Vol. 1, Issue 21
Posted: Thursday 18th June 2020
On Monday, 27th December Patricia and I went to Diss to join Mick Madgett and the Flat Earthers on his ‘Post-Christmas Recovery Ride’. I took my 1959 Hetchins Magnum Bonum and Patricia was on her 1948 Gillott Spearpoint (as opposed to her 1951 Gillott L’Atlantique). Mick was on a very nicely restored 1954 Bates Volante which he had equipped with some very tasty components. The gear changing was by courtesy of Campagnolo’s very rare early 1952 Gran Sport – the one with the drilled pulley wheels and extended cage which was only produced for a very short time. The front changer was another rare piece, a Campag Sport with fore and aft moving lever.
Chainset is a 47/50 Stronglight cottered steel. To cap it all Mick built the wheels with a pair of red LF Airlites on Alumlite ‘K’ pattern rims with 15/17 chrome spokes – doesn’t it just make you spit. GB Hiduminium brakes, Ambrosio Champion Bars on Presto steel stem, and Chater pedals. The frame had been restored by Bob Jackson in Red with double box lining and chrome ends.
Readers may like to know that Mick keeps a selection of 27” tyres in stock as follows: Panaracer Tourguard in either 27 x 1, 11/8 or 11/4, which are £14.95 each (Skin wall), or also Schwalbe Marathon (£17.95), or Conti Top Touring £14.95 (all Black), & a cheaper, amber wall Schwalbe tyre at £8.95. These are all 27 x 1¼, but reasonably narrow profile. He also stocks 26”: (x 1 ¼), a Schwalbe, which has amber walls & a small ‘block’ tread, or the Raleigh, all black, with a tread similar (but ‘coarser’) to the Dunlop ‘road racing’. The Raleigh at £7.95, and the Schwalbe at £8.95. His details are in the V-CC Yearbook but if you are not a member I can put you in contact., and Chater pedals. The frame had been restored by Bob Jackson in Red with double box lining and chrome ends.
The last edition of C L N contained details of the very rare Viking SBU Tracker. In response I had an email from Peter Brown to tell me that Peter McLeod has one for sale. It had been on Ebay but apparently not reached its reserve. In his ebay details Peter (McC) says and I quote: “Viking (according to Bob Thorn) made only 11 of these ultra short wheelbase models in the early 50’s (53/54). The first ones were made without any extra struts at the rear and I recently talked to the original test rider from the Fallowfield track. After his report the extra support struts were added. Although only 11 were made, it is known that copies have been produced, no less desirable I might add.
One was made by Trevor Jarvis for an American customer only last year at vast expense.” He continues: “There are others known to me, 2 in original condition and one like this restored. It is debatable if this is a restored original or a faithful replica. Either way the machine is rare, beautiful, unmarked and finished in metallic blue and cream. It is fitted with: New old stock Air light hubs and sprint rims; Cinelli bars and stem; size 21″ c to c. Wheelbase 39″, Top tube 22″ centre to centre.” End of quote.
Tom Jeffery also told me that John Pinkerton had one in his collection. His was fitted with a Sturmey Archer ASC. Funnily enough, I also fitted an ASC to a SWB machine – my R O Harrison Shortwin – on the basis that one wouldn’t buy a SWB and then equip it with a derailleur gear. Logically I guess they should have fixed wheel but us old codgers need the help of a few gears: well to be honest as many as we can get.
At the Thames Ditton Jumble I managed to buy a pair of 26” Dunlop light alloy HP rims. Back home I had a Sturmey Archer FM built into a Dunlop Stainless 26” HP rim. Luckily the wheel-builder had greased the nipples when he built the wheel (1951!), so I was able to tie the spokes at the outer crossing, undo all the nipples and rebuild the hub into the alloy rim – a first for me. This will now go into Patricia’s Mal Rees and make it more versatile than with the existing single speed set-up. The FM was in the Mal Rees when we got it but as Patricia has small hands she cannot get much leverage on the brake levers with the steel rims. In the wet the stopping distance was only slightly less than that of a fully-laden oil tanker with a gale blowing up its stern. My guess is that the alloy rims had been used in a fixed wheel machine as the front rim was worn much more than the rear which was as new.
I also managed to get a QR rear hanger for a pair of Universal 61 centrepulls which I may well fit onto our 23” 1962 Hetchins Vade Mecum which we loan to cyclists wishing to join us on our rides. It was ridden on our New Year Ride by Alistair from Airnimal and he was very impressed with it. I am still looking for a Universal front hanger with QR to complete the set-up. I have just replaced the 700 wheels with a pair of 27” on Campag hubs and will soon fit a Campag Gran Sport to replace to wrong period Huret.
Stop Press: the Gran Sport turned out to be one of those mechs that had been twisted during its life. I remember Tony Beckett telling me that this was a characteristic of some older, used mechs. The main problem is that there is no way of knowing this until the mech is fitted. I had checked all the bearings, pivots etc and there was no play at all. No end of twisting the hanger in an attempt to line it up would make it useable. So back to the drawing board on that one and the Hetchins has the Huret back on.
The 1951 welded Gillott now has L’Atlantique on its down tube and is looking good. We took it to a ride last year where there was a lot of very tasty machinery and in spite of this everyone came to have a close look at it and seemed very impressed. Perhaps we should have started with a collection of the welded models made by most manufacturers, at least it would have been different. We have two other welded frames which we don’t use as they are the wrong size for both of us. One is Claud Butler 22” from about 1949 and the other is a 22½” Higgins Ultralight which I wish was 24”. Peter Salmon tells me he has one and it is just about his favourite machine being very light and lively which is exactly what Patricia says about the Gillott.
It does make you wonder. I have one modern machine which is so lively it amazes me every time I ride it. I was discussing this with someone quite knowledgeable and he said that it would be because it is a welded frame as opposed to other similar lugged frames I ride. When I was working on the L’Atlantique it was hanging up by the seat bolt when I head-butted the frame (nothing better to do since you ask). This produced a ringing sound similar to an oversize percussion triangle which convinced me of the build quality. There must be a more scientific way of testing though. Perhaps if we hung up a row of frames from 19” to 24” we could create a new instrument for the BSO.
When I bought my Bates Vegrandis it had been resprayed to its original colour scheme using car aerosol sprays. I thought that I could improve the finish by flattening and then repolishing. I soon realised that this paint is not very durable so I bit the bullet, stripped it down and have just sent it to Gerry at C & G in Liverpool to be painted properly. As we plan to go to the Bates weekend it will have to pass Ray’s muster. Thinking that the weekend was to be in Suffolk I have built it to 50s time trial spec with fixed wheel, one brake, etc., however there has been a change of plan and the weekend is now to be held at Cheriton in Hampshire on June 11/12.
I guess it will be somewhat hillier there so I will have to get it ‘geared-up’ which is a shame, perhaps I will put an FM in. I hear that the ‘Hampshire Boys’ are planning to support the event so it should be a good weekend!! I recently found out that on Bates the prefixes to the frame numbers indicate which model it is. If ‘VE’ prefixes the number stamped on fork steerer and down-tube part of BB shell , then Vergrandis it is. ‘U’ prefix is B.A.R., ‘VO’ prefix is Volante etc etc. Thanks to Ray Etherton for this information.
A couple of months ago I wondered if I should use the piece I put in the last C L N which was about a fellow King’s Lynn club member from the late 40s who lived in an ex-POW Nissen hut. It was so well received that I thought I would add just one more story about Vic, his wife and their baby who did all of their family travel using a tandem with a sidecar for the baby. It was traditional that every year King’s Lynn CC members marshalled the North Road 24 hour event at a road junction just outside Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.
This particular junction was on a corner where three roads met and there was a grass triangle in the middle. On this triangle was a horse trough filled with water and although this event was always held near the longest day and shortest night, for obvious reasons, it always felt very cold as dawn approached. In spite of this, Vic’s wife whipped the baby out of the sidecar where it had spent the night and proceeded to strip off all of its clothes. Having done this she then dumped the baby straight into the trough to gave it the morning ablutions before putting it back into the sidecar and then setting off for a days cycling. Babies today – they don’t know they’re born!
Most cyclists in this period used battery front and rear lamps on their bikes which seemed quite good at the time. However, in this 24 hour event they would not retain enough power to guide riders through the night. As a result, several of the event regulars used to possess an old faithful carbide lamp of the type only owned by collectors these days. They gave a very bright light with a good spread which of course lasted throughout the night. I think they worked on the principle of water dripped onto carbide which produced a gas which was lit by match as night approached. The owners of these lamps could easily be recognised as they had no eyebrows. Phil Wray will tell you all about it when the plastic surgery heals.
Martin Hanczyc of the New England Section (but who has just moved to work in Venice – some get all the luck!) has produced a treatise on post-war Sturmey Archer triggers which is very informative and has images of each version as it is listed. If you want to ensure that you have the right one for your latest restoration it can be checked out on http://genetics.mgh.harvard.edu/~hanczyc/pdfs/satriggers.pdf . Martin called to see us a short while ago and had a look at our collection and rode several of them round the block just to get a taste. As he was only here for a few hours the following morning he had a whistle-stop cycle tour of the Cambridge colleges before setting off for his flight back to the States.
I recently had a telephone call from V-CC member Neville Bousfield from NE Scotland. He has a Claud Butler Avant Coureur Special (with the extra fancy bi-laminated lugs) in need of restoration. His problem is that it is 23” and he prefers to ride a 22” frame. He would like to exchange it for a classic lightweight, Ephgrave, straight-stay Hetchins, etc or ideally of course for another Avant Coureur Special. He tells me that this frame even has very fancy elongated lugs at the bottom bracket.
Another of the rarer Claud Butlers using the long spearpoint bi-laminated lugs was the Olympic Sprint which was for years the benchmark for a classic track frame. It has an 1 1/8” top tube which gives the frame the sort of steering rigidity needed on the track. Lugs of course used to limit the construction of a frame to a main triangle with tubes all of the same diameter, hence the bi-lams to allow the larger diameter top tube. Nowadays tubes are round, oval, aerodynamic plus a few more sections on top of that and they are often mitred at an angle to create stiffer frames of just the required shape – this is why they are all welded in one way or another.
Carbon frames however are laid up in a mould or created around an armature and this is very expensive to set up, which is why they tend to come in small, medium and large rather than the sizes we are used to. The frames used by the British team in the Olympics were all of one size but available in two lengths for those with longer arms and bodies. I forget how they did this but it was a bit of a bodge up really. However you would never guess it seeing the pursuit team in action which is probably as near to art as our sport ever comes.
I was looking at John Holder’s Gillott tapertube on a section ride in February. I expected to find that the BB was welded as the seat and down tube diameters are larger here. However I saw that it was in fact lugged: it surprised me that they had been able to get these shells made at an economical price considering how few would be used. I did wonder if they were tandem rear BBs?
According to Tom Jeffery the Kettering Wobbly Wheelers have been busy over the winter. Dick Hampton has acquired a 1952 Hetchins (Nulli Secundus ?) on sprints with a Sturmey 4-speed gear. To add to this he has an Armstrong road/path, again on sprints but with fixed – his first – if you see him some six feet up in the air you will know he forgot and thought it would be nice to free-wheel for a few yards.
Tom has taken his blow torch to a Carpenter and converted it from a diamond frame to a splayed tube ladies’ open frame for Beryl – is there no end to his genius! Beryl has been on the lookout for a frame for ages and true to form no sooner had Tom turned off his gas when a 1952 Rotrax ladies frame turned up. This will be built with Chater ring on Allez alloy cranks and 26” Dunlop Alloy HPs with a Sturmey FW and a Racelite front. Beryl wanted a Paris-Roubaix gear after sneaking a look at Tom’s C L N 19 but he was having none of it.
Tom managed to get back two machines which he sold six years ago and has regretted ever since – selling them that is. One is a 1935-ish BSA Gold Medal with Sturmey 2-speed and hub brake, Russ-style front fork and a gearcase – no excuse for going to the pub with oily trousers now then. The other is a 19” Maclean with SA AM gear (do we detect a fashion in hub gears here – I hear that Tom still has 25 1/8” chains to use up). Also 26” Dunlop Special Lightweight rims, Resillion Cantilette brakes, Williams C34 chainset and a pair of the older 7/8” diameter bars. The gear and chainset are dated 1948, and this with the 26” wheels would seem to suggest that this would be about the time it was built.
Meanwhile, down in Wiltshire, Geoff ‘Puffer’ Cook has been building up a Raleigh Record Ace and has probably had to re-mortgage his house to get nearly all the correct RRA period parts. Geoff is another faithful Sturmey fan and we have covered many a pleasant mile in his company being mesmerised by the steady ticking of his FM. At the very least it helps to dull the pain of trying to keep up with him. Both Geoff and Tom are the sort who can strip a Sturmey at the drop of a hat whereas I can just about change a sprocket on a good day with the handbook in one hand and a phone in the other.
I must admit that in the 50s I would never have dreamt of fitting a Sturmey to one of my machines but we have built up one or two older frames which are narrow across the rear ends. Some of these frames just won’t accommodate a derailleur gear. Another reason we have the Sturmeys is to have something to ride in the Tin Can Ten which we both enjoy every year. It is held at West Leake, just outside Loughborough and is two laps of a five and a bit mile circuit, not flat it must be said. I have one of the rare fixed ASCs on my R O Harrison Shortwin and an FM on the Macleans Eclipse (I always do a faster time with the FM). Patricia has an FM on her Hobbs Superbe and I am just fitting one to her Mal Rees so she can ride it on some of the hillier events – this brings it back to its original specification from when it was built in 1951 for the one owner who had it before Patricia.
Ideally she favours the three-speed AM but the extra gear on the FM gives a ‘crawler’ gear useful if the going gets a bit hilly. The AM slips into every gear with no problem at all whereas the FM is quite tricky to get into the bottom gear, the other three gears are just as silky as the AM. If this is not done properly the gear can slip just when the going gets tough. The secret seems to be to freewheel whilst changing into first and then keep the pressure on the trigger as you begin to pedal again. This hopefully results in a ‘click’ as the lever comes in just a fraction further and this is the locking it needs. Although the ASC gear is a fixed gear the mechanism results in a slight movement at the bottom bracket – the problem here is that at the crank end this becomes quite noticable so one does not quite get the ‘solid’ feel associated with a single speed fixed.