Monday, 23 May 2016

1986 Ammaco 'Monte Carlo' Restoration - stripping the frame

The Springfield Cycle Collection recently acquired a 1986 Ammaco 'Monte Carlo' road bike. The seller has asked for photographs of the restored machine and it is intended to move this restoration up the works list.

Ammaco came to notice in 1985 when they jointly sponsored the 1980 and 1985 British UCI Professional Pursuit Champion, Tony Doyle with RMC-Security Grille Protections. Tony's professional Ammaco branded frames were built by Charles Roberts in London. The Ammaco professional team consisted initially of Tony Doyle but for 1986 became Ever Ready-Ammaco and also had Australian Danny Clark and Nigel Dean on their strength. The team increased in size to 7 riders for the 1988 season which marked the end of Ammaco's involvement as a major sponsor of professional cycling in Britain. The Ammaco brand is sold by the family owned chain of Cycle King cycle shops based in the English Midlands and southern England.  A major selling point appears to be price. 

The 1986 Ammaco bike frame has 3 x 4130 Cro-mo main tubes, but the forks are Hi-Ten.  The handlebar stem is a heavy 80mm alloy of Taiwanese manufacture and would indicate this is probably the source of the lugged steel frame. What is obvious is that price point was a major selling point, along with the similar colour scheme and branding to the professional team bikes. Having bikes and frames produced in the far east was nothing new as the now defunct Elsemar Distributors had marketed a range of 'Hirame' branded bikes and frames in the late 1970s/early 1980s produced by Kuwahara in Japan. Their range started with Hi-Ten tubed road frames up to full Ishiwata tubed road frames. The Hirame frame in the Springhill Collection is nicely made with Kuwahara's own forged drop-outs.

The Ammaco machine came with some original parts, but the original paintwork is now very tired and in need of renewal. The frame has 'Ammaco' branded seat stay caps and fork crown. The first problem to be addressed for any potential restoration will be that of the availibility of original pattern transfers/decals. The second problem is the actual stripping down of the bike, specifically, whether the seat post and handlebar stem are seized in the frame and the alloy cranks seized onto the steel crank axle. I intend to deal with the stripping down of the bike here. 

The threads for the screw in crank extractor were very, very dirty and required cleaning with Brunox and Scotchbrite before wiping clean with kitchen roll. The crank extractor then had to be carefully screwed into the righthand crank, checking that it was square to the crank as the initial first threads were damaged.  I wanted to make sure the remover was not cross threaded before fully screwing the remover home using a spanner/wrench.  Thankfully the crank did move relatively easily and the left crank was also successfully removed without any damage.  The chainset is a Japanese made Sugino 42/52T.  The chainrings are steel which are swaged onto the alloy crank.  It was typical fare on lower end sports road bikes in the 1970s/1980s with Peugeot using swaged Stronglight or Nervar and British manufacturers such as Dawes, Falcon or Raleigh using SR Silstar. The seat post was chromed steel and although rusty came out with the use of Brunox. The handlebar stem being alloy was more of a problem.  It was seized into the fork steerer tube.

I have written an earlier post about dealing with a seized handlebar stem.  The one thing to recognise is that it takes time to corrode in, so it logically follows, that it will take a bit of time to unseize it!  The first job was to put some PlusGas around the top of the headset locknut/handlebar stem interface and leave it for several hours.  I removed all the other components from the frame, chain, brake callipers, gear levers, front and rear derailleurs. The wheels were removed last and then the frame up ended so I could pour some more PlusGas down into the fork steerer tube and then leave it to soak for 3 days.  The wheels were then refitted to the frame, the allen key expander bolt loosened which showed the retaining bolt was still stuck in the fork head tube.  A sharp tap with a soft faced hammer released it, so the next thing was to try moving the handlebars and stem. I chose to use the original handlebars rather than substitute them for an MTB handlebar which would offer better leverage.   I wanted to initially try to see if I could move the stem with the steps I had already taken.  Obviously if I had failed, then it would have been back to a soak of PlusGas for a longer period and use of the longer MTB handlebar lever to break the bond.

After gripping firmly and applying leverage, the stem moved. Brunox was then applied and the steerer moved again.  More Brunox was applied and the steerer moved more easily.  The same process was repeated until the stem was moving relatively easily and pulled upwards and out of the fork steerer tube.  There was plenty of evidence of galvanic corrosion on the shaft of the alloy stem as no grease appears to have been used to prevent it.  One alarming thing that did happen was one of the fork drop-outs cracked.  The fork drop-outs have the slot in the drop-out for the tang of a washer for what is euphemistically referred to as 'lawyers lips'. The drop-out cracked at this slot.   The frame will now have to go to a framebuilder for repair before it can be re-enamelled.

The frame once stripped is actually reasonably light.  The frame number is stamped into the bottom of the seat tube at the righthand (crank) side just above the bottom bracket shell.  The gear tunnels are plastic, afixed to the underside of the bottom bracket shell with a 5mm Phillips screw.  The frame has a chain stop brazed onto the righthand seat stay, double gear lever bosses brazed onto the down tube and three cable guides on the top of the top tube.  I will deal with components and transfers/decals in future posts.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Cleaning alloy cycle components

I was doing some internet searching in relation to a bike I had to work on for the Springhill Cycle Collection. The bike, an early 1970s model, had been stored in less than ideal conditions and the alloy components were showing signs of surface corrosion - not been cleaned before it was stored. The components were a Spanish copy of Campagnolo and in parody of the great Roman cycling god, the copies were named after the ruler of the Greek Olympian gods, Zeus. Frank Berto in his tome 'The Dancing Chain' doesn't rate Zeus components. Zeus components were never very common in this part of 'the oul sod', so to get a bike equipped with Zeus is unusual. The bike is local, has been ridden and used judging by the layers of dirt and wear to the parts. Anyway to return to the point, the large flange hubs are not Zeus and turned out to be of Japanese origin. I haven't seen photos of this particular model of hub on the web.

However, here at Methuselah Towers I have a confession to make. I haven't bought a news stand cycle magazine in 10 years and don't frequent internet forums, so therefore cannot claim any kind of expertise other than experience. So I have to defer to the 'experts' on the web, who advocate using various grades of abrasive papers and buffing wheels to polish alloy components. Personally I would have grave reservations about such an aggressive approach, as I have experience of alloy components such as Campagnolo and Stronglight cracking and failing. I also don't agree with re-polishing old alloy to a very high surface shine, far removed from the original finish. To me it detracts from the originality of the parts/machine and can, in my humble opinion, be a case of 'over egging the pudding'.

I prefer a more subtle approach, one advocated by a long forgotten source. I was told to use a brass brush to clean alloy and then wipe the surface with oil. I now prefer to use WD40 or an equivalent solvent, on a soft cloth or a bit of kitchen roll, to wipe the burnished alloy. The brush will get rid of the surface bloom and expose the nature and extent of any surface pitting and corrosion. A decision can then be made about re-polishing if deemed necessary. It is surprising how much the brass brush will clean up the alloy, whilst still leaving a sympathetic finish to the metal. Where the corrosion is not too deep it can be polished out after cleaning, using Autosol and a soft cloth. A final clean with a silicone based car polish will give it the final seal as you have in all likelihood removed the original anodised finish. I have tried to show a few before and after photos to illustrate the point. The Maillard small flange hubs are ones I rescued from the scrap bin of a cycle business. 

Remember that you will need to keep an eye on your repolished alloy as it will now be more susceptible to corrosion as the anodised coating has been removed!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas - Joyeaux Noël - Weihnachtsgrüße

I would like to take the opportunity to wish all my readers 'seasons greetings' from this corner of Ireland.  The weather has not been that kind of late with one storm system after another depositing lots of liquid sunshine outside. With the strong winds, the only variation appears to be the 'angle of attack' of the liquid stuff. 2015 has been very wet and I would expect the yearly average to be at least 130% above the statistical mean.

Despite the gloomy weather, things move on apace and 2015 did see one or two highlights for me.  I did manage to get my Goeland Randonneuse out a few times for a run.  I really like the way the bike rides. Frame is 531 tubing and bike came equipped with 650B Michelin 'World Tour' tyres.  They are amber wall tyres and it is over 30 years since my bike was equipped with Michelin 'World Tour' tyres, so the clock has been well and truly wound back.  The Goeland dates from 1960 but the rear derailleur was updated in the 1970s to a Huret 'Duopar' longcage mech.  The only thing I have added to the bike was a Lion Bellworks engraved brass bell.  I really like these and unlike the alloy 'ping' bell that equipped my racing bike in the 1970s, this one has a loud, lingering melodious ring.  Despite it's efficacy for those of normal, unobstructed hearing, the bell's performance is limited, especially where joggers and walkers are concerned, those who are plugged into their personal music player but 'tuned out' of the real world.

A friend completed two restorations over the winter of 2014/15.  The first was a 1938 Saxon Twin Tube.  His reason for wanting another Saxon was the fact his father ran a cycle shop before and after WW2 and was an agent for Saxon.

His second bike was even more personal.  It was a Hill Special from Padiham, Lancashire and was one of four frames his father had bought to sell through the shop in the early 1950s.  The bike was one of these four and had one owner from new.  He was able to buy it back from the owner as he had got too old to ride it. The bike was actually built up by his sister and given the 'once over' quality control check by his father to make sure the bike was up to spec before it left the shop.  Components are original to the bike and have been re-chromed and polished where required.

The staff at the Springhill Cycle Collection have received a new recruit in keeping with the ethos of the collection.  Meg, a rescue dog, has joined the staff in a supervisory role. Apart from watching, to make sure the restorations are up to standard, she has undertaken the onerous task of dealing with the dodgy catering. She has to be let into this role slowly.....

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Titanic Quarter

I took advantage of the dry weather to enjoy the dog days of summer on my bike.  Today is the last day of late summer bank holiday weekend and I took the opportunity to ride into Belfast to visit the Titanic Quarter.  Belfast was not as busy as I expected with the cycle paths seeing fewer cyclists and pedestrians than anticipated, compared to last week when the P&O cruise ship 'Arcadia' was in port.  

I used the new pedestrian/cycle bridge at the Lagan weir to cross over the River Lagan onto what was once Queens Quay where the old Belfast & County Down Railway had it's Belfast terminus and Kelly's Coal Merchant had their offices and where coal was unloaded from their fleet of colliers into railway wagons on the quayside.  A lot of old Belfast has been swept away in redevelopment and the Belfast Odyssey Arena and W5 Centre were the first of the new buildings in the area. Residential housing, the Titantic centre, and the new Public Records Office have all been opened in the Quarter, as well as the restored White Star Line SS Nomadic which was built as a tender ship for the RMS Titanic.  

The Quarter is well worth a visit and the excellent Dock Cafe is popular with cyclists as the food and coffee are to be recommended.  The cafe also has a display of memorabilia about the Belfast Port and RMS Titanic.  There is a large public artwork in the communal area outside the cafe featuring RMS Titanic. It is easily reached by bicycle for the visitor to Belfast by using one of the bicycle hire scheme bicycles.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Cycles George Martin, Lyon

Georges Martin was born in Chamelet, Rhone Department, France in 1915 and died in Poule-les-Écharmeaux in 2010 aged 94 years. Georges rode professionally for J FOLLIS, Lyon. He is credited with one hundred victories according to the excellent Anciens Velos Lyonnaise website. Georges rode and won the Circuit de Six Provinces in 1946:- 
                                            1. Georges Martin,
                                            2. Pierre Baratin,
                                            3. Raphaël Géminiani.

Both Martin and Baratin were team mates for FOLLIS. Georges rode in the first post war Tour de France in 1947. The teams were national teams, but teams from both Germany and Italy were missing, an Italian team being composed of Italian-French. Georges Martin rode for a regional French Team – Equipe du Nord-Est.

The 1947 Tour started in Paris on 25th June 1947 and comprised of 21 stages, there were 99 starters, but only 53 riders completed the race, which was won with an average speed of 31.412km/hr. The top three podium places were all filled by French riders:-
                                            1. Jean Robic,
                                            2. Édouard Fachleitner,
                                            3. Pierre Brambilla.
Georges Martin rode in the 1948 edition of the Tour de France achieving 39thin the General Classification (G.C.) at the end of the race. The 1948 Tour was won by Gino Bartali in an average speed of 33.442km/hr. 

Georges rode the 1949 Tour improving his overall position to 35th overall by the end of the race. The 1949 Tour was won by Fausto Coppi in an average speed of 32.121 km/hr. The speeds seem slow by modern standards, but stages could be longer and the mountain stages were run on un-metalled roads. Georges Martin also rode the 1949 Classic Paris - Roubaix achieving a position of joint third with Frans Leenan and Jésus-Jacques Moujica

I have no information on the colour of the 1940s FOLLIS team frames and trade jerseys. There is some evidence that the 1950's FOLLIS team jersey was green with a wide grey centre band on which the lettering was red. The colour of the team bikes was a metallic grey, with contrasting head and seat panels in pale metallic blue. Forks were chrome plated along with the head lugs. Earlier frames had the 'J FOLLIS' metal head badge. It is known that FOLLIS supplied frames to the cycle trade. FOLLIS had been granted a patent for the manufacture of lugless frames in Janury 1949. A WOLHAUSER (Lyon) tandem lugless frame is known, which shows all the features of being made by FOLLIS but has a WOLHAUSER metal head badge and transfers. 

I now know that Georges Martin finished riding professionally in 1950, but he began selling bicycles under his own name firstly at 78 Rue de la Part-Dieu, Lyon, then at 101 Rue Moncey, Lyon and finally at Rue du Noir, Lyon. The Georges Martin bicycle in the Springhill Cycle Collection dates from 1952 and shows a lot of features of an early edition FOLLIS frame. The frame fittings and wrap over seat stays are typical FOLLIS, but the fork crown is unique to Georges Martin. Given his connection to FOLLIS and the fact they were known to supply frames to the cycle trade, the evidence points to Georges Martin's frames having been built by FOLLIS and appear to have been built from Vitus tubing. However, Georges Martin was interviewed by a French researcher before his death. The truth of some of his testimony is in doubt, as known facts are different to Georges' version. What is known is that Georges Martin bicycles are rare in France. The bicycle in the Springhill Collection is in original condition complete with period components, Simplex derailleur, Pellisier hubs and Ava rims, Beborex brake levers with 'San Giorgio' brake callipers, 'Radios' dynamo and lights, Mavic 'Inal' mudguards/fenders, Selle Anglais leather saddle. The machine has the original French tax plate with original owner's name and address still attached to the frame. The only replacement parts appear to be the Christophe leather toe straps. 

The machine has 700C wheels and appears to be set up for cyclotourist competitive events. The December 1950 issue of the CTC Gazette contains a report on the Paris Bike Show of that year. Their correspondent reports on the number of constructeur Demi-Course and Randonneur bicycles at the show.  A Demi-Course bicycle has mudguards/fenders and lights but no decaleur for a sacoche/handlebar bag. Recourse to photographs from the 1950s of the Poly de

Chanteloup randonneurs event, show machines being ridden with mudguards and lights but no racks or bags. Some of these machines have the alloy drinks bottles in a cage attached to the handlebar as per the Georges Martin in the Springhill collection. The 1950 Poly de Chanteloup was won by FOLLIS, Pierre Baratin winning the professional hillclimb and Roger Billet winning

the randonneur event for FOLLIS. Since the end of competative cycletourist hillclimbs, time trials and endurance events in France from 1977, the term Demi-Course now seems to refer more to cheaper mass produced machines made from Hi-Ten tubing, rather than a bespoke hand built bicycle around an artisan constructeur built frame for cyclotourist competition. The Georges Martin in the Springhill Cycle Collection is a lightweight steel frame built up with high quality, for the time period, components.

Joseph (Giuseppe) Follis was born in Alpignano, near Turin on 16th October 1911 and after living and working in Lyons became a naturalised French citizen on 11th March 1940, before Italy declared war on France on 10th June 1940. 

According to eye witnesses Joseph Follis had worked for Morel & Vana, Lyon in the 1930s and was responsible for the production of their FORTIS brand of bicycles. Following closure of the company, Joseph moved to the Rue du Dauphiné where he brazed frames in a wooden hut at the bottom of the garden. The Follis family were innovators who were granted patents for derailleur gears, manufacture of frames and bicycle brakes. The patent granted to the Follis family for a bicycle brake in November 1951 corresponds in principle to the locally (Lyon) manufactured BEBOREX brakes and levers. FOLLIS is perhaps not a French marque that is as well known as say LeJeune, Helyett, Peugeot, Mercier and Motobecane. The two known professional riders in the 1940s were Georges Martin, Pierre Baratin and André Mossière who rode cyclocross events. 

The FOLLIS professional team in 1954 ~ 1956 period included René Remangeon, Normand Christian Fanuel, Roger Chaussabel and Jean Forestiere. There were photographs of Roger Rivière with his bike published in 'Sport et Vie' in his last year as an amateur which identify it as a FOLLIS by the head badge. There is still more to be learned about both Georges Martin and the FOLLIS marque. 

George's daughter held a retrospective two day exhibition in Poule-les-Écharmeaux entitled in english – 'Georges Martin, the heroic years of the Tour de France' on 9 – 10th July 2011, the year after Georges had passed. I wish I could have been there. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Time to Change

It is a fact as you get older that your body has a way of reminding you that you are no longer 18 years of age.  The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak.  I suffered with knee pain in my right knee when I raced decades ago.  It forced a lay off from riding the bike for around 3 weeks at one stage.  Turns out that it was probably caused by having flat feet.  A conversation at work with a colleague who hard similarly suffered resulted in a visit to Hospital and the use of orthotics was recommended to correct the problem and casts taken.  I got two sets, one specifically for cycling and the other for everyday use.  Problem solved....or so I thought.  What I hadn't reckoned on was wear and tare to the knee joints over the years and arthritis in my right knee.

Years ago when I started cycling, pedals came in various styles for road, track and touring, but toe clips and toe straps were 'de rigeur'.  Rigid wooden soled cycling shoes with plastic shoe plates for use with quill pedals were invariably Italian, Sidi, Duegi and the brands imported by the late Ron Kitchin.  His catalogue 'Everything Cycling' was a drool fest for an impecunius teenager.  My first proper cycling shoes were a pair of Pete Salisbury leather shoes bought through his add in the back of 'Cycling'.  The shoes had a smooth flat sole to which I affixed T.A. shoe plates (a Ron Kitchin line) from my local bike shop run by a clubmate.  These were used for training, racing, commuting and touring. 

Pedals fitted to my bikes at the time were racing bike - Campagnolo Record quill road pedals.  There was a mail order cycling assessories company 'Freewheel' which sold it lines via a glossy colour catalogue.  One of the lines they carried was 'Miche' pedals and hubs.  The hubs were a copy of Campagnolo 'Gran Sport' and the pedals were a copy of Campagnolo Super Record with the black anodised alloy cages.  However the axle was steel, unlike Campagnolo which was Titanium.  These pedals were good value and quality for the price paid and were fitted to my hack bike, however their achilles heel was the lack of spares.  Anyway, I digress. 

I seem to remember 'Look' pedals and shoes were the first of the then new generation of 'clipless' rigid cleat systems.  The pedals were single sided road pedals but Shimano later introduced it's double sided SPD pedals.  These were much better for general riding and touring.  These have been my preferred option with suitable shoes, however I started to suffer knee pain which became very uncomfortable at times.  After investigation it was diagnosed as arthritis.   Medical advice was exercise and learn to put up with the discomfort.  At times easier said than done.

I rode a vintage two day event a couple of years ago when I had been suffering a lot of knee pain.  I was apprehensive about the ride but decided to try it anyway.  Back to quill pedals and toe clips, very alien when used to SPDs.  However, I didn't suffer any significant discomfort when using the pedals, even when pushing down hard on the pedals, a big change for normal.  A couple of other longer rides using toe clips and pedals have convinced me to ditch SPDs.  I have converted my normal bikes back to quill pedals, toe clips and toe straps without ill affect.  

A friend recently on a vintage run related that he found that toe straps were too long.  Modern leather toe straps - I use 'Zefal Christophe' are thinner than the older best quality 'Alfredo Binda' which used to be a lot harder to fit through the quill pedal.  It was common practice to put a couple of twists on the toe strap while threading though the pedal.  It is a lot harder to describe than to show in a photograph.  I have to say my relative unfamiliarity with toe clips and toe straps have soon disappeared, old skills have been quickly relearnt.  My enjoyment of cycling has improved due to the lack of on the bike knee pain.  My knees have certainly endorsed the change from SPDs.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tall Ships

I took advantage of the improving weather today and rode into Belfast to check out the new pedestrian/cycle bridge at the Lagan Weir.  The media were just dispersing and the bridge was open, so I used it for the first time to go to the Dock Cafe for a cup of coffee.  As I cycled down past the Odyssey Arena I was confronted by the first of the tall ships with two oil rigs in the distance at Harland and Wolff for repair.  It is unusual to see three oil rigs in the shipyard at one time as there is another over by the twin cranes Samson and Goliath.  

I took a few photos of the 'Morgenster' before the crowds arrive for the 'Tall Ships' event in Belfast from Thursday 2nd July until Saturday 5th July.  I then went to the Dock Cafe for my cup of coffee.  It is a popular spot with cyclists and the food is good.  

After enjoying my cup of coffee, I cycled down Queens Road to the entrance of the Harland & Wolff Repair Yard.  I took a few photographs of the two oil rigs before retracing my steps.  I could see the masts and rigging of another tall ship on the opposite side of the harbour.  I cycled back over the River Lagan and followed the NCN cycle route out through Clarendon Dock up to Duncrue Street where I turned into the Belfast Harbour Estate and right onto Northern Road. I followed the road round to the road junction at the Harbour exit where I turned left onto Dufferin Road.  I could see the tall ship berthed in Pollock Dock. 

I enjoyed the run today despite the breeze.  I had a tailwind home so it was a comfortable spin back.  There was another tall ship in Belfast Lough off the County Down coast about Bangor obviously en-route to the harbour.  It was nice to see the first of the ships which have arrived.  The event looks set to draw the crowds.