My dad gave me his bike a few years ago. After almost 60 years of ownership he understood that his cycling days had come to an end. I was happy to take it, with a vague thought of using it, but it ended up in my shed where it sat for a year or two, or three. At some point during that time I realised that it really needed some attention before being used again, and that in an ideal world I would find the energy and time to fix it up. That didn’t happen of course. Until…. lockdown.
My dad bought the frame second-hand in 1960 – when he was 24. We can estimate from the design that it dates from a few years before. He built it up with components from a local shop so most of what was still present was from 1955-1960 shop stock. It’s worth saying that in around 1990 (when I was 14/15) I did some work on this bike. Some of it was good, some not so good. The end result was that the original derailleur and shifter were gone, an additional chain ring and front derailleur had been added along with some (modernish at the time) Shimano 105 shifters. I spray-painted it with aerosol cans – which also looked okay at the time but of course didn’t last that well over the next 25+ years. Thankfully I didn’t make any other ‘improvements’.
I decided that this time around I would enlist the skills of a professional stove enameler. I used Argos Racing Cycles, in Brislington, Bristol. They’re very well respected and people take their bike frames there from all over the UK.
I decided to do a little research – thanks to the Internet and its contributors it proved really quite easy. The brake levers and callipers are made by G.B Cycle Components of Feltham, Middlesex and I was able to identify them as a post-1955 model.
The pedals are Brampton B8 – made from the late 40’s, well into the 50’s with the famous ‘quill’ design.
Argos Cycles stripped the frame and forks down and called me in to inspect the current condition and make some choices regarding how to finish the job. Aside from straightening, minor repairs, and shaving off the old front light bracket, the only thing to do was bend the frame and forks a little to accommodate the slightly wider hub axles of the replacement wheels and fit some mount holes for a bottle holder. I was able to source some steel 27 x 11/4 rims so no changes to brake hang were required.
Although it was clear that the bottom bracket was made by BSA, this did not guarantee the whole frame was a BSA. Argos explained to me that many frame builders used BSA components in their frames. No matter, it was close enough so I opted for BSA decals as part of the finish. I wanted to faithfully recreate the original colour scheme and was able to scratch away my spray paint to reveal the colours underneath and select a decent match. I remembered the head tube and forks being a light blue accent colour against a reddish frame. I didn’t remember the seat tube also having the accent colour – I only discovered this more recently once my mum had found some old photos for me. I did my best and the end result is very pleasing.
Once assembled, there were a few teething problems. The derailleur hanger I’d found was not well-suited to the 1972 Campagnolo derailleur that I was using. It resulted in the mech hanging too far back and not holding enough of the chain around the rear sprocket. I had some problems with the chain staying on due to the replacement bottom bracket being somewhat wider than the original. I wanted to use a sealed unit and they only came in one width in the cottered version. Judicious use of spacers on the chainring has helped the chain stay on.
I had a lot of fun doing this and I’m very happy with the finished bike. I refuse to use it in the this rainy weather so I can’t wait for the summer. I’m looking forward to a ride to a pub for pint and possibly even joining a classic / retro ride somewhere. There is more work I could do like re-chrome the stem, crank, and pedals, though I do find some charm in a few unrestored elements – after all, we can be proud of our scars.
I’ll finish this piece by noting that when I showed my dad the ‘almost finished surprise project’ that had been a labour of ‘love / what else do you do in lockdown?’ for the last six months – the very first thing he said was ‘where are the mudguards?’ I had predicted this and he didn’t let me down. Fortunately I was able to inform him that they were already on order. Musing on this later I was reminded that reliability, in all its forms, is an important characteristic in any father.