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.

2015-11-14 009 2015-11-14 011 2015-11-14 008

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.

2015-11-06 001 2015-11-06 004 2015-11-06 005

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).

2015-11-13 004

Soubitez dynamo headlight is working!

2015-11-08 008

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

2015-11-14 006

Inelegant wire routing. Oh well.

2015-11-14 005

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

2015-11-14 002

Frame touch up – sanded and painted.

2015-11-14 003

Very tight clearance due to low tread Stronglight 99 crankset.

2015-11-14 001

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.

2015-11-14 007

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.

2015-10-25 005 2015-10-25 006

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!

1980 Meral 650b Evolution

1980 Meral

1980 Meral 650b conversion – before

2015-05-07 020

1980 Meral 650b Conversion – different fenders and racks – and showing a little wear

Two years ago, I built up this lovely Reynolds 531 1980 Meral sport touring frame, and converted it to 650b (it was originally built for 700c wheels with minimal clearances).  I used a combination of new and vintage components.  My initial build had some issues, primarily involving fork shimmy as well as the Panaracer Col de la Vie tires feeling ponderous and slow.  That problem was easily solved with the amazing Compass Loup Loup Pass tires.2015-05-07 005

With that issue resolved, I began riding the bike a lot more and using it as my primary commuter and weekend rider. But then, it was a dark and rainy night when…I was climbing a steep hill, approaching a light, suddenly a pedestrian walked in front of me, and I had to swerve while driving the pedal down.  That caught my shoe up in the fender stay bolts of the pretty hammered fenders I had installed, and I nearly crashed.  While I knew about the toe overlap issue with this build, and had adjusted to it, more or less, this was one of those situations when toe overlap became unacceptable.

As I was thinking about changing out the fenders, I felt it was the perfect time to consider replacing the heavy and not so attractive Ticino rear rack.  While rummaging through my parts bins, I came across some rusted old F. Fiol front and rear racks, which I had removed from an early 60’s rando bike.  They are made from stainless steel tubing, which I discovered once I started cleaning the rust off with a brass brush and some cleaning oil.

I didn’t want to give up the beautiful hammered fenders, but finally concluded that I had to do something different.  I probably needed narrower fenders, which didn’t use a stay mounting system with large bolts sticking out.

Then I remembered the simple but sturdy aluminum fenders I had used on my old Centurion Pro Tour.  I dug them out, and realized that their stays were flush mounted to the interior of the fenders (just what I needed), and that they were a bit narrower, albeit with much less bling, being of a very understated design.  Amazingly, they still looked great, even after about 40,000 miles of use.  So, I embarked on a whole new fender/rack installation.

The racks mount to the fenders, and are made from very small diameter steel tubing.  Even so, they are much stronger than expected and I have had no qualms about hauling groceries and commuting gear on these racks.  Admittedly, I will not try to haul really heavy items, but I actually think I could even carry minimal camping gear, and certainly enough gear for credit card touring with these racks.

2015-05-07 022

F. Fiol rear rack

2015-05-07 009

F. Fiol front rack

Once that was done, I decided to tackle the other issue that had been bothering me about the build – the constant trimming needed on the front derailleur (a Shimano Ultegra designed for a double crankset).  I realized that I had a NOS Simplex Super LJ front derailleur in my inventory, and kind of wondered why I didn’t think of using it before…but, once installed it worked perfectly with the T.A. triple crankset.  It requires a bit more robust up-shifting, but there is now no trimming needed, and I was able to reinstall the original 8 speed cassette I wanted to use (replacing the lower geared 7 speed cassette I ended up using with the Ultegra).

2015-05-07 011 2015-05-07 013

During this time, I also decided to stop using clipless pedals on all my bikes.  Because a lot of my riding is commuting, the constant clipping in and out at stop lights and intersections caused some chronic pain and swelling in my “clip out” foot.  So, what was old is new again.  I have always loved toe clips, and even though I have used clipless pedals for about 15 years, it felt great to go back to my roots, and that resolved the issue with my swollen ankle.  I had originally chosen these beautiful Lyotard pedals to use on the bike, so it was nice to put them back on, and you’ll see I’m using Velo-Orange leather straps – very well designed because the extra material below the clamp helps to keep everything aligned, making it very easy to slip my shoe in and out of the clip.

Lyotard pedals, Velo Orange leather straps.

Lyotard pedals, Velo Orange leather straps.

I am very happy with the rest of the build:

2015-05-07 024

Cardiff leather saddle – very comfortable, and showing no wear at all.

2015-05-07 014

Velo Orange front pads – I replaced the Kool Stop brake pads with these to get some better toe-in – and they work great.

2015-05-07 010

Reynolds 531 frame is very responsive.

2015-05-07 017

Yes, battery powered lights, for now.

2015-05-07 008

A nice clean bottom bracket, thanks to my Velo Orange mud flap

2015-05-07 023

It was easy to transfer the mudflap to the new (old) fenders.

Meral at Champoeg Park

A delightful bike – comfortable, handles well, eats up miles – and no toe overlap. See you out there!

 

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.