More Than Eye Candy

1973 Jack Taylor

Drooling over gorgeous vintage bicycles is one thing, but appreciating their enduring ride quality is another thing altogether.  This 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist has been with me for over eight years, and while I rode it quite a bit initially, I eventually set it aside.  The bike is larger than my usual size, and I did not adequately assess the lack of comfort associated with a 55 cm top tube length, given that I normally ride a 51.

Adding to that are the big 27 inch wheels and 29 cm bottom bracket height.  Throwing a leg over this bike is like mounting one’s 16 hand steed for a ride in the country side.  However, the very tall riding position is great for commuting.  It puts your head up above the fray and helps make you more visible to the car driving masses.  So, in order to enjoy this bike I needed to make some ergonomic changes.  Back to the drawing board.

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I needed to bring the bars closer to me. The tall Nitto Technomic stem came to the rescue.  Drop bars or mustache bars would push my arms out too far for this top tube length, so I located a vintage city style bar that had the right clamp size for the Nitto Stem.  I used Velo Orange levers to complete the vintage look.  Even though new, they are quite a bit more sturdy than the Weinmann and DiaCompe flat bar levers made in the 70’s.  Their only downside is that the levers sit out pretty far from the bar, so they are not the best choice for smaller hands.  I couldn’t resist using some bright yellow Benotto bar tape, which when wrapped three times over fit perfectly on the grip side of the bars, and which brings out the bike’s vibrant yellow highlights.

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This bike is unique in many ways, and one of them is the rear wheel which features this Sachs-Fitchel 2 speed Orbit hub.  The internally geared hub takes the place of a front derailleur and extra chain ring.  I had sent the hub out for a rebuild 8 years ago, not daring to do it myself at the time.  It still feels smooth, so I resisted the very faint urge to tear it down.  The internal gears can be lubricated by removing the spindle and squirting in a bit of automotive oil.  Easily done.  The spindle broke apart a number of years ago, so I did my own repair job using a tiny brad which I banged into the chain links.  The repaired link is slightly bigger than it should be, but hasn’t caused any problems.  One of the nice things about this gearing arrangement is being able to shift to a lower gear when stopped.  That’s not something you can do with a 100% derailleur equipped bicycle.

Whenever a bike sits for a while, all kinds of things go wrong.  Grease congeals, one kind of metal fuses itself to another kind of metal, bearings embed themselves into their cups and cones, and rust seems to form everywhere.

So, there were lots of other issues to address:  pitted bottom bracket cups, which I replaced with an exact and pristine match that I happened to have in stock; broken wiring for the sidewall driven Soubitez dynamo; and various rusted areas on the frame which needed to be sanded and then painted (I use clear Testor’s paint).  I had considered replacing the dynamo with something newer, but it is actually working just fine, and I can use it as a back up to my battery powered light if needed.  (P.S. I hate dynamos).

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Soubitez dynamo headlight is working!

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Testor’s Paints – I use clear paint for touch ups.

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Inelegant wire routing. Oh well.

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Perfect for commuting – Lyotard pedals with reflectors and cage tabs to keep your shoe in place.

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Frame touch up – sanded and painted.

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Very tight clearance due to low tread Stronglight 99 crankset.

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IRC Road Winner 27 x 1 1/4 tires

I really like these IRC 27 x 1 1/4 inch tires.  I purchased them eight years ago and unfortunately, they can no longer be found.  Not not only do they have a nice appearance, the sidewalls are very supple and the ride quality is even better than the much beloved Panaracer Pasela’s I have ridden.  I hope to ride these tire until the bitter end, and replace them only when absolutely necessary.  One issue with these older rims is that they cannot tolerate high pressures, due to their design.  So, I have blown these tires off the rim more than a few times.  Finally, I have settled on 70 psi in the rear and 65 psi in the front, and have had no blow outs since.

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In addition to rebuilding the pedals, front hub, and bottom bracket, I also replaced the straddle cables for the Mafac Cantilever brakes.  The brakes, while very powerful, are noisy under hard braking, partly because I am using these Kool Stop pads which not only don’t allow for toe-in, they seem to provide for the opposite of toe-in.  Even so, I would rather have these strong and reliable cantilevers for commuting in Portland.

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And finally, I sourced an exact match for the taillight with the broken reflector. I kind of miss the look of the bare bulb, though.

Now it’s time to get back out on this bike into this Fall’s windy, rainy weather and ride the leaf strewn avenues of Portland – hopefully in comfort!

My 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist

1973 Jack Taylor

I seem to be on a 70’s Brit-bike craze!  But it has lasted a while, as I have had this Jack Taylor Tourist Mixte for about 8 years.  At the time I purchased it from Hilary Stone, he thought it was a 1960s model.  After the bike safely made its crossing over the Atlantic, I disassembled it for cleaning and was able to read the matching serial numbers at both the rear dropout and the steerer tube more clearly, and have now dated this bike to 1973.

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The build quality of this bike is classic Taylor brothers, with incredibly smooth brazing at all the joints.  It is made, of course, with Reynolds 531 double butted tubing, and features Campagnolo dropouts, hand-hammered fenders, through-the-frame dynamo wiring, and those beautiful and colorful Jack Taylor logos.  The Taylor brothers followed the practice of building their mixte frames with a single sloping standard diameter top tube fillet brazed at the seat tube with the two extra mixte stays of fairly narrow diameter.  Having ridden all kinds of mixte frames, I have to say that this method is likely not the most ideal in terms of adequate frame stiffness.  On this bike, the head tube feels somewhat independent from the rest of the bike.  Mixte frames are best, in my opinion, when built with twin lateral sloping down tubes that extend to the rear dropouts, or if a single tube is used, extending the mixte stays beyond the seat tube also helps keep the frame adequately stiff, such as this design by Peter Weigle.

Stronglight 38T drilled

Sachs Orbit hubStronglight crankset

This is one of the few bikes I have ever ridden that was geared too low for me.  It was set up with a Stronglight 99 crankset carrying a single drilled 36 tooth ring (pictured first), mated to a Sachs-Fitchel Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub with a 6 speed cassette ranging from 14 to 28 teeth.  The hybrid internal hub is meant to take the place of the front derailleur (or add to it, if you are Sheldon Brown and want 63 gears), and it provides a direct drive, and one lower gear that is about 25% lower than the direct drive.  So, with this set-up, the lowest gear was around 24 gear inches – wow!  Unfortunately, the gearing topped out at 65 gear inches, and that meant that I didn’t have much in the way of a comfortable cruising gear, much less any way to power up to speed on a sprint.  Since I didn’t want to change out the Stronglight 99 crank, I replaced the 36 tooth ring with a 38, (pictured second), and that helped a bit.  Even so, I rarely engage the lower internal hub gear, as I really don’t need it, so I ride this bike as a 6 speed, for the most part.

1972 Jack Taylor

The photo above shows its original configuration as shipped, but it is very likely that the Sachs Orbit hub set up was not part of the original build, but was added later.  I don’t think these hubs were made until the 1980’s, and the 27 inch (yes, not 700c) rims do not match, with the rear being a Weinmann and the front rim remaining unbranded and probably the original wheel built by Ken Taylor.

This is one big mixte!  The seat tube measures 54cm and the effective top tube length is a whopping 55cm.  With its large wheels and big frame, it cuts an imposing  shadow.  The bike came equipped with no-rise French-sized mustache bars shimmed into a Milremo stem.

1973 Jack Taylor Tourist

So, I changed out the bars and stem to bring them closer to me using a tall no name stem with very little reach and some Soma Mustache bars.  I also swapped out the Madison leather saddle, which was pretty worn, with the Ideale Model 75 saddle pictured above.  Unfortunately, while looking very pretty, this leather saddle, though vintage, is still hard as a rock and needs some breaking in.  Here are photos of the rest of the components:

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Suntour V-GT rear derailleur

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Mafac cantilevers, of course.

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Milremo front hub with very stylish wingnuts.

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Soubitez dynamo

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Constructeur racks front and rear, mounted only to the fenders.

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Seat stay brazing, nice and simple. The paint now looks great after weeks and weeks of cleaning and polishing.

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This photo was taken before cleaning and polishing.

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Original French mustache bars. SunTour Stem mounted shifters.

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Another broken reflector

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She’s a beauty!  I commuted on this bike for a few years, but haven’t ridden it much lately, as I still have not made ergonomic peace with it.  With spring coming, I think I will dust if off and see if I can’t make this ride a bit more comfortable for me.

1977 Jack Taylor 650b Tandem

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This is an unrestored Jack Taylor Touring Tandem, built for 650b wheels.  I had it shipped from England several years ago, but haven’t started work on it yet.

Even in its present state, it’s quite a pretty bike.  The frame color is silver, but with plenty of bright highlights that include red, yellow, green, blue and white.

The frame is built with Reynolds 531 tubing, and is fillet brazed.  It features a sloping top tube, giving 23″ and 21″ seat tube lengths for the front and rear positions.  Components include Maxi-car hubs, Campagnolo shifters and derailleurs, Weinmann 650b rims, Taylor Bros hammered fenders, front and rear constructeur racks, Mafac cantilever brakes, plus a front Maxi-car drum brake.

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Double front brakes – cantilevers + drum; Mafac levers and hoods in great shape.

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Jack Taylor transfers in really nice condition

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Smooth brazing and a U.K. touring club sticker

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Simple cable stop,, elegantly brazed seat stays

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Reynolds transfers in great shape

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Pin striping is still in really nice shape

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Maxi Car hubs, Campagnolo dropouts – with SN 7183

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TA crankset – there are two cranksets and each has at least one chain ring mounted on each side

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A type of presta valve I hadn’t seen before – there’s nothing under this cap – just an open valve – but I popped my presta fitting on anyway and pumped air into the tube.

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TA triple crankset with 50/40/28 rings

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Eccentric bottom bracket plus internal routing for the dynamo wiring

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Redundant chainring on the drive side front crank

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Campagnolo front derailleur

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Very cool Zefal pump

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Mafac cantilevers

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Campagnolo Rally rear derailleur, with Suntour Perfect 14/24 freewheel

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Color matched Milremo stem, Stronglight headset

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Dynamo and wiring

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Brooks saddles – a B-72 in the back and a B-17 in front

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Some pitting in the top tube’s stoker section.

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Fork blades feature brazeons for the drum cable routing.

One of the things that surprised me about this bike was how similar it is in many ways to my 1973 Jack Taylor.  That bike is is also fillet brazed, and sports the exact same lighting system and rack design as this tandem.  In fact, its rear reflector is also broken, just like this.

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Another broken reflector

However, this reflector got broken in the shipping process.  One thing that I did was to have the bike shipped intact from England.  It boarded the Rio Mediera in Southampton, but was detained when it reached port in New York as suspected contraband.  The large container, built by Sheffpack, bore a suspicious resemblance to an arms shipment, and so it had to be x-rayed before it could continue its journey to the Port of Portland.  Consequently, the bike spent many weeks inside its shipping container, before it was finally literally broken open by port workers using hammers and tire irons.

However, it is safe and sound now, and with the fall and winter months looming ahead, this might be the perfect project to occupy the colder and wetter days ahead.