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Posts Tagged ‘speedwell flash bicycle’

1960s flash – with original paint

This one came as only a frame, forks, headset and bottom bracket so I don’t know the exact running gear. While I realised that I could almost make a complete ‘period’ bike with this frame plus the parts off ‘ Flash No. 1’ , I decided that’s a project for sometime down the track. I am estimating an early 1960s build, but don’t quote me on that !

Serial number is W19788 whereas most of my other gent’s Speedwells have a “V” prefix. Seat tube is 55cm c-c and top tube 58cm c-c. I call it ‘over-square’.  Though the frame is technically a bit small for me, the longish stem and top tube combine to negate the slightly short seat tube.   

downtube details

It does seem a few years younger than my other Flash because the head and seat tube lugs are less ornate and there is no bottom bracket oil port.  The box lining is simpler and there’s more use of decals rather than paint stencilled decoration.  The main heavy box lining looks as though it was masked off for painting, then finished off with fine free-hand lining in certain places. I wonder if there’s any old footage around anywhere showing this type of lining being done – or perhaps it was a ‘trade secret’ type of work.  It would certainly be a great skill to keep alive nowadays.

With the faded candy red paint now turned to a mellow and patina’d ‘old wine’ red-brown, this frame somehow reminds me of a well thumbed leather bound book. The Speedwell Flash frames use a lighter (or thinner) steel than the Special Sports or Popular, which makes them nice to ride, but they are also more prone to dents, especially on the top tube, where it can be knocked by the bar ends. Unlike my older Flash, there is no letter “F” ( or anything else ) stamped on this fork steerer, though the ornate fork lugs are very similar, as are the chromed and painted fork legs.

The main difference in geometry between this and a modern steel frame is the somewhat laid back seat tube, but the short-ish chain stays and less fork offset mean that it’s a bit more responsive than some other 27″ bikes of its era. The seat pin diameter is 27mm versus the 27.2mm of my older Flash.

The cottered crank axle was badly pitted, as are most others on these old Speedwells. The new chain set, for the time being,  is a Shimano Exage 300, 170mm, converted to a single ring 44T on an FSA 103mm JIS square taper cartridge BB. 

I’ve found that a 103mm bracket works best with most 80s alloy cranks when running as a single speed with 110mm rear spaced frames. If you look at the original cottered Williams chain-sets on these Speedwells you’ll see how little clearance they have from the bracket cups and the chain stays, and the same should apply with an 80s chain set on a square taper, in order to get a decent chain line.

In this case, the freewheel and chain wheel are 3/16″ capable, so with a 1/4″ chain there is also a little bit of room for any slight chain line error.

pretty close – but works well

The pedals I fitted were Phillips, but I soon changed them to Wellgo B144s as the Phillips are designed for steel cranks and have really short threads – maybe they’re not such a good idea for thicker alloy cranks. The red Wellgo pedals somehow look out of place, yet at the same time, appropriate. Perhaps it’s the colour, reminiscent of the bike’s original hue but I’ve come to like the appearance. The same goes for the non-period chainset, and anyway, all these things can be swapped back if more originality is required.

normandy rear hub w/- huret wing nuts, halo freewheel

The wing nuts I used on the front and rear axles are Hurets, with a modern chain tensioner on the drive side rear.  Hubs are the converted Suzue front and Normandy rear shown a few posts ago, with a Halo 18T freewheel, laced to 27″ Ambrosio Extra 36H rims. The tyres were Continental Ultra Sport ( 27 x 1 & 1/8″ ), however following a couple of punctures I fitted my only pair of Gatorskins in 27 x 1 & 1/4″ and even though these look a little bit wide for the rims, I won’t be pushing them too hard.

love this stem !

The stem is my early Cinelli track stem with 25.4mm bar clamp, ‘negative rise’ and a 110mm length, paired with some 1960s (?) steel drop bars. These 25.4mm bars have a long reach, long drops and narrow tops, though at least the long ramps offer a reasonable hand hold and the drops are reasonably wide for the period.  I still think the wide topped Cinelli ‘ Giro d’Italia ‘ 42 or 44cm alloy are my favourites, but they neither fit this stem, nor suit this bike’s appearance. The older steel drop bars do seem to transmit more ‘hurt’, perhaps because of their thinner diameter compared with more modern alloy bars.

before the extra bar tape

The brakes I used are currently available ( ! ),  Dia-Compe centre pulls with Dia Compe Q.R. levers, though I would like to use some fancier drilled levers if I can find a nice pair.

I’ve fitted some period steel cable clips on the top tube, but put some thin leather strips underneath them so as not to scratch the patina —— ( lol ).

These callipers seem considerably heavier than older Weinmanns and Dia-compes that I have used, and the overall bike is heavier than ‘Flash No 1’ too.

Bar tape is Ritchey Classic with used  Cat Eye end plugs. To help hold the tape ends in place, I’ve used some short sections of 23mm inner tube ( see top pic. ).  

I am aware that the dinky little mudguards may be more 70s than 60s but hopefully they will help keep a bit of dirt out of the callipers and lower steering head bearings ! I’ve since wrapped the bar tape more thickly and added more length – for extra comfort.

it’s a nice ride ..

Hope you like it !

And Happy Re-Cycling  !

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ready to roll ...

ready to roll …

It’s entirely possible that I may one day get this bike closer to original, but in order to do that I would have to know just what that ‘original’ was. This is a problem with many old classics that have been altered here and there over the years by owners like me, perhaps just attempting to keep them going while still looking ‘respectable’.

I don’t always see the point of keeping un-rideable totally original bikes either, unless they are in unsafe condition – or are so rare or unique as to almost be museum pieces.

the driveline

the driveline

The serial number is A94488 on the bottom bracket, and from the Williams chain ring code (AU) the bike might date from 1955 – but this assumes that the chain wheel was the original.

As the non-drive crank was a rusty fluted Magistroni, it’s hard to be absolutely sure that this was the case. Some research also indicates that these particular Weinmann brakes likely date from the early 60s, so they may ( or may not ) have been later additions. That means the frame number is perhaps the only real clue to its exact age…

I wanted to use the existing rims at first, however the alloy was somewhat pitted so I declined that. Anyway, they didn’t match either – like the hubs. The half price new grey “CD” finish Mavic reflex rims were too good to pass up. I originally wanted silver ones but I’m getting to like these now.

The bike rides really well considering the tyres are 23mm but then they are Tufo tubulars ( model : C-Hi composite carbon ).
I used 23mm as this is the recommended size for the Mavic rims, otherwise I would have gone wider.

this is not a 'path racer'

this is not a ‘path racer’ – it’s too modern !

In spite of the skinny tyres the Flash rides better than my other single speed, based on a Cr-Mo Malvern Star L.A.84 frame set, and that’s on 27″ wheels with 1 & 1/4″ ( 32mm ) Bontrager clinchers. Also, any bike that can make a fairly new Brooks Team Pro saddle feel relatively comfortable must have a decent amount of compliance to it !

Based on my experience with these tyres and my other Tufo ( S33 ) tubs I would describe the Tufo tubulars as having more of a “papery patter” to their ride on typical corrugated suburban road surfaces as opposed to the “thump and bump” that some other frames and some clincher tyres can give.

The Weinmann 610 ‘Vainqueur 999’ centre-pull brakes work surprisingly well, even at near maximum drop for the 700c wheels and I’m happy with the Dia-Compe levers too, which were salvaged from an old cantilever braked MTB. The curved levers also seem to visually match the curved wing nuts on the hubs.

an attempt at comfort - grips and tape

a successful attempt at comfort – grips and tape

You’ll notice the bars have a ‘mixed-up’ look with Cardiff cork grips butting onto the lever clamps then some short lengths of bar tape finished with shellacked twine. This isn’t just for decoration as the combination makes the ‘bar’s grip area wider and more evenly comfortable and it eliminates pressure points when my palms are on the lever clamps – ( as that’s my preferred hand position here ).

I’ve always liked these Cardiff cork grips…

At 46 x 20 on the freewheel, the bike will spin out at speed in a tailwind or going downhill, but it’s a joy otherwise, being easy to accelerate from low speeds or spin up short sharp hills with a little run-up.

If using the fixed cog I would probably fit an 18T or 19T just for the sake of downhill runs.
Even though the cranks, bars and stem are all steel, the bike overall is about as light as any of my other more modern steel framed road bikes.

In the end, I’ve tried to treat this old Speedwell with some respect – albeit in my own way – although I have taken some liberties as well and there’s now even more departure from whatever was the original.

Happy Re-Cycling ( and riding ) !

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how it was

how it was

So, what would you do with a sadly rattle-canned Speedwell Flash ? Would you wait patiently for the perfect parts to restore it ? Ride it as it is ? Or maybe re-birth it in semi-modern Flashness ?

no hate mail thanks ... lol

no hate mail thanks, speedwell lovers … lol

Given that the original finish, decals etc., were long gone I decided to repaint it and make it a mix of classic and new – I don’t know, perhaps some Speedwell afficionados will be horrified. Suffice it to say that had the bike been in possession of it’s original paint no matter how sad, I would absolutely have kept it that way.

Although I don’t know a great deal about the ‘Flash’, it was a fair step up from the ‘Special Sports’ model – the wheels were alloy, the frame lighter and with fancier lugs, a more compact rear triangle and lovely pencil thin seat stays, alloy brakes and chromed fork legs. The original colour of this one was a metallic translucent red over a gold base – which as is often the case with resprays was discovered from the old paint remnant on the fork steerer. The steerer is stamped “F” as opposed to the “S” on the Special Sports forks – that makes me wonder whether the Popular was stamped with a “P” — I must check that sometime.

there wasn't much stable chrome left either

there wasn’t much stable fork chrome left either

I can’t say what sort of saddle it had and I haven’t decided what to use yet – I’ll have to trial a few for comfort once I’m able to test ride the bike.

this took some time by hand ..

this lettering took quite some time by hand ..

Frame painting is not always one of my favourite activities but I couldn’t leave it in the rough rattle-can-over-everything state it was in.

Painting took me a long time, including the preparation and the masking and hand lettering, and is a modern take on more classic paintwork. I’ve also used some Langridge decorative rust finish in places and it’s quite lifelike as a rust effect – I would like to hand paint a complete frame with it one day … but you’ll either like it or you won’t.

Using reproduced decals is fine for recent bikes, but without the period fine hand lining on a bike like this it seems a bit pointless – and my own shaky hand is unable to recreate such detail. Maybe next time I’ll find an expert ..

a flip and a flop

a flip and a flop – 20x20T

I want to fit tubular tyres to this bike ( ’cause I like the way they ride ) so I’ve altered the wheel size to 700c with new Mavic Reflex 36H tubular rims. Hope it works !

I kept the Pelissier flip/flop rear but didn’t have an exact matching front – I’ve gone for the closest visual match I have in 95mm and 5/16″axle – It’s a recycled 80s Kun Yu steel hub, but it at least runs smoothly. The flanges aren’t as high but at least the holes are round ! It looks OK I think.

a woody stem ...

a woody stem ! … and i’ve left the lugs as clear coated metal

Because the frame is only around a 55cm seat tube I am not going with drop bars, instead I’ve chosen some flipped over upright bars for a little more height, with nicely shaped Dia-Compe levers to operate the original Weinmann centre pulls. The stem once had a plastic ‘rocket-ship’ end cap but I thought “why not use some timber?” It makes sense to me, even if it’s not original, and I can always change later if desired.

I wanted to keep the spidery look of the period Williams chain ring so had to use a cottered axle ( unfortunately ! ). I have several Williams crank sets now, but finding a suitably straight one isn’t always easy ! Had to do a little bending of the chainring to get it true as well .. and it’s amazing how close fitting these old bottom ends are.

love the williams rings - but disregard the pedals at this stage

love the williams rings – but disregard the wellgo pedals at this stage

Gearing will be a tame 46×20 to begin with so it’ll be a spinner not a masher – I mean, I can go to 18 teeth later – but I say take care of the knees first, I want to still be riding at 80+ years of age !

New seatpost, new brake pads, and now new cables and chain to follow, and stick the tyres on – I’ll post an update when it’s done .. should be well in time for the Newcastle Tweed Ride 2016.

See Ya !

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Or should that be a swarm ?

not so 'flash' - at the moment, anyway.

not so ‘flash’ – at the moment, at least – also, this saddle isn’t the original.

I’ve recently acquired a number of Speedwell frames and associated parts from a down-sizing collector, mostly of the ‘Special Sports’ model but also including this roughly re-painted (but at least straight-framed) ‘Flash’ model.

pretty rough..

interesting, but pretty rough..

The Flash has a mix of components – a Speedwell stem minus the red “rocketship” end plug, a lovely Pelissier ‘Plume’ high flange alloy rear hub on a 27″ Mavic alloy rim and Weinmann 610 “Vainqueur 999” centrepull brakes are some of the interesting parts.

pelissier 'plume' french made hub

pelissier ‘plume’ french made ’36H flip-flop’ hub

after some effort

and again, after some effort..

appears to be a replacement ? - an atom front hub

appears to be a replacement ? – an atom 36H front hub

From a recyclist’s point of view the Special Sports models have the advantage of a solid brake bridge and properly brazed on seat stays which means that a coaster rear hub isn’t necessary, however the rear spacing is the same 110mm as the Popular so it will take either a period fixed/free hub, an internal gear hub or even a coaster if desired.

The bikes have rear facing horizontal dropouts – i.e. ‘track style’ ends – rather than the cheaper style pressed down ends of the Popular.

this green one is in the best overall condition

this green one is in the best overall & original condition

At the front end, the forks fit the typical 90-95mm hub with a 5/16″ axle, the same as most old Aussie bikes. Older models have the fork tips that must be pulled wider to allow wheel removal, due to the flange on the cone ends that mates with the drilling out of the fork tip.

Sort of early “lawyer tabs” I suppose .. The dropout and front axle widths also mean that modern front hubs can’t be used without modification. Modern track front hubs have thicker front axles and are 100mm O.L.D. , and the rears are at 120mm over the locknuts.

this one had been re-painted with new repro decals

this one has been re-painted and has new reproduction decals

The Special Sports rims are 27″ chromed steel with 40 hole rear drillings, which makes life a little difficult if one wishes to convert to alloy rims while using the original hubs. 36 hole rears would have made things easier – ah well.

On the front the hole count is 32. The 27 inch ( 32 – 630 ) rims at least have a basic but decent range of tyres still available (including Conti Gatorskins if you can find them !) which is a definite plus when compared with the 28 x 1 & 3/8 ” ( 37- 642 ) size of the populars.

the oldest one is my favourite, but it has damaged forks

the oldest one is my favourite, but it has damaged forks – note the different down tube stencil to the others, and the chromed fork legs.

i love the flag decals

i like the colour and decals on this oldie

The blue one above looks to be mid 1950s and is the only one to have the older style flared head tube – the remainder have removable cups for their loose 1/8″ bearings.

I have a feeling that the flag and crown motif somehow relates to the coronation of Q.E.II in the early 1950s.

AW-63, SW-57, SW-59

AW-63, SW-57, SW-59

A number of 40 hole Sturmey-Archer hubs were purchased with the  frames, including a 1971 coaster, a 1966 FW 4-speed , a 1963 AW 3-speed and 2 x SW 3-speeds ’57 & ’59 – apparently a somewhat unreliable model that did have some good points, but was fairly quickly dropped from the S-A catalogue after 1959 or 60 !

The early SW (centre) has the double indicator rod with left hand window. Note how much more compact it is than the usual AW model due to having one less planet gear (i.e. 3), and they also have slightly wider ratios than the AW.

Sheldon Brown’s site has quite a bit of info on this somewhat obscure hub. They should make for some curious tinkering fun down the track…

the typical later down tube stencil

the typical later down tube stencil

seat tube decal 'made in sydney'

seat tube decal

 

the top tube decal is - at this age - usually badly worn

the top tube decal is – at this age – usually badly worn

There are also some fixed/ free ( or flip-flop ) rear hubs, including some Speedwell branded ones and also a single sided Brampton freewheel hub in fine shape.

Front hubs include a rough BSA, an excellent condition Bayliss-Wiley, some Speedwells and a Phillips – all 32H, and the chainsets are all cottered Williams 5-pin.

The Special Sports models feature the lovely hand applied pin lining and the typically detailed decals of the era, and would originally have been very brightly metallic coloured over a gold or silver coloured base – that is until the Australian sunlight typically faded their brilliance – however that deterioration now tends to complement the bikes’ age and grace.

a nice patina on the red one ..

a nice patina on the red one .. flashes of the original brilliance here and there

They would have come with mudguards, I think (?), but not many guards will have survived after 50 odd years. The above red frame came with a pair, at least.

Perhaps my favourite is still the early model blue one with the flag decalled and chromed forks, and even though the paint is very worn on the top tube, and the forks somewhat bent, I would still like to try and repair this one later on.

I can’t show them fully in the space of this post, nor do I have the space or time at the moment to build them all up, so I shall be selectively presenting their progress in future posts.

And Happy Re-Cycling !

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