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Vol. 2, Issue 82 - July / August 2019

Posted: Tuesday 16th July 2019

Author: Peter Underwood

The well-known Italian cycle component company ‘Universal’ are holding an exhibition in Milan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company, for details see a copy of their poster at the bottom of this newsletter.

We held our annual Ephgrave Lightweight Ride here in Cambridge on a bright sunny May day. This year the route was changed from the hilly one we have used for the last few years to one using a new cycle path along what is known as the guided busway giving a genuine flat ride as advertised. The new route was well received by all who enjoyed the 40-mile ride with all but a few on traffic-free paths. As well as the busway another section was along the Ouse Valley path to the pretty village of Houghton with its picturesque water mill run by the National Trust. We passed through the mill using the wooden bridges you can see on either side.

We walked our bikes for a couple of hundred metres through the mill, across the island and over the lock used to raise boats from one water level to another. We then followed quiet roads through the picturesque villages of Hemmingford Grey and Hemmingford Abbotts, taking us back to St Ives for a good lunch at the Nelson’s Head.

We had an interesting selection of classic lightweights on the ride including nine Ephgrave and Rory O’Brien machines. We were honoured with the presence of the V-CC Ephgrave Marque Enthusiast Peter Holland who is a fount of all knowledge in relation to Ephgrave as several owners discovered.

Ephgrave / Rory O’Brien
Peter HollandEphgrave No. 1 Super1948
Les YoungEphgrave No. 11948
Peter SmithEphgrave No. 11949
Richard SuttonEphgrave No. 11953
Peter UnderwoodEphgrave No. 11959
Jason Downs Ephgrave No. 21961
Paul Watson Rory O’Brien 1961 c
Jeremy GardinerRory O’Brien1970
Other makes
Bill IvesBaines VS371936 c
Stephen LongdenBSA1937
Tim DawsonAlex Singer Porteur 1946
Geoff TurnberryTed Gerrard1950 c
Rosemary BurfootHill Special Mixte1952
Patricia KilliardHetchins Spyder/Swallow1970
Richard CampernowneViscount Aerospace1970 c
Ian SpringBarry Chick1979
Sarah WilliamsMercier Mixte1980 c
Ian WrightRemington Sports De Luxe1984
Stephen WarneAllin1985
Tom Culver Longstaff Trike (electric assist)1999
Tony Jenkins and
Margot Butterworth
Chris and Jo YorkMercian1986

Choosing the flat route enabled me to ride my Ephgrave No. 1 which is on fixed, as befits a track frame built for time-trial use in the late 50s, with brazed on pump pegs under the top tube and mudguard eyes in the front and rear ends.

A good friend on the ride was asking about period-correct components for his recently acquired 1967 H R Morris machine. On checking availability using Holdsworth’s Aids to Happy Cycling for 1967/68 I was amazed to see the range of options compared with, say, ten to fifteen years earlier.

You can see on the pages shown below the range of brakes to choose from, with many centre-pulls on offer. Back in the 1950s just about everyone was riding GB brakes. Although Weinmanns were on offer I saw very few in use but now I can see that they were a much better option – we were fashionistas but didn’t realise it. As almost everyone was riding fixed-wheel machines in those days I suppose braking was not a high priority, shown by the fact that we all made do with just the one brake.

Looking at gears for 1967/8, the options were just as varied and anyone who could afford it would use Campagnolo, who had taken quite a step forward in design. Before that it was mainly Simplex and Huret in use.

Checking back one can see just how primitive they were both in build and design. Campag had been on offer for some time but it was a brave man who was willing to tackle the operating technique necessary to change gear with the Cambio Corsa or later the Paris-Roubaix details of how this was done are on this Campagnolo page.

Having said that, Campag was quite a luxury item well beyond the means of most of us unless we managed to source a second-hand one passed on by a richer cyclist.

Mick Butler sends an image of himself with Gary Pope, both of Stevenage CC taken in about 1975. “The tandem trike is an F. W. Evans built in about 1963 by Tom Board.

The axle housing is similar to a Holdsworth trike but Frank Whitt of the V-CC designed the axle. The hubs are BH carrier hubs welded onto the axles running on self-centering ball races.   He also designed and made a different driving boss.

There were only five of these axles made.

This is the tandem tricycle that I and Tony Oliver toured on in the French Alps to watch the Tour de France. It gets a mention in his book Touring Bicycles.

We had to catch the train back from Grenoble as they had no room for the trike, so we returned to London Victoria without it. It was supposed to have gone on the next train. I was working in Victoria Street at the time and was phoning them daily to see what had happened to the tandem trike and after about two weeks a really helpful chap said “Sorry mate no tandem trike here but there is a green tandem with a spare wheel tied to the crossbar”. You guessed it SNCF French railways had dropped it and snapped the near side hub off its axle!

It was a beautiful tandem tricycle but when it was first made it didn’t handle that well, so Tom brazed on some front fork stiffening stays which were bolted onto the headclip – problem solved.

It was hard work in France as it was a one-wheel drive trike and we were riding on the wrong side of the road with adverse cambers.

Ed: I sometimes wonder if they had tandem trikes anywhere other than in the UK. Note the sprung Brooks saddle for stoker, tandems of all types, especially short-wheelbase versions are very harsh at the rear as the saddle can be almost over the centre of the rear wheel/wheels.

From Pearl J:-

Your website was a lovely discovery, thank you. I am John Monger’s youngest daughter, Pearl, so I have really enjoyed reading about the old days: Dad’s bike-building, the Herne Hill shop and the very eccentric Don Louis, the familiar names and anecdotes. The shop was pretty much off-limits for me as Dad was quite protective but in my school days I had friends in Herne Hill and used to cycle over there, giving me a bona fide reason to ‘drop in’ while local – Dad was a honey and I always got away with it. With three older brothers, I was pretty much immune to the predominately male environment but sharing another of Dad’s enthusiasms was a treat.

What I did love was the shop’s ambience: the smell of metal and rubber, the sound of the workshop, banter, laughter, debates, tea mugs, dust and the whole place crammed with cycling goodies, floor to ceiling. Bikes inside, bikes outside and when the sun was low, every piece of metal inside the shop would sparkle! ‘Campagnolo’ is still a completely evocative word. I used to watch everything, chatting to him when he was balancing wheels, making frames or advising some keen youngsters about bikes or options in the sport. My visits were few but fascinating.

As for Don Louis and that beret: yes, he was Welsh but he maintained the facade for a very long time; and yes, he could be a complete grump. With regard to Don Louis and the youngsters, Dad would not have tolerated anything untoward because he felt guardianship towards the boys and would have addressed it immediately, and without quarter. I am sure that most of the senior chaps frequenting the shop would have felt just as protective. I can only speak as I find but eccentrics always invite comment – and Don Louis was certainly that.

I was very touched by some of the comments people have made; Dad would be quite chuffed to know that he is still thought of with affection and appreciation. I loved hearing about Roger R’s frame in S.E. Australia and Graham S’s memories, so kind and warm-hearted. I was enjoying Steve G’s memories, too, although his negative comments about my mother were quite wrong, while mentioning my parents’ lack of financial resources at that time was irrelevant to the subject matter. It was probably just thoughtlessness but it does misrepresent them both. (Also, for reference, the two-storey apartment was not above a ‘store’…).

Please feel free to pass this on to anyone who might be interested, with the email address. I have several rather nice photos of Dad in his cycling days that might be evocative for any of your readers who knew him; I am away at present or I would attach them here.

Thank you both, once again, for sharing so much of your knowledge and experience with everyone.

Kindest regards,

Pearl J.

Ken Sprayson (who lives in the Midlands) has one of the rare La Queree bikes to dispose of. He has had it for 60+ years and knows the history of its previous owner. It is in need of complete restoration. His mobile number is 07802 723032 if you would like to find out more. He hopes to have some images available but could not make this edition’s cut-off time

Exhibition to celebrate 100 years of the Universal company. 10 September to 3 November,  Monday to Friday - 10.00 to 18.00 Palazzo Lombardia, Piazza città di Lombardia, Milan Admission free.
Robert Martin sent the following:

I and Vic Polanski are helping organise the sale of the late Bob Ross’s massive collection of classic lightweights and vintage bicycles following his sad passing.  The collection is in excess of 400 bikes and frames but we are selling off about 50% here due to the sheer volume of work involved.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Tuesday 16th July 2019

Author: Peter Underwood

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