Tuesday, 11 March 2014

RICHMOND 531

I bought the frame and forks on eBay, late 2013 for £75 including postage.  It was sold with a stuck seatpost, but this came out easily when held in the vice and the frame twisted off it.  The bottom bracket was very tricky, I have to clamp the frame to the vice using a bolt through the bottom bracket so the bearing doesn't jump out of the vice when it is held by the jaws; rotate the frame a quarter of a turn clockwise then slacken the clamp and repeat.

The dimensions, frame angles, wheelbase, brake drop were all identical to the REW Reynolds. And I had a new Tange Passage headset on the shelf, the sizes given on box 30.2 diameter 26.4 diameter and it fitted.  (I have had problems in the past which are best described elsewhere).  I transferred all the items from the REW and renewed the cables. I finished it on 9th March 2014 and took it for a test ride. Very nice, it wasn't my imagination about how harsh the REW ride was, this is lovely and lively with a great feel. (Interestingly two REW frames came up on eBay last week, quality examples of his work). Looking for Richmond online brings up the Raleigh Richmond, a bicycle shop that isn't related to this Richmond and one that may well be.

What's good and what's bad?  Well listing bad first - it takes 27 x 1 1/4 so that's another wheel size I have to buy tyres for, there is a bit of toe overlap (it's not fixed so I can get round that), the gear cables run above the bottom bracket so the lines aren't as clean as underneath, the standard frame spacing is 126 and it's a five-speed so there are bent rear axles to come in future, the brazing for the bottle mounts is angled to the left a good five degrees, the pip for the derailleur lever band was a bit big (I had to file it down) and it too is offset.  And the good bits: the chainstays are not formed at all either inside for tyres or outside for the front sprocket and there is loads of clearance, the frame gives a comfortable and lively ride, it's as light as a 531 frame should be, all the tubes make that beautiful ringing sound (this is 531 frame tubes, forks and stays).

Other things to note, that paint I used is metal paint from Aldi.  I imagine it is similar to Hammerite or Smoothrite, having an acidic base so it etches the metal and prevents corrosion.  These days powder coating is too expensive for me, it's also pretty final; once it is on it doesn't come off easily.  The rear derailleur is a lovely Suntour item with only 1 full side plate so it is breathtakingly easy and convenient to unravel the chain for maintenance.  The front sprockets are a 48 / 28 combination, by the time I need to change to the lower ring I am so tired that spinning in such a low gear is bliss. A double gives a low Q factor and if I'm going fast enough to spin out of 48 / 13 I can coast thank you very much.  The front and rear MAFAC centre-pull callipers match, including the cable hanger off the seat bolt.  I was cleaning the calipers and lost the plastic washers behind the springs but it turns out that milk bottle plastic is exactly the right thickness, drill an 8mm hole and spend some time with scissors and you are sorted.  Also the straddle wire is new, manufactured by turning brass rod from an old ballcock arm down to just under 6mm, drilling a 1.2mm hole through the centre, countersinking one side, pushing gear cable through and unravelling and spreading the strands into the countersink then using a lot of flux and a heavy duty heat gun and solder.  A trick I picked up from Malcolm in Vale Onslow's (Birmingham) back in the 70's. The second nipple is held in place at the right distance using a wooden jig with two 6mm holes at fixed spacing.  The saddle you see is a Brooks frame recovered with two thicknesses of leather from a welding apron from Aldi.  It feels a bit like a hammock.

It should be ideal for light touring with a saddle bag and handlebar bag.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

GENESIS LATITUDE

OK, what am I doing writing about refurbishing such a new bike?  Well I just bought it on ebay and it had tubeless tyres.  Cars and trucks drive on tubeless, that is a mature technology.  It is more recent for motorcycles, but even more recently the early adopters are using them on bicycles.

On delivery the tubeless tyres on the LATITUDE were flat.  I pumped them up and they went down; I pumped them up a lot and went around the block on a test ride.  They were deflating as I rode.  The next day they were flat.  I went on to youtube and watched some bloke who loved the things, spend a long time in a clean garage doing everything exactly right with all new equipment.  He went out for a ride the next day in a downhill stylie and then showed the camera where the air leaks had happened around the rim but didn't think this was a problem.

The arguments for tubeless are weight saving, avoidance of snake bite flats and better performance at low pressures.  If you still puncture, the advice is to put a tube in.

I wasn't convinced and because they wouldn't stay up, I removed the tyres, peeled away 64g of damp latex from the inside of each tyre (disgusting - and the smell!) and discarded the tyre valve weighing 10g, totalling 74g (obviously) and fitted 172g of innertube.  A total weight gain of 100g per wheel.  And guess what?  A week later they are still hard.  When replacing tubeless tyres you have to remove and throw away latex or goop whereas an innertube which costs the same plus 100g is repairable with a patch or replaceable without worrying about what it will be like when it is removed from a tyre full of goop (which weighs extra).  In my years of cycling (my first bike was in 1965) I have had almost every puncture caused by something sharp rather than snakebite flats.  Until tubeless tyres are as easy to fit on bikes as they are on cars, for me it's not worth it.

The LATITUDE is a lovely bike but my other rant is MTB bars.  They are awful and seem designed to induce RSI symptoms in riders.  More than 100 years of development resulted in handlebars which kept the hands inline with the frame, placing no stress on the wrists, was abandoned back in the 80's.  With the invention of the mountain bike came the new look which was straight bars.  I think form should follow function not fashion.  But tribal thinking makes clever, rational people say that drop bars should only be fitted below saddle height and that if you want otherwise then you should fit straight bars. Why?  We all got used to sloping top tubes when we saw them enough.

http://g-tedproductions.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/musings-on-drop-bars.html

I seem to remember in the old days a top-of-the-range mountain bike did indeed have drop bars but it's not in my NEW BICYCLE BOOK by Richard Ballantyne (RIP 2013) but may be in a later version or in a similar book.  Anyway I fitted some bar-inners (rather than bar-ends) to allow me to protect my wrists during the road ride from my house to the trail.  Having finally taken it offroad on the red runs of Cannock Chase, they work well but slip under force, being plastic.  I will try and source some alloy ones for a better grip.  I recall cylocross in the days before the MTB was invented when they rode off-road with drop bars.  Perhaps full-tilt mountain biking doesn't suit, but the trickle-down effect means people riding mountain bikes on road wouldn't apply common sense to their choice of bars.  The benefits that may accrue are no wrist pain and, when set higher, the option to actually use the drop and get out of the wind.  You could use moustache bars or French Coureur bars or Dutch Grandmother-style bars for a comfortable wrist position, but that only gives one handlebar height position.  Why copy the racing cyclist and then be unable to use the drops because they are too low to reach without strain, because the majority of people aren't that fit or flexible.  And to do it because someone told you it looks right is basing your choices on their opinions instead of responding to twinges in your back or wrists. 

I also seem to remember when they first came out that the first thing people bought after buying a mountain bike was a pair of bar-ends.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

ARCHIE WILKINSON

I got this from my brother around 1996 (free), someone had given it to him and he wasn't interested.  I left it at his house so I could ride it when I visited Birmingham.  However when I wanted to adjust the seat height the frame broke at the bolt mounting, it looked like a fatigue fracture. The frame is fillet brazed and very light, way below 4lbs it is lighter than the 653 John Fern frame I have. I took the bike home and set about it.  It came with solid aluminium forks and I knew that aluminium has a fatigue limit, the bike was old and a typical catastrophic failure would have likely killed me.  I removed them, cut them up and took them down the tip.  I stripped the frame and took it in to work.  I was working for a company which trained young people in engineering.  A handy place to work if you like mucking around with bicycles.  It seemed out of true on the surface table, and I deduced it had an offset rear triangle (produced by some framebuilders to reduce or eliminate dishing of the rear wheel).  I was wrong.  I addressed the broken seat clamp by removing the other side and filing the frame down at an angle then milling a slot the seat tube below the top joints, this would allow me to clamp it using a split clamp.  I prepared the frame and had it blasted and powder coated in Digbeth. http://archie-wilkinson.co.uk/  They are famous for bicycle speedway, and I only recently discovered them online.  Already originality has gone out of the window so what happened next is excusable.

People learn from their mistakes, so never again will I cut off mudguard mounting lugs to save weight!  Or remove a stupid amount of metal from the bottom bracket to save weight. I needed a set of forks, and some 531 forks from a scrapped Raleigh would have matched the frame but for the missing mudguard mountings so I took a set from another scrapped Raleigh and a Campag headset from the same bike.  The chainset was from a Peugeot Carbolite special (that's French marketing for Hi-Ten).  I removed the inner 48 from a double using an electric drill and a very hard burr.  With a 108 mm axle this 52T sprocket lined up perfectly with a 21T fixed sprocket giving me about 67".  It is my lightest bike, weighing in at just over 20lbs.

Photos of this bike maybe found here.  Today 23/03/2014 I went for my first fixed ride this year, the cockpit is very short with the short and high stem and I found it uncomfortable.  Also today I changed the stem for a longer one (Profile cro-mo, very light bought on eBay for a song) due to the maximum height line it is a lot lower than previous one and a little bit lower than the saddle. Up the road and back and it is a big improvement. The steering head bearings had been causing me problems, there was a lot of play at the lower race, it seems that I had fitted a caged set of bearings from a smaller headset. I fitted a larger diameter cage which improved things but if this is not the solution I will have to fit loose balls. Another thing I changed was the handlebars, the previous ones had oxidised inside the stem and took some removing also I spotted a nasty gouge in the aluminium.  This is a stress raiser and the last thing anyone needs is the handlebars to break.  I like the new set up and hope it will serve me well for getting into shape in the spring.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

MARIN MUIRWOODS

I have two of these, one stored at my brother's house and one I now use to commute.  I bought a third, frame only, on ebay too but then relisted it, paid £29 sold it for £10.  However the other two I still have are success stories. The second one is here.  Making the seatpost for first one took some doing see here.

The second one has done me stirling service for two years now, replacing my REW Reynolds as a commuter bicycle.  The fat tyres give me some comfort when compared to the REW and the riding position is more upright, a boon in traffic but a pain over longer distances.  The chainset is an Ofmega triple which came with my new Orbit racing bike and was replaced by a Stronglight, it sat on the shelf for years.  The outer sprockets of 50 and  40 are steel and came off the Raleigh Zenith, the inner sprocket had unusual fixings and is the original 28 although mostly I ride in one gear.

The handlebars, brake levers, grips, cantilevers, mudguards, chain and bottom bracket came off the Rusty Bike (originally mostly off the Raleigh 531 MTB).  The saddle is the one from Pete Coulston all those years ago; thanks again!

I bought it on ebay for £22, the wheel was shown out of line with the forks and it looked like a bent fork.  When I picked it up, the wheel had been fitted into one fork dropout only.  I ripped it to bits and fitted the parts described above.  The frame is gorgeous and delicious, slightly heavy at just over 5lbs but it is cromoly and has a good feel.  The forks are only Hi-Ten and feel dead, the tyres compensate but upgrading to 531 forks with lowrider mounts would make this a top-notch tourer, after all there are four point fixings for a rear rack.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The trouble with Raleighs

I have never had any luck with Raleighs. My first was a Raleigh Chopper Mk1 back in the 70's. It was rubbish but I rode to Tamworth and Halesowen from Sheldon on it, later while at secondary school I heard about others who had bought their bikes at component level, the concept was lost on me. I knew I wanted bigger gears but was told they weren't available and that I should learn to pedal faster - another reference to real cycling. My next bike was 26" wheel racer bought from my brother's girlfriend (she was tall) it wasn't very good but when eventually I moved my daily commute from 8 miles there and back to 12 and 14 miles and then graduated to riding to Birmingham to visit family (45 miles each way) I knew I wanted something better. At this point I had picked up various bits of cycling information from work, I was surrounded by hard cyclists (Peter Coulson among them) and the values seeped in as well. I bought a second hand Dawes Galaxy from a workmate and put some miles on it, enough to know this was streets ahead of anything I had come across before. It was too big for me but after considering having a frame built, I found that a new Dawes Galaxy with a triple front chainring and caliper brakes would fit the bill; >22 years later I still have it and tour on it. However Oakley Cycles of Northampton tried to push a Raleigh Royal or something similar on me, but I wanted the Dawes. I too was made in Birmingham. That was 1988. And so it remained until I started to fancy a change and looked at other bicycles, what I ended up with was random and governed by circumstances rather than intention. I bought a £10 bike from the local tip badged as a Raleigh Scirocco, turned it into a fixed gear in 2004 it was a harsh ride and heavy, the frame alone weighed 6 pounds. I bought another Raleigh, a hybrid, another £10 but with a 531 sticker. When I got it home and stripped it, it must have been sitting in a river - the internals of the frame were the rustiest I have ever seen. Most of the frame was returned to the tip but the forks were surprisingly good; 531! I used them on the fixed gear and it made a vast improvement. I bought another Raleigh, 531 again, this time for £5 it had beed driven over or crashed. The forks were chromed and rusty, after blasting and powder coating they ended up on the Archie Wilkinson (another entry). The crankset was sold on ebay for £2.50 and the tubes are on my shelf for the day I get the oxygen bottle filled and can start brazing them into something unusual. The next Raleigh was a mountain bike, 531 frame tubes (but not stays or forks), £10 from the tip. The stays and forks were only cromoly but it was a nice bike and used regularly until some twat opened his door without looking. I went up in the air and landed on my right elbow. It hurt for 18 months, the damage done to my trapped hand and other bruises on my leg and hip went away much more quickly. However when the bike hit the road it landed on the rear left hand cantilever and broke the braze joint from the pivot to the bracket, I hadn't noticed and only claimed for bent bars. I advise everyone go with the ambulance chasers, dealing with that insurance company was a most unpleasant experience and in particular one obnoxious, aggressive person. I wish I could remember his name, I could lambast him from the safety of my keyboard but blogs weren't invented then; "was the jacket new? We don't replace worn jackets".  Also report the accident to the police, you have been injured and there is a requirement under UK law to do so. In this case after initially admitting liability to me, he  changed his story to his insurance company. The police involvement persuaded him to change it back. That broken cantilever pivot and the dings where his door edge hit the bike frame meant I only got £10 for it on ebay, I still have the wheels, they went in the rusty bike and are now intended for the John Fern. Raleigh trouble doesn't end there, if you refer to the A S Gillot entry, that was a sheep in wolf's clothing, another 6 pound (heavy) frame, and a lot of money wasted. One Raleigh wasn't trouble; I bought a Raleigh Zenith, a ladies framed bicycle with 27" wheels and very low mileage - again for £10 down the tip. It was a 501 frame and in contrast to a different situation, I had no qualms about gutting it. The wheels went into the R. E. W. Reynolds and were a perfect fit. I have yet to reuse the chainset but most of the other bits will go onto the Clubman - but before I get to that let me tell you about the Raleigh Record Ace. I spotted this on ebay, it was my size 21", with a £120 starting bid or buy it now for £150. No choice really, why save £30 and lose it - so I bought it. The seller said he had had lots of calls querying the frame number or this finicky detail or that finicky detail you know what people are like. There were no stickers and that's what threw them. Were they blind? It jumped out at you! I bought it and was delighted. At last a deal! I rode it round the block, but wanted to change some bits that didn't suit me, the stem, saddle and gearing. Here's the dilemma, it was a low mileage, immaculate (some surface rust under the paint - I notice a lot of 80's bikes have this problem, even my Dawes Galaxy and that Zenith I mentioned earlier) but more importantly 100% original. I was torn, what was I supposed to do? I chose to sell it on ebay and let someone else benefit rather than muck it around. How stupid am I?  Where did I get this philosophy?  Years of looking at restored bicycles while others are changing theirs willy-nilly and stripping them for parts. I could have made money selling it for parts, or if I had kept it and made the changes I wanted I would have a lovely bike now which suits me. This will not happen again. Another Raleigh I bought was a very old one, it was striking when I saw it and bought it even though I could see problems. I had it blasted and powder coated in matt black, rode it round for about a year and sold it due to the harsh ride. It had borrowed wheels from a donor bike in Birmingham, (which is still hanging there), a Wrights saddle I paid £4 for at the tip, and some leather-faced brake blocks recovered from the Shayler, I think (they are the only way to stop a bike with steel rims). It went on ebay collection only for £40 the powder coating cost £25. I'm glad to be rid of it. The Raleigh Cubman frame and forks came off ebay for around £65 and had been restored although not professionally, the transfers are nice, it's from around 1959 but (there is always a but with Raleighs) the rear mudguard mounting brackets are broken both sides. I will do it up as a fixed gear, but I am pretty sure I will sell the Clubman. Finally and I hope I have learned my lesson, though I doubt it, I bought another Record Ace, this time with no emotional baggage or anything else, a frame and forks only for £29 plus postage. The forks weren't 531 and the frame when I examined it had been in a front end smash, hence the non-matching forks. And it was too big for me. I sold it for £19 but kept some bits, I can reuse the leather Brooks handlebar tape and maybe the front derailleur. I just remembered have bought and sold two Raleigh Stowaways on ebay, I didn't lose on either, in fact I made money on the second.  I was inspired by the Sheldon Brown article on them and wanted to do something similar, but didn't, they gave a harsh ride and I didn't want to waste time and still be left with a harsh ride.  (I remember advertising the first one and an objectionable ebayer with a number of 0 (that's zero, he only registered to raise objections and has not bought or sold anything) called bromptonbicycle messaged me and threatened to have my listing removed because of keyword spamming.  I had used those two words in the ad saying if you can't afford one of those consider this it's really cheap.  Since it was not in the title it's not spamming but I was not going to argue I just wanted to sell this really nice folding bicycle.  However it did create a bad taste in my mouth and soured my relationship with Brompton, I suspect that whoever gave him that task has done their company's image no good at all).
So in conclusion, I  really should avoid Raleighs completely in future. See here.

Monday, 7 November 2011

John Fern 653

I bought this on eBay, surprisingly enough. I thought I got it for a good price (£65) it was one of those listings that I came across by accident and it seemed to have been overlooked by others judging by the low page views. I bought it first on the basis of the photo and then looked for more information. I found this:
http://www.cyclechat.net/topic/53661-help-re-john-fern-cycles/
which contains this text: from Feb 2010 in response to an enquiry:
"Sadly no, John took is own life three or four years ago and the shop has gone. I have a couple of his bikes in my collection. John ran his shop alone so I'm not aware of anyone you could contact. Both my bikes are 70's custom builds for people in the local area who have passed them on to on to me for my Leicestershire built bikes collection. Both are 531 Reynolds frames and forks. However, I'm not sure how much frame building John did, they could have been made locally by Barry Bond who retired from the cycling business years ago but I still see occasionally. An elderly chap we know just called in for a cup of tea and I found out the following. John didn't make any frames but bought most of his from Melor Clarke - a long since gone cycle wholesaler in Leicester. They had all their frames made by various factories in Birmingham. My two bikes, being one off specials, had hand made frames by Barry Bond."


It is partly chromed, which I don't like (hydrogen embritlement apparently) and there is some rust on both frame and forks. They are a close fit for 700C (obviously being a competition bike and looking at my pile of bits I find that the MTB wheels from my rusty bike (now down the tip) will fit nicely, coupled with some BMX brakes and I have an alternative hybrid!
I have discovered that a wire wheel on a 1200W angle grinder removes paint, rust and leaves behind frame tubes.  I have finished the front forks with Smoothrite.  More later 31/11/2012
uploaded a photo or two 15/07/2012 See here.