Posts Tagged ‘speedwell ladies popular’

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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one last look before ...

When I first saw this bike, I wondered about the colour scheme, because a light blue with a purple-brown seemed an odd choice of clashing colours. I’ve now discovered the real frame colour after some dismantling and cleaning, and this was quite a surprise.

commencing disassembly with the wonder stuff ...

The purple-brown is actually the faded and degraded remains of a strong magenta.

underside of mudguard vs. exterior chainguard

Here you can see the new vs. old underneath the chain guard bracket and behind the chain guard and mudguards. What a difference! The blue is a more stable colour and has not degraded as much – so now I get it!

amazing! - under the mudguard stay bracket

The bike must have got some looks when new, as I would imagine the colours as being pretty wild for the 1940s, but then again, many things from the past seem more drab than they were simply because of deterioration, e.g.with some  ancient monuments and statues.  Though it’s not metallic, this colour made me think of the “candy-apple” hot rod type colours that became popular decades on.

Speedwell seemed to be a company that spent a lot of time developing their bicycle colour schemes and decoration – but it will be impossible to restore this colour fully from where it is now by cutting back, because the paint is so thin, rusted and faded already. Best to let it bask in faded glory then, and I am thinking cleaning and clear coating at this stage.

Also, here are some more small details that I have uncovered:

The right hand 5 pin bolt-up chain wheel crank is marked “Utility” “Made in England” and the chain wheel stamped “44” (i.e. 44T)

The crank axle is stamped “RTM AUST” and the rear sprocket is 18T

Rear Tyre is “Dunlop Atlantic” made in Australia 28″ x1 & 3/8″

Front tyre Is a more recent “Swallow” brand, and neither would be original.

The remaining pedal is stamped “JRC” “Made in Belgium” on its bearing cover.

the classic speedwell head badge

Anyway, got to go – rust never sleeps…

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