An Illuminating Subject

2016-05-17-007

Dynamo lighting:  who hates it?  Almost everyone.  But virtually all vintage bicycles, except those wondrous vintage Raleighs with Sturmey Archer’s dynohubs, use sidewall or bottom bracket-driven dynamo lighting.

2017-01-14-001

Soubitez dynamo with Margil roller

Today, I was finally connecting the wiring on the Mercier Meca Dural’s lighting system  – a project I have been putting off because, well, I hate dynamo lighting. The bike’s own original fork-mounted dynamo had long ago been lost, so I set up this nice Soubitez unit, shown above, which is very light-weight and free-spinning, as compared to its slightly older counterparts, shown below.

018

1941 Radios dynamo

2014-08-01-001-011

1950’s Ducel dynamo

2017-01-14-010

1953 EDELKO SELF dynamo

Lighting set-up is a project that I would rate right along side fender line adjustment and front rack mounting:  patience and resolve can be sourly tested as one works through the glitches and conundrums involving wiring routing, bulb wattage, voltage mysteries, and the absolute worst:  cutting electrical wires and clearing their housing so that they can be spliced properly to carry the current through the system.

dynamo1 dynamo2

There are very few resources which adequately discuss how to set up a sidewall driven (or bottom bracket driven) lighting system. For the uninitiated, setting up the wiring on these old systems can seem daunting.  The most important aspect of the set up is insuring that the dynamo is positioned correctly so that a straight line can be drawn through the center of the dynamo, down to the center of the wheel’s drop out.  This will insure that maximum efficiency is obtained from these already inefficient devices.  Another mystery can be the wiring set up. Every dynamo needs a ground.  For vintage steel bicycles, the ground often existed automatically via the presence of a “ground screw” which contacted the steel frame.  The above illustrations are courtesy of Glenn’s New Complete Bicycle Manual.  They show how to set up the wiring, and how to position the dynamo.  Fortunately, the wiring part of these old systems is very simple:  hook one wire to the front bulb, one to the rear, and both into the dynamo.  These old systems are 6 volt/3 watt power that can easily be upgraded to LED lighting. One can apparently blow out the lights if going at very high speeds.  I haven’t had that experience yet, though.

2017-01-14-020

3 wires through the lug braze-on: shifter cable, brake cable, and dynamo wire.

2017-01-14-024 2017-01-14-014 2017-01-14-018

Routing the dynamo wires across the bicycle’s frame can lead to frustration.  If you are really obsessive, you can make the whole thing look magnificent (clearly, I am NOT in this camp).  Ideally, you wrap the lighting wires wherever they can be wrapped, in this case around the brake housing. This Mercier Meca Dural has wonderful lugs which include many options for cable routing, so I ran them through one of the openings, and brought the wiring up across its sloping top-tube, to the front fork where the dynamo resides.  In between, I wrapped the wires around the front and rear brake cables.

2017-01-14-033 2017-01-14-004

Amazingly, after changing out the wiring with something new and replacing a burned out front bulb in the Luxor 65 headlamp, the system worked!  Testing this out on the road will be fun, as this dynamo’s drag is significantly less than other’s I have tested.

2014-09-21-001-012

Soubitez dynamo on 1977 Jack Taylor Tandem

2015-02-13-029

Soubitez dynamo on 1973 Jack Taylor Touring

2015-10-25-008

Busch and Muller Dymotec 6

2015-10-25-009

If you really are interested in dynamo lighting for your own bike, you could consider using the more efficient Dymotec 6 from Busch & Muller.  I’ve had one of these around in my shop, but haven’t tried it out yet.  It is definitely lighter than any vintage dynamo I have handled.  However, I will also say that Soubitez dynamos appear to have the least drag among all the vintage dynamos I have tested.  I have two of these – each mounted on my Jack Taylor bicycles  – a 1973 Touring model, and and 1976 tandem.  They still work very well after all these years.

2017-01-14-008

I do love the engineering quality of these old steel dynamos.  They are very pretty, but very heavy.  And, while I still hate dynamos, there are lots of reasons to love them. They can be disengaged whenever you want, so are only creating drag when lighting is needed.  They aren’t that much heavier than a hub dynamo, and are simple to add or subtract to an existing bicycle, without the complexity of a hub dynamo.  So, if you like riding vintage bicycles, maybe you will like dynamo lighting.

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!

1977 Jack Taylor 650b Tandem

2014-09-21 001 031 1977 Jack Taylor Tandem

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.

2014-09-21 001 010

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

2014-09-21 001 045

Jack Taylor transfers in really nice condition

2014-09-21 001 003

 

2014-09-21 001 007

Smooth brazing and a U.K. touring club sticker

2014-09-21 001 042

Simple cable stop,, elegantly brazed seat stays

2014-09-21 001 001

2014-09-21 001 008

Reynolds transfers in great shape

2014-09-21 001 009

Pin striping is still in really nice shape

2014-09-21 001 006

Maxi Car hubs, Campagnolo dropouts – with SN 7183

2014-09-19 001 001

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

2014-09-21 001 005

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.

2014-09-19 001 005

TA triple crankset with 50/40/28 rings

2014-09-21 001 041

Eccentric bottom bracket plus internal routing for the dynamo wiring

2014-09-21 001 026

Redundant chainring on the drive side front crank

2014-09-21 001 047

Campagnolo front derailleur

2014-09-21 001 049

Very cool Zefal pump

2014-09-21 001 046

Mafac cantilevers

2014-09-21 001 020

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

2014-09-21 001 013

Color matched Milremo stem, Stronglight headset

2014-09-21 001 012

Dynamo and wiring

2014-09-19 001 006

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

2014-09-21 001 022

2014-09-21 001 043

Some pitting in the top tube’s stoker section.

2014-09-21 001 039

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.

2014-09-21 001 011

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.