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Vol. 2, Issue 47 – September / October 2013

Posted: Saturday 14th September 2013

Author: Peter Underwood

We recently held our May ride for lightweights, originally known as the Meridian Ride. Traditionally this is towards the end of the month. Numbers were down slightly this year as people cut back on travelling in these days of high fuel prices. Nonetheless we had an enjoyable day out in good company and I rode my Mercian track bike on fixed-wheel as this ride is traditionally suited to fixed riding. Our Ephgrave Ride held later in the year is on the hillier side of Cambridge towards Essex. Patricia rode her Pat Hanlon machine which was built for Pat Hanlon by Tom Board. This was her (PH’S) last machine before she retired and she used it on rollers for a time before it was given to a neighbour’s son who really wanted a mountain bike, so it didn’t get much use It then went to a new owner who just wanted to own any Pat Hanlon frame as he was a fan of hers, having used her shop in his youth.

The frame was too small for him so we did a swap as the Pat Hanlon which we owned was just his size but too small for me and too big for Patricia. Patricia really enjoys riding it, especially as it is on tubs and has a very lively and accurate feel. Tom board was a respected builder in the UK over many years and built for quite a few ‘builders’ as well as selling in his own name. This was one of those occasions where a swap works well for both parties. Bryan Clarke rode Bettina Selby’s 1976 Granby which she used for her expedition to Mount Ararat via the mountains of Kurdistan and Armenia. He has managed to restore it with the equipment she used in the day, the last piece in the puzzle being a pair of Barelli pedals. Barellis were made not many miles from Cambridge in a small engineering works at Bar Hill which was run by some local racing cyclists.

On Patricia’s Picnic Ride (4 August) Colin Brooker rode one of his two Jack Taylor ‘Curved Tube’ machines and had his other on display at the picnic.

It was interesting to compare the two which are both in Readers’ Bikes on the website, one is a ‘tighter’ fit than the other.

A few days later we were with Peter Lowry, who also has one of these unusual frames, so a rare hat-trick indeed. All three have rear-facing track ends, as one would expect on a close-clearance frame. With forward facing rear ends the wheel has to move forward in order to be removed for punctures, maintenance, etc. This means leaving a few centimetres of space behind the seat tube for this to happen. For the ultimate close-clearance the rear ends have to be rear-facing. This is one of the reasons for all track frames being built this way, it is also easier to fit an adjuster to the rear axle to prevent the wheel pulling over when exposed to the mighty power of a sudden sprint. On my Rondinella the wheel is so tight into the rear ends that I would have to remove the chain link to get it out as the chain will not ride over the sprocket or chainring. This is a temporary measure as I shall be changing the TA ring soon and will have a different ring/sprocket combination. I will have solved the problem then. I am eagerly waiting the new ring as it has been given the ‘Drillium’ treatment by Stuart Henderson with a colour scheme to match the red, white and blue on the topeyes.

I really like close-clearance frames and it puzzles me when I see one fitted with the wheel at the back of the opening in the rear end. I know it sometimes takes some juggling to get it just right but personally I feel it is worth the effort. Luckily we don’t live in the era of inch-pitch chains as the problem is magnified by two with the wide spacing between the teeth. It is easier these days to do that fine tune by using a half-link to reduce the difference. The half-link comes out of the BMX movement where they use complete half-link chains. I have heard that they are not as resilient as the conventional chain.

I was puzzled a few months back when I saw a Jack Taylor frame offered for sale, on eBay I think. This frame was ultra-short wheelbase with the curved seat tube and rear opening ends to allow the shortest wheelbase measurement. What was unusual was that the frame had braze-ons for mudguards and luggage racks front and rear so obviously built with touring in mind. I guess that the owner was a free spirit as the usual configuration for touring has a slightly longer wheelbase than the norm as it is felt that this gives better control when the machine is loaded with gear. Having ridden a few USWB machines I know from experience that they can be very skittish at the rear, especially at speed with a fixed-wheel on a downhill stretch.

Two more factors to enter the equation are first that one’s feet tend to catch on a rear pannier even on a conventional frame so USWB must make this worse. The second is that USWB is not reckoned to be derailleur friendly, especially when used with wide-ranging gears as used for touring. The short distance between front chain rings (three for touring?) and the rear sprockets makes chain crossover even more critical.

I should point out though that my touring experience is quite limited as we tend to go in for one or two hotel holidays each year and do day rides from this base where possible. Of course the arc is only 180 degrees if based on the coast as we usually are! When on the Adriatic coast of Italy there are always some decent hills and mountains a few miles inland as the Apennines follow the coastline in the North and the Abruzzo further down.

We had hoped to do the Classic event at Anjou in the Loire Valley this year but it clashed with our holiday in Italy. We keep getting good reports on the two-day event and I don’t feel it is quite as strenuous as L’Eroica which we did last year. The format seems to be slightly different and the Saturday ride is reminiscent of a Tour stage in bygone years, as is L’Eroica. Howeve,r I think that the French event is on somewhat smoother roads. Maybe we will make it in 2014. I feel that the event combines the best parts from the Tweed Run and L’Eroica with visits to French vineyards as a bonus.

I am just taking a break from watching this year’s Tour de France and have seen Chris Froome take on the peleton with his vicious attack of the Ventoux. Still bursting with admiration at the way he demolished the field one by one before taking the stage and increasing his lead over the likes of Contador and the new boy on the block Quintana. His cadence is so high it is hard to imagine him being able to spin any faster in response to an attack. It must be demoralising to see him speed off into the distance with his legs spinning like an egg-beater. About this time I was flicking through a well-known international forum only to read how boring it all was compared with ‘the good old days’ when it was all so much more interesting and men were men.

I think there is some wishful thinking here. What we know of the good old days are a few snippets of newsreel film showing the daring and exciting bits. What we get today is wall to wall coverage of the whole day’s racing from start to finish and then analysed with replays for an hour or so after the finish. Maybe this is overkill but there is always the off button. There are highlights programmes and I suppose this could be the answer for some who find the whole thing too much.

the end was brought to life by an audacious attack by Contador and his team taking advantage of a strong cross wind. Sprinting furiously to bridge the gap the rest of the field had about five seconds to make the break or lose out. The last rider to bridge the gap was the sprinter Cavendish who explained that he only made it by the skin of his teeth. A chase then ensued for the rest of the stage until Cav finally won the end-of-stage sprint. Contador regained over a minute on Froome who had to decide whether to wear out his team chasing or to limit their losses. Ventoux loomed large and Contador did then lose most of time he had gained so maybe Froome and Sky made the right decision to conserve energy.

There is a mindset which says that everything worth happening has already happened in the past and that nothing happening today or in the future will match it. I try to be more positive and keep an open mind, hence a Carbon Colnago and a house full of IT gadgets I have seen many of these historic newsreel snippets of the Tour and they add up to an hour or so for each tour. It is a romantic idea to think that Coppi and Bartoli spent the whole three weeks chasing each other up and down mountains but it is obvious that there were stages when others were given a chance and when the legs were rested by consensus, especially if Le Patron was in control. At the time of the Coppi/Bartoli battles we usually had to wait for over a week to read the exploits in Cycling Weekly and to us cyclists of the day it was the greatest thing happening in the world and although we were the other end of Europe you were either a Coppi man or a Bartoli man. From the positioning of the names you can work out where I stood.

A few of days ago I was at one of our favourite tea stops, the Blue Egg near Great Bardfield and met Alex Dowsett (Movistar) who stopped by for some food during his training run on his beautiful Pinarello Dogma 65.1 with enough computer equipment to have flown Apollo to the moon in 1969. This was also linked up to SRM power cranks, heart rate monitors, cadence, altitude and speed/distance of course.

He had recently returned to the UK after three weeks competing in the Giro d’Italia for Movistar where he won the hilly time trial stage from Gabbice Mare – an epic performance. He came over for a chat and we discussed the conditions on some of the stages where I had seen (on TV) riders having their hands peeled off the bars where they had frozen in the sub-zero temperatures. The bikes covered in ice at the front were abandoned as the riders headed for the marquees at the finish. Conditions were so bad that the team buses were parked part-way back down the mountain so the riders would have had a very cold ride in snow and ice downhill to shelter.

Alex Dowsett's Pinarello Dogma 65.1 with power cranks and full Campag Record gears Images David Sawyer

Alex explained that the organisers had heated marquees into which the riders were wheeled as they crossed the line. Sometimes Alex comes to the Blue Egg with Mark Cavendish as they train together during the winter. This time Cav was riding at the Tour so no luck there but Alex is known for his friendliness and willing to chat to club cyclists and the like.

We recently attended the Hobbs (of Barbican) Ride in Somerset as it is run by an old friend, Peter Lowry, who is also the Hobbs Marque Enthusiast. He had a turnout of over thirty riders, many on Hobbs, the rest on various other makes of classic machines. Both Patricia and I have Hobbs in our collections so we obviously took them down to add to the numbers. I rode my Hobbs Raceweight on fixed and Patricia rode her Hobbs Superbe with 10-speed Simplex including a rod front changer and Tour de France rear. Several of the riders mentioned that they had various complaints, including old age, and that they were having to ride lower gears on the hills these days. The classic gearing for a Fifties bike is something like 51/48 on the front and 14 to 24 on the rear. This gives a low gear of about 54″. We have one or two bikes each with Campagnolo Gran Sport rear which will just about cover a 28T sprocket with some juggling of chain lengths, etc. I fitted them with Stronglight 5-pin cranks of the correct era and used a front combination similar to 48/44 giving a low gear of 42.4. Some of us are too proud to use a touring style rear changer preferring to keep the racy look short-arm changer we were brought up with.

By a coincidence, when we got home from the Hobbs weekend we received the following email from Jon Vara telling us about his triplizer chainrings so I thought it was appropriate to include it here.

Dick Broderick (no email) has some inch-pitch components for sale. Two inch-pitch block chains, eight various sprockets 6-11 teeth, six chainrings 23 and 24T, all 5-pin, one alloy. He will take £120 for the lot but prices will be higher if he splits. Phone, UK of course, 0208 979 6112 (Surrey)

Bill Wintrip asks:

I wonder if anyone may be able to help me complete my current restoration project:

The need is for an enamelled Carlton headbadge, the one with “the fella on a bike” and the words Carlton and Worksop. This would enable me to finish off this project and release another quality frame to the classic world. The head had already been drilled so a decal is not appropriate.

Jon Vara (USA) – I have recently started manufacturing  122 bcd “triplizer” chainrings. They’re CNC machined from 7075 aluminum, and match the original shape and style of the rings found on the Model 93. Unlike the standard double rings, they have an additional set of mounting tabs that allow you to mount any standard 74 bcd granny ring with the use of 3.8 mm spacers. Of course, it’s also necessary to install a longer spindle–I’ve found that a JIS 3S or 3T spindle works well. I’ve sold probably a dozen or so of them in the US so far, and have used them extensively on two of my own bikes. They work very well–keeping much of the classic look of the 93, but allowing the use of much lower gearing. At present, I only have a 42-tooth ring, but expect to eventually make 40s and 38s as well. I’ve attached a couple of images (shown below); one shows the triplizer itself next to a standard ring, and the other shows the triplizer and a 28-tooth inner ring installed on a crankarm.

starting on BBC Radio 4 extra at 2:15 this afternoon, Monday 19th August about cycling history entitled ‘On Your Bike’.

Sorry for the short notice, but it’ll be on BBC iPlayer later. Alvin Smith

John Allen tells us:

I remember seeing some beautiful cycles leaning against the school railings in approx. 1948. the colouring was of a marble effect. The shop was, as you can see, named Carters.

I have never seen a Unique or Uni-lite frame [unless they were the ones leaning against the railings]. At the time, I never realised he built them, until a local historian sent me this receipt! He did have one frame of each name displayed in a separate display window from the main shop window where he displayed the Selbach frames that he was obviously an agent for.  I hope you find this of interest and I wonder if anyone else remembers them?

Thanks for reading

Posted: Saturday 14th September 2013

Author: Peter Underwood

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