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Vol. 2, Issue 53 - September / October 2014

Posted: Sunday 14th September 2014

Author: Peter Underwood

Some sad news since the last newsletter – Dave Keeler, who many readers will know was a hero from my teen years passed away on 25 July at the ripe old age of 87.

On the weekend we published Lightweight News 53, I made my first visit to the Anjou Velo event held annually at Saumur in the Loire Valley in France.

As Patricia was away that weekend I made the trip to France with a couple of friends. We rented a van with three seats in the front which enabled us to put the bikes in the back fully assembled – a luxury for us as we usually travel abroad by air. The officer-in-charge (not me for once) decided to mount his Ciocc on a turbo trainer in the back of the van. He then strapped our bikes (one Cinelli, one Colnago)on each side. I had visions of the whole lot sliding around in the back but they stayed solid. I suppose turbo trainers have to stick to the floor when riders are ‘giving it stick’, nobody wants to take a trip around the dining room while doing a turbo session and trying to watch the television at the same time. The journey went very smoothly and I had my first trip through the Channel Tunnel with a vehicle. I had travelled in a passenger train many years ago but driving a vehicle straight onto the train was a new experience, as was the cost of motorway tolls in France. No wonder there are not many vehicles using them!

We opted for the 85K route as my preferred policy is to do a distance I find easy so as to enjoy both the ride and all that is going on during the day. Unlike L’Eroica, the roads are smooth tarmac and we were able to cover much of the course at close to 20mph. The only down-side was arriving for lunch at a castle on the route to be presented with a platter of cooked meats – including a pig’s jowl complete with two teeth! Not the best fare for a vegetarian. Luckily there was a small portion of Camembert cheese and I managed to beg another from a friend and it was rather good with the roll provided. As one would expect in France there was wine offered at every stop on the way but we felt we needed to wait until the end of the ride.

There seemed a little less emphasis on the bike and more on turnout compared to the event in Italy but everyone was very well dressed and we tried not to let the old country down. As one would expect, we ran into many old cycling friends over there although most of them were doing the shorter route. We did, however, ride round with Bob Johnson and his friend and we seemed well matched pace-wise. The highlight of the ride was when we joined in a lead-out train of fast-moving French club cyclists some 8 km from the finish.

We managed to hang in all the way back to Saumur at speeds of 25 mph plus, overtaking hundreds of other cyclists who opted for a steadier ride to the finish. I thought I was the only one of our group to make the jump but I saw others out of the corner of my eye – I was concentrating too much on the wheel in front to look around. As they say, there is no fool like an old fool! This sprint lead-out to the finish was the icing on the cake for all of us and we relived it many times over a beer at the finish.

David Leech takes up the bike-building thread:

Like you I have a penchant for upgrading my bikes, in the course of which odd facts come to light. My latest thoughts were on weight after I rebuilt my Cinelli Corsa with Campag Super Record 11-speed. This is a Neuron frame I bought new around 200? and equipped with Super Record 9-speed and down-tube levers. These incidentally give the most positive and accurate shifting of any Campag gear mechs I have used.

The new build, carbon chainset, mechs etc, weighed in at approx 8.5kgs, roughly the same as the old build. The 9-speed kit was transferred to my Mercian Superlight, again not much more than a few grams weight difference.

I then started weighing my ’60’s road bikes – all in the 10.5-13kg range, the stand- outs were an 80’s Colnago Super 8.5kgs and a ’71 Carlton Pro 9+kgs. The Colnago is a totally original full race bike, its weight not being compromised by Ergo levers, extra cables and huge blocks!

90’s road bikes, I have a Daccordi and Gios are both heavy compared with the Colnago and I think you have to come right forward to the present carbon era before seeing a significant weight advantage.

\I have just bought my first carbon frame, a Cinelli Laser, built with Campag Super Record, the new RS version. The frame is an excellent ride, the Cinelli Ram bars are really neat, the flat tops and transition to the hoods makes for comfortable hand positions.

I agree with you re unmatched brake calipers. These beautifully made AX-lightness efforts are just not up to the job and will be changed for the original Campag skeleton twin pivot which I know are brilliant as on the Corsa. Incidentally, this bike weighs just under 7kgs inc pedals, clips and straps; still trying to make the change to cleats!!

(I recommend to people trying clip-on pedals for the first time that they set their bike up on a turbo trainer (use a friend’s if you don’t have one), set the resistance to low and clip in. Now comes the boring part, pedal for a minute or so and clip out of one pedal, re-clip and do the same on the other side. Repeat this for at least 10 – 15 minutes until it becomes second nature. Although you have done this practice, always allow plenty of time when stopping , where you have a choice. Ed.)

David and I obviously have a sadistic streak as we take pleasure in changing components and updating bikes. New components seem to take no effort at all and it only takes a couple of hours or so to build up a modern bike from scratch. However, I have one task I keep putting off. My R O Harrison seemed over-geared when it came to hills and I wanted to change the 12 – 22 sprockets for a 14 – 28. For some reason the new smaller sprocket on the replacement freewheel had a ‘flange’ on it. I can see no reason at all for this and as I am running 5-speed on 115 rear ends the flange was rubbing on the inside of the rear end. Eventually I found sprockets without the flange but for some reason this set-up also rubbed so I ended up inserting a washer each side of the axle between the locknut and the cone as the catching was marginal. When I spun the pedals there was still resistance although a visual check showed that nothing was rubbing. For some reason I forget, I took the chain off the chainring and on turning the pedals found that the substantial resistance was in the bottom bracket. For the first time in my life the shells had tightened up creating resistance – here was the reason for my struggling an hills!

I adjusted the cup and re-tightened the lockring wondering how it had come loose. I kept looking at the bike thinking that if it had happened once then it could happen again. The drive consisted of nice Chater-Lea cranks fitted with Chater-Lea pedals and I knew I had a pristine NOS Chater-Lea bottom bracket in a draw waiting for that ‘special’ build.

Eventually I bit the bullet and earmarked a day to do the changeover from the Bayliss-Wiley bracket. I allowed a day as something always goes wrong with these jobs. In the event it was all done in an hour and the bike now has a lovely shiny, matching Chater bottom bracket to go with the cranks and pedals as well as the lower gearing.

I had considered fitting a double chainring but the Harrison is 1951 and it would look best with steel cranks and the period rings with three tooth difference such as 46/49. 47/50 or 48/51. I would have fitted a Simplex ‘rod’ front changer to match it. To get lower gears though the answer seemed to be Stronglight cranks with TA rings with a wider difference, but the Simplex rod changer wouldn’t have looked right with this. It would have needed an early Campag front changer with down tube control. At a certain age, sneaking lower gears onto the bike un-noticed becomes an obsession. The more blasé just fit a touring rear changer and go for it, some even go further and fit modern changers and sprockets, preferring disgrace to a heart attack activated by struggling up hills.

I think one problem for me is that I do all of this work on my own. If I had a friend nearby to chat to while I was working I think it would be less daunting.

In Search of London Frame Builders by Bryan Clarke

I have been collecting club and racing bikes for over 25 years with a special interest in London frame builders and bike shops Whilst some makes are easy to identify such as Hetchins and Bates, others can be frustrating in the extreme to identify when there is little corroborating evidence. Even if we know the bike shop the frame came from, we may still have difficulty in identifying the frame builder. How many frames with Nervex Professional lugs has one come across with no supporting information? However, if we are lucky we may find small details which are signature features.

A case in point is frames made by Jim Collier. Jim when working for the Woolwich Arsenal at the end of the war was the first frame builder invited to join Harry Carrington at Gillott. However, by the beginning of the 1950s like many others he felt he could carve out a career on his own, working it seems as a trade builder. He was the first builder used by Ernie Young when Youngs of Lewisham began having frames made under their own name. On the surface these like so many others of the period were built to a familiar formula. However, two features stand out:

1. The tubes where they met the drop-outs were squared off or slightly inverted.

2. An unusual arched seat stay bridge which is angled rather than curved. These features were found on a Youngs frame dating from around 1953 and to my astonishment on a Williamson Brothers of Holloway frame that I purchased some years earlier. Since then I have found two more, the latest made for PA Lightweights, a bike shop yet to be identified.

Most people recognise the craftsmanship of Bill Hurlow largely through the lug patterns he created for Condor and Mal Rees which are well documented. But Bill also had his signature curved chainstay bridge and beautiful curved seat stay bridge that incorporated a cylindrical back brake fitting. However, he was not the only builder to use these features.

It seems that the talented frame builder, Pat Skeates used similar curved bridges as well as a teardrop semi wrap-over at the top of the seat stays as I discovered when one was offered to me earlier this year. Apparently, all Skeates frames have these elements.

As with Jim Collier, Skeates left Claud Butler to start up under his own name around 1950 when the trade looked rosy. He seems to have survived for around six years or so and what happened to him after that is contentious. I was again surprised to find his signature seat and chainstay bridges on a frame with Nervex Pro lugs designed by Dennis Jaggard (ex pro rider and one time importer of Frejus frames) that was made for RCN at 177 Holland Road W 14 who I recently found out were the premises of Shepherd Bush Cycles.

A nother interest of mine was a bike shop run by George Brooks in North London from around 1950 until 1957 when it was sold to ex Claud Butler manager Dave Davey. George had also been a manager for the Wandsworth branch of Claud Butler and his name appeared in adverts up until the end of 1947. As well as being an agent for a number of English and Continental brands, that included Claud Butler and Ephgrave, he provided frames under his own name which were well made but less expensive. Made with Nervex lugs and beautifully filed, the finger pointed to Les Ephgrave as the supplier but this is disputed. I managed to corner Bill Hurlow about this some years ago and his answer was the frame builder Vic Edwards. I waited years to come across a George Brooks and have since have had four examples through my hands. The connection with Ephgrave is plausible in terms of quality except for one tiny detail. That is that all examples have fork end tubes inverted where they meet the drop-outs, a feature that I have never seen on an Ephgrave.

By contrast the stays are domed where they are joined to the rear ends. Two frames that belonged to the rider and journalist Roger St Pierre came up for sale on E Bay a few years ago. These were built for him by Vic Edwards in the late 50s and early 60s. I downloaded some relevant photos and studied the details to test my theory. Both frames shared the details described above on the George Brooks frames. In 1958 George Brooks started up another bike shop in Bristol which attracted club folk from the Bristol South CC. I knew someone who belonged to that club and after getting in touch asked him who he thought had built the frames at that time. His reply was Rory O’Brien, not knowing that this well known bike shop owner was not a frame builder. However, Vic Edwards did build a great many frames for him with Les Ephgrave only making the top model. However, I think the finger firmly points to the former.

All this seems a little excessive but with so many frames made with Nervex lugs that were de rigueur for over a decade, at least these details give us some hope of finding a few of the frame builders which would otherwise be lost to us and their craftsmanship gone unnoticed. Bryan Clarke

Some 50 metres from the start of Stage 3 of this year’s Tour, the local council have installed a digital bike counter showing 725 as the total number of bikes using the path this day up to midday. The grand total for the year to date was shown as over 400000. This is by no means the busiest cycle path in Cambridge but it gives some idea of the popularity of bike travel in the city.

For Sale:
Ray Young’s own Youngs Trophy – refurbished in the 1990s by Colortech.  23” frame Chrome fancy lugs, burgundy paint with rare Campag Record/Athena equipment including a triple chainset.  Unique – A real eye catcher. Best offer to Ray Young.

From Geoffrey Jones – I have an unused, mint condition Middlemore B89N saddle that I intended to fit on my F.H.Grubb but circumstances have changed so I offer it for sale at £40 plus postage.

Knee savers. I have just been talking to an old road racer (years racing, not old as in OAP!) who was telling me that he struggled for years to get a comfortable position on the bike ever since he converted to pedal cleats rather than toeclips and straps (that old!!). With clips and straps he was able to move his feet from side to side in the pedals but as most will know there is much to be gained from using cleats if you are interested in performance. He eventually went to a bike-fit session and was told that he needed to move his pedals out further from the cranks and was told that Speedplay pedals offer different spacings but, because of the way these are marketed (buy pedals and then buy longer axles), it was an expensive option.

You can see that they come in three lengths, 20, 25 and 30mm and they are especially useful for riders with physical abnormalities, or even if you have larger, wider feet and find clearance is a problem with cranks or with your heel striking the chainstays in these days of chunkier stays. One slight installation problem can arise if you are using pedals with AK fittings only and not with flats for the ubiquitous 15mm spanner as a few are. As the extension is solid at one end, as you can see, there is no way to tighten/loosen the pedal by AK only.

Howard Williams, Chester

If you have not already seen, there are some fantastic old cycling films just up on the BFIPlayer website. They may not be there long!  You may wish to draw your friends’ attention to it. The middle parts of Riding on Air have some interesting snippets.

The 3rd V-CC North London Section

Date : Saturday 15th November
Location : Tewin Memorial Hall, 11 Lower Green, Tewin, Herts. AL6 0JX
Time : Buyers : opens at 10am and closes 12.30pm
Stall and pitch Holders: available from 9am and every body out by 1pm.
Prices : Admission 50p.
Stalls and selling pitches : inside or outside £5. Only CLEAN jumble inside please where a single table will be provided.
All bookings (by 28th October) to : Paul Lohr, 3 Churchfield Road, Tewin, Herts AL6 0J.
Refreshments available. Tea/Coffee, Bacon Roll etc.
Parking : Parking – Free : No parking at rear of Hall please; this is for stalls. Possibility of using Bowls Club car park next door; check on the day. If parking in village be considerate please as we wish to come back next year.
Railway Stations : Hertford (3 miles) : Hertford North – Kings Cross/Stevenage line, Hertford East – Liverpool Street line. Welwyn North :
(3.5 miles) – Kings Cross – Cambridge/Peterborough Line

As last year, we are setting aside a free table for V-CC members who can use it just to sell a few items. Please label them clearly with your name and the price you want. If you have lots to sell then best to book a separate table of your own with Paul.
Tewin is a small village to the west of Hertford. It has pleasant lanes surrounding so make a cycling day of it. There are two pubs to retire to when the buying and selling becomes too much.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Sunday 14th September 2014

Author: Peter Underwood

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