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The Falcon rises, reForged…

February 7, 2014

A few weeks ago I blogged about my acquisition of a nice, 1980s Falcon touring bike. A garage find, it polished up nice, needed no new parts, just TLC. So I went about the application of said TLC and got it to a reasonable level. But I knew I could take it a step further.

Late night perursal of RAL colour charts and researching local powdercoaters quickly ensued. I would transform the Falcon and it would rise, like a, erm, falcon from the ashes of it’s grey charcoal paint, to become the first bike from my new quasi-business venture/labour of love, ‘Mill and Forge’ – rejuvinating old bikes and forging them anew, like Aragorn’s sword, only a lot more useful.

So without further ado, I give you Mill and Forge #1, the Falcon Westminster.

The Falcon, after a lot of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

The Falcon, after a lot of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

This blue-green beauty started life as a charcoal grey Falcon Westminster women’s touring bike, built in the early to mid-1980s; at its heart lies a hand-built, lugged Reynolds 531 frame and a lugged cromo Tange fork.

The beautiful, slender chromed steel rack responded well to the caress of wire wool.

The beautiful, slender chromed steel rack responded well to the caress of wire wool.

When we first saw her in a garage in deepest Cheshire, we knew she had been loved and deserved a second life. The bike oozed quality – the components, the frame, though definitely old-skool, have an elegance and quality that you just don’t get any more.

Shimano's Altus LT derailleur - early eighties vintage. A sight more elegant than Shimano's current Altus offering.

Shimano’s Altus LT derailleur – early eighties vintage. A sight more elegant than Shimano’s current Altus offering.

So we brought it back to the Mill and Forge workshop and began to strip away a few decades of dust and dirt, to reveal a bike in fine mechanical fettle, apart from the paintwork, which had definitely seen better days.

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The Weinmann 730 sidepulls after some attention with the metal polish. Teamed with alloy rims and new cables, stopping is up to modern expectations.

So it was off to the power-coaters for a media-blast and a nice durable coat of ‘Bianchi celeste’ – a lustrous pastel bluey-green, or greeny-blue , if you will.

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Is it blue? Is it green? I dunno…

Back from the painter a few days later and the bike was lovingly put back together. Every component has been cleaned and polished for that ‘better than new’ look.

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High quality and utterly elegant SR bars and stem.

We also supplied brand new Michelin World Tour tyres and tubes and new cables throughout. The headset and bottom bracket have been re-greased and all bearings have been adjusted to perfection.

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Comfortable, classis Selle San Marco saddle.

The results are, as we’re sure you’ll agree, pretty special.

We offer this stunning, ‘fully-reForged’, ready to ride bike for just £170, local pickup only from Liverpool or Manchester. She’s too lovely to post, we’re afraid.

Look for a comparable new bike (e.g. the Cooper Aintree) and you’ll be parting with around £900, for a bike with none of this old girl’s charm.

Full specification

  • Frame: Reynolds 531 lugged and handbuilt in Britain – fully media blasted and powder-coated
  • Fork: Tange chromoly lugged crown with double eyelets
  • Size: 21inch (54cm) – would suit rider from 5ft 5in to 5ft 8ins approx
  • Colour: blue/green powder-coat
  • Headset: Tange threaded chrome plated.
  • Stem: SR Sakae quill type – hand polished
  • Bars: SR Sakae Road champion vintage with original bar foam
  • Brake levers: Weinmann short reach (good for smaller hands) with extension levers. Black hoods.
  • Brakes: Weinmann 730 sidepull – hand polished
  • Crankset: original SR Sakae Custom 52/42 teeth with built-in chainguard – hand polished
  • Pedals: Lyotard alloy rat-trap style
  • Bottom Bracket: Original Tange full adjustable cup and cone – rebuilt and re-greased
  • Chain – Sedis 5 speed
  • Freewheel – 5 Speed
  • Gear levers – Shimano Altus LT in polished aluminium (old skool friction shift – very low maintenance)
  • Front derailleur – Shimano Altus LT original spec
  • Rear derailleur – Shimano Altus LT original spec – polished aluminium
  • Hubs – Maillard of France, nutted axles front and rear
  • Spokes – rustless
  • Rims: Rigida polished aluminium (better braking than cheaper chrome steel rims and lighter too)
  • Tyres: Michelin World Tour 27 x 1 ¼ brand new with new tubes
  • Seat pin: Fluted aluminium
  • Saddle: Original Selle San Marco Anatomica in suede/split leather
  • Mudguards: Bluemels style chromoplastic in chrome/black with front flap and rear reflector
  • Rear rack: Chrome steel vintage ‘randonneur’ style
  • Price: £170
  • Buy now

And so the Peugeot begot a wife

January 19, 2014

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Today my stable of ten speeds increased by precisely 100%. That is to say, I got another vintage bicycle and that makes two.

By the power of a well known online auction site, a Falcon Westminster ladies touring bike has come into my possession, for restoration and resale, provided Mrs Everyday Cyclist doesn’t get too attached.

It’s from nineteen-eighty-something and is a magnificent thing. 531 lugged frame, Weinmann 730 brakes, alloy Rigida rims, SR bars and stem, Sakae chainset, with lovely alloy chainguard. Selle San Marco Anatomica saddle, the list of ‘don’t make ‘em like that anymore’ componentry just goes on.

It was completely original, right down to the original reflectors on the wheels and a pot of Falcon touch-up paint in the supplied throw-over pannier.

A day of pleasant polish on, polish off has occurred, plus a little spanner twirling but not too much. This bike had been little used and dry stored and didn’t need much fettling.

Some fresh bar tape and some paint restoration on the stays and she’ll be ready for a new home, if we have the heart to let her go.

This Westminster is a fine old duchess and that’s the truth.

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Regreasing DMR V8 pedals

January 3, 2014

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DMR’s V8 pedals are, in my opinion, the best non-clippy pedal out there for a number of reasons. Sure you can buy more expensive flat pedals, lighter flat pedals, flat pedals made of magnesium, unobtanium, kryponite.

But in terms of bang for buck, real world performance, comfort, grip etc, they can’t be beaten. And one more thing makes them special to a retrogrouch like me; grease ports.

Yes, grease ports folks.

Back in the day, cars, motorbikes, steam engines, warships, traction engines and so on all had grease ports, oil ports or the wonderfully titled grease nipple.

These wonderful devices were present on hubs, gearboxes, bushings, suspension arms, you name it. If it needed periodic lubrication then by god it got a grease port.

Sturmey Archer hubs used to have an oil port. Every so often the sports jacket attired owner would pop open the oil port on his venerable Raleigh Sports and glug in a few drops of 10w40 motor oil from a corporation green oil can and he’d be assured trouble-free gear operation for another few years.

However, as time wore on the notion of user serviceability took a nose dive and most folk seem happy, nay hell bent, on discarding and replacing items which begin to perform ‘sub optimally’.

Which is why I was filled with unbridled joy today as I gave my Peugeot’s DMRs their regular service.

They were getting a little dry and graunchy sounding as they spun. With a normal pedal this would mean a fiddlesome rebuild but DMR have been thoughtful enough to add grease ports to the V8, meaning that the user can regularly expunge the old manky grease and dirt and replace it with fresh stuff with nary a flicker of the spanners.

The process is simple. Using an Allen key, remove the grub screw to reveal the port. Next fill the supplied syringe with any decent grease. I use Castrol automotive grease, mainly because I’ve got a large pot of it that I bought in 1999 and that if it works on cars then it’ll probably be just fine on bikes.

Anyway, I digress.

Press the tip of the syringe into the grease port and squeeze in the grease until the old dirty stuff comes out of the bearing at one end or the end cap at t’other.

Clean up any excess grease, replace the grub screw and enjoy the silky smooth action of your grippy parallelogram pedals once more.

Now don’t you just wish all the bearings on your bike were as easy to service?

NB: you can do this with other pedals too. I drilled out a hole in the end cap of my Wellgo pedals and injected them with fresh grease and the effect was much the same.

NB2: I used a medicine syringe – it holds more grease than the one supplied with the pedals. Plus the dinky DMR syringe broke immediately in my clumsy hands.

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The obligatory New Years Day ride

January 1, 2014

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I thought it wasn’t going to happen.

A 4am late night meant an 11am get-up and by the time my body was sending out the kind of signals that suggest that physical activity is possible, the light was fading in the afternoon sky and the clouds and rain were set in for the day.

“But it’s New Year’s Day. I have to have a ride,” said my conscience. So the jacket and gloves went on and I was out the door, heading once more for my favourite country park trails.

It turned out I wasn’t alone. On the trails I met families out biking, splashing through the mud in the late afternoon light.

I passed two small kids, a boy and a girl pedalling frantically on their tiny-wheeled bikes, stripes of mud up their backs and smiles on their faces. They raced me as I loped past, keeping up with me for an instant before dropping away.

I passed a man walking three majestic blue eyed malamutes. Amid the stark winter trunks of the silver birches, they looked like hungry timber wolves. I didn’t linger long in case they remembered the habits of their distant cousins.

I heard crows crowing as they strafed the field, home to the park’s highland cattle; rusty, shaggy hulks clustered around a steaming manger of hay. They looked up and snorted as I passed before resuming their day-long meal.

Soon the gloom was thick and my lights pierced the damp air like the lamps of a ship. It was time to head home, the last light glinting off the polished aluminium of my wheels.

Today’s ride was short but good. I’ve started 2014 as I hope to go on, enjoying the simple joy of the bike whenever I can.

Happy new year to all my readers. Happy riding.

Mud Pug

December 28, 2013

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Sometimes ride opportunities present themselves in the day like breaks in the cloud.

And so it was today. After yesterday’s gales and rain, it was still and calm this afternoon. So the newly shod Peugeot had its maiden voyage.

The results, with cross tyres pumped to 50psi, were impressive. It ploughed through deep sticky mud like a tractor, never clogging up, the tread shedding mud quickly and never getting bogged.

It was quick on the road too, rolling with ease to and from the country park.

On my travels I saw squirrels, donkeys, horses, cattle and an unidentified bird of prey. In all, a resounding success, followed by about an hour of bike cleaning.

Due to riding single speed for over a year, once aboard a geared bike I never shifted once!

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The Peugeot returns

December 27, 2013

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A few years past, serendipity saw to it to present me with a bike I’d longed to own since my teenage years. A ten speed Peugeot Premiere from 1987, which I bought for just £10 from a local junk shop and restored back to rude health.

After a few months I gave it to my brother who had laid his car up for a while. Essential transport became a cycling bugbite, spawning a rash of bikes. Soon the Peugeot became surplus to requirements and made its return to the Allen fold.

For a few months it lay in wait, or more precisely, hung purposefully in the shed on its hook.

Some time off work over the festive period has allowed me to rekindle my cycling, which had for a few months laid fallow (along with its attendant blogging).

Some mud plugging on the single speed Viva in the local country park gave me the idea of reviving the Peugeot as a Mud Pug, a cyclo-cross bike on the cheap.

Its generous clearances (a feature shamefully absent on modern road bikes) allow for suchlike rubber options, and High On Bikes of Southport speedily delivered a set of 30mm Schwalbe CX comps for £25 a pair. They fit perfectly under the generous drop Weinmann 500 series brakes, with more mud clearance than many proper cyclo cross bikes.

I’m pretty pleased with the results. And can’t wait to get it out in the woods, as soon as the current gales abate.

This is the first of a few rejuvenation projects. Stay tuned.

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Viva Bellissimo. Not a review.

January 21, 2013

Well ok it is, well it would be if I was impartial and since I’ve bought the bike and emotionally and financially committed it’s not a review in the objective, magazine sense of the word but notwithstanding and without further ado…

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I’ve owned my Viva Bellissimo now for around a month and now feel justly qualified to tell you about it and fill you in on the changes and tweaks I’ve made to the bike so far. I’ll start with the basics.

The frame is made from plain gauge chromoly steel, TIG welded, nice skinny un-manipulated. No hydro forming, tube manipulation or changes in tube diameter threaten to spoil the aesthetic. Angles feel fairly laid back if you come from a road bike background. We’re not talking Dutch bike or Pashley Guv’nor here but it’s relaxed when cruising at normal speeds and sails over road irregularities with little complaint. Mine is the 56cm size as far as I can ascertain, with a similar length top tube. Despite a slightly sloping top tube it’s therefore not a ‘compact’ frame dimensionally.

The frame is beautifully finished with neat TIG welds, cast dropouts and fittings for fenders and a rack. No bottle cage mounts though, this is a city bike and such appurtenances are not required.

The rear dropouts are forward facing horizontal with 120mm spacing, meaning the single, fixed and internal hub gear are all possibilities. The only downside of the forward facing dropout is that the tyre needs to be deflated to remove the rear wheel. A pain if you want to flip the wheel when out on the road or if you are taking the bike in and out of a car a lot. But not a problem in ordinary use. Just remember if your fixing a flat to inflate after fitting the wheel, not before.

The best thing about the frame however lies upon the surface, that lustrous Ferrari red paint, which literally glows when seen in the flesh. This is topped off by Viva’s brushed stainless steel head badge and 3D down tube logos. The Bellissimo model name is written in gold metallic flake script on the top tube, and a discrete Danish flag at the bottom bracket gives away the bikes country of origin (at least where it is designed, the Viva is built in Taiwan).

The red colour scheme continues on the close fitting aluminium Giles Berthoud style fenders giving the bike a wonderfully integrated look. Beneath the guards there’s room for 28mm tyres (provided they’re a modest 28mm that is). More on the fenders later.

Wheels are simply beautiful or beautifully simple, if you will. Unbranded large flange single speed hubs in polished Alu complement 36 plain gauge stainless spokes and high polished logo free double wall rims, the latter in a beautiful retro profile, reminiscent of the Endrick rims that graced many an old English cycle. The rear hub is flip flop with provision for a fixed and lockring on the other side. As standard the bike is set up as 48/18 single speed.

The chain is a beautiful nickel plated KMC jobbie with a tool free joining link for easy maintenance. The chain set is a nicely sculpted polished Alu device with an aluminium chain guard built in.

As standard the bike comes with a comfy Fizik Arione style saddle (made by Velo) atop an unbranded but very nice polished Alu seat post with a fair degree of setback.

Braking is taken care of by a pair or medium drop dual pivot brakes in polished Alu (you’re getting the polished Alu no logos theme, yes?) operated by a minimalist set of levers. The bars are a sweeping arc design in a generous 610mm width, with simple foam grips. The stem is a old school road style quill with a hidden bolt. All in all very classy.

So how does it ride? Smooth, silent and deceptively quick sum it up. The 72″ gear turns over with more ease than it has any right to. The drivetrain is quiet, simple and efficient.

Coming from a quick steering Ridgeback Flight with steep angles and little fork rake, the front end of the bike took a little getting used to; slightly slower to steer at low speed. The trade off is relaxed cruising and a plush ride.

I’ve made a few changes to the bike. Some out of personal choice, some out of necessity. The saddle had been changed for a Velo Orange No.5 in dark brown for reasons of comfort and aesthetics. The wellgo pedals have been swapped for a polished Alu pair of DMR V8s which are the grippiest platforms I’ve ever experienced.

The fenders, though beautiful, caused me some headaches. First off the bulky wraparound stays caused major toe overlap which caught me out from time to time. Then the rear guard cracked in half at the brake bridge due to premature fatigue, which caused me great annoyance. However undaunted I secured a set of SKS Longboards in the 35mm width which look beautiful, overcome the toe overlap issue, provide awesome coverage and are tough as nails, more suitable for the rigours of daily commuting. The new guards necessitated a swap from the stock (and excellent) Kenda Kwest tyres, which are the fattest 28mm tyres you’ll ever see. I opted for a set of 25mm continental gator hard shells, which look awesome and fit nicely under the close fitting fenders. I’ll report back on the effectiveness of the Hardshells after an appropriate length of time.

All in all I’m enraptured with the Viva. It’s purposeful, simple beautiful yet utterly practical for the daily commute. It’s got a timeless look which suggests both utility and speed. Fixies like it, retro folk like it. Roadies like. Women like it. Men like it. People who don’t like bikes like it. I love it.

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