Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Pictured in this post is a fantastic image drawn by Frank Patterson , He was the most popular artist of his time and often his artwork could often be found in old cycling advertisements, Brooks catalogues and the popular CTC ( Cyclists Touring Club ) Gazette It is possible to purchase books and prints of his artwork even though he passed away in 1952. Frank was born in Portsmouth , England in 1871 and at that time the bicycle was developing as the most popular means of transport opening up the joys of touring to everyone including Patterson. His artwork captures the Golden age of cycling long before Lycra, Alloy and Carbon fiber frames were introduced.
Once upon a time the only saddle worth buying was a leather brooks saddle, in my opinion it still is as it's the only saddle that will conform to your shape and fit you perfectly. Many modern cyclists dismiss the brooks because of it's weight as a lightweight plastic and titanium saddle weighs less , well maybe they do but in the past few years Brooks has started producing titanium railed saddles to save weight and attract the new bred of cyclists who previously only used the light weight racing saddle mentioned above. Brooks is the oldest established saddle manufacturer in the world today carrying on the tradition that John Boultbee Brooks started back in 1866. He bought himself one of the few - fangled velocipedes that were popular at the time and was more than displeased as the wooden saddle was excruciatingly uncomfortable and because his father was in the saddle making business for horses he set about designing something better than that crude saddle that came with his velocipede. Over the years he improved his saddle designs as the popularity of cycling grew and some of the early Brooks saddle designs are still available today. Brooks saddles may not be cheap but then they are made of very high quality leather and the whole process of manufacturing a single saddle can take up to 90 days. They have also recently introduced a few pre aged saddles to speed up the breaking in process as it takes considerable time to break in your new brooks saddle but once it has been broken in and conformed to to your shape you'll be thankful you purchased a Brooks, pictured above is one of the new saddles released by brooks which is a re issue of the Sprinter. The Sprinter first appeared in the 1925 catalogue and the last catalogue to feature it was the 1957 catalogue but now it's available again. For more info on Brooks check out their fantastic website showcasing their products at
Tuesday, 27 February 2007
In the 1951 Brooks advertisement featured on this page it shows a saddle mounted touring bag. If you are not familiar with these, they were very popular amongst cyclists as most saddles were made of leather such as Brooks, Wrights etc and on the back of the saddle were metal bag loops in which these touring bags were attached. The bags were of various sizes from small day bags to larger touring bags suitable for long multi day touring & they also had side pouches in which you could stow away a puncture repair kit and spare tubes etc in case of an unexpected brake down. On top on the saddle bag were another pair of straps in which you could secure your rain cape as then it was ready at hand if the heavens suddenly opened. The bags were of great use to cyclists as you could stow away spare clothes, lunch, Thermos flask of tea and even your camera. These bags are still available today from Brooks of England the long established leather saddle manufacturer and in the last year or so they have re introduced two of their old touring bags again. You can view them at this site
Another saddle bag manufactur is Carradice of England who has been making traditional saddle bags for the last 60 years in Lancashire , you can view their range of products at this address
If you take a good look at the cyclists pictured above in the fantastic BSA advertisement, you notice the absence of any Lycra at all. Back then most cyclists wore knickerbockers and Norfolk jackets when the weather was cool and maybe even their club tie , if they became too hot while cycling they took off their jacket and stowed it away in their Brooks or Carradice touring bag. Then they had a long sleeved collared shirt to protect themselves from the sun whist cycling and if it was too hot for tweed knickerbockers & jackets they would have been dressed as the two riders above are pictured. It was popular for men to wear woolen knee socks and Bermuda shorts with a long sleeved shirt to offer some protection from the sun and sturdy black leather cycling shoes. Later on Polo shirts also became popular and I have seen photos of cyclists from the 1950s wearing woolen cardigans & vests as wool is a fantastic fabric for cycling in as it doesn't sink when you get all sweaty like cotton does and it keeps you warm when needed. In recent years there has been some interest in woolen sports wear with some companies now producing fantastic wool cycling Jersey's and many modern athletes have discovered the joys of a good woolen garment. Along with the above mentioned clothing many cyclists would have worn their club badge such as a CTC - Cyclists Touring Club badge as many places scattered throughout the UK offered discounts for CTC members etc. You can still find this style of clothing today as hiking / Cycling knickerbockers ( they are sometimes referred to as breeks ) are still available in the UK and I purchased a fantastic pair of woolen knickerbockers here in Japan from an outdoor store that were designed for hiking but are just fine for cycling. As for the other clothing items I've mentioned above these are readily available new or take a trip to your local 2nd hand clothing store and you'll be sure to find something suitable at a very reasonable price, as for traditional black leather cycling shoes these are a little harder to locate but Carnac a French manufacturer still makes a traditional cycling shoe and they are very comfortable to wear as I bought a pair several years ago. So once you have your classic British bicycle restored and ready to ride try and find suitable clothing to go with it as it's not just about the bike
Monday, 26 February 2007
When most people think of restoring a bicycle they think it involves a lot of time and money, well it can be if you want a repainted, re chromed showroom quality bicycle that you'll be to scared to take on a ride in case it gets scratched etc. In saying that fully restored bicycles can look fantastic but first you must consider what you actually want to do with the bicycle once it's restored. Do you want to display it or do you want to get out and ride it. In this post I'll cover the methods of restoring a bicycle that you can use as your everyday means of transport. I've been restoring bicycles since early 1990s and over the years I've developed some good methods of restoration , first of all it depends on what you start with of course. If you happen to find a nice early bicycle say a 1903 BSA racing bike that is in bad condition but a good example it's worth spending the time to fully restore it. Which may involve sandblasting the frame or using paint stripper to bring back the frame to bare metal as in a bicycle of this age it's necessary to take the frame back to bare metal to check for cracks that may render the bicycle too dangerous to ride. Image the horror of flying down a long decent only to find the head tube or bottom bracket part with the rest of the frame because you didn't realise it was cracked under the baked enamel and the results of that having an accident like that may render you unable to ride again. So after cleaning the frame back to bare metal and once you have considered it safe and sound then it needs to be re painted . You can undertake this yourself with spray cans ( don't paint it when it's windy as you'll suffer abuse from the next door neighbour who has just hung out their washing ) or take it to your local car body shop and find a suitable color that matches the paint you took off it. Once it's painted and the remainder of the parts cleaned of excess grease and polished then you can re assemble it, you will need new ball bearings for the hubs, headset and bottom bracket etc but in some cases the old ball bearings may still be of use. In re fitting the parts to the bike you can now decide if you want to re chrome or re nickel any of the parts ( remember don't re chrome parts for a pre 1930s bicycle as most bicycles leading up to the 1930s had nickel plated parts and it's the sign of a bad restoration, also chrome looks really bad on an early period bicycle and it's the first thing other collectors will tell you when they see your finished bicycle ) . Some parts look great without getting them re plated at all , but if you are going to re paint the frame you might as well have everything looking as new, this can add to the total cost of the restoration but if you do most of the work yourself you can keep the price down. Don't be in a rush to restore a bicycle , do some research and try and find a bicycle catalogue showing your bike which will help you determine if it has the correct parts or not and then you can hunt around junk yards, old bicycle shops , E bay and ask other bicycle collectors for the correct period parts that you'll need to finish your project. In the case of my current restoration ( 1947 Humber sports ) the baked enamel has plenty of chips and in some cases bare metal but the remainder of the paint looks great and it's original which is what I like about it and it has the original shop transfer which I would lose if it were re painted . Also with this restoration I'm trying to make the Humber look like it was well looked after rather than restored and the only tell tale signs of it being restored are the new spokes ( the old ones were badly rusted and unsafe ) , new tyres and tubes ( the original Dunlop NZ tyres were too cracked to use and unsafe for long distance cycling ) . Apart from those new items the remainder of the parts that have been fitted to it are old parts from the 1950s with flaked chrome and chipped paint as they match the rest of the bike. The picture in this post is of a mid period bicycle which would be perfect for restoring as it looks to have all it's parts. So if you happen to find a nice old bicycle to restore , take your time researching and restoring it as it will be well worth the effort once it's finished and something you'll be proud to ride.
Sunday, 25 February 2007
Up until World war two was finished most of the bicycles being imported from the United Kingdom to New Zealand were of the CKD type ( what is CKD ? - completely knocked down ) that means that most New Zealand bicycle import companies imported CKD bicycles which were then built up by the stores who ordered them and often the store would then place their shop transfer upon the bicycle, among the bicycles that were imported BSA, Raleigh , Humber and Rudge were the most popular brands at the time. Many ex serviceman used to assemble CKD bicycles in the evenings to make extra money and due to petrol shortages and rationing, bicycles were in high demand as the main means of transport for most New Zealanders. Over the world war two period shipping lanes were disrupted and because of that, not many new bicycles arrived on New Zealand shores so people had to make do with what they had often scrounging parts from old bicycles no longer in use . One of the hardest things to obtain for your bicycle around the war was a new pair of tyres and the Govt put in place a law stating that you had to have permission to buy a new set of tyres but that was only for people who needed their bicycles to get to work or school so a letter had to be obtained from your employer or teacher stating that you needed the tyres as the bicycle was your main means of transport and then the staff at the bicycle shop had to inspect the tyres to see if they needed replacing. Only then could you obtain new tyres for your bicycle, but not long after the war ended a factory was set up in Christchurch making Dunlop tyres so then it was possible to purchase tyres when needed. My father informed me recently that most of the bicycles being imported to NZ before 1947 or so had the handle bars & rims etc painted with black enamel instead of chrome but around 1947 bicycles started arriving in NZ with chromed parts such as handlebars, crank sets, rims etc these bicycles would have cost quite a lot to the average New Zealander as my fathers bicycle cost him 27 pounds in 1947. Pictured in this post is a scan of the bicycle my father ordered from the Humber catalouge of 1947
Friday, 23 February 2007
Well after being involved in the MTB scene in New Zealand in the early 90s and spending vast amounts of money on high tech bikes and racing equipment and seeing local MTB clubs loose their family members as everybody wanted race instead of just enjoy a nice ride. I decided to turn the clock back 100 years to experience the real joys of cycling, so I built a 50 inch Ordinary ( penny farthing ) and since then I have built several more. Around the same time time as I built my first Ordinary I started collecting and restoring pre world war 2 bicycles and very soon my double garage was bursting at the seems with Humbers, Rudges, Triumphs, BSAs etc. With so many bicycles laying about my garage I started to restore some of the better examples and the first bike I restored was a 28 inch Humber Royal Tourist which was a fantastic touring bike fitted with a Sturmey archer 3 speed. It was then I discovered the real joys of cycling 1950s style ,taking your time getting to your destination , taking photos, relaxing under a tree in the middle of nowhere eating sandwiches and really enjoying the ride. When I look at Lycra clad racers flying past me along some scenic route I wonder if they are really enjoying their sprint through the country side as with their head down over the bars they are missing out on the things that make cycle touring fantastic, meeting people along the way, an old historic building on the main route, a small local cafe serving good food washed down with a beer etc. This is what cycle touring used to be like, some people still enjoy a gentle ride through the countryside with plenty of rest stops along the way and this is what I intend to do once the Humber I'm restoring is back on the road in a month or so and believe me you won't see me racing through the country wearing Lycra at all as I want to enjoy myself. The picture in this post was taken about 7 years ago when I had my 50 inch Ordinary here in Japan
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Since I first bought the Humber to Japan I have un- laced both sets of wheels since the spokes were rusted and unsafe for touring upon doing that I was able to clean up the stainless steel 26 x 1 x 3/8 Dunlop Endrick rims and the hubs . Also the frame has been polished ( I didn't want to re paint the frame as it still has the remains of the shop transfer where the bike was purchased ) and all the chrome fittings have been polished, the medium-drop Lauterwasser bars and Humber lamp clip were re chromed in NZ. Last Sunday I collected my new wheels as I had my local bike shop here order some heavy gauge spokes and re build the wheels , they look fantastic as the front wheel is 3 cross and the back is 4 cross ( the rear hub is a Sturmey Archer ABC with has a drum brake & internal 3 speed ). The only new parts that have put on it are new spokes, tyres & tubes the other parts that have recently been fitted to the Humber are period parts from the 1950s such as Miller chrome bell, Raleigh kick stand, Lucas dynamo. Today I received from Thailand a full set of 1950s Humber sports decals that I won on E bay , these are very hard to find in good condition and will look great on the Humber. My plan in restoring my fathers bike is to make it look like it hasn't been restored at all as I want to keep it looking as original as possible. Pictured in this post is the set of Humber decals I won on E bay
Well since I have so much free time at work I've decided to start a blog about one of my hobbies which is cycling. I used to spend a lot of my time restoring vintage bicycles in New Zealand and building replica penny farthings , but in doing that I was always stuck in my workshop while my mates were out enjoying the sunshine. Since coming back to Japan I've stopped building bicycles and on my last trip home to NZ I brought back my fathers 1947 26 inch Humber Sports , which sat idle in my workshop in NZ gathering dust waiting to be restored. Well now I have it with me in Niigata and have been busy restoring it so I can ride it to work in the spring plus I'm looking forward to getting out on the bike as much as I can this year as there are some great places to explore in Niigata ken. In this blog I'll introduce you to some of the places I visit on my day's off here in Niigata and the bike that I'll be using. I am also lucky that I know of another fellow cyclist living in Niigata who shares my interested in cycle touring in rural Japan and you can check out his blog at this address http://roads-less-travelled.blogspot.com/