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Vol. 2, Issue 62 - March / April 2016

Posted: Wednesday 16th March 2016

Author: Peter Underwood

A classic view of the start area of a time trial, I would guess soon after 1946. The rider is dressed all in black, including socks, to comply with the NCU rules. He is riding a fixed-wheel Bates.

It must be a fairly long event as he has a feeding/drinks bottle on the handlebars. No sign of a spare tub so probably on Dunlop HP tyres.

Personnel starting from right – rider in greatcoat – looks like ex-army/RAF coat with brass buttons removed. This was a look of the era as all males were conscripted into one of the forces. The next rider is in classic maroon jumper with club colour bands, rather long trousers and having a quick ‘fag’. He would have ridden to the start with cycle clips or a toe strap holding trousers away from the chain. Being younger he scorned the Plus Fours favoured by the older, pre-war cyclists.

Jumping to the folding table where sits the timekeeper with cap and his assistant, also with cap, to his right, usually the timekeeper would be standing – a table denotes a prestige event I think.

Note the line on the road behind which the wheel must be for the actual start.

The Castrol (lubricating oil) signs are unusual unless the event was being held near to a motor racing venue as sponsorship of any kind was never allowed.

The man in the white short-sleeved shirt partly hidden before the rider is the ‘pusher-off’ waiting to hold the rider, with feet strapped into pedals, by the seat post and head tube until the count-down from the timekeeper gives him the off.

The others in the image would probably be the second timekeeper (plus fours) and others to post up the results as they came in.

Fat-tyred bicycle

There is a current debate in which we are told that fatter tyres at lower pressures actually roll faster that the ubiquitous 700 x 23 at 100psi plus. I have taken a brave step and fitted 25s to a couple of my machines but not really been able to discern more comfort or speed. Maybe I should follow the other mantra that fatter tyres can be ridden at lower tyre pressures to improve comfort without an increase in rolling resistance, but I am still stuck with Bar 7 or 100psi as I need all the help I can get to keep up with younger riders in our groups and so dare not lower pressures.

However , whatever the arguments, I think this is going a bit too far:

Mark Silver remarks on the 'Bates family outing' image from L News 60:

I wonder if I’m alone in gently cringing at one aspect of the delightful ‘Bates ensemble’ photo heading edition 60. What hurts is that every kiddycrank set I’ve ever seen is made for conventional diameter seat tubes, whereas the Cantiflex tubing is, of course, larger. The result? The tubing gets indented/crimped by the point pressure of the bolt-on bracket.

This is not just my theory as I’ve had two Bates Grangewoods (tandems) with damage caused in this way by this mechanism, one of which was so deformed that the tube resembled a London Underground sign. It took a lot of gentle effort to put that one right.

Secondly, I’ve recently acquired a steel cottered crankset made by ‘Racelite’. At first (and second) glance they look like a ‘two arm’ Chater Lea, but on closer scrutiny, they differ in two respects. Firstly the two arms have not the straight edge of the Chater, but have a gentle curve in, and secondly the three mounting holes have a raised boss to allow the chainring to slip over, a superior method to the flat area of Chater Lea, which relies on the bolts to take the torque. I can find no information about Racelite. Can anyone shed light on the matter?

Prices on ebay – Peter Underwood

You may have read that I had the misfortune to lose a valued 10cm Cinelli steel badged stem when in transit by post to Prestige Plating at Barnsley. Now I have the not at all easy job of replacing it like for like and personal friends and contacts have not been able to help so I have to resort to ebay.

The first thing I noticed is that there are a few sellers from both sides of the Atlantic who have various versions of what I want (none are exactly to my specification, length, angle, etc.). They seem to pluck a ridiculous figure out of the air and list and re-list with the hope that some crazy person will cough up one day. Just today I saw that a stem/bar combination had been re-listed (yet again) at £600!! It was listed at £475 until yesterday. Sounds logical. If it wouldn’t sell at £47, there must be buyers who will pay £600 instead!!

This seemed to start with a couple of sellers in the States and has now crossed over ‘The Pond’ to here in the UK where one sees these stems at “Buy it Now” prices way beyond a reasonable sum, again they are re-listed time and time again. Sometimes the prices are dropped by a nominal £50 as a gesture but they are still way above what any reasonable person would pay. If you wonder how come there are several for sale but none match what I want, this Cinelli stem was made in one centimetre increments running from 6 to 13cm and with two angles. One of these gives the traditional road stem whereas the other gives a track-related angle to drop the stem until the bars come way lower for the sprinter. Then they come in badged and un-badged versions so the number of combinations is countless and with the laws of supply and demand there are many more of the versions I don’t want than the length and style I do.

It seems that there several (at a price!) of the track angled stems, some in good condition as track equipment on the whole gets much less use than road kit. I would like to acquire a stem that doesn’t require re-plating so as to avoid the Russian Roulette game of sending things through the post and wondering if they will ever be seen again.

The crazy guys across the Atlantic have recently listed three Campagnolo bike spanners at 1,000 (yes, thousand!) dollars, sounds too good a bargain to miss but I thought I would pass it on to our readers in the spirit of generosity.

Some items on ebay do sell at very high prices because they are extremely rare, often early, versions of a component. Sometimes they could be described as working prototypes such as the early Campagnolo Gran Sport gears. Others have a minor difference such as the oil holes in very early Mafacs which multiply the value many times over whereas to all but the expert they look just alike.

You may have read in previous Lightweight News that Mario Vaz at Hither Green in London has restored a number of our frames for us. To visit his workshop is like an Alladin’s cave of wonderful machines he is working on or that are ready for collection by customers. He seems to get a lot of classic steel Colnagos for restoration and they look beautiful hanging up in a row.

His brother Winston Vaz used to build frames for Roberts (of Croydon) until a couple of years ago but decided to leave to set up in his own name working a floor below Mario’s spray shop. Roberts are no more so the only way to get a quality frame built by one of their builders is to contact Winston. We visited his workshop last year and were very impressed with the build quality of the frames in progress on the day.

David Hinds was asking for help: (not now)

He wanted – to borrow – a RH plug tap for a Chater Lea over-size bottom bracket. The size is 1 and 7/16 inch by 26 tpi.

His reason for needing it is that after many years of searching he has found a post-war Granby Taper Tube. The only thing that was holding back his assembling it is that it has an oversize bottom bracket, he presumes to accommodate the larger diameter tubes at the BB. David has a good set of cups, axle, 5/16″ balls and lock ring. The fixed cup goes in fine. However, the adjustable cup goes very tight and is about 1/8″ short. The thread is cut far enough into the shell but the last few threads just need easing.

David has managed to source a cutter, so no longer needs one but I thought that the information could help anyone restoring such a unit and struggling to get the adjustable cup right in.

Obviously re-cutting the thread deeper into the shell would not only give that little bit extra but would clean out the threads making it easier to screw in anyway (David says that it was very tight). I wondered if one was not able to borrow the correct tool to do this whether one could get a couple of mms turned off the cup to allow it to assume the correct position – in David’s case there is no longer a need for this.

I saw that Brown Bros. in their 1938 catalogue listed a tool especially for this purpose. Sorry the right hand side is very light (or missing) as it was a tightly-bound large catalogue with a deep ‘valley’ at the page opening.


John Bloomfield (Epping) has for sale this very nice 23½” mid-1951 (present owner since 1953) Ephgrave for sale which was exhibited at Earls Court.

Components include 27″ Conloy rims on Campag hubs, Gnutti cotterless cranks with Chater-Lea chain ring, (also spare double chainring axle). Campag Nuovo Gran Sport rear gear mechanism with 6-speed block. Brooks Swallow saddle in brown leather. Weinmann brakes,

The Editor (and sub-ed Patricia) have for sale:
Images available if you are interested, please email. All plus postage at cost.

1 pair 650 Miche ‘Young’ wheels with Shimano freehub and Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres 650 x 23 (with matching mudguards), as new. Only ridden for a few hundred miles due to an abandoned project. Would prefer collection or similar meeting arrangement. We will be attending Hants Opening Ride (Fishbourne), Surrey Hills Ride and Reading Lightweight Ride. Offered at a great saving – £85

Simplex Competition front (rod) lever, VGC – £100

Pair of Barelli Supreme pedals as new – £120

Pair of replacement Barelli top-plates in alloy – upgrade your worn Barelli pedals – £30

Pair of Barelli Supreme shoeplates in original bag. £15

Hubs, hubs, hubs:

Harden 32-hole large-flange, drilled, front hub in good condition – £75

Harden rear 40-hole Bacon Slicer hub. Gear sided (slight scar on freewheel thread but this doesn’t affect the screwing-on, and cannot be seen when the freewheel is fitted. Hence price of £75.

B H Company Airlite

Very rare riveted pre-war large-flange front hub 32 hole – has been stripped, re-plated barrel and flanges, and re-built. – £75

Very rare rear small-flange gear-sided quick-release hubs (2) with Q-R ‘skewers’ 0ne is 40-hole, one is 28 – £75 each.

No matching front hubs but two B H Company quick-release skewers to convert your own hub (would need to be the ‘fatter’ tandem style hub to take drilled axle which is not included) – £20 each

One Airlite 40-hole rear small-flange single-sided fixed hub – £40 (125mm across flats)

One Airlite 40-hole large-flange double-fixed rear – £45 (115mm across flats)

One Airlite 40-hole rear small-flange double-sided fixed hub – (£45) (120mm across flats)

One B H Company Solite 32-hole small-flange front hub with grease nipple, I have seen these on pre-war machines, could do with a re-grease – £25

We are still having to reduce our collection by a few bikes and have the following for sale – collection only:

One 19″ Gillott Spearpoint details:


One 19½” 1948 Hobbs Superbe details

One 1976 23″ Mercian Super Vigorelli details sold as seen in last image on the page – above the catalogue – £1100

One 1974 Rondinella track 23½” frame details sold with both bar options £850

My quiz is not as elaborate at that of Geoff Waters, nor does it have that international flavour but here goes: Which famous UK cyclist is brought to mind by this flyer for the Rhubarb Triangle show at Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Yorkshire UK?

The short answer is Beryl Burton OBE, probably Britain’s most successful woman cyclist (until the likes of Laura Trott appeared) , born in May 1937. She was a rhubarb picker and worker in Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Triangle (does rhubarb exist in other countries such as USA, Japan, Germany, Italy?).

As a young child she was hospitalised for nine months with rheumatic fever and convalesced for several months after and was told that she should never exert herself for fear of severe damage to her health. This illness interfered with her schooling but she worked very hard to catch up when she returned after the convalescing.

On leaving school she worked in the offices of a nationwide tailor where she met her husband to be, Charles Burton, who was a keen club cyclist and naturally introduced her to the world of club cycling – this would be around the early 1950s. Beryl was one of those people who never did things by half-measures and was soon working her way up the world of competitive cycling. I have kept this resume very brief but Springfield Books produced her autobiography, Personal Best, in 1986. It gives a very good feel for the world of cycling through to the mid 1980s. It also describes work in the rhubarb triangle after the birth of her daughter. The rhubarb farm was owned by Nim Carline, another keen club cyclist. Beryl died (riding her bike) in 1996. Her palmarès reads as follows:’

3000 metres pursuit:

  • World Champion five times, second three times and third four times.
  • National Champion thirteen times, second and third one each

Road Racing

  • World Champion twice, second once.
  • National Champion twelve times, second twice.

Time Trials

  • British ‘Best-All-rounder’ champion twenty-five successive years, second once.
  • 100-miles Champion, eighteen times, second once.
  • 50-miles Champion, twenty-three times, second twice.
  • 25-miles Champion, twenty-five times, second once.
  • 10-miles Champion four times, second once, third once.
  • Yorkshire Best All-rounder champion, twenty-five times.
  • 12-hour Time Trial. She was the only woman ever to beat a men’s competition record in clocking up 277.25 miles.
  • She was the first woman rider to beat the hour for 25-miles, two hours for 50-miles and four hours for 100 miles.
Beryl Burton riding a Mercian early in her racing career
Another early shot where she is riding track pursuit in the days of 'hairnet' helmets

She was world-record holder for the 3000 metres pursuit and the first woman to beat the time of four minutes. World record holder at 20 kilometres.British record holder at 3000 meters, one ,mile and five miles. She was made a Member of the British Empire in 1964 and awarded the Order British Empire in 1968. She has a cycleway named after her in her home county of Yorkshire – The Beryl Burton Cycle Way. It goes from the side of the River Nidd in Knaresborough to Gardner’s Arms in Bilton where it joins the Nidderdale Greenway and allows either a ride into Harrogate or further out to the village of Ripley.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Wednesday 16th March 2016

Author: Peter Underwood

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