While I’ve been working on other projects, my 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist bike has been languishing in my storage area, along with far too many other bikes. I thought it was time to bring it back out again for the coming spring weather, and that meant assessing why I wasn’t riding it so much anymore.
When getting the bike up into the shop stand I realized that I still hadn’t solved the ergonomic issues resulting from its large frame (for me). Back in 2015 I had replaced the moustache bars with a more upright style, and a short reach, tall stem. But the bar shape didn’t really work for me, and I ended up setting the bike aside a few years back.
I needed some bars with a more swept back profile and with more rise, so I tried out these Sunlite Northroad bars, a set I haven’t tried before. I cut them down about 2 cm, which turned out to be just right for this bike. If I were using these bars on a smaller bike I probably would have cut more, but on this bike these bars look well balanced. As part of the bar swap it was necessary to install new brake housing, which needed to be a little longer due to the swept back shape of the bars.
I made a few other changes as well. The original Soubitez front lamp was held together with electrical tape and needed to be replaced. I was able to find an exact match on eBay, shown above. In the same purchase I acquired a NOS Soubitez dynamo from the same era. This one works more reliably that its predecessor and seems to have a little less drag. I also replaced the pedals with a vintage Phillips French threaded set. The pedals are very grippy, more so than the Lyotards previously installed.
When I threw my leg over for a test ride, I was reminded just how tall this bike is. The bottom bracket height is a whopping 11.5 inches (29.2 cm). That’s mountain bike territory, and definitely different than many of my other bikes.
This bike features 27 inch wheels rather than 700c. The rear wheel is laced to a Sachs Orbit 2 speed hub which takes the place of a front derailleur. The big wheels roll smoothly and absorb road shock very well. They have never gone out of true since I acquired the bike 15 years ago. I have found this to be the norm for any well built wheel, including wheels I have built myself.
The Sachs Orbit hub offers about a 25% drop from the direct drive gear. As originally equipped, the bike had a 34 tooth chain ring on the front. That was a bit low for me, so I replaced that with a 36 tooth version. Gear inch range with this hybrid set up and the 14-28 cog set is 25-70. Still pretty low, but with the bike’s front and rear racks, the low gearing makes it easy to feel comfortable hauling stuff and climbing hills at the same time!
I had previously changed out the original saddle for this vintage Ideale Model 75. The leather was very stiff and unforgiving, which made for an uncomfortable ride. After applying some Brooks saddle treatment and using a hair dryer to heat it up and work it into the leather, the saddle is now more supple. With the newly installed upright Northroad style bars, this saddle style is perfect. The springs do a great job at absorbing shock without being bouncy.
So, will I ride this bike more often? I do think so. Now that the ergonomics are right for me, the smooth ride quality and easy gearing will make it appealing. It can handle any kind of weather, and even though I dislike sidewall dynamo lighting, getting caught in the dark will not be an issue for this bike. This is a bike that can handle a lot of different riding requirements. The Reynolds 531 fillet brazed frame makes it responsive and light weight. It’s also a beautiful bike and gets a lot of complements wherever it goes.