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.

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!

A Tale of Two Three Speeds

Last fall I relocated our offices to the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Northeast Portland.  Now, I commute to work in a lovely and historic part of Portland’s awesome east side, leaving behind the stressful and gnarly traffic surrounding our old Victorian on SW 5th near PSU.  I usually commute on one of my daily riders, but also keep extra bikes on hand at the office for errands and lunchtime rides through the neighborhood, including my two favorite 3 speeds:  a 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist, and a 1947 Peugeot PH55.  I restored both bikes many years ago, but the Peugeot was a more involved process because many of its original parts were missing.

The restoration process involved sourcing a vintage 650b wheelset and fenders, as well as handlebars, stem, brake levers, saddle, dynamo, lamps, and saddle.

My goal was to come as close as possible to the bike featured in this 1947 Peugeot catalog, and to err on the higher quality side when possible.

I think I achieved this objective and am happy with the way the build came together.  The NOS Ducel dynamo lights work well without excessive drag.  The bike is much lighter than its Raleigh counterpart, weighing in at a respectable 28 lbs. compared with the Raleigh’s 45 lb. bulk.  This is because the tubing is high quality Rubis, and the bike features many alloy components.

The Peugeot’s drive train is all original, with a 19-24 “Twister” freewheel, Simplex TDF rear derailleur and Peugeot 46T crankset.  That puts the gear inch range, with its 650b wheel size, at 50 to 63.  Very narrow and with no low or high gears.  The Simplex TDF shifts just fine, but needs a bit of correction both shifting up and down the gear range.

The Raleigh’s drive train is, of course, a Sturmey Archer internally geared hub, mated to a 46T Raleigh crankset, which is fully enclosed in its full length chain guard.  The AW hub with its 17T cog gives a gear inch range of 52 – 93.  A much wider range than the Peugeot, but mostly very high, especially given its bulk.

The Raleigh has steel rims, as compared to the Peugeot’s lightweight alloy Super Champion rims.  Both wheel sizes are similar, and both bikes feature full length fenders.  The Raleigh’s are steel (of course!) and somewhat mangled from years of use, and the Peugeot’s are lighter weight alloy.  All of these elements contribute to the significant weight difference between the two bikes.

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist

So, what bike wins my vote?  Believe it or not, it’s the Raleigh.  While it is MUCH more challenging to conquer hills on the Raleigh, the comfort and quality of this machine is no match for its highly competent counterpart.  The bike kind of self-propels once it gets going, due to the inertia of the heavy wheels.  And, the convenience of shifting whether stopped or not adds to this bike’s appeal.  It’s the bike I most often select for neighborhood jaunts, even though I may have to stand up and stomp to get it up the hills.  It’s a pleasure to ride and gives me a great workout.  And, it’s a reminder of what it’s like to experience the quality and craftsmanship of this era’s legendary Raleigh marque.