Claud Butler Avant Coureur 'Lady Lightweight' - 1953
Posted: Wednesday 12th August 2020
Profile of a fine cycle No 12 , text by Alexander von Tutschek
Machine: Claud Butler Avant Coureur “Lady Lightweight” (Model B 1088) Frame no 4229-537. Made in July 1953 to special order for the late Joyce Wardlaw of Doncaster.
Owned by: Sharron von Tutschek
How long owned: 8 years
The Features that make this special:
Claud Butler introduced his “Lady Lightweight” frame, with the additional pair of stays in 1934. He was not the first one to use this design but he continued to offer this version from then onwards until the demise of CB in 1957. Most Claud Butler ladies machines do not have the extra stays , others are lugless or use the “Allrounder” bi-laminate lug pattern. We understand that CB made a total of about 50 ladies machines a year but only a very few were based on the “Avant Coureur” pattern and that all were built to special order.
This frame is the nearest that classic lightweight builders got to making a fancy lugged ladies’ machines. They really do look classy and (humbly) suggest that the ladies’ version of the “Avant Coureur” is more attractive that the normal type. Note the really delicate workmanship.
This machine is fitted with BSA double grooved five pin cranks matched to double TA alloy chainrings fitted to an exotic French cottered bb axle with a hole big enough to pass a cigarette through!
Pedals are circa 1950’s Phillips. These rare “top-of-the-range” quill pedals are made from stainless steel and alloy and don’t turn up often. Stem is a GB 531, alloy flat bars and CLB inverted brake levers matched to Mafac centre-pull brakes. Notice that the rear brake has a cunning roller conversion to enable the brake to operate very well. Sharron’s favourite saddle is a Brooks B17 Champion Standard .
Wheels are FB small flange (with surely the best bearings in any classic hub?) matched with 15/17 gauge spokes to Weinmann Alesa rims.
Also fitted with a VIT handlebar bottle cage which are very handy and a Huret lever front changer, probably the finest of the lever front changers. Temporarily the rear derailleur is a later device.
Note also the delicate ultra-light French hollow tubular steel front carrier adapted for use on the rear wheel, this is matched with Carradice front pannier bags, but used on the rear.
On a smaller frame ridden with the saddle low a saddle-bag can look very cramped. These smaller pannier bags enable a lady to carry her powder-puff, lip-stick and cigarette case with ease.
Did you notice the “girly-gadget” on the handlebars, this is a British made 1938 Gradometer (to measure gradients) graduated from “1 in 20” to “1 in 4” this enables a rider to know they are climbing a hill and that gears should be changed.
It should be noted that this ladies’ cycle is Sharron’s everyday summer cycle and is very well used. It was first spotted at the York Rally in about 1994 where the late Joyce Wardlaw was riding it .
The latter had ordered it new in 1953. She used this cycle continuously throughout her life and passed it on to Sharron towards the end of her days, so that this cycle has now been in regular use for 55 years.