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Vol.1, Issue 13

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

Happy New Year to all readers of Cambridge Lightweight News and here’s to a season of good weather to allow us to get out on those bikes we have been carefully restoring all through the winter – if not, why not? First a correction. In C L N 12, I mentioned that was one of only 20 made. On receiving his copy, Len (Hetchins marque enthusiast) pointed out that the manufacturer’s records show that 96 were produced, plus 29 with fluted seat tube. I know I heard this figure somewhere so maybe it is that 20 of this model are known to exist today There is much information for Hetchin’s enthusiasts on which is run from Switzerland by someone I know only as ‘Flash’.

It is very informative indeed and a well designed site. Len went on to tell us that his first old Hetchins was a Super Special track machine. You may recall that I was looking for a rear facing gear hanger to go on Patricia’s track Hetchins. Well Len says that he had a normal gear hanger on his machine and that it worked very well. I guess that on the occasions that Len had a puncture he must have slid the gear out with the wheel and then put it back in again after the repair. It is amazing to think back to what we did in those days of yore. As a lad I never had such a sophisticated tool as a chain splitter and can remember vividly balancing a spanner on an old brick and then placing the chain across the jaws before hammering the rivet out with an old nail – 50s technology at its best.

There was a penalty to pay for this sort of thing as I can also remember riding a 100 mile time trial on 79” fixed with a chain that jumped about every 2½ revolutions. I can tell you that there were a lot of jumps in one hundred miles plus a 13 mile ride to the start and then 13 home again. Here it was straight back to the brick, spanner and nail for some very delicate fine-tuning!!

Also in CLN 12 I mentioned that we were looking for a LH axle for a BOA pedal (we still are), I said that I felt that the BSA pedal was identical. Well the very next day I was looking at a Constrictor catalogue from 1937 where it explained that you could buy this pedal, which they claimed to design, as either a BSA or BOA. When you look at them the only difference is that one has an ‘O’ in the middle of ‘B A’ on the side plate and the other a ‘S’. The catalogue also showed that in 1937 the dust cap was alloy with a milled edge to it, which is identical to Patricia’s. Also the pedal top serrations were zigzagged in saw-tooth fashion which also matches. P’s other Boas have the chromed dust cap and straight serrations so I guess that they are newer.

Agewise, I estimate that this makes the latest set the equivalent of the ‘tommy bar’ Chater Lea pedals which have a drilling in the axle, so as to tighten the pedals with a tommy bar, rather than spanner flats these are very sought after. The Constrictor brochure also mentions BSA as making much of their componentry – cranks, etc. They also say that some of their cranks were made in France and Brian Clarke pointed out that they were identical to the Stronglights of the period.

We have now managed to do a scan of the image of the badge on the Cinelli stem. This is a perfect image for anyone seeking to restore a badge with the paint worn away – most of them in my experience. We also have a good image of a Flying Scot (The Scot) head badge. If you would like a copy of either please e-mail a request. I am trying to cut down on the number of images in each newsletter so as to reduce the download time at your end. Oh all right, don’t titter, I know you all have broadband except me (and Derek!).

Patricia is doing her best to catch up with her classic bikes. About a year or so ago, when she only had the Gillott, it was 10 – 1 against but now the gap has closed to 10 – 5. She recently had a telephone call from Alistair Rickett in Scotland to say that they had tracked down a 19” ‘Scot’. Some of Rattray’s machines were badged ‘The Flying Scot’ and some ‘The Scot’. If you are interested, the Flying Scot marque has a very informative entry in both the ‘classicrendezvous’ website and the ‘Flying Scot’ site (linked) – Patricia’s frame number is 75P which I am told would make it 1970 (the letter denotes the year – my Flying Scot is frame number 538C – 1953) so we will have to move into late 60s or 70s equipment for this one. Don’t start to send abusive emails, I know that the digits and letters don’t add up. Does anyone know the answer? When I checked various wheels in the fork I found that 27” was impossible and that a 700 wheel with 23mm tyre fitted with but a couple of millimetres to spare under the crown.

This seems to suggest that the frame was built for 26”. It could be that 26s were used as it is only a 19” frame and possibly the owner was doing all he, or she of course, could to keep the crossbar height down. I think it was very rare for lightweight machines to be using 26” HP wheels this late. The frame is built with the Prugnat smooth-line Italian style lugs which are simple but with a classical look in the Italian way, as the name suggests.

We noticed that they were identical to lugs shown in the Pat Hanlon brochure for 1967. Also Brian has them on his H E Green of about the same date. Patricia has arranged to have the head lugs replated along with the fork crown and front and rear ends. The rest will be finished in the traditional Scots colours of dark blue and white – so watch out you sassenachs. We have earmarked a Campag Nuovo Record rear changer to be combined with a Gran Sport 1005 front changer. We had hoped that 700 wheels would fit this frame but as I said before I think that it has to be 26s and it is not easy to get contemporary wheels in this format.

Patricia’s Hobbs Superbe has, to date, been fitted with the rather too new GB Superlite levers although the stirrups were the correct early Hiduminium version. These replaced the ‘Sports’ which were on it when purchased. ‘With a little help from my friend’, Geoff, we have been able to replace them with a set of the correct early narrower levers, the ones with a brass adjuster let into the top and darker grey hoods (are they anodised I wonder). These levers often tend to be very wobbly due to wear on the pivot but this can be remedied relatively easily – why don’t you do them then?, says Geoff. The Hobbs is now correct in every detail for a 1948 machine we think. We must confess though that when guards are fitted they are plastic ‘Featherweights’ rather than celluloid. The local priest says that five ‘Hail Mary’s’ should do the trick.

Rather ironically we now have three very nice machines sized 21½” (too big for Patricia – too small for me) , they are, a 1950 all chrome Southern track machine with some interesting history and a dent in the top tube, the 1951 Mal Rees which you have heard so much about in CLN – this is on fixed but with the option of a Sturmey 4-speed FM gear in 26” stainless steel Dunlop Lightweight HP rim which was the original equipment. Finally, a rather nice 1970 (not within our collection policy really) Pat Hanlon road bike with 10-speed gears. So as I have said before if anyone who rides this size fancies doing one of our rides we would be pleased to loan them out. The Southern was out on Patricia’s August Ride. It was ridden by a friend from Burwell who had told me that he always hankered after another go on fixed wheel. He enjoyed every minute of the ride after a quick warm-up around Tesco’s car park.

He last rode fixed-wheel about 30 years ago. His wife Angela met us at the lunch stop (August 2003 Ride) on one of the Airnimal folding bikes which are produced in Cambridge ( The wheels are 24” and the bikes fold down into a soft bag or suitcase for travel. They are a more serious bike than most folders and I have seen them equipped with Dura Ace components and carbon forks and wheel rims. Anyone who has flown with bikes will see the attraction of this format as one can, at the airport, just pass the case into the normal check-in position rather than having endless arguments with check-in staff and baggage handlers. We have found that although company policy of some airlines finally says that tyre pressures need only to be reduced to 50% the handlers still insist on letting all the air out, hence the arguments!!!.

Strangely, also, three of our bikes are 1970 : the Pat Hanlon, plus Patricia’s Flying Scot and her track Hetchins – these have all appeared this year and are really outside our ‘collection policy’ which had been in the range 1945 – ‘59. However they are all interesting in their way and very good examples of their genre. We have a detailed specification (with images) of all our machines so if anyone would like further details of anything mentioned in CLN we would be happy to e-mail a copy to you.

Virtually all our bikes are equipped with the correct period parts now although I still need a 4” spearpoint GB stem for my Hobbs Raceweight as it has a stem with the ‘GB’ roundel which is later than it should be. It grates on me everytime I go into the garage but I guess something will come along one day. As we are trying not to buy so many machines these days the idea is gradually to raise the specification by looking for rarer, interesting accessories. One such example is the Chater Lea double chainring fitted to my Hetchins. Wherever we go it attracts a lot of interest as they are not often to be seen. Also we have a couple of R O Harrison lapped stems which are very rare, one on my ROH Shortwin and Patricia has one on her Hetchins. Patricia also has a thing about Constrictor Boa pedals on Chater cranks, preferably the round ones. I also have an inch-pitch Chater transmission on my R O H Omnium track bike.

We are continuing the section’s rides through the winter and for December I used my 1953 Ephgrave road machine with 10-speed Simplex whilst Patricia used her 1948 Spearpoint Gillott with a 5-speed Simplex. We were blessed with a dry sunny day which could have been warmer but for the cold wind. As the result of the temperature we cut out the last loop and completed the run at 32 miles. There was a very nice 1934 Granby Tapertube (why didn’t I get an image on the camera?) plus a 1939 Bates Ideal.

The first non-Cambridge V-CC event we ride in 2004 will be, as always, the ‘Boot and Back’ organised by our neighbours, the North Road Section. There will be a different format this year as, in the past, the start was always held in Great Munden at a public house which has now been sold for conversion to a private dwelling (having sampled the catering I can understand why. Another of those establishments who had never been informed that the war is over). The North Road Section have moved the event to Knebworth just outside Stevenage and it will be held on March 7th. The ride will consist of a triangle now rather than the out-and-back format of the past. We will be able to catch the train to Stevenage, ride to the event and then ride back to Cambridge – this should give us a total of about 45 miles and we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get there.

Every so often I come across some cycle-related poetry. The two items below were kindly sent by Chris Barbour from the New England Section USA. You may have read their regular ride reports in N & V. One verse from SENEX by John Betjeman:

At sundown on my tricycle
I tour the Borough’s edge,
And icy as an icicle
See bicycle by bicycle
Stacked waiting in the hedge.”

“Betjeman adored athletic women, “khaki-shorted sports girls;”
one wonders what would he have made of today’s hard-riding, tattooed and dreadlocked messenger girls. Roger Fry was another enthusiastic cyclist.” C Barbour

Anyone who has been to Cally’s place will empathise with the last line but I think that Betjeman’s machines had a little more life left in them than those consigned to spend their last days in the famous hedge. There is a book of Betjeman poems with watercolour illustrations by David Gentleman and ‘Senex’ has an image of both the girl and the bikes in the hedge. I hope to scan it to send to Chris so, if successful, the image could be available on request.

Here is an image of my Ephgrave No. 1 road/path machine with Chater-Lea cranks and pedals and Harden/Conloy sprints. Cinelli piste bars on Cinelli badged steel stem and GB brake. The spokes are the correct 15/17 gauge and the saddle either a Brooks B17N or a Swallow, I sometimes change them around. I am a great admirer of the Swallow and find it to be the most comfortable to ride; if I could find enough I would have them on most of my machines. Having said that I have met riders who hate them so I guess it is either to do with riding style or perhaps pelvic shape.

Once again I repeat that we would be happy to publish news from other lightweight enthusiasts. Since we have put a brake on our purchases there is a danger that C L N may become too repetitive – hence items on poetry, etc!! We expect to get the Flying Scot back from C & G soon so gird your loins.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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