Sunday, 25 September 2016

V-CC Rides 2016

As the summer slips past and cooler shorter days take hold it gives time to reflect on the years rides with the Veteran-Cycle Club. This is not a cycling club, although many members are cyclists. The club is for people interested in old cycles and encourages members to meet and ride these old machines. I was not able to attend all local section rides this year, but I did make the effort to attend as many as I could.  The summer in this part of the world has been wet and often windy.

Events take place across the province of Ulster, the last ride of the summer season was in County Donegal on the Fanad Peninsular. The route afforded some spectacular views of Lough Swilly on reasonably lightly trafficked roads starting and finishing on the quayside at Ramelton. There are buildings on the quayside with a date stone above the door 'L & L S R 1864'. The interesting thing is the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway never had a station at Ramelton!

The route went via Rathmullan on the shores of Lough Swilly. A short detour was made to Rathmullan House, now a country hotel. This 18th Century house was bought by Robert Batt who was the youngest son of Narcissus Batt (1760 – 1840) , a founder of the Belfast Bank. The Batt family had property at Ozier Hill, in Co. Wexford and at Purdysburn, Co. Down. Rathmullan House was part of a 4,377 acre estate in 1876. Robert Batt purchased Rathmullan House in 1837 and it remained in family ownership through the generations until 1939. The associated land was bought by the tenant farmers under the various land acts passed by the Liberal Government between 1870 and 1906.

Rathmullan is also notable for seeing the end of the Gaelic Order with the 'flight of the Earls' to the continent of Europe. There is a statue on the foreshore below the Victorian Coastguard cottages at Rathmullan, to commemorate the event.

One of joys of taking part in the V-CC rides is to see a newly restored machine make it's debut back on the road.  Cycles which made an appearance this year are a Sunbeam roadster, Claud Butler Lady's bike and an early Leader of Croydon.

The weather was kind for the last summer run and the food bought in Rathmullan was excellent.  A pleasant ride back to the start followed as the clouds cleared. The tide had come in at Ramelton by the time of our return.  The run ended with a lovely sunset to round off a great day.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Winter Bike

As the evenings draw down and the days shorten, thoughts turn to unearthing the winter bike. We have not had much of a summer here, generally very wet. The trees started losing their leaves at the end of July, to the point, a maple in the garden is nearly in winter mode apart from the seeds still on the tree.

I suppose it is a left over of my cycling apprenticeship of decades ago, where you had a heavier winter, or hack bike, equipped with mudguards, on which to maintain fitness, keeping your prize machine in good trim for the following racing season. The other reason was using your heavier hack bike would give you an advantage when you changed to your lighter race bike at the start of the new race season.

I started off my cycling career a Hi-Ten Raleigh sports bike and covered thousands of miles on this humble machine. My winter bike was purchased secondhand in the 1980s as a complete bike. Bike was stripped and frame painted by hand. It was a cheap sports bike, confirmed when I stripped the frame to reveal seamed frame tubes. It has had a number of repaints since and still going strong. The bike originally was fitted with a double chainset and Suntour derailleur gears. I had the frame professionally re-enamelled by Bob Jackson years ago, taking advantage of their £50 re-enamelling offer. I chose to have the frame painted black with a maroon headtube, reminiscent of the 1930s BSA Sports.

Around 2009 I rebuilt the bike as a fixed gear machine. It rode well enough in this trim except for the fact my arthritic knees protested at the fixed gear. I liked the fact there was no derailleur gears and freewheel block to attract road dirt and the workings affected by winter road salt. I needed a freewheel to ease the workload on my knees and would like a few gears, but keeping the simple drive train. The solution suggested itself when I rescued a 1960s Sturmey-Archer AW3 wheel dumped in a local bog. The challenge was, could I strip it down and get it going again? I managed to achieve the first and following a thorough clean achieved the second, however the left hand ball cup was badly worn. The hub was the Mk3 with the pressed in ball cup and the bottom gear would never work. I aimed to have a middle gear of around 60 inches, with a top gear under 80 inches. Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hubs tended to be fitted to bikes with too high a gear in my opinion. I ended up fitting a 22T sprocket to my hub gear.

I also took the opportunity when converting the bike to hub gear operation, to build a new front wheel too, incorporating a Novatec hub dynamo. These were getting long in the tooth when I bought mine and could be bought cheaply on ebay. The downside of the hub was the resistance in the dynamo when riding with lights off. It is not actually such a drawback riding with the lights permanently on as the short days and overcast weather mean you are more easily noticed by motor vehicles. Whether they actually make room for you on the road is another matter…..

I used Busch and Muller LED lights on the bike and routed the twin wire cables on the outside of the plastic mudguards. I used pieces of plastic tube glued to the mudguard with epoxy to retain the wires. The tubing came from used liquid soap bottles, being the bottom part of the soap dispenser assembly. Not very elegant, but it works and is in keeping with my bargain basement ethos for my winter bike. I still have the adapted Ever Ready plastic rear light fitted to my old 1970s Carradice Nelson longflap saddlebag. The light was fitted to a custom made aluminium bracket which fits into the offside side pocket of the saddlebag. I always found it useful to have a rear light on the offside of the bike as well as the central rear light. No excuse for a motor vehicle not to give you enough room when passing.

The parts fitted to my bike have all been cascaded down from other bikes over the years, except the wheels and mudguards. The seatpost is an old alloy SR Laprade fluted model. The headset is an old 'Red S' sold by Freewheel in their mail order catalogue. It was actually a Stronglight A9 needle bearing alloy and plastic copy. The cranks are odd cranks, the right being an SR Custom fitted with a single chain ring and the left a Stronglight. They are the same length though! Bars were a modern replacement 44cm for the old narrow SR bars. The stem is 3T. The saddle is an old Cinelli off my MKM racing bike and is now worth too much to leave it on my bike. I have an old Brooks B17 to replace it with. The Cinelli will be re-used in a restoration.

I always like the idea of the old Sturmey-Archer 3 speed quadrant lever mounted on the top tube of bikes in the 1930s. I couldn't get any modern lever to fit onto the top tube of my bike. Instead I used a lever designed for use on 22mm handlebars on the handlebar stem of my bike, with a cable stop on the top tube and the cable routed via a pulley wheel down the seat stay to the dropout. An old fashioned idea, which works well and looks neat on the bike. I will rebuild the back wheel with a new Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub gear in the next few weeks, so the bike will be ready for when BST ends.