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Posts Tagged ‘speedwell popular’

old faithful ..

old faithful ..

I’ve made a couple more changes here – firstly the bars and stem, where I’ve refitted the early Cinelli stem with a set of steel Alps bars.

The bars are a little wider to give me better steering leverage and alloy bars don’t look right with this stem. Also, as the ( roughly ) 11mm Cinelli stem hex bolt head was rounded off, I have replaced it with an allen head bolt, hopefully not offending any purists in the process.

complete with twined bottle cage

complete with twined bottle cage to hide the modernity

I am a bit fussy about the bar tape on this bike and can only seemingly tolerate the texture and colour of this brown Brooks bar tape However, it’s quite thin if wrapped along the full length of this narrow diameter bar. My way of making things more comfortable here is to very much overlap the tape around itself for the drops and ramps, and then use heavily wrapped cotton tape for finishing off the tops – which I then shellacked.

The result is more thickness – i.e. comfort – but without the clashing newness of modern tape. I think the effect is nicely ‘retro’, not least because the tape is somewhat deformed due to being re-fitted and removed several times !

Used alone, I find plain cotton tape to be a bit harsh on the hands.

the sturmey-archer s2c

the sturmey-archer s2c

The second alteration was to fit a Sturmey Archer S2C Duo-matic kickback hub, and because I like the classic look of the Alesa alloy rims that were already fitted, I spent an afternoon dismantling the single speed coaster wheel and re-lacing the S2C. There were two hesitations here and they are worth thinking about. One is the weight of the S2C, it seems heavier than even a typical 3-speed like the Nexus 3C. The other is the loud freewheel noise it makes compared to a silent single speed coaster hub. This is particularly noticeable in top gear when coasting Moving the pedals back a bit here will help make conditions less noisy.

Regarding the weight, at least the wheel is no heavier than the original all steel 700A that it replaces !

The top ratio, as in the S2, is 138% of normal gear, and that 38% is a pretty big jump ! To work it out, if you begin with a 22T cog such as supplied with this hub, then that will be your normal ( lower ) gear. Your high gear will be roughly equivalent to a 16T on the same front ring. In this case with a 46T the gear inches are approx. 56 and 78.

It’s better than single speed, but either gear is not always low enough nor first always high enough. Changing the front ring alters both ratios of course, and one needs to personally decide whether to set it up for spinning or grinding, or possibly both !

the old school 'millbrook' saddle bag..

the old school ‘millbrook’ saddle bag..

The beauty of this hub, though, has to be the “zero cables” thing, and there’s a whole lot to be said for that on an old bike such as this, in terms of uncluttered appearance and simplicity of operation. The Speedwell Popular models only came fitted with coaster brakes as far as I know and I’m still reluctant to fit a front brake even though I know it would make sense.

The other plus is not having to mash the pedals so much at low speeds, thus making life easier for the old knees, while retaining a top gear that won’t spin out so soon.

Purists please note that the original wheels have been safely stored away for future re-fitting… but the relative lightness of these alloy wheels with modern tyres is hard to ignore.

Even so, the extra weight and laid back geometry is hard to get used to after stepping off the ‘criterium style’ quick handling Vectre. Ah well, all in good time …

greetings from the land of the summer Christmas

greetings from the land of the summer Christmas

Christmas Greetings !

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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 !

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Newcastle-Vintage-Tweed-Ride/648259718560810

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cinelli stem badge

cinelli stem badge

The Recyclist’s bikey-nose sniffed out this beautiful steel Cinelli stem in a dusty Lambton garage – and on a tipoff.

Apparently Cinelli originally coloured their brass badges with fired glass enamelling ( cloisonne ), then later stem badges such as this ( and the head badges ) were painted, probably because of cost, again later finally moving to aluminium head badges, decals, simple engraving etc. in more modern times.

It is a miniature of the early Cinelli head badge “knight and shield” crest.
Current Cinelli products use the newer familiar graphic “winged C” motif.

as found - shame about the 'bars

as found – shame about the ‘bars

This long reach stem was connected to some Cinelli steel drop bars ( possibly Giro d’Italia model ) though these aren’t in useable condition having rusted through in the drops area. I’m guessing 1950s to 1960s, but can’t be sure.

many years of neglect ...

many years of neglect …

I think this is the 65 degree track stem – they also made a 73deg road stem and a drooping 58deg more extreme track version as well. Condition is not great and the stem bolt is somewhat rounded off – nevertheless, these are highly collectable items.

on the popular

on the popular

It now graces my ’56 Speedwell Popular, a somewhat mundane (but faithful) steed for such a regal stem.  At least the vintage is about right !

I fitted a steel Kusuki ‘Win’ Randonneur bar, as its shape and finish are about the best match I have for this stem.

love it !

love it !

A set of curly rams-horn style steel drop bars would look great – if I can find some !

a laid back frame

a laid back frame

The laid back angles of this bike mean that the stem drop is not so pronounced, and the rando bars give back a little height.

some traces of original paint remain

some traces of original paint remain

In spite of ( or partly because of ) its worn paint condition and less than perfect chrome, it is still a thing of beauty to behold …

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the lonely one

the lonely one

‘Popular’ is such a quaint old fashioned name for a bicycle model suggesting an everyday bike for the average person – which is what it was. Nowadays, however, the Popular is pretty rarely seen, though some are still around in Newcastle if you look out for them.

Speedwell designed it for robust simplicity, to be a relatively affordable, sturdy, basic single speed transport and leisure machine with a little bit of flair in the decoration, perhaps inspired in this case by the post-war and post-coronation aspirations and hopes of ’50s society – despite the general lack of affluence compared with today.

red, white 'n' blue

red, white ‘n’ blue

Those days of a more simple life are long gone now — or are they ? A bicycle doesn’t have to be complex, as the fixed gear movement has shown, and we know that sometimes the least desirable bikes can have the most gears, features etc.  – witness the average low quality department store suspension MTB.    Things are as simple as one wants them to be, really.

detail - seat tube

The bike is all steel, with big wheels  – ( 28″ x 1 & 3/8″ – i.e. 642mm,  not  635×1 & 1/2″ ), painted and lined Westwood rims, a generous fork rake, and a comfortable Bell 12-40 model leather saddle (not sure if it’s the original one though).

the flying kangaroo - i always wanted one of these !

the flying kangaroo – i always wanted one of these !

I purchased it from a Speedwell collector who is more interested in the Speedwell “Special Sports” models, of which he had a number of lovely examples to show me.

Originally it came from Yass, and still has much of it’s original frame paint intact, though the guards have been sympathetically resprayed.

The generous quantity of  hand lining looks art-deco influenced, and is typical of so many Aussie bikes of its era, though perhaps not as elaborate a flourish as on the more upmarket ‘sports’ models.

transfers have aged

transfers have aged

It’s unusual for me to buy a bike and overhaul it only to have it look much the same as it was, but even so, I checked and adjusted the steering and front wheel bearings, replaced a missing spoke after disassembling, cleaning and re-greasing the BSA ‘New Eadie’ Coaster hub. You can see the same brake internals on a previous post about my ladies’ Popular, suffice it to say that photography is difficult when your hands are covered in grease !  This was an important job for a bike that is to be used, as the old coaster hubs eventually become dry and/or rusty inside, and can then wear out quickly. There is a grease port on the hub, but this is mainly for the braking surfaces, and injected grease is unlikely to reach the bearings, especially the ones nearest the cog that have their own little cone and race chamber separate to the rest.

I find that serviced coaster hubs can sometimes become a little idiosyncratic in operation, but generally do ride much more sweetly as a reward for the overhaul. It will sometimes take half a turn to re-engage drive after using the brakes – probably a sticking clutch assembly. This particular ‘New Eadie’ coaster brake stops very well, unlike the same soggy model on my ladies’ Popular … perhaps it comes down to wear, though I also didn’t use teflon grease on it this time … hmmm?

the speedwell bell

the speedwell bell

As an aside, many other old bikes that I find seem to have been unnecessarily abandoned partly because tight front wheel bearings have made them mysteriously unpleasant to ride, so it’s worth checking these often on your “classic”, and adjusting them for play & free running …  to check, lift the wheel and see if it rotates back and forward freely ’til it comes to rest with the heaviest point of the rim – usually either the valve or the plastic reflector – at the bottom, while making sure there is no brake friction stopping this, then check there is no serious play side to side ( a minute amount is OK on an old bike if it’s necessary to keep the wheel running free ).

with brooks millbrook bag

with brooks millbrook saddle bag

Even with the hard plastic grips this ride is comfortable thanks to the relaxed frame angles and those large tyres and softly spoked wheels. I’ve changed the gearing by going to a 20T rear cog (to replace a worn 18T) while retaining the original 46T front ring. ( Please forgive me the modern Surly track cog excess – but I do like those round holes ! )

This gives an overall low 60s gear inch measurement as recommended in “The Art of Easy Cycling”, and is a good compromise for this single speed, giving a feeling of pedalling lightness at sensible speeds … though it isn’t overwhelmingly heavy  anyway, thanks to the spartan simplicity.

cool kanga !

cool kanga !

The straightforwardness of a single coaster brake is always appealing – no untidy cables, just a bike, pure and simple.

curly bars

curly bars

Initially I had thought that the drop bars would be uncomfortable, and it’s true that they are difficult to hold on the tops – having no ‘hoods’, and being a continuous curve except for the straight drop ends — but they also look just right for this bike, as I found by trying ‘north road’ style bars. I quickly swapped them back ! Because of the smooth ride it’s relatively comfortable for someone now used to riding old road bikes. The turning circle is large and cornering is slow compared with modern bikes.

The broad saddle doesn’t interfere with my pedalling when leaning forward, and that surprised me. As sold, the bars were rotated 180 degrees to ‘upright’ mode, but this just felt clumsy to ride, as well as looking less attractive.

In short, it’s a pleasure cruise – and quite graceful too, if one “rides it steady”.

( there you go ! ).

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Last Sunday’s tweed ride brought out some rarely seen ( by me at least ) classic bikes. I hope the “steel is real” bike enthusiasts out there get some enjoyment from these – I certainly did !

If I’ve missed your classic here, well you’ll just have to turn up again next year and give me another chance …

speedwell popular -  diamond frame

speedwell popular – diamond frame

This Speedwell had to be seen close up to really be appreciated – an original unrestored frame with modern running gear, possessing a wonderfully subtle and rusty patina. A credit to the restorer’s good taste, I thought.

conqueror loop frame

conqueror loop frame

A classic loop frame original, ridden by one of the younger participants.

carlton racer

carlton racer

The owner told me the frame was all chromed originally, it had some classy details.

carlton racer - rear derailleur

carlton racer – rear derailleur & hub

schwinn cruiser

schwinn cruiser

Although a later ‘reproduction’ model, this bike fitted in well with the ride theme.

another schwinn

another schwinn

sun-wasp path racer

sun-wasp path racer

What can I say ? Unique, rare, outstanding bike.

detail - sun-wasp

detail,  sun-wasp

the sun

the sun

Sister bike to the Sun-Wasp, with a “to-die-for” Sturmey Archer quadrant shifter …

detail - the sun

detail – the sun

detail - the sun

detail – the sun

blue mixte

blue mixte

Some gorgeous leather accents here :

blue mixte - detail

blue mixte – detail

gazelle toer populair

gazelle toer populair

Now I know I’m not the only person in town with one of these ! This one was fitted with a Brooks B33 saddle.

should be the smoothest ride in town !

should be the smoothest ride in town !

felt gridloc and velorbis

happy couple — felt gridloc and velorbis

nihola cargo 3-wheeler

nihola cargo 3-wheeler

Not exactly classic/vintage, but interesting,  practical and a great advertisement nonetheless …

Lets hope this becomes an ongoing event !

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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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new spoke, nipple and eyelet

The front wheel trued up pretty easily but the rear one caused trouble with seized spokes and I had to cut and replace a few to get the wheel straight.  I’ve been doing some cosmetics on the pin lining, adding a faint dust of magenta in places, a sort of “lipstick for grandma” – we don’t want to overdo it though (or she might look like a bad wolf in drag)!  I’ve tried to keep it original looking but I have touched up some of the faint pin lines, I could’t help myself. I have also clear coated her after neutralising the rust to protect the paint from further decay.

woohoo!

The frame finish is basically as it was then, still with chips and scratches – it seemed a shame to remove 50+ years of character, and I didn’t want a “botoxed” grandma either, without any expression at all…

i need a kickstand now

The chain wheel crank turned out to be too bent to to use, which is a shame, and to get her going I’ve had to substitute the old cottered 48T from my old diamond frame Speedwell. This was a non-original Japanese crank and isn’t quite the look I wanted so I’ll keep looking for a set of proper period cranks. I exchanged the other diamond frame Speedwell’s crank for a 40T tapered one a while back, to lower the 3-speed gearing, so that bike is still perfectly rideable. The gearing on this is slightly higher now than with the original 44T. A new 1/8″ chain has been fitted, and that’s the only thing I have actually bought for it so far. Except the bell, which came with a bike attached for $10!

steppin' out stepthru

I haven’t finished detailing the bike yet, but you see the general idea, and it is now quite rideable. I fitted the Lucas 28″ cyclometer to the front wheel, but found that the clicking drove me mad on such a silent bike, so I’ll have to remove it soon I think! The handlebar is slightly bent too, but right now that’s a matter of acclimatising to it.

i need some tweed...

The BSA coaster brake is not brilliant but is noticeably better at stopping than the Perry on my Malvern Star and should be sufficient for an easy rider like this. My friend Vicki has kindly donated the tyres and tubes from her 28″ Speedwell, since her bike has now been upgraded to 700C wheels.

28" and 700c- 28" is actually larger

I would like to add a skirt (coat?) guard to it at some point using the pre-drilled holes, and the non-original sprung Royal saddle is the wrong style and colour. A black leather Brooks (or similar) would be better and is on the wish list!

There will be a more in-depth ride report and close-ups to come later – Happy Cycling!

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