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Wide, flared and handsome – I’m a little smitten with the Velo Orange Grand Cru Randonneur Handlebar

October 16, 2014

The big problem, for me, with standard drop handlebars, is setting a handlebar angle that is at the same time comfortable on the drops and behind the brake levers.

This is because in my opinion, somewhere along the way, the DNA of drop handlebar design was fundamentally altered, and because its development was driven by going fast/looking fast rather than going comfy, nobody noticed.

Racing and touring bikes back in the day had comfortable drop bars with an elegant, constant radius curve and parallel drops and tops. Then someone came along and broke it all.

But happily, of late, there’s been a resurgence in handlebars that don’t torture the wrist and demand a vice-like grip. The Nitto Noodle, championed by Rivendell is one and the Velo Orange Grand Cru Randonneur is another.

The latter I chose to buy for my sympathetically restored Raleigh Clubman, which, one day I will itemise fully on this blog.

The Grand Cru Randonneur is a handlebar in the classic constructeur style. Wide, flared and with the critically important parallel drop and top. Why is this so darned important?

Well, it allows the drop bar to be so angled that the tops are level with the ground, along with the drops and the brakes within easy reach from either position. This all results in a relaxed wrist and hand, opening up a whole new world of drop bar comfort.

It is rare that ergonomics and aesthetics go hand in hand to such a degree, but I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s a certain Georgian rightness about these bars that’s hard to dislike.

Velo Orange Grand Cru Randonneur handlebar

Velo Orange Grand Cru Randonneur handlebar in the 46 cm width, mounted on a Zenith 80mm quill stem.

Sunshine and showers

August 17, 2014

Sometimes you can hum and hah the day away, thinking “should I have a ride or shouldn’t I?”.

Today was just such a day. Blustery, dark and cloudy then bright and sunny by turns.

But I’m glad I did. 13 miles on the loop line in dappled sunshine. Bike ride scratch itched. Squirrel count: one (grey).

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The longboard and short of it – SKS P45 Longboard Beige. A review.

August 1, 2014

When I acquired my Raleigh Clubman it came with an affliction common to many sports tourers of its era, namely fenders that are too narrow for the tyre.

The delightful ESGE 35mm gold fenders that came stock with the bike in 1983 wore their 31 years well but with 27 x 1 1/4 tyres beneath (i.e. 32-630) they weren’t exactly roomy.

The problem was exacerbated when I swapped the stock Raleigh tyres for a set of Panaracer Paselas, which, aside from being wonderful, are the fattest 27 x 1 1/4 hoops in all of Christendom. So portly are they that they forced a period of fender abstinence.

Now this was fine during the hot, dry spell that has shocked and stunned the UK for the past week but, as any proud Stark would say, ‘winter is coming’ so a fender solution was sought.

So to cut to be chase I ordered a set of SKS Longboard fenders in the 45mm width in ‘beige’. Now don’t be put off by that word. Antique cream would be more accurate. They look fine against the metallic claret of the Clubman’s frame and pick out the decals nicely.

But the coverage… My oh my, I went out and wilfully sought out puddles in the country park and lo, my be-sandalled feet are clean and dry.

In short this is a hearty recommendation for the longboard. And a review of sorts.

As with all proper fenders, monkish levels of patience are required in order to fit them. There’s a knack too, which I’ve developed over a decade plus of fendering bicycles.

Rivendell have a great video on how to do it on YouTube. Seek it out. Me? I’m waiting for it to start raining so I can test them out some more.

I bought mine for £23 minus 10% plus £3.95 express delivery from ProBikeKit. They came well packed, on time and with a free bottle of Lipton ice tea, which my son quickly swigged. Very civilised.

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Thank you Sheldon

June 28, 2014

Everyone would like to leave a legacy. Children, a fine building, a neatly wrought song.

But Sheldon Brown has left an online legacy that bicycle mechanics the world over tap into every day.

My latest thank you Sheldon moment came a few days ago.

An old Suntour 2 prong freewheel refused to budge, 30 years of hard pedalling and corrosion had stuck it on tight. My two prong remover had sheared right off and become a totally useless one prong remover.

I thought I was looking at a new wheel, forced to say goodbye to my lovely weinmann 27 x 1 1/4 and Maillard hub.

After a minute or so of pondering the answer came with a question. “What would Sheldon have done?”

A quick google and I had the answer.

I knocked the sprocket lock ring loose with a screwdriver and hammer. Off came the bearing adjuster ring with it.

Off slid the cluster accompanied with a shower of tiny ball bearings, to reveal the pawls and freewheel body.

I found the biggest mole grips I could muster and clamped them onto the remains of the freewheel. A 3 foot bar over the end of the mole grips and some firm pressure anticlockwise and bingo, the old freewheel body spun away.

The new freewheel spun on nicely, with some grease on the threads to aid future removal. A new chain and all is slick again.

Thank you Sheldon.

www.sheldonbrown.com

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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