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.

2015-02-13 037 2015-02-13 036 2015-02-13 027 2015-02-13 026

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:

2015-02-13 032

Suntour V-GT rear derailleur

2015-02-13 021

Mafac cantilevers, of course.

2015-02-13 011

Milremo front hub with very stylish wingnuts.

2015-02-13 029

Soubitez dynamo

jack taylor 004

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

2015-02-13 038

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

Jack-taylor-Ladies-dets2 (2)

This photo was taken before cleaning and polishing.

Jack-taylor-Ladies-dets2

Original French mustache bars. SunTour Stem mounted shifters.

2015-02-13 034

Another broken reflector

2015-02-13 016

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.

A 1972 Mercian

2972 Mercian

I recently purchased this Mercian on eBay.  The seller described it as a 1960’s model, but with its Shimano dropouts, I suspected it was actually made a bit later.

1972 Mercian

The bottom bracket shell seems to indicate this is a 1972 model.  A name appears to be etched above the serial number, but I can’t quite make it out.  Perhaps this was the owner’s name.  Having looked through the available Mercian catalogs on-line, and after taking frame measurements, I still don’t quite know what model this is.

2015-02-04 001 018 2015-02-04 001 008 Mercian 2015-02-04 001 005

However, given that it has decent length chain stays (44mm), and single eyelets front and rear, it is possible that this is the Campionissimo or Olympic model, off the shelf frames designed for light touring and randonneuring, but with no customizing available except choosing the color.

2015-02-04 001 025 2015-02-04 001 011 2015-02-04 001 023 2015-02-04 001 021

The lugs are ornate, and unusually shaped, although not a great deal of time was spent filing them.  The frame is equipped with pump pegs and a full set of cable stops.  The pump pegs are mounted slightly off center below the top tube, to prevent interference with the cable stops also mounted slightly off center on the opposite side.

1972 Mercian 2015-02-04 001 005 2015-02-04 001 020 2015-02-04 001 019 2015-02-04 001 0262015-02-04 001 028

I measured the frame and took some preliminary angle readings.  It is a 49 cm x 51 cm frame (or, speaking British, a 20 inch frame – which the company measures center to top).  The angles appear fairly steep, at about 74 degrees for both the head tube and seat tube.  Of course, there is a margin of error using this method, and once the bike is built I will re-measure the angles using a level to correct for errors.  I also checked brake reach using 700c wheels (I think the frame was built for 27 inch wheels).  It looks like I will need about 65 mm of brake reach to use 700c wheels with this frame – that is definitely doable.

However, the biggest challenge will be determining whether the paint damage and oxidation to the top tube will mean having to re-paint the frame, something I am loathe to do.  If the paint damage is just at the surface level, and there’s no rust underneath, I’d like to preserve the beautiful patina of this nice Reynolds 531 hand built frame.

2015-02-05 001 005 2015-02-05 001 009 2015-02-05 001 012 2015-02-05 001 014

Thankfully, it was a rainy, stormy day today, not suited for riding.  A perfect shop day.  I got out my various cleaning products and began to experiment on the back side of the fork legs, so that if I did something irretrievably bad, it would not be so visible.  As it turned out, the most effective product was an automotive paint cleaning compound.  Applied vigorously, and polished vigorously afterwards, this product was best at removing the years of neglect.  I was worried about taking off too much paint however, and I only gently cleaned the Mercian logos.   I definitely did not want to damage these as they were all in great condition.  The photos above show the frame after several hours of cleaning and polishing – there is a definite improvement!  That gave me the impetus to start working on the top tube.  I figured that no matter how hard I rubbed, I couldn’t make it worse than it already was.  I really wanted to see what the damage looked like underneath the oxidized paint.

2015-02-05 001 010 2015-02-05 001 008

The good news is that underneath the oxidation was nice silver-colored steel, with no rust visible at all.  The bad news is that the top tube looks pretty funky, still.  I will probably clean it up a bit more and then apply some clear paint to protect the exposed areas.  After more cleaning, I will also apply many coats of wax to the entire frame, just to make sure that it remains protected in the elements.  You’ll note from the above photo that I also removed the California bike license tag.  While I usually keep these kinds of artifacts intact, this one really detracted from its appearance.  Underneath was the original frame color – a very vibrant red.  Well, now the bike is a very cool orange color!

2015-02-05 001 015 2015-02-05 001 001

It’s now time to start thinking about the components.  Since the frame has such a vintage look, I think it would be best to build it up with period components.  Fortunately, the old Mercian catalogs will provide a lot of information about how these machines were typically configured.  I have these GB 88 brakes which would be from the period, and which have just the right amount of brake reach.  My crankset collection includes two Stronglight candidates.  The crankset at the left is a Spidel/Stronglight set from the 80’s – meant to be a copy of a Campy Super Record Crankset, and the one at the right is a 1970’s model with the star shaped spider that I love.  I will probably go with the more vintage look.  The frameset came shipped with a TDC headset, probably orginal, and a Sugino bottom bracket, which may or may not be original.  By this time, Shimano and other Japanese components were beginning to be considered on par with the best French, British and Italian component makers of the time.

Dura Ace high flange hub

I have been wanting to find the right home for this beautiful Dura Ace high flange front hub with its smooth as butter cups and cones.  It is laced to a 700c Araya rim.  I might decide to use an unusual rear hub, such as a 2 x 6 Sachs-Fitchel hub, or even a Sturmey Archer, in keeping with its British heritage.  That is part of the fun – envisioning the many interesting ways this frame can be configured.  I look forward to riding it and getting this great old frame back out on the road.

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist C Model

19-sports-tourist

1951 Raleigh Catalog

Here is an all original 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist Ladies model.  The above photo shows its condition after much cleaning and mechanical work.  The bike includes the original frame pump, plus a Brooks B-72 saddle and a rear Dutch carrier (both upgrades from the base model shown from the 1951 catalog above).  The frame serial number dates to 1949, and the Sturmey Archer hub shows a 1950 date, so I have concluded that this is a 1950 model. The price in British pounds indicated in the 1951 catalog translates to about $850 in today’s dollars, suggesting the bike’s quality and also the massive depression in bike retail prices concurrent with the advent of mass-produced aluminum frames built in China (more on that in a separate post).

L1010544L1010545

This “All Steel Bicycle” really is ALL steel.  The rims, cranks, handlebars, chain guard, stem, steatpost, fenders and rack are steel.  It weighs 45 lbs!!!

L1010546L1010551L1010552L1010553L1010554L1010550

The original black paint was very vibrant after cleaning and polishing – an example of the quality that was part of Raleigh production values.  The rear rack is a Dutch after-market model of the same era – but its paint has chipped and faded over the years.  The original rubber block pedals show wear, but were in perfect mechanical condition and were easy to overhaul.  The Sturmey Archer shifter was designed to be used with a 3 or 4 speed hub.  It’s a bit fussy, and combined with the tuning of the cable tension on the rear hub took some time to perfect the shifting so that the hub did not freewheel under hard effort (not a pleasant experience while climbing).  The rear fender displays a 1962 bike license from New England (plus indications of a mishap years ago).  When I purchased this bike I learned that the original owner had ordered the bike from the Raleigh factory in England, had it shipped, along with her husband’s bike to New England, and there the two of them toured all over the countryside on their Sports Tourist models.

Raleigh steel rims – matching serial numbers front and rear

thurston est 016

Rust on internal portion of rim

The wheels, with matching serial numbers front and rear, were seriously rusted.  It literally took days of cleaning to get the majority of the rust off the interior and exterior of the rims.

L1010542

Sturmey Archer AW 1950 3 speed hub

I call this 1950 Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub,  the “self-propelling hub”.  It may never wear out.  Combined with the massive inertia of the steel wheels and steel cottered cranks, once this bike gets going, it keeps going.  While it does take a certain psychological mindset to ride this 45 lbs machine up the steep hills in my neighborhood, the bike bring smiles to all passersby, and amazes me with its ability to absorb road shock.  The upright position is a little bit Wizard of Oz, but that adds to the fun.

Recommended by kitties worldwide.