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Vol. 1, Issue 17

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

I had a pleasant surprise the other day when a cyclist friend called to say that someone wanted me to have a Rivetts cycle which had belonged to her several years ago and had been on loan to a recently deceased friend of hers. Yet again it is a 21” frame (no. 15201): I seem to have some hidden personal magnetism towards frames of this size. It is a nice frame though and we are hoping that yet again Patricia might be able to ride it. It comes complete with a really striking head badge and I hope to spruce it up as I did the Mal Rees. I would like to see a photograph of a Rivetts with a view of the downtube transfers as I am sure that ours are made up of stick-on letters. I think I mentioned that we also acquired a 21” Gillott L’Atlantique, which will be the next project.

Other recent acquisitions here include: two 3½”, one 3” GB alloy spearpoint stems; a 4” and 3” Titan steel stem; front Hiduminium GB stirrup; Weinmann rear 730 stirrup(metal locknuts); pair of Weinmann hooded levers – early; front Chater Lea SF 32-hole hub with greaser in end of hollow axle(rare); pair of Mil Remo LF G/F hubs; one rear Harden LF G/F drilled hub(have matching front plus D/Fixed rear on 27” Conloys); Baylis Wiley rear LF unit gear hub VGC 3-gear x ⅛” (also have 4-gear version, chrome not so good); TA 5-pin adapter with 48/52 rings; front Campag Gran Sport LF QR hub (with two sets of drillings) built onto Mil Remo 27” hp 32h rim; rear Campag Record LF QR hub GS 40h built into the matching Mil Remo 40 hole 27” rim; pair of Lyotard platform pedals. We have a great selection of hubs but are looking for a Campag rear Gran Sport to match the one listed above, LF Gear Sided with QR. This is the one with an extra set of holes on the flanges. We would like 40 hole but I have an idea that they may only come in 36.

Along with many other enthusiasts I have rather given up on jumbles although we go to one or two but tend to treat them as a social occasion. It is patently obvious that before the general public get in, anything of real interest has been vacuumed up. We now get our components through friends and contacts – much more pleasant than having to fight through a crowd knowing that anything worth having has already gone.

In May we went on the Reading Lightweight Ride, surely the number one event in the UK for lightweight enthusiasts. Patricia rode her Gillott Spearpoint (Gillott being the theme for this years event) and I rode my 1949 Frejus Supercorsa M. With an entry of over 100 you get a chance to view a sample of everything worth seeing in the ‘Classic’ world. The organiser from day one, Terry Pearce, must be very proud of the ride. I doubt if he could ever have imagined what it would grow into. One gets to chat with riders with an intriguing depth of knowledge of lightweight classics. The weather was wonderful, as it was for the previous day’s ‘feeder ride’ from Badminton, organised this year by James Castle, where we covered about 35 miles through some lovely lanes and countryside with a smaller select group.

Later we enjoyed the first day of the Bates Weekend near Stratford-upon-Avon, where Patricia used her 1945 Bates BAR and I took my Rotrax. The next day we headed for Herne Hill for the V-CC Fun Day. This gave me a chance to air my 1949 R O Harrison Madison track machine with Fiamme sprints on LF Airlites, Chater chainset with inch-pitch block chain and some Cinelli track bars on a sloping Cinelli steel stem. The set-up is completed with a B47 Brooks Sprinter saddle. I don’t often get out on this machine as it has no brakes so it could be a bit tricky on the roads of Cambridge. Patricia tried out her Flying Scot, which now has all ten gears working after I found out how to adjust the ‘wind-up’ tension on the Campag Nuovo Record rear changer – thanks to Tony Beckett, the Campag M E for the know-how.

I realised today that I lead a rather Jekyll and Hyde existence. One day Patricia and I had a shake-down ride on the 40/50s bikes which we would be riding in a section event at the weekend. The next day I was out on our Tuesday ride with a triathlete and a woman time trialist, ex-road racer and track rider. In the faster sections we were in a small chain gang with me hanging on at the back as we did several miles at speeds between 20-26mph. For this sort of thing I need all the help I can get so I ride a modern Donohue custom built frame in Reynolds Millennium 853 tubing with carbon forks and a complete group set of top-of-the-range Shimano Dura Ace.

Not all of our mid-week rides are at that speed but every now and then things wind up for a spell and I manage to hold on as long as I get a good draft (tri-speak). The scones in the Newmarket Horse Racing Museum went down very well that day. I often spend time trying to work out just what it is that makes one machine so much faster and more responsive than another. I just know that the Donohue is like a racehorse compared with other machines including modern 531 frames.

Our own section’s Meridian Lightweight Ride took place on May 30 and we had 25 riders out with a varied selection of machines. I rode my Ephgrave No 1 road/path machine on fixed with tubs and Patricia took the Mal Rees on single-speed freewheel and a very nice pair of wheels which have 26” Conloy Asp rims on LF D/F Airlites built with 15/17 spokes tied and soldered. She also tried a Brooks Swallow saddle for the first time and the bad news is that she took to it straight away so now I have to share ours around. Everyone had a good time and, having had an enjoyable lunch, we all exchanged a lot of ‘bikie’ information in the sunny garden of the pub. Some even went so far as to down half a shandy.

After the finish of the ride some of the group rode with us to the garage where we house our 20+ lightweights and, one by one, various machines were fetched out to be discussed, tested and photographed before we returned to the house for tea and buns. It was one of those days when everything goes just right and we were sorry to see the last of the riders leave at about 6 p.m. Favourites seemed to be the two 1949 machines, one a Frejus Supercorsa M built as a Tour de France replica, the other a Paris Tour de France, also with Simplex gears, etc. The visitors were all too tall to try Patricia’s machines. I do have specifications with images of all our machines if they are of specific interest to you as I am cutting down on the number of images in C L N because it can take a long time to download for anyone without broadband.

Releasing stems: The other day, here in Cambridge, I was talking to Ken Janes who has worked for many of our favourite framebuilders (Paris, Hetchins, Claud Butler, etc.) and he brought up the subject of seized stems. He said that the best way to release these is to invert the machine and spray WD 40 into the column via the hole in the fork crown. After leaving this to soak, say 24 hours, find a long punch or drift and hit the bottom of the expander bolt – after removing the front brake stirrup of course. I said that I would expect this to wedge the expander even tighter but he assured me that it would work. I haven’t tried this yet but if you are desperate it could be worth a go.

This reminded me of the time when we had a seat stem seized in a frame. We didn’t want to use heat and so risk damaging the paint so we attacked the problem from the opposite direction. I had been told of a spray employed by plumbers who use it to spray pipes either side of a repair, freezing the water in the pipes whilst they work in the middle area. We soaked the area with WD 40, left it to penetrate and put the seat pillar in a vice. After spraying the pillar with the freezing compound we twisted the frame (having also wrapped some rags soaked in boiling water round the seat tube), this gave plenty of leverage and the pillar did eventually move. The important part is to secure the pillar so that it does not just twist off at the entry point to the frame.

On the subject of problems, I recently had a pedal strip the thread on an alloy Stronglight 49 crank (unknown to me it was fitted with a Helicoil) fitted to a recently acquired 1962 Hetchins straight stay Vade Mecum. It was an old-style pedal with the shorter threading for steel cranks. Obviously the pressure on the pedal had created a hard pressure point inside the wider crank, the Helicoil broke in two and the outer half came out with the pedal. Maybe this happened because the crank was fitted with a Helicoil but in future I shall try to fit pedals with a wider thread into any alloy cranks I use. I have now replaced the crank. As it happens we only have two alloy cranksets on all of our older machines, and they were fitted when I bought them. The rest have the narrower steel Chater, Durax, Brampton, Gnutti, Williams, etc.

Our next trip was to the Hampshire Section Rotrax Ride. I obviously took my 1957 Rotrax La Premiere and Patricia had her first longish, hilly, ride on the Flying Scot. The turnout was down a bit on last year but we had a great ride with good coffee and lunch stops. There were only two other Rotrax machines, which was a pity as I know that there are a lot in Hampshire, home of the marque. Sometimes though several members are unable to make a ride, even although each has a different reason, on the day.

On the ride there was another Flying Scot ridden by Annie, who we had met a few times before at the Hetchins Weekend and at Herne Hill. Patricia was talking to her over coffee and was amazed to find that they were both brought up, at roughly the same time, in the same street of a small village in Scotland. All these years later and they both end up at an event in southern England and riding the same model of the Flying Scot. This make, of course, being built by David Rattray in Glasgow, is the Scottish equivalent of a Hampshire rider owning a Rotrax (built in Southampton) as you will see if you read the Scottish Section ride reports. Perhaps next year it should be a joint Rotrax/Flying Scot event, a crazy idea but it could just work although I wouldn’t know whether to ride one or the other as I have both.

Also at this event was a superb Hobbs Blue Riband, owned by Peter Lowry, equipped with a pair of the very rare Chater-Lea LF hubs and Lytaloy (Hobbs) pedals and brakes. The chainrings are TA Cyclotourist 46/36 on Duprat cranks. The front mech. in the pic. is a Huret and rear Juy 51 four speed, now replaced by a Juy 53 on the front and Simplex TdF five speed rear, operated by cables on the same side via twin cable wheels on the bottom bracket. Peter doesn’t know the make of the stem, but the bars are Reynolds “Pelissier.”

It was so good that even Alex von T was impressed and he suggested that quality machines like this should be issued with a Hampshire Section Seal of Approval as they are, I think, the only V-CC section devoted solely to lightweights. One of the reasons that the C-L hubs are so rare is that they are known to break around the spoke holes on the flange. I suspect that the holes were just a little too close to the perimeter. I have a resourceful friend who had a broken L F hub and reduced the flanges to a S F hub and re-drilled it for the spokes – the bad news is that it did the same thing and the spokes pulled out! Here it is in all its glory – I have a better image which I could send as an attachment if you want to check the detail.

I have rebuilt Patricia’s 1970 Hetchins Swallow track frame with a pair of 26” wheels and a Suntour (1970) gear on a 5-speed block. It had been fitted with a SA FM gear in some 26” Conloys which we have switched to the Hobbs Superbe to replace the SA AM, also in 26” Conloys.

This means that the Hobbs is more versatile now with its extra low gear for hills. The Hetchins has a nice R O Harrison lapped chrome stem and I put a pair of cut down South of France bars in place of the Maes. The result is quite a racy looking machine – watch this space.

For Sale: Pair of new Primo ‘Verd Cuoio’ perforated racing shoes – old style size 41 – £15 Pair used Eastern perforated racing shoes size 39 – £7.50.

Wanted: Rear Campag QR Gran Sport LF hub (have two sets of holes in flange) – gear sided. Preferably 40h to match my 32h front. Have large selection of hubs to P/E if that is preferred.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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