1977 Jack Taylor Tandem Restoration- the Beginning

Mafac hood with dual cables

I’ve been waiting to get in the right frame of mind to begin restoration of a 1977 Jack Taylor Tandem that I had shipped from England back in 2012.  Clearly, I’ve been waiting quite a while, but during that time I have corresponded with the original owner’s son, who has provided valuable information about the bike’s history as well as a few family photos of the tandem’s exploits.

Jack Taylor frame at bottom left

I also needed more shop space to enable me to use two stands to aid with disassembly.  That finally happened last Fall, and I now have not only more shop space, but additional bike storage space as well, all in one location.

So I was finally able to remove the components to begin the process of bringing this tandem back to its original glory.  I had already removed the 650b Maxi-Car wheelset and worked on getting the wheels back in order.

I still need to re-glue one of the brake shoes in the front drum hub, but the rear wheel has been overhauled and adjusted.

Jack Taylor frames are built with Reynolds 531 tubing.  The specs for each Reynolds tubeset will vary based on customer request and on the particular application.  A serial number is stamped on the rear drop-out and the steerer tube.  You can see the matching numbers in the above photo – 7183 – indicating this is a probably a 1977 frame, based on the helpful chart provided by Joel Metz at his blackbirdsf.org site.  This chart was developed from information provided by Mark Lawrence, who happens to be the individual I purchased this tandem from.  He sold the bike on behalf of the original owners.  Mark was a long-time friend of the Taylor brothers.

Tandems differ from regular bikes in a number of ways.  There are naturally two bottom brackets, one of which is an eccentric, which aids in adjusting the timing chain so that that both sets of cranks are positioned at the same angle on the spindle, and so that chain tension is properly maintained.  The matching crank arm position is important for cornering, as you want both crank arms upright when descending at speed while leaning over.  Both bottom brackets are T.A. models, and the threaded eccentric appears to say “Rogers”.  It taps out of the frame after loosening the bolts.  Adjustment is made by loosening the bolts, twisting the eccentric to the desired position, and re-tightening.

The components on this tandem indicate that it was the Super Touring Deluxe model, spec’d with Mafac Tandem cantilever brake calipers (plus a Maxi drum brake up front), Stronglight headset, Campagnolo derailleurs and shifters, Campagnolo drop-outs, SunTour Perfect 5 speed freewheel, T. A. cranksets, plus Maxi-Car 650b wheels.

1977 Jack Taylor Tandem with kiddie crank and trail-a-bike

Four cranksets was one more than expected.  Upon corresponding with the son of the original owners, I learned that this was needed to set up the “kiddie-crank” for the young stoker.  His sister contributed to the effort on her trail-a-bike.

As originally purchased 1977 Jack Taylor Tandem

As I’ve researched the history of Jack Taylor Cycles I’ve come across a few sites I hadn’t accessed before.  One of these is the Stockton-on-Tees History site, which has several wonderful posts regarding the history of the “works” building and of the Taylor brother’s exploits:

Jack Taylor Cycles

Jack Taylor Cycle Maker

While the restoration process may take some time, I’m hopeful about the result.  This is a machine worth preserving.

Bike Different

When routines are disrupted, surprising changes take place.  With the COVID-19 pandemic creating so much fear, sorrow, and loss, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on what still remains.  My own cycling patterns have changed.  I’ve had to “bike different” (sorry…Apple) now that human behavior has been altered by the crisis.

Some of the changes are good.  I’ve noticed that I now want to ride a bike that can handle a lot of “different” situations, and can give me a relaxed riding position as I go about altering my usual routes.  With pedestrians “taking the lane” I needed to find other routes for my usual commute.  And, I stopped doing many of my leisure ride jaunts due to crowding on narrow paths.  A not so good change is how many aggressive drivers are out on the road, as compared to the previous amount of way too many.  All of these shifts have meant that I’ve been riding my Rivendell Appaloosa much more frequently.

I had originally built up the frame with a full complement of vintage SunTour components, including a Cyclone rear derailleur and a Sprint double crank, with a Superbe front derailleur.  That system worked perfectly, except for not offering low enough gears for the bike to become a regular grocery hauler and errand bike.  I had reserved it only for pleasure rides, it being fairly pleasurable!

So it was time for a triple crank.  I wanted to continue using vintage SunTour but couldn’t find a SunTour crankset with the right BCD to allow for smaller rings.  Fortunately, this Sugino AT triple fills the bill with its interesting spider and self-extracting crank bolts.  After all, Sugino is the actual manufacturer of SunTour cranksets, so its kind of still SunTour anyway. I set it up with 45/38/28 rings, but still had to add 3 spacers to the 127mm bottom bracket spindle to provide enough clearance with the Appaloosa’s wide chain stays.  The bike is definitely meant to be used with very small rings, kind of mountain bike style.

I could no longer use the superb Superbe front derailleur, so needed something to handle the triple crank.  I decided to “think different” and try out a SunTour BlueLine front derailleur, designed for a double and for larger rings.  It works perfectly with this triple crankset.  Many times I’ve found that components work as not originally marketed.  This BL derailleur is just one example of a vintage component that works outside of its targeted range.

I also replaced the pretty constructeur rear rack I had originally installed with this heftier model taken off a 1980’s touring bike.  Because of the Appaloosa’s long chain stays, I added some extra brackets to get the rack stays attached to the frame.

I’ve been using this Brooks Cambium C-19 saddle, which is quite lovely, and the shape is reasonably comfortable.  However, the rough pattern in the non-leather cover causes chafing.  I’ve been hoping for the saddle to wear smooth over time, but so far that hasn’t happened.

And, part of biking different means alerting walkers and runners to my presence in a more pleasant manner than “on yer left”.  So the Riv has a new brass bell, courtesy of Velo-Orange.  I’m not sure if its reverberating ring is any less alarming to pedestrians than my vocal warning, but it looks nice.

It’s definitely more challenging to cycle right now.  It’s more challenging to do all of the things we normally do.  But, by biking different, I think we’ll come out on the other side of this pandemic with a new found respect for non-vehicular modes of transportation.

Pandemic Stress Release: A Few Product Reviews

I’ve been thinking about the different ways people cope with stress as we go through this difficult and unprecedented (for most of us) time.  For me, cycling, walking, gardening, and having the opportunity to work have helped a great deal.  But, when all of that fails, it’s time to go shopping!

First up was a pedal replacement for my 1975 Centurion Semi-Pro.  The bike came to me with these amazing Barelli Supreme cartridge bearing pedals, which were designed for toe clips.  As I no longer ride with toe clip pedals, I removed them and installed some low-end Wellgo pedals that were sitting around in my shop.  While moderately acceptable, I wanted to find some quality pedals that could provide more comfort for my aging feet, which have become sensitive to pedal pressure points.

After looking around for options I settled on these Velo-Orange Touring pedals.  I was looking for a pedal that was of medium size, durable, and with good grip for rain riding, as well as offering a better distribution of weight across the pedal body and cage.  As you can see from the above photo, these pedals feature two adjustable pins on the outside of the pedal plus ridges on the cage to help lock your shoes in place.  You can easily pop out the reflectors, but since I love reflectors, I left them there.

They install with an Allen wrench, not a 15mm pedal wrench.  As with many cartridge bearing systems, the pedals did not spin as freely when initially installed, as cup and cone pedals will.  But, I’ve been cycling with them for about a week now and they have loosened up a bit.  Most importantly, they are amazingly comfortable pedals, offering support for my whole foot, not just around the cage.  My feet are happier.

Next up was a saddlebag for the R. Ducheron bike I’ve been restoring.  The bike has no rack braze-ons.  With its beautiful new paint job (see below), I decided not to even consider mounting a rear rack with clamps.  The bike has a small custom front rack designed to support a rando bag, but for my kind of riding, I needed a more substantial bag to handle errands, commuting, and shopping.

Cue this Carradice Cadet saddlebag, which I purchased from Ben’s Cycle, located in Milwaukee and established in 1928 and now owned by the third generation of the family.  Ben’s is a wonderful online source for many cycling related products.

I wanted a saddlebag that would not be wider than the bars, but would still hold all that I needed.  A tall order, for sure, but this Carradice Cadet bag fills the bill with its 13 litres of interior space.  The bag closes with a draw string, and the cavernous area is best organized with smaller containers for tools and supplies.  But, it meets my requirements and will be put to good use, being also waterproof.

A related product is these V-O saddlebag loops which clamp on to the saddle rails.  I was surprised that my Rebour-blessed Ideale saddle didn’t have loops, but fear not:  these V-O loops when installed look like they have always been there.

Next up:  a wax/polish product designed for restorers of vintage machines.  I first heard about Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish from one of my favorite sites:  VintageBicycles.com.

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately, including a 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, as well as the R. Ducheron bike featured above.  I’ve been looking for a product that would help to preserve these older machines.  This wax/polish was initially formulated by the British Museum’s research lab as an alternative to regular wax which contains beeswax and carnuba, both of which contain acids which can harm a painted finish over time.  At least that’s its claim.

In practice, this wax will make any already nice paint look show-stopping.  The above photo is the R. Ducheron frame after a few applications of Renaissance wax.

So, I wondered how this wax would work on a highly compromised frame, such as the above 1970’s Mercian.  These before and after photos show that Renaissance wax/polish does help to revitalize faded colors, in addition to protecting the the finish over time.  I’m going to try out the wax on the 1977 Jack Taylor tandem I’ve been (slowly) restoring.  More info to come!