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Vol. 1, Issue 12

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

Here we are again, are you ready for another scintillating account of goings-on here at Cambridge? We left you just after the Suffolk Trudge. On the Saturday before this event I received a telephone call from someone unknown to me who lived just outside Cambridge. He had been given my name and had two lightweight trikes to dispose of. One was a Stephens and the other was of unknown make with a ‘diff’ rear axle. I had never heard of Stephens before and was not in the trike market – however I always try to follow these things up as one day someone will have a 24” Rotrax or Bates going begging, if I live that long.

On the next day we went to Marlinspike Hall (start of the Trudge), the first thing I saw was a Stephens tandem surrounded by riders telling the owner all about the peculiar traits of the proprietor and extolling the virtues of the make. I learned that Roger Bugg (Hon. Sec. V-CC) is the marque enthusiast. This sort of thing seems to happen to me all the time, one day I have not heard about a make and in no time all sorts of information comes my way – the Mal Rees is an example.

When we got home I went to see the trikes as arranged – they were in need of a lot of tender care but were obviously good machines. The anonymous machine had a differential and was on fixed whereas the other one had gears on which the highest sprocket was much larger than the chainring. On bikes I find this a problem as you end up travelling so slowly that balance is hard to maintain whilst pedalling so fast. I realised when I saw it on the trike that this did not matter at all as one could just sit there and twiddle away. The rear wheels on this one, the Stephens, were Conloys and the front one had radial lacing. It had a four-speed Cyclo with twin cables and a twist-grip changer and had a nice head badge as well.

I contacted several potential takers for these two including Roger, all the trike owners I knew, and the Stephens tandem owner but they were all too short of space. I was just about to give up when we went to the Wobbly Wheelers (known as the Kettering Mafia – before their PR department suggested a makeover) end of season ride at Rutland Water. I mentioned them to Tom Jeffries and he seemed quite interested so I arranged a contact and he went straight down and picked them up. I do have an image of the Stephens trike if anyone wants to see it.

I was pleased that they went to Tom as I know he will give them the care that they need. Wobbly Wheelers will now be out no matter how icy the roads, much to the relief of local publicans who had found their takings halved on icy days in past winters. With two trikes they should manage to get four drinkers out – if each carried a passenger standing on the axle – on such things the future of the UK brewing industry stands! We had a great ride organised by Gerry Cinderby and the group photo was taken by a passer-by who must have been David Bailey judging by the care he took with the angles, lighting etc. I wait to see the result – hint hint.

We have recently had a few additions to our accessories. We acquired a pair of alloy brake levers which are quite rare in that the bands are integral with the hoods, i.e. one piece (image available). As is always the case they need restoring and I have started the polishing bit already. Geoff checked over the pivots as they were a bit wobbly and he soon sorted that out. Have since heard from Tony Beckett that they could be ‘Lam’ but he would have expected the name to be embossed if that was the case.

Patricia continues her efforts to corner the UK supply of Constrictor Boa pedals as she has now got hold of her third pair. Needless to say in need of restoration and possibly a replacement LH axle as the threads are a bit dodgy. These have the small ‘peg’ which can be used to adjust the width, all of a couple of millimetres I guess. This pair has alloy dust caps whereas the others are chromed steel and the serrations are staggered in saw-tooth fashion. There are identical ones in the Contrictor 1937 catalogue. If you wonder why Patricia gets all the Boas, she has small feet compared with my plates of meat – so you see it makes sense. We have an image of them in unrestored state. If anyone has an unusable LH Boa or BSA pedal (I think they are the same) we would be pleased to buy it for the axle if it is sound and in GC.

We also got two RH Stronglight ‘Competition’ cottered cranks and were lucky enough to find a NOS LH to match one of them. However due to a slight misunderstanding we still need another one (LH) – I thought the supplier had two but the others, which he had, were not ‘Competition’. I shall build the complete set up with a TA double converter which came with them. I also have a couple of single rings which fit, a 49 tooth stamped D-H plus a 46 tooth stamped foreign but that must depend on where you live surely. I am short of a set of bolts for these but it looks as if they could be 7mm. If so I may be able to get some SS ones, shorten them and make the heads narrower. There seems to be an infinite variety of threads used on chainwheel bolts – if I have any they never quite fit!!

Patricia has just had a nice pair of 26” Weinmann alloy HPs built up onto a pair of LF Racelights by Mick Madgett at Diss. These will replace the steel rims on the Bates and reduce her braking distance in the wet by about five miles. In the past she got over this by fitting a pair of alloy sprints. Tyrewise we are going to try some quite old tyres which look 50s but may possibly be past it. If that fails we have got hold of some Schwalbe 26 x 1¼” tyres which look rather like the usual cheapos one can get. However they will take a decent pressure 6 bar (85) instead of the cheapos 4.5 bar (65psi). We think that the Bates is now to a really good spec. and may be considered finished, if ever a machine is of course. What we must look for now are some of those embellishments which catch one’s eye. We have fitted a stopwatch and holder for example but this is a cheat as we swap it from bike to bike.

Her next wheel job is to get a pair of Dunlop Lightweight HP alloy 26” rims laced up into some Airlite LF GS hubs. I guess we have more 26” wheels than the average collector as all of her classic machines are running on them. This pair may go in her 1970 Hetchins Swallow track machine if we can obtain a rear facing gear hanger for a Campag Nuovo Record or alternatively a complete Simplex 5-speed with rear facing hanger. We are considering whether then to use the Sturmey Archer FM in the Hobbs to replace the AM. The extra low gear can be useful on hillier V-CC rides such as the Mad and Foolish or the Rotrax but Patricia finds the 3-speed change much sweeter than the four which can be very ‘notchy’ to get the bottom gear. This gear of course is the one wants to go in without fail as it is usually needed on a steep climb where there is no second chance.

We are hoping to build up a Chater-Lea double chainset for Patricia’s Gillott – we have all the components ready although some machining needs to be done. We will have to reduce the ring sizes to 3/32 and also have the flange ground off the inside of the larger ring. We would then fit a Simplex ‘rod’ front changer which had been earmarked for one of her bikes. The only reason I hesitate is that I hate altering a machine which is running so well in its present trim. I will have to fit a longer BB axle for a start but, if I note exactly what was where before I start then, in the case of a problem, I should be able to return it to the original specification. Does anyone else hate changing BB axles or am I the only one who has to guess what the length should be?

I have also collected together a Gnutti BB set to go on to the Frejus and feel the same about that. The locknut on at the moment only grips a couple of threads so I ought to change it. Looks like a winter of frayed nerves ahead. The reason for the locknut problem, I am told, is that Italian shells should be thicker beyond the bearing surface (outwards). This gives a bit more metal to thread for the locknut to grip. Well I know what I mean anyway!! At the moment I have one English shell and one Italian fitted.

I know you are dying to know what happened to the Mal Rees. Well I did manage to wait the recommended five weeks before rubbing down the smooth Hammerite. I achieved this by busying myself with the business of having a new kitchen fitted. Perhaps it would have been cheaper to get the frame sprayed professionally and leave the kitchen as it was. I did as Mervyn Cook had suggested and burnished the frame with first 1000 wet-and-dry followed by a good rub with Autosol and then an expensive car polish. He was right, it does give a very authentic period look to the frame and all the brush marks disappeared. I also tried lining the lugs again, this time using the ‘Rigger’ brush as suggested by Ken Jayne.

This was a lot better to use but I lacked the confidence to sweep around the tighter curves so it looks a bit spidery. However, on balance I think it improves the look of the frame as it has the very nice Legere Competition lugs which are doctored by having the rim on the head lugs ground off and the rest are very nicely filed.

I have heard that some of the more fastidious builders used to remove this rim – probably to save a gram or two! This modification was also done by Bill Hurlow I believe. The frame will be fitted with some 26” HPs which were on Patricia’s Bates. I have rebuilt the rear with a D/F LF Baylis Wiley hub. Luckily I was able to preserve the 15/17 spokes. This bike came with a Sturmey FM on a Dunlop 26” SS HP rim and will possibly be used for an alternative spec. I hope that someone will borrow this machine to ride on one of our events during next year. We have a selection of 21 and 21½” machines, two on fixed (Southern track and the Mal Rees) and one with gears (Pat Hanlon) which we will loan for any of the Cambridge rides. They are too big for Patricia and too small for me but we do not want to part with them and would like to see them out.

For a wry smile, read the letter from Bob Berry on p.27 (N & V 297). Now look at the riders and machines list for Sussex Section ride on page 52!!

I have a Doherty alloy (hooded) brake lever, probably from 40s/50s era. It is missing the clip and bolt to hold it to the bars. I have tried about 12 different ones from other brakes but none seem to fit well enough to do the job. I now have a box of levers and a box of clips and none seem to match the other. The moral is always replace each clip after you remove it. There is a shoulder within each side of the recess for the clip and so it needs to match. If anyone happens to have a broken Doherty tucked away – ‘just in case’ – could we buy it for clip and bolt? I was sold it as one of a pair but the other, although it looks identical, does not have ‘Doherty’ on it. I cannot grumble as they were only a couple of pounds and they would still look good on a 1945+ machine as a change from the ubiquitous GBs.

In the last couple of editions I have mentioned the 1946 Hetchins Super Special (only about 20 made) which has been beautifully restored by my friend Geoff Adams. I have a couple of images of the machine but they do not print out too well in reduced size as they have a leafy background. However if anyone would like to see them just send me an e-mail and I will attach a copy and forward them to you. From Geoff I also have a wonderful picture (but then he is an award-winning photographer) of an original, as new, painted badge on a Cinelli stem.

Our scanner is down at the moment but I will scan it when the problem is solved. It will be ideal for anyone seeking to restore such a badge as the colours are very very clear. Geoff has only been a collector for a few months really but he seems to have the midas touch. He had a rear bacon slicer Harden hub and in no time found a matching front. He had a Benelux changer and went to a small club jumble where the only thing worth having was a changer for it.

Here are two images of the Mal Rees – I will be putting a thin white line around the seat tube both above and below the badge to create the illusion of a ‘box’

When I was a single-minded lad who lived and talked bikes every spare minute of my youth I was a member of King’s Lynn Cycling Club. I was known to some as ‘Innanzi’ and this was because I went everywhere with a small brochure for Innanzi Tutto which I guess I must have picked up at Madgetts of Diss as they were the local agents at the time. I bored everyone to death by always going on about it – this of course was a dream which never came true along with many others in that era. When we called in to pick up Patricia’s wheels from Mick (Madgett) he showed us the one that he had hanging up in the workshop ready to be restored – luckily for Mick it was only about 22½” or the Diss Weekly would have had headlines about a daring daylight robbery in Shelfhanger Road.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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