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Vol. 1, Issue 14

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

We acquired a few special goodies at the start of the New Year. A prized new possession is a pair of gorgeous hubs, Blumfield Duralight small flange gear/fixed – known to the cognoscenti as the Rolls Royce of hubs. To go with these hubs we got a pair of 26” Conloy Asp HP rims. Secondly, a pair of Gnutti small flange, also gear/fixed to be built up into a pair of Fiamme sprints which we have in stock. These have gone to Mick Madgett at Madgetts Cycles, Diss, Mick is a member of the V-CC with some very nice machines – as you would expect. He is also a very good wheelbuilder who understands the foibles of getting 50s wheels built, mainly of course getting hold of 15/17 spokes and sometimes threading them down and cutting when the correct length is not available. The third pair of hubs are Airlite large flange gear sided and we are having the rear built onto a 27” Conloy rear which we already had. Finally, on the wheel front we obtained a built pair of 26” Conloy HP rims built onto Airlite large flange hubs, double fixed with 15/17 spokes tied and soldered.

Patricia should have enough 26″”wheels for a week or so! We did think of dismantling the D/F rear wheel and putting in the gear side hub. However they look so good that we will look for another rear Conloy to make a complete set of three matching wheels. We had been told by Dave Westwood, who met the owner of Blumfield, that they did not manufacture any hubs after WW2 but that many pre-war stock hubs were sold post 1945. They are a beautiful hub and Patricia now has two pairs, one small and one large flange, both built onto Conloy rims. Some of the Blumfield adverts in late 40s stated that only a few hubs may be available for the home market as most are exported. This was in the days when manufacturers were compelled to export in order to balance imports and exports: without exports they got no raw materials.

I was also asking Mick about a problem I had with a pump washer not working properly and he explained that he always soaked his in vegetable oil before fitting. I decided to do the same, but found that we had no vegetable oil, so I thought that maybe olive oil would do the same job. Patricia doubts if anyone else in the V-CC would soak a pump washer in extra virgin olive oil – but as I explained it combines two of my loves, bikes and Italian cooking.

I correspond with some of the New England USA V-CC members and have been hearing about the temperatures of say 7 degrees F. (yes F.) on the day of one of their planned rides – no shorts that day I guess. Needless to say they are getting on with restorations, etc. for a few weeks – as well as reading C L N of course, or perhaps they are using it to light big fires in an attempt to keep warm! They were telling me about the discovery of an Ephgrave No 1 cycle in the basement of the house of a lady friend in New England. It had been left with her by a globe-trotting great uncle who had ridden it in New York City. She fitted straight bars, etc. on it and was using it to ride around town. The bad news is that their enthusiam for it meant that she has decided she ought to keep it, but at least it will be used with the knowledge of its value, which is no bad thing. I do have images emailed from the States.

Jun Sato, our Japanese reader, has recently acquired a pre-war Raleigh Record Ace frame which he is building up and has been asking about the front fork width of only 87mm. I contacted a friend who knows about pre-war RRA and he explained that there were no locknuts on the hubs. Instead there was a very small ‘nipple’ on the outside of the cone and then there was a thin washer with a corresponding recess on the inside. When you tightened the wheelnut onto the fork, which put pressure on the washer, this stopped the cones revolving. He also said that every spoke had ‘R’ on the spoke head and that the spokes were all threaded into the hub from the outside – rather than alternatively, in and out, as is the norm.

This reduced the width across the spokes and stopped them fouling the fork blade. I wonder if the spoking was done that way after they found that the spokes were catching the blades, or, was it a very precise bit of engineering design. As you may guess Jun is looking for such a hub or even better, a wheel, so if you have one all forlorn at the back of your shed I have Jun’s email address. He hopes to build the frame with all of the correct ‘Heron’ components which seems ambitious for someone living in Tokyo.

This reminded me that I once had a gear sided rear wheel which had been built without the spokes crossing ‘over and under’. Until I noticed this I wondered why the spokes kept catching the gear mech when this particular wheel was used. When I re-spoked the wheel I realised that the outer crossings actually pull the spokes in towards the centre and reduce the width across the spokes by quite an amount just at the level of the gear mech. Mmmm, fascinating.

Several of my derailleur-geared machines have spacers behind the freewheel block as it is often difficult to adjust the gear to ride comfortably on the big sprocket without pinging on the spokes. I use Sturmey Archer spacing washers and I have also seen these washers used on modern bikes with unit BB to give just a little extra clearance for the inner ring on the chainset and to save scrapes on the chainstays. I don’t know if these spacers are still made today but if you are discarding a defunct SA it is worth saving the washer behind or in front of the sprocket, which is used as a simple and cunning aid to chain alignment.

I have managed, at last, to acquire a very nice 4” alloy GB spearpoint stem which I have fitted to my 1951 Hobbs Raceweight and I feel that this machine has all the correct components now. It is amazing what a difference one small item can make to the look of a mchine. The Hobbs also has a pair of very fine fluted steel Brampton cottered cranks mated to a pair of Brampton B8 pedals. With 50s machines one can arrange to have a very interesting selection of cranks and chainrings.

We have Chater round and square/fluted single chainsets plus a Chater double set-up; the Bramptons; a very nice double Durax with fluting on each corner of the cranks; a pair of normally fluted Durax; single Williams 1200; double Stronglight cottered steel ‘Competition’, both 5-pin and 3-pin. I realise now that I am thinking about this that all the bikes in ‘the collection’ have cottered cranks, partly because I am never sure of the dating of the early cotterless, although I see that Constrictor have a pair in their 1937 catalogue. These are the ones Bryan Clarke and I worked out to be identical to the contemporary Stronglights.

We were talking about a pair of Constrictor Boa pedals which we are restoring. Patricia has some already and they have steel dustcaps and straight serration edge. The ones we are doing right now have alloy dustcaps and ‘zig-zag’ saw-tooth serrations. Well there is more. Now that they are stripped down we see that the older ones have 26 balls per pedal (2 x 13) – compared with 20 slightly larger balls on what we assume are the newer ones. I think the balls are 1/8 and 5/16.

Colin measured the two axles and found that there are differences although they look similar. He also noticed that the way that the side plates were ‘rivetted’ to the frame were slightly different. I sense that the Constrictor Marque Enthusiast (A von T) is finding it hard to control his emotions as he reads this exciting news and I can anticipate the writing of a paper ready for the next international conference.

Flying Scot frames were made in Glasgow, by David Rattray, for many years. I think he must have been one of the first to use an allen key bolt in the seat pin clamp on the frame. One such was fitted to my 1953 Continental Supreme. Of course, back in those days, metric bolts were not used so the bolt needed is 5/16” BSF and these are not easy to find. I went to my local supplier and they found, under the counter, an old box with some odds and ends in.

There was a pack of 10 x 1¼” x 5/16 allen key bolts which I snatched from his hand. I know that I will have to shorten them a little. The only slight setback is that they are black but this is better than nothing and I hear from the fashion police that black is the new chrome (your wife will explain that one)!. I have now hedged my bets on the next ten Flying Scots which we buy – that’s what I call long term planning. There were two more bags of 10 x 2” bolts for something under £2 per bag so, if our readers North of the Border want to invest in futures, let me know.

Most lightweight enthusiasts will have heard of Ray Booty who on August 6 1956 became the first man to break the four-hour barrier for a 100 mile time trial with a time of 3 hours 58 minutes 28 seconds and a month later attacked the ‘straight-out’ 100 mile record which he smashed with a ride of 3 hours 28 minutes 40 seconds, a time which held for 34 years. A few years ago Alex (von Tutscheck) managed to persuade him to part with the Raleigh machine on which he performed these feats. Now Alex tells me that he has obtained two more of the machines which Ray used in his racing years. It seems that Raleigh supplied him with four machines in all and of these, one was returned to the factory never to be seen again.

Alex, an exponent of the Chinese water torture, slowly wore down Ray Booty’s resistance until he agreed to part with the other two. Most of Ray’s riding was done on fixed-wheel but as he was riding for Raleigh he was persuaded to try out the Sturmey Archer hub gears. He did use the AC for two races, a test at 50 miles and then the RRA 100 mile event but he found that the ASC gear ratio was too wide and considered it to be more of a touring gear. For the RRA event the machine was kitted out to the following specification: Stronglight 49A (steel cotterless ) chainset with 54 t Williams 5-pin ring , SA AC hub gear and Airlite SF QR release front hub on sprint rims. GB Coureur brakes, Brooks B17 Champion Narrow saddle, Long GB steel stem and unkown deep road bars which were rather like the GB Road Champion, Raleigh RRA pedals.

I have always hankered after a Rotrax, ideally a 24” Super Course or possibly a Concours. One day last week I had a phone call from a friend (Geoff) to tell me that he had seen a 24” Rotrax advertised so I got in touch with the owner, who did not know too much about Rotrax, but I soon realised that it was not a top model. However the price was reasonable enough to buy the frame and then I would have a Rotrax to ride in the Hampshire Section Rotrax Ride this year. We have supported the event for the last two years albeit on other makes. This is not too sacrilegious as the Rotrax marque is actually in the minority on the ride as there are not too many of these Southampton-based machines available.

The frame had been resprayed in a dark green and had a metal headbadge, Rotrax transfers on the down tube and a seat tube transfer. It had not been built up since the paint job was done but it had received a few scratches through storage. I felt it all looked a bit dull for a Rotrax so I sprayed two white 5cm bands above and below the seat tube badge resulting in a two colour 3-panel effect, I had some transfer bands which I put at the top and bottom and this really brought the frame to life. I then took the plunge and set about lining the lugs in gold – anyone who sees them and then sniggers will be struck off C L N mailing list so be warned. Actually the lugs came out a bit better than the Mal Rees which was my first try at the art. Two reasons: one, Jun Sato sent me a wonderful brush from Japan – it pays to have friends you see. It had a wooden handle, tube shaped and slightly smaller in diameter than a pencil, and there is a very fine brush head emerging fron the centre of one end – it works a dream and believe me I have tried a lot of brushes. The other reason is that the lugs are Legere 45 which are a bit easier to do than the Legere Professional.

The Professionals have that small diameter – almost a hole – which is very hard to get the brush round. The hardest bit on the 45 is the small triangular aperture. Also the curves on the 45 are sweeter to flow the brush round. The problem with this is that I don’t get enough practice as this is only the second in months. I use a surplus shiny wall tile and just damp a cloth with white spirit and give a wipe on the tile. I then apply a small blob of paint and work it round the damp area and then take the paint from the tile with the brush. This technique was explained to me by Ken Janes who has worked for Paris, Hetchins, Claud Butler and many more. It seems to work well.

This fine group of men made up the Newmarket and District CC Team in the Divisional Road Race Championships of 1952. Note South of France bars on the left and the Bates frame second from right. The likely looking lad in the middle (on machine) is Dave Peck who had just finished second. He’s still going strong but had a quiet 2003 unless you count a Silver in the Worlds, Gold in the Europeans and Gold in the Nationals (age-related) duathalon. But as I told him, that is only due to my drafting him along on our weekly Wednesday rides.

I suppose his running on the Newmarket horse gallops might have helped a bit but in true chicken fashion Dave waits until the horses have gone home rather than mixing it with them. He tells me that he was on a Hetchins fitted with Madison bars on Cinelli badged stem with Weinmann brakes, Gnutti cranks, 5-speed Simplex and sprints with Dunlop No 3 tubs. The riders at either end are on Holdsworths. Talking about bars, I have heard from several sources that it was the fashion in this area to fill Madison bars with sand and then to pull them down to give more drop!

I recently went to look at a Major Nicholls track machine which was for sale at Thetford. It was first sold on 29.6.1984 (Frame No. MN 8614) and was a very nice machine. It was 25” which I thought would be OK. However along with a high bottom bracket it was a bit ‘tight’ when I was astride it rather than on the saddle and pedalling. I have two images if anyone would like to see them. It has Campag Record hubs on sprints, Omega chainset and Cinelli bar and stem with a spare set minus brakes for track use. The owner wants £400 or else he will keep it.

I learned a new trick last week (who says you can’t teach an old dog….). I used to spend ages bending down and dashing back and forth when lining up the brake levers from the side. Then I saw someone just lay a round tube across the tops of the hoods and then line it up with the tops of the bars as seen from the front. I guess that not many of our readers will be fitting modern bars with grooves for cables. However, if you are, and the bars have twin grooves whilst you only need to use one of them, just tape a spare trimmed piece of brake cable into the unused groove.

The next edition of C L N will have details of the components built onto the Rotrax. Luckily for me the GB Coureur + was introduced in 1957 which is the year of the frame. I have just taken a pair of these brakes off one of Patricia’s machines – well she can always put her foot on the front tyre.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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