While I’ve been working on other projects, my 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist bike has been languishing in my storage area, along with far too many other bikes. I thought it was time to bring it back out again for the coming spring weather, and that meant assessing why I wasn’t riding it so much anymore.
When getting the bike up into the shop stand I realized that I still hadn’t solved the ergonomic issues resulting from its large frame (for me). Back in 2015 I had replaced the moustache bars with a more upright style, and a short reach, tall stem. But the bar shape didn’t really work for me, and I ended up setting the bike aside a few years back.
I needed some bars with a more swept back profile and with more rise, so I tried out these Sunlite Northroad bars, a set I haven’t tried before. I cut them down about 2 cm, which turned out to be just right for this bike. If I were using these bars on a smaller bike I probably would have cut more, but on this bike these bars look well balanced. As part of the bar swap it was necessary to install new brake housing, which needed to be a little longer due to the swept back shape of the bars.
I made a few other changes as well. The original Soubitez front lamp was held together with electrical tape and needed to be replaced. I was able to find an exact match on eBay, shown above. In the same purchase I acquired a NOS Soubitez dynamo from the same era. This one works more reliably that its predecessor and seems to have a little less drag. I also replaced the pedals with a vintage Phillips French threaded set. The pedals are very grippy, more so than the Lyotards previously installed.
When I threw my leg over for a test ride, I was reminded just how tall this bike is. The bottom bracket height is a whopping 11.5 inches (29.2 cm). That’s mountain bike territory, and definitely different than many of my other bikes.
This bike features 27 inch wheels rather than 700c. The rear wheel is laced to a Sachs Orbit 2 speed hub which takes the place of a front derailleur. The big wheels roll smoothly and absorb road shock very well. They have never gone out of true since I acquired the bike 15 years ago. I have found this to be the norm for any well built wheel, including wheels I have built myself.
The Sachs Orbit hub offers about a 25% drop from the direct drive gear. As originally equipped, the bike had a 34 tooth chain ring on the front. That was a bit low for me, so I replaced that with a 36 tooth version. Gear inch range with this hybrid set up and the 14-28 cog set is 25-70. Still pretty low, but with the bike’s front and rear racks, the low gearing makes it easy to feel comfortable hauling stuff and climbing hills at the same time!
I had previously changed out the original saddle for this vintage Ideale Model 75. The leather was very stiff and unforgiving, which made for an uncomfortable ride. After applying some Brooks saddle treatment and using a hair dryer to heat it up and work it into the leather, the saddle is now more supple. With the newly installed upright Northroad style bars, this saddle style is perfect. The springs do a great job at absorbing shock without being bouncy.
So, will I ride this bike more often? I do think so. Now that the ergonomics are right for me, the smooth ride quality and easy gearing will make it appealing. It can handle any kind of weather, and even though I dislike sidewall dynamo lighting, getting caught in the dark will not be an issue for this bike. This is a bike that can handle a lot of different riding requirements. The Reynolds 531 fillet brazed frame makes it responsive and light weight. It’s also a beautiful bike and gets a lot of complements wherever it goes.
What type of fenders are those? Velo Orange? As you may know I ride vintage racers and don’t have a bike with fenders but I recently built up a Motobecane and with the relaxed geometry and fender eyelets it would be a good candidate for those rare days that I want to go out even though the road is wet. We don’t get much rain down here anymore but it would be nice to have the option. Nice job on the bike and the color is perfect!
The fenders are the original Lefols. I haven’t tried any modern hammered fenders yet. Let me know how you like them if you decide to use them on the Motobecane.
Very nice bike, and I too am puzzled by the high bb.
I have VO “hammered” fenders (650BX50) on one of my bikes, and I can’t find any fault with them. I’ve owned much more expensive Honjos and Berthouds and, to my eye and purse, the VOs don’t leave out anything to make you sorry you didn’t pay more for the other brands. Perhaps others can point out what I miss, but until then I recommend VO fenders.
Thanks for the review of the VO fenders. As for the BB height I’m guessing that it was requested by the original buyer. Maybe they were riding the bike on rough terrain or just wanted to be super high up in traffic so wanted very little BB drop. I kind of like the look though.
Yes, for us shorter riders, restoring too large bikes can be bittersweet. I’m currently working on a gifted 60cm Gitane, which is a joke at my 5’4” 🙁 A Jack Taylor is on my bucket list, so kudos to you for your JT 🙂
I have to wonder if the overly-high bottom bracket isn’t a mistake. I’ve seen the Bicycle Bothers video and other stills and stories describing their methods, and their jigging is a bit primitive. Note this is not meant as an insult, because I am in awe of them, I have real affection for them and their bikes. I have made frames with fancy equipment and also with iron-age methods and the main difference between those frames is how fast they were made, not how well they rode or anythii\ng else that matters to the rider. They just made less money at it than, say, Ugo or Ernesto.
After all the thousands (?) of frames they made, they obviously know their business, but mistakes are possible.
Another possibility is that they just didn’t care too much about the BB height, not to the degree that modern riders fixate on it. Certainly too low is more of a problem than too high, so maybe they just shot on the high side and did it by eye, knowing it’d be “close enough” without knowing exactly what the nhumber would be in inches.
The third possibility, that they actually wanted such a high BB for some reason, seems the least likely to me.
Anyone got Ken’s phone number? Maybe we can find out!
Bottom bracket drop is something that is hard wired in to frame design. Since the Taylor brothers used full size drawings to plan the tube cuts and mitering, it would have taken a series of mistakes to create a higher BB drop than planned. Instead I believe this frame was originally built for 700c wheels. The placement of the canti bosses is slightly too low for 27 inch wheels, and would be perfect for 700c wheels. Also, in the 70’s many bikes were spec’d with very high bottom brackets (often 28 cm) which is one reason they are good candidates for 650b conversions. For whatever reason, this bike’s previous owner converted the bike to this hybrid gearing set up using 27 inch wheels. When I purchased the bike 15 years ago, the U.K. based seller indicated that the Taylor brothers had done the modifications and built the replacement wheelset, which is consistent with the look and build quality of the wheels.
OK, I’ll buy that. Especially if we know for sure that they *always* used a full-size drawing, that would sink the “mistake” hypothesis for sure. I retract it, with my apologies to the Taylors for even suggesting such a thing!
Even with 700c wheels though (4 mm smaller radius), this bike would be an outlier, BB height tall even for a track bike.
Hey, I’m not complaining. It’s a smart-looking bike that I’d be proud to have in my stable, and the BB height is just another one of its charming quirks. It would be boring if all bikes were the same. Vive la différence!
That is one beautiful bike. I am a bit puzzled by the rear hub- It is a 2 speed internal gear hub with threading on the right side for a freewheel ? Interesting combo. Bikes like these are works of art compared to the mass produced welded (mostly junk) that is out today.
This hybrid gearing concept has been around a while in various forms but is definitely not common. It’s nice to be able to do a big downshift while the bike is stationary but there’s really no difference in overall weight as compared to an extra chainring and front derailleur. And yes this bike and many from this era really are works of art that will last through multiple generations and look good doing so.
Sturmey Archer made a model which was basically the AW with a driver adapted to take a 3-speed cogset. I’d never seen it but I’d read about it, and as a teenager it was a Holy Grail. Passing through London with family on home leave in the early ’70s, I recall walking in off the sidewalk into a small, dark bike shop in a definitely not-High-Street location and asking–me, a callow, half-East Asian Yank–the low-browed working-class shop types for a product that was even then probably long out of fashion if not production. I got glassy stares and a brusque negative. *No*, I did not then, nor do I now, feel oppressed.
Much, much later — circa 2017 — a bike shop I worked at briefly had on consignment a lower-end Raleigh with AW and 5 speed block. I seem to recall Simpex Delrin rd, but I may be projecting. At any rate, I was sorely tempted, but wisely forbore.
Circa 1971 or 1972 I converted an AW with an 18 t cog reversed on the driver paired with a 16 installed dish-out, and — the circlip wouldn’t fit — tack-welded to the driver by a local fundi. This was on a late ’60s Varsity that I refurbished. The 1/8″ chain was shifted by a Cyclo pushrod rd with cage shimmed to fit the wider chain. It worked quite well, but I sold it to fund the purchase of a high-end Raleigh Sprite with real 48/44 X 14-28 Simplex Prestige Delrin drivetrain.