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Vol. 1, Issue 6

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

Here is an image of my Ephgrave No. 1 Road/Path machine. Probably not seen by many of you as it is on fixed with Conloy sprints on Harden LF hubs and this rather limits the number of suitable rides. I did ride it on the Reading and Ephgrave rides but only the once. I also did the Boot and Back on it (once)! The frame number is LE 3124. A boyhood hero of mine, Ralph Large of the Wisbech Wheelers, originally owned it and, on this machine, he became the first rider from the Fenland Road Racing Association to beat the hour for a 25.

This was in the early 50s, the machine is restored to the original specification with Chater-Lea round cranks and Chater-Lea pedals, Cinelli badged steel stem and Cinelli Piste bars. As was sometimes the fashion in those days the frame has pump pegs and mudguard eyes. The correct saddle is Brooks Swallow but I have to swap the Swallows around, as they are my favourite 50s Brooks to ride.

I wish I could get hold of another one in good condition. This machine was my wedding present from Patricia as it came up for sale just before we were married some 5 plus years ago. The image is a bit pallid as I took it on a very dull day with our new toy, a Fuji 2600z digital camera. Being me, I could not wait for a good bright – but not sunny – day. I will replace the image later. I also have a 1951 Ephgrave road bike (maroon) with Simplex 5-speed rear and rod operated double at the front. The wheels on this are Dunlop Alloy HPs on Airlite LF hubs. I like the Dunlops as I am more confident putting high pressures into the tyres than with the Conloys which make me to wonder if the tyres will lift off the rim. I tend to put an ordinary rim tape in the Conloys and then put one of the older cotton tapes on top. This way I hope to fill some of the depth in the rim.

Note: – that if you are having an Ephgrave restored it is essential to instruct the restorer that the seat tube badge must have ‘EPHGRAVE’ on the diagonal and not horizontal. To the uninitiated it looks as if it would be correct for the wording to be level but Leslie knew better. If it is wrong it sticks out like a sore thumb. (No I did not get one wrong; I was warned in time!).

Patricia has been looking for a small frame for a long long time now, and has at last got her hands on a 1944/45 Bates BAR which is built for 26” wheels. This is going to be our project for a while. As it has rear ends of 110mm width it rather restricts our options to some extent. We are trying to convert a five-speed Regina freewheel to four by removing the small sprocket and getting the next one (number 4?) ground down as it has a threaded shoulder to carry the one (number 5?) we are dispensing with. If all of this allows us to use it in the frame then we hope to build it up with a Simplex four.

Patricia has some wheels ready if this works – they are Dunlop Lightweight HP 26” steel rims on a Solite SF front hub and a Racelite LF rear and built with 15/17 spokes. As we will have to reduce the spacers on the gear side of the axle this will mean that the wheel will be re-dished. We have a nice 2 ¼” Reynolds stem, some GB Pelissier bars and some Bramptom B8 pedals.

As we have some small Chater 3/32 rings we are having a pair of the shorter round section Chater cranks refurbished and they will be identical to the ones she has on her Gillott. If this does not materialise we have a pair of BSA cranks with a 44 ring which is 1/8” at the moment. We may also try to get a sprint wheel with a SA FM hub in the future as Patricia has ridden the Tin-Can-Ten course twice but not qualified for a placing as she was using a Simplex (and who can blame her!). We hope to have everything ready for the Boot and Back which is our first local event of the year. To take part in this we usually go by train to Stevenage and then ride the last 10 miles or so to the start, but then ride home to Cambridge; I think this results in a total of about 45 miles for the day, and it means that we get an extra hour or so in bed. I seem to remember that it is held on the last Sunday in February but must check N & V when it arrives.

I am wondering if I will have problems with the Simplex gear lever on the Bates. Being a very small frame the Cantiflex tubing is very obvious and I fear that the tubing may be fatter in the area for the lever. Checked with a gauge it looks as if I might get away with it. I have got the correct Simplex lever but not the band with which to attach it to the down tube – hint hint in case you have one kicking around in the shed.

I managed to put together an Osgear 4 or 5 speed Super Champion gear, which I’ve been planning to fit on my Paris Tour de France. The problem is that the down tube seems to be a larger diameter than other frames I have, and, as the lever and the tension arm brackets are cast alloy it is impossible to stretch them. The Paris seemed to be the ideal machine for the Osgear but now I might try to fit it to my 1951 Hobbs. I always have a dilemma in that, once I have got a machine up and running well I hate to alter it.

At the moment the Hobbs has a Campag Gran Sport on sprints with LF Airlites. It also has a very slender Brampton steel chainset, which looks rather elegant, and also some B8 pedals. This is another machine that ought to get out more. (Hear Hear says Mervyn.)

On the subject of getting out more, I am putting an advert in the next N & V to see if there are riders in the Cambs area interested in forming a local section. I have a feeling that there are several members in this area but I would guess that many of them are interested in older machines, roadsters, etc. At the moment we (Patricia and I) ride with Cambridge (Town & County) CC on most Sundays and usually do a fairly brisk 60 – 70 miles, with one tea stop, so we don’t want to change to a 16 mile run with coffee, lunch and afternoon tea stops. I was the Club Runs Captain for C(T&C)CC until this November but I have given that up now and so will not feel quite so obliged to turn up every weekend. The ideal would be to have our VCC style runs on Saturdays, I doubt if that would suit many others but we will see what happens at the first meeting.

Just when we thought that we had finished V-CC rides for this year we realised that there was one last ride organised by the Hampshire Section and it was based near Chichester. We made arrangements to go down South, and as the date approached the weather forecasts got worse and worse. By then we were committed, so we made arrangements to have a ride with Mervyn on the Saturday which was to be the calm before the storm. He had debated whether it would be possible to bring the whole event forward by one day but as it turned out the logistics would have been too difficult.

Anyway, we had a good ride over some of the Sunday route – just a last tryout – went to see Mervyn’s collection, and then had a meal in Chichester with Mervyn and Tony Beckett plus both of their wives. By the end of Saturday evening we felt that the journey had been worth while even if Sunday was rained off.

Come the day and we were first to arrive at the meeting point for the ride as our B & B turned out to be about two minutes from the start, it was drizzling and looked very black all round. One by one other riders arrived until there were 27 of us grouped in Tesco’s car park (or even queued up, legs crossed, waiting for access to the toilets when the store opened!). Not being thick-skinned we were shamed into building up our bikes – tough lot the Hampshire cavalry. 

Since the ride we have had a week in Munich where we spent the days visiting art galleries (our other interest – 20c art including German Expressionism), etc and after an early dinner, on four nights went to the Olympic Stadium to watch the 6-Day Cycle Race. This is cycling in a new dimension, six hours of frantic racing at 60+ kph every night, restaurants, bars, cycle shops, music and tourism stands all under the same roof. Patricia really drags me there as it is the only place in the winter that she can see 28 tight trim men’s bottoms – she will deny this of course. As far as the racing goes, if the riders were animals then the organisers would be prosecuted for cruelty after the first hour or so – no wonder they give cars away as prizes in addition to very large cheques.

Bladders happily drained, this was the signal for the rain to stop (auto-suggestion or what!), and we set off for what turned out to be a great ride, barely a few drops of rain, and a very pleasant day – another great success for the forecasters! As always on VCC rides, we got to meet new friends and by chatting around the peleton managed to pick up a lot of information, not necessarily all bike related. We set off home a lot wiser having had a great day in good company; always a feature of the Hampshire Section rides that draw riders from a very wide area, such is their popularity.

I have a friend in King’s Lynn who still has his original bike from the 50s but he has had it restored and equipped with more up-to-date equipment. Just lately he has felt the urge to build up (just one!) early 50s machine to original specification. As he has decided to stick to the one, he would like to get what one could well call a classic of the time. He is looking for a 22 ½” frame with very nice lugs, Ephgrave style or a Holdsworth Cyclone I would say. If anyone knows of one which may fill the bill I would be pleased to pass on the details.

Have you seen this before?
Have you seen this before?

This time of the year it is easy to spend as much time cleaning bikes as riding them – is it only Cambridgeshire that has mud coated roads due to the sugar beet crop? I regard some of them as no-go until next February when the season ends. All this and I don’t even take sugar in my tea!

We both would like to wish you all a happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year – we will be out on Christmas Morning at 10am for a 2-hour ride if you would like to join us.

When we get home I may have to drag that 24” Bates or Rotrax frame down the chimney, or not as the case may be. If not, we are looking forward to the start of rides for 2003, also we hope the trains run better next year as Railtrack managed to prevent us getting to three events this year. I must admit we are not holding our breath.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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