700A Tires from the Land of Oz

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The Vee Rubber 700A tires I ordered from Velogear in Melbourne, Australia arrived today.  I was amazed at just how big they are – the official rim diameter for these tires is 642mm, as compared with 700C tires with a 622mm rim diameter.  They are also known as 28 X 1 3/8, not to be confused with 28 X 1 1/2, which have a 635mm rim diameter.  Their treads look beefy and well-suited for riding on gravel and rough roads.  And the tires appear well made, with no visible blemishes or anomalies.  Vee Rubber is based in Thailand, and I have tried out one other set of their tires, with no disappointments.

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I was riding my Vespa today, so strapped the tires to the back of the scooter to bring them to my shop.  Even rolled up, the tires extended beyond the luggage rack.

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A 650c tire fits completely inside these 700A’s with room to spare, and 44mm 650B tires look puny in comparison.

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I also purchased a couple of tubes.  Even with shipping to the U.S., the total cost for tires and tubes was under $100, thanks to the current favorable exchange rate and the low cost of the tires themselves.  As far as I know, 700A tires cannot be purchased anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.  However, there are some French shops that carry them, in addition to several in Australia.

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These tires are going to replace the corroded Dunlops on the 1920’s Griffon that I am (slowly) restoring.  With the arrival of the new tires, I am now more motivated to continue working on the Westwood style rims, which, although lovely, have enough rust to keep me busy for days.

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I suspect that once I get the bike mechanically sound, I’ll take it out for a spin before I complete all the reviving and cleaning of the painted and metal surfaces.  I am curious to experience what it will be like to ride on these big new tires, combined with the laid back angles of the bike itself, while steering it with its 76 cm wide bars, which are about twice as wide as the bars on most of my personal bikes.

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Should be fun!

A 1920’s Griffon

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Here is an unrestored Griffon bicycle.  I don’t know the date of manufacture, but judging by its components, it appears to have been built in the 1920’s or 1930’s.

Although Griffon Bicycle Company was one of the earliest bicycle manufacturers, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of historical information available.  The company was founded in the late 1800’s in Paris, and became well known for their motorcycles, which were first built around 1901.  The company is also known for its iconic vintage bicycle advertisements, which are now sold all over the web in poster form.   However, as to the bicycles themselves, it is hard to find catalogs or details about specific models and years when built. It appears that Griffon was absorbed into Peugeot some time in the late 1920’s.  Fortunately, these old machines do turn up with some frequency on French eBay.

Griffon head badge

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I was drawn to this bike because the condition of this machine was extraordinary, given its age.  I have no insight into the serial number, except to wonder if the 11 at the front of the sequence is the year of manufacture (which I doubt).  The head badge is hidden under a bit of rust and corrosion, but even so, the vibrant blue, red and gold colors can be seen, along with the image of the mythological flying Griffon – a creature with a lion’s hind end and a raptor’s front end, yielding a fierce looking winged beast.

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It has Westwood style rims, branded S – AEP, which are color matched to the frame, and really look beautiful.  The old Dunlop Le Pneu tires are completely corroded. Dunlop was the first to introduce pneumatic tires for bicycles in 1887.  When I measured the rim diameter as 650 mm, I had a slight panic attack – what the heck size is this?  As it turns out, these wheels are 700A or 37-642 ETRTO or ISO 28″ x 1 3/8″.  That is not a size that is even listed on Sheldon Brown’s rim size chart.  Yikes!  Thankfully, there are several sellers around the world (although not in the U.S.) where these tires can be purchased.

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The condition of the frame is striking.  Virtually all of the box style lining is still visible, and the two tone color scheme is still very evident – being “army” green and very lime green, with long, pointed transitions on the top tube and down tube.  Even the logos are in good condition.  It is quite a large machine, measuring out at a 59 cm top tube and a 55 cm seat tube, with 66 degree angles for the head tube and seat tube, giving it that laid back look.

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The bike looks quite sturdy, and will probably be very comfortable to ride, given the geometry and the large wheels.  It features a fixed/free flip flop rear hub with 21 teeth on the freewheel and 18 teeth on the fixed cog.  The chainring has 46 teeth.  With the large wheels, that yields some big gears – about 62 and 72 gear inches.  Probably the bike would be dismounted for serious hills.  The pretty hubs, each with an oil port, were made (or branded) by Griffon.  Actually, I suspect that most of the components were probably made by the company itself.

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Everything on this bike seems oversize.  The Glorieuse saddle, also in amazing condition, is very long.  The huge bars measure 76 cm end to end.  I think these are the widest bars I have seen.  The brake levers are very nicely made, with a surprising ergonomic curve in the lever.  It will be fun to see what else I discover about this bicycle as I begin to overhaul it.