The Falcon rises, reForged…

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, classic 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

Swedish Army Rucksack

Is this not the Brooks B17 of rucksacks?

Lately I’ve been enjoying riding the bike in its unladen state, as I’ve referenced in recent blog posts. A good portion of my commuting and recreational riding takes place off road, either on canal towpaths or woodland trails and the sprightly feel of an unladen bike on rough ground is hard to beat.

Previously I’ve been a champion of the ‘let the bike carry the weight’ philosophy and a daily saddlebag user to boot. But lately I’ve hankered after something different. The trouble is, I carry a laptop and video camera on my daily commute, so some sort of capacious bag is essential. The problem is most backpacks are high-tech, nylon items which don’t really sit well with Resurrectio’s staunchly traditional looks. Thus my search began for a ‘country bag’ to match my country bike.

I’ve always liked the looks and rugged utilitarianism of military gear, so I began my search on army surplus websites. Pretty soon I stumbled across a rucksack that blended perfectly with my country bike’s honey leather and green colour scheme.

The bag in question is an M39 Swedish Army rucksack, produced, as its name suggests, from 1939 until around 1960 . It’s a 35 litre canvas bag with one main compartment, closed with a leather drawstring and a storm flap. The bag features a lightweight metal support frame, painted in olive drab and a wonderful honey-coloured harness system made from saddle leather.

Rear view of the bag showing the beautiful and elaborate back system

The bag is supremely comfortable to wear; the broad, flat leather straps and lumbar support taking the weight, while the frame keeps the bag away from the back, making for a largely sweat free experience. The bag’s main compartment will swallow my laptop and camera with room to spare, while the smaller internal pocket is the perfect size for my bike tool kit.

It’s great to find a vintage item like this which is just as functional now as it was when it was made, way back in 1942. I’m lucky to have found an example in pretty much unused condition – I suspect that my bag has never seen service and must have been stored well to be in such remarkable condition after 69 years.

And the price for this wonderful, evokate ‘Brooks B17 of rucksacks’? £5.99 plus postage, from a popular auction site.

Review: Carradice SQR System

Product: Carradice SQR System| RRP: £26.95

The bag and SQR system in full effect - carrying around 10kgs of luggage with ease.

The humble, venerable saddlebag is, and has always been, a great way to carry moderate loads on a bike. The bag sits neatly in the slipstream of the rider, high enough to avoid being snagged on gateposts and undergrowth (if you’re riding off road) and out of the spray and grime (when you’re on the tarmac). Traditionally, saddlebags are attached to the bike by straps which thread through saddle loops on Brooks saddles with another strap which wraps around the seatpost, meaning that you don’t need a rack, keeping your bike a little leaner when you’re not toting a load.

The problem

One downside with traditional saddlebags is the faffing around involved in attaching a reattaching them. Another is that many modern saddles don’t have the necessary saddle loops to attach a saddlebag. Step up the SQR system from Carradice, which makes removing and attaching the saddlebag a two second affair and also allows a traditional saddlebag to be carried on a bike without saddlebag loops.

The solution?

A close up of the rear of the bag with SQR metal frame attached. See how the existing leather straps attach the bag to the frame.

The Carradice SQR comprises two main parts; a strong, rigid, powder-coated steel bracket to which the saddlebag is attached using it’s standard leather straps; and a tough ABS plastic bracket that attaches securely to the seatpost with two stainless steel bands. The bracket contains a spring loaded retainer which means that, once attached, the bag and bracket cannot break free.

The bracket attached to the seatpost. Two 6mm allen bolts tighten the stainless steel bands against the seatpost using the same type of tightening mechanism as a drop bar brake lever. The red button at the top operates the spring loaded retainer that keeps the frame and block firmly attached to each other. Simple, secure, strong and effective.

Two sizes of stainless steel bracket are available; the standard bracket s fit seatposts from 25mm to 32mm, while the oversized version fits post sizes 32mm plus, therefore ideal for folding bikes with large diameter seatposts.

The attaching and detaching procedure is simple. To attach, you just offer up the bottom rung of the bracket to the slot at the bottom of the seatpost bracket, pull back the red spring-loaded retainer, drop the bag into position and release the spring. Detaching, as they say in instruction manuals the world over, is the reverse of attaching. Bottom line is that it’s quick and intuitive.

Once detached, another neat feature becomes apparent when you’re carrying your bag into work/college/shops. The black metal frame incorporates a black webbing carry-handle, making bike to workplace portage a cinch.

If you’ve got more than one bike, you can buy additional seatpost brackets, meaning you can hot swap your saddlebag from bike to bike. The SQR metal frame fits all the bags in the Carradice range, from Barley (tiddly and small!) to Camper (freaking huge!) and other traditional saddlebags that are designed to fit laterally across the bike attached to the saddlebag loops.

Other solutions

The SQR isn’t the only quick release option for traditional saddlebags. Carradice also market the Bagman, which is a more traditional saddlebag support with a quick release. This also allows non-loop equipped saddles to mesh with saddlebags. However (though I’ve never used one) the attach-detach system doesn’t look quite as slick as the SQR and the rack remains in position when the bag’s not on the bike. It does however, give the bag some support at the bottom, which some riders  with low saddles, might appreciate. For me, however, with my high saddle, it’s not an issue.

The boat-cleat trick

A quirky  DIY approach using a boat cleat bought from a marine hardware shop (that I’m too chicken to try), but it might work for you! Check out the YouTube link.

Summary: A simple, tough, cleverly though out solution to a generations-old saddlebag toting problem.

Rating: theeverydaycyclist double thumbs up (that’s pretty darn good)

Link: www.carradice.co.uk

NB: This is a non-sponsored, honest to goodness, ‘I use this every day’ review – not some rehashed product press release.

Long Term Review: Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag

I’ve owned a Carradice Camper Longflap saddle bag for almost 18 months now, so I thought it was about time to share my experiences of this capacious, rugged and unashamedly traditional item of bicycle luggage.

Carradice is one of Britain’s longest established cycling-related companies, based in a small factory at Nelson, in the heart of Lancashire. A small production team churn out traditional canvas bike luggage which is shipped around the world to discerning bicyclists. Carradice produces other, modern offerings in Cordura and PVC, but it’s the classic range of canvas bags that is Carrdice’s stock-in-trade.

The Carradice Camper is a saddlebag in the traditional sense – a capacious bag that sits laterally across the bike, attached to the saddle loops of a traditional saddle (e.g. a Brooks) and to the seatpost (Carradice also markets a number of alternative ways of attaching its bags to bikes without saddle-loop equipped seats – The SQR system and the Bagman). The traditional saddlebag differs from current trend for panniers, slung low on a front or rear carrier, or a rack top bag. Take a look at archive pictures of tourists and day riders and you’ll see wall to wall saddlebags from makers like Carradice, Karrimor and Brooks.

The Camper Longflap is the largest of Carradice’s traditional saddlebags, with a huge internal capacity of 24 litres – to put this into context, the same capacity as a single large rear pannier. At the other end of the range is the Carradice Barley, a shrunken version for lightly loaded day rides, with a 9 litre capacity. In between, there’s a huge range of different capacities available, all fashioned from thick waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas, with leather straps, proper metal buckles and a wooden internal dowel to stiffen the top of the bag. The Camper (and indeed many of Carradice’s saddlebags) are available in two colourways – black canvas with off-white straps or olive green canvas with honey brown leather straps. Either choice looks great – especially on a classic looking bike.

To give you an idea of what will fit in the Camper Longflap here’s a list of things that I regularly taken with me with room to spare:

  • Full toolkit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Pump
  • Rain Jacket
  • 14 inch laptop
  • Laptop Power Supply
  • Sandwich box
  • U Lock
  • Magazine
  • Spare clothing

The two outer compartments make short work of the tools and spares, leaving the main compartment free for office stuff, clothing, stuff you like to keep clean. But that’s not the end of the Camper’s TARDIS-like trickery…

Hey, why the Longflap?

The Camper Longflap (and its smaller cousin, the Nelson Longflap) share a simple and cunning feature that has the ability to vastly increase its load-lugging ability. Undo two press stud fasteners on the waterproof, double thickness lid and a further section of lid plus two longer leather straps reveal themselves. This allows you to stow larger, wider loads like tents, sleeping mats, folding stools, tripods, bushels of hay etc, between the main body of the bag and the lid. This feature means that, rather like an ant, the bag can effectively carry loads much larger than itself.

Some may find that a large bag like this may need some support from below, preferring it to rest some of its weight on a rack. However, I find that having the bag suspended from the seatpost effectively eliminates its contents from road shock, meaning that I have successfully carried a laptop computer to and from work for the past eighteen months without so much as a hiccup.

Some riders switching from a pannier setup may notice that the bike’s centre of gravity feels raised, especially when riding out of the saddle. However, stay in the saddle and the load is very close to the rider and its weight seems to disappear. A positive side-effect of the bag’s placement behind the rider is that it doesn’t catch the wind, is out of the worst of the rain (provided you’re using mudguards) and is also out of the way of undergrowth when riding narrow, bramble lined trails.

18 months on, my Camper has become an integral part of my daily commuting setup. It’s just beginning to take on that vintage feel – a bit of road dirt, a slightly sun faded look and some leather strap beausage – I suspect it might start to look truly vintage at the same time as I’m due a hip replacement – suffice to say that these bags are indestructible; they get better with age and are easily repairable with a needle and cotton. You can also re-proof them with a tin of special stuff from Carradice (or some Nikwax).

I have chosen to attach my Camper Longflap to the bike using Carradice’s excellent SQR system, which attaches to the seatpost (reducing stress on the saddle and the seat clamp) and enables one to remove and reattach the bag in seconds, rather than faffing with straps. (I’ll post a separate review of this excellent device).

To sum up – 18 months in, with any other item of luggage, I’d probably be looking at a tired, ready to replace item. However the Camper and I are just at the beginning of a very long life together.

More information: www.carradice.co.uk

Original post: https://theeverydaycyclist.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/carradice-camper-longlap-saddlebag/

Ch, ch, ch, changes





The postman arrived today with  two packages containing three items, which meant some QT with the all-rounder bike. New additions are:

The ultimate barbag, seatpack or manbag – A Swedish Army Gas Mask Bag re-purposed as a bike bag. I’ve long thought that Army Surplus kit can be made into great cycling luggage and this is my first item. 
I saw it first on OYB – a cool sustainable living blog. This guy adapts his to make it work on the bike even better, adds his OYB (Out Your Backdoor) patch and resells ’em. And good on him. Take a look.
I bought mine from Ebay shop Jungle Clothing UK
The second item was a kickstand – I always loved the kickstand on my Raleigh Chopper when I was a kid, so why not have one now. I’ve got one on the Dahon and I use it at least three times every ride. 
Last item from the postman, and definitely least, was a very boring pair of curved rack mounts for my SL Tournee rear rack, meaning I can use it in conjunction with V brakes. 
The other change I’ve made is to swap the 610mm North Road bars for a narrower 490mm pair with a greater sweep-back. They were on a Pashley trike I’ve got that was just begging for wider bars. I’ve polished them up – they’re a little scratched from about 20 years of usage, but I think the scratches polished out count as beausage.
I’ve finished them with a minimalistic wrap of bar tape and a pair of wine cork bar end stoppers. 
Most people think I’ve created Frankenstein, but to me, she’s a workaday Venus.