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Vol. 1, Issue 18

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

We have been quite busy since CLN 17. Our very own Cambridge section held a ride at the beginning of the month (July). In the section Patricia and I are in the minority in owning lightweights so the section holds gentle rides for roadsters, etc in addition to our two lightweight specific rides which are a bit longer. In spite of this we obviously support all the rides and quite enjoy the occasional potter. The following weekend we joined the North Road Section for their ‘unusual frames’ ride so I took the 1949 R O Harrison Shortwin with twin downtubes and ASC gear. Patricia took her Flying Scot which was much admired and photographed. Also CLN acquired another reader who has just completed the restoration a Thanet – see below. This was one of two interesting newly-assembled machines brought to the lunch stop for viewing. The second was a Flying Gate, one of the Trevor Jarvis built versions (70s I believe the owner said) which had some rather modern equipment (Shimano, etc. on it): don’t tell the style police!!

The 24½” 1951 Bristol-built Thanet had been found on Biggleswade tip in such a damaged state that most of us would have considered to it be well past economical repair. The owner, Roger Mills, however persevered, had several tubes replaced and the frame sympathetically renovated. He is now rewarded with a machine which I would be happy to own (well it must be all right then!). The work was done for him by Tom Board, who replaced the down tube, made a replacement lug and re-sleeved the seat tube. He also straightened the twisted forks. The frame was then enamelled in blue and ivory: asked what colour he wanted the head badge painted, Roger decided that it had to be red in deference to Thanet proprietor Les Cassell’s well known socialist leanings. Images below – note Thanet trademark bottom bracket.

The Thanet is fitted with a Williams chainset, Lyotard pedals, 27” Weinmann rims on Maillard hubs, Campag Gran Sport 5-sp gear, GB brakes, stem and bars plus Brooks B17 saddle and Bantel alloy guards. Roger wanted to build it as a typical 50’s tourer and may upgrade some of the components as he goes along. I have some very good images of the machine and close-ups of frame details which I could email if you were interested. As I have often said, I keep the number of images in C L N down so as to reduce download time for you. They were taken a few weeks later on Patricia’s Picnic in the Park Ride, which was well supported by the North Road section.

The following weekend we caught an early train (3 actually) to Loughborough and rode out to West Leake to take part in the Tin Can Ten, a time trial of just over 10 miles held over two laps of a quite hilly circuit and, as the name suggests to those in the know, is for machines fitted with hub gears only. It is a very friendly event and every year I regularly meet and chat to a local rider called Morgan Reynolds who has a very nice 24” 1948 Carpenter (which I covet) and he beats me by a few seconds every year. The bad news is that nothing changed this year. I took my 1956 Macleans Super Eclipse with Sturmey FM and Patricia rode her 1948 Hobbs Superbe, also now with FM instead of the previous AM. We arrived home at about 8pm.

Patricia at speed in the Tin Can Ten (photo by David Eccles, organiser)
Patricia at speed in the Tin Can Ten (photo by David Eccles, organiser)

The following morning we were up at 5.30am to catch the 6.30 train to London King’s Cross, ride across the city to Waterloo and there we caught a train to Petersfield in Hampshire. From here we rode 10 miles to Midhurst to join the Hampshire section for their ‘Italian theme’ ride organised by Tony Spoor. It was a very hilly ride and in retrospect we should have taken machines with slightly lower gears. However, as always with the Hampshire section, we were made very welcome and enjoyed a good day out with a great group of riders on some very interesting lightweights. I took my 1949 Frejus Supercorsa M built as a replica of that year’s Tour de France machines with Simplex T de F rear plus a rod operated front changer, Durax cranks and Universal brakes.

There were two other Frejus, one, a Supercorsa M ridden by Peter Kibbles who is the Marque Enthusiast and the other by John Spooner who worked in the cycle trade both as a retailer and frame builder and is a fount of knowledge on all things lightweight. Having read the last C L N, he explained that as a general rule BB axle BW(Baylis Wiley) 14 is for double and BW 15 for single chainsets. When I got home I looked in the BB box and found a BW23!! Two other Italian bikes experts were on the ride: Robert Yuill was on a 50s Fiorelli and Graham Brice was on a 1957 Urago. There were also a couple of very nice Bianchis. After the ride we cycled back to Petersfield to catch the trains back to Cambridge. Quite a hectic weekend but well worth the effort and a bonus was that we caught up on a lot of reading on the trains – must add the cost of two paperbacks to the weekend’s accounts.

This hilly ride brought to light a problem which I had not thought about before. Most of the classic 50s double chainsets are either 47/50 or 48/51 and as I get older I keep on surreptitiously lowering the gears (I recently spent a while trying to explain in my ‘pigeon German’ to some German cyclists what a ‘granny-ring’ was – eventually they exclaimed ‘Ah für die Grossmutter, Ja Ja’, collapsing with laughter). Anyway, back to the serious business of gears for old rockers like me, I realised that all the Simplex and continental rings were rather too high. Not only that, I had foolishly assembled one of the rare Chater Lea double chainsets to match them so I am planning to change the rings on this to 42/46 instead of my macho 47/50 (now done).

The 50s rear changers are not designed to handle large differences so one has to be careful not to go too wide at the front. Most of our 5-speed freewheel blocks are 14 – 24. I also remembered that a friend of mine had a TA 44/52 ring in his garage so I crossed his palm with silver and I will try to find a set-up (probably Campag Gran Sport) which will cope with this, that is if I cannot find a smaller outer ring to go on it.

I see from a 70s Bike Riders Aids that they did outer rings from 47T to 60T so a 47 would do very nicely but I reckon we could cope with a 48. TA changes from a 5-pin crank fitting to a 6-pin ring fitting via an alloy converter and on the Professional the centres of the two ‘rings of bolts’ are fairly close together (on the outer ring avoiding need for a converter I think) whereas the centres on mine are some 50mm apart giving 75mm between the six bolts. I have a 44/52 and a 48/52 and would like to change them both to 44/48(47?). It is a shame that the 48 inner cannot be used as an outer but I’m sure they are different. This means that I need a 44 inner plus two 47 or 48 outers if anyone has unused rings laying around in the shed. Although all the continental chainsets are very classy, the smallest rings, single or double seem to be about 46 whereas with BSA, Williams and Chater one can get rings down to about 38 or even 36T. I wonder if this explains why there have been so few British riders excelling in the mountains of the Tour in the past. (Except Robert Miller of course)

Patricia held her Picnic in the Park Ride on August 1 and although there was a mixture of machines from 1908 to 1980 we bowled along at a rate everyone enjoyed. Lightweight-wise, I rode my Hetchins Magnum Bonum and Patricia took her 1945 Bates BAR, trying to bed in the new brake blocks. Tom and Beryl Jeffery were on a very nice 1940s Claud Butler SWB tandem with all the period components including a very nice pair of the rare Airlite riveted hubs. Tom’s wife is looking for a women’s (open) lightweight frame with nice curly lugs: should we tell her that this is the start of a long and slippery slope?

There were two pre-war lightweights, a Hobbs and a Macleans. Mick Madgett rode his 1938 Baines VS37, on fixed as usual, while Roger Mills was on the restored Thanet mentioned earlier. Jun Sato flew from Tokyo again to do his second ‘Patricia’s Ride’ but this time he borrowed our 21” Southern all chrome track machine on fixed rather than sending his own over by courier. The Southern looked as if it was made for him and he took to it like the proverbial duck to water – he had a smile on his face all day.

The next weekend was the North Road Section Lightweight Ride and Jun borrowed our 1970 Pat Hanlon as we warned him that he would need gears for this one and we were right. I took my 1953 Flying Scot and Patricia rode her Hetchins Swallow track machine, now fitted with derailleur gears and a pair of sawn-off ‘South of France’ bars, looking very racy. Roger Langworth (ride organiser) was on a Hetchins Experto Crede which had some very nice Universal 61 brakes, what’s more he had the correct hangers complete with a QR. I have a close-up image of the rear one and also one of his Benelux front changer if you would like to see them and have e-mail. (Some of CLN go by snail mail!). Roger always arranges his ride for the hottest day of the year but although we knew this, we still ran out of water.

The following day we acquired our very first pair of Harden ‘Bacon Slicers’ with single fixed rear and also a front ‘riveted’ Airlite LF hub. The latter will need some restoration which will entail stripping the outer flanges from the smaller flanges and then removing these from the barrels – another first! The outer flanges and barrels are steel and will need re-plating to bring them up to scratch.

I have just about finished restoring our 1951 21” Gillott L’Atlantique (welded) frame and it looks very smart in mid to light-grey with a white seat tube edged with World Championship bands. It has a head badge and seat tube badge transfer, small ‘Gillott’ script on the fork blades and the fork crown lined in gold. I am still working on production of the down tube transfer which had ‘L’Atlantique’ in place of ‘Gillott’ – very rare it seems. The marque enthusiast has only seen one other lettered in this way.

In the last few editions of CLN I have been able to give details of some machines we have come across on various rides. I would like to be able to continue this so that CLN does not just become like one of those self-centered family letters sent around Christmas. If you have an interesting machine or some rarely seen components I would like to be able to include them for the interest of all readers.

I am thinking of selling my 1949 24” R O Harrison Madison track frame, which is in very good condition. I have images of it if you are interested in seeing it. The price is £325 for frame with headset and BB. I would consider selling it with Chater chainset and complete set of inch-pitch equipment, chainrings, sprockets and chain for £450. Obviously I offer it to readers of CLN first. I would also consider exchange with a similar road frame.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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