggerated by perspective)

old and new (size difference exaggerated by perspective)

It doesn’t look too much different to the old set either, and the alloy cranks seem to visually match the newer pedals as well. Most better quality bikes in ’84 were beginning to have this type of crank/axle set-up anyway.

it's a process of improvement

it’s a gradual process of improvement

Hopefully there will now be no more squeaking and creaking…

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as it was - abandoned


Having just added some new MKS Sylvan touring pedals and a new brass bell to the Road King, I may have to agree that it’s becoming somewhat like Ted Bullpit’s Holden Kingswood (as suggested by Steven Fleming of Cycle-Space recently). For those unfamiliar with the old Australian TV sitcom “Kingswood Country”, it featured a very basic model Aussie car that was polished, accessorised, and worshipped to an obsessive level as a suburban icon.


smoooth! --- mks sylvan


It’s true that the Road King began life as a humdrum ten speed Woolworths bike, made in Taiwan in 1984. Yet when I look at it now I think of it as a practical long distance semi-upright occasional commuter (c.25kms one way for me) that is relatively fast, non-lycra and fun, yet can carry a reasonable amount of luggage and still stump up as a kind of off-beat classic with clean, straight lines.


after the rain


Excluding my own labour and the expensive Li-ion headlight (that I can use on other bikes as well), this bike has cost me less than $AUD400 to get to this stage – about the price of a cheaply made entry level bike shop “broken-backed” looking hybrid beginning with “G”, that doesn’t even have proper mudguards let alone a Brooks saddle…


not the road king !! - i just polished the brass bell ... teehee


A young skater on Fernleigh Track  recently commented “Nice bike – is it new?”


in passing..


1984 wasn’t the end of the world … and I haven’t finished yet!


at swansea yesterday

and yes, the birds are real !

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Well, it’s getting there – my 1984 Road King bike pre its saddle upgrade, at Belmont 16 footers this week.

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I’d been thinking about putting a better saddle on the Road King since I first restored and rode it. The original unsprung narrow nylon saddle was only just bearable comfort wise, though I did sort of like the colour and look of it.

hurts me so ... the original

This bike has always had a harsh ride yet I enjoy its quickness of handling and tight low speed turning ability courtesy of the steeper geometry compared with my Gazelle which is much more stable and smooth. They are both refreshing alternatives to each other.  As the new bars are now slightly higher than the saddle on this ex-racing style bike it really needed a broader saddle because the more upright riding posture now puts more stress on my back over bumps.

So what better than a Brooks? The B66 appealed to me as being similar to the Gazelle’s B67 but it comes with its own seatpost clamp, plus the chrome springs would match the new chrome rack better than the B67 black ones would.

the b66 has a double rail spring as well as the coils

It’s available in a honey colour that suits the Road King’s 70s/80s brown colour trim – if a bit darker than the original. I also considered the Brooks “Flyer” saddle which is a sprung B17, but opted for the broader B66 in the end. I haven’t ridden a B17, so wasn’t sure about the narrowness for me.

oh, joy!

I am, of course, probably preaching to the converted, but at less than $150 AUD this classic really is a bargain when you consider what else is out there in plastic/gel for roughly half the price and more, and how much better this saddle is. You can feel your weight being spread away from the pressure points as soon as your bum hits it.

It’s beautifully packaged with care instructions and a tensioning tool, and the Road King rides as if on a cushion of air ….  the only problem is that it looks so nice it makes me want to upgrade the rest of the bike’s running gear now !

woohoo --- king of the road!

Also added was this swanky (or wanky depending on your outlook!) Gilles Berthoud leather (!) mud flap. Well I couldn’t use a black one on this bike now, could I ? This one is in a natural finish. The saddle and flap were both bought from “Pedal and Thread” in Adelaide. Delivery was free and quite fast.

honest, it's for keeping my bottom bracket clean ...

snazzy, what?

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