1973 Jack Taylor Revisited

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.

Hybrid Gearing

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Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub with 6 speed cassette

I became interested in hybrid gearing after acquiring my 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist, about 9 years ago.  The bike features a single front chainring, 6 speed cassette and a 2 speed Sachs Orbit internal hub.  That gives it 12 gears overall, with a good range for the kind of riding I do, as the internal hub’s lower gear is about a 33% reduction, which is quite significant. For awhile, I didn’t think much about this interesting arrangement, and instead just enjoyed riding the bike, and being able to do a substantial downshift while sitting still at a stop light.

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Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub with 6 speed cassette.

There are a number of ways to accomplish hybrid gearing.  You can forgo a front derailleur, and use an internal two or three speed hub to take the place of multiple chainrings.  You can also use multiple chainrings with an internal hub, and forgo the cassette/freewheel.  Or, you can be like Sheldon Brown and do both, achieving a 63 speed bicycle – his beloved “O.T.B.”  which used a 3 speed SA hub, a seven speed cassette, and 3 chainrings.  Doing the math:  3 x 7 x 3 = 63.  So with modern technology, let’s calculate the possibilities:  a 14 speed Rohloff hub, paired with an 11 speed cassette, with a triple chainring = 462 gears!  Probably that set up would be a mechanic’s nightmare, so if you really want this many gears, I suggest you purchase a continuously variable NuVinci hub – but be prepared to deal with quite a bit more than a couple of pounds of extra weight.

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Sachs Orbit hub – NOS early 90’s with two optional cassettes

There is really only one source on the internet for information about the Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub, and that of course is the Sheldon Brown site, with additional information and clarifications by bike guru John Allen.  One of the things I worried about with this hub on my Jack Taylor was being able to find replacement parts, given that the hub was so rare.  Fortunately, a while back I found a NOS Sachs Orbit hub, pictured above, which I could use as a replacement in case something went wrong.

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1973 Jack Taylor Tourist Sachs Orbit hybrid hub

Meanwhile, the original hub is working just fine, and needed only occasional lubrication with automotive oil.  I had sent the hub out for a rebuild nine years ago, and it is working perfectly, still.

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Info on the box of the replacement hub seems to indicate this is a 1992 hub

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Very pretty hub logo engraved into the hub shell

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Be careful with these spindles!

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The replacement hub I purchased is quite lovely, and has two different cassette options – for 5 or 6 speeds. The cassette cogs and spacers slip onto the freehub with tabs to line up the rings, except for the final smaller cogs, which screw onto the freehub.  As one pedals, these smaller cogs with screw-on threads will get tighter and tighter.

Because this replacement hub is so nice, I have been thinking about using it to build into an interesting wheel set for a road/commuter bike, rather than keeping it in reserve for spare parts. One of the convenient features of this hub is that it can be operated by pretty much any front derailleur shifter, as there are only two positions on the hub.  And, if something goes wrong with the hub on the Jack Taylor, maybe I will rethink hybrid gearing altogether.

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1973 Jack Taylor Tourist

The bike’s rear wheel was an alteration from its original 1973 build, and whether or not this rear wheel was built by the Taylor brothers is unknown.  However, I have noted that British bikes built in the 60’s through the 80’s sometimes featured hybrid gearing.  This was especially true for the boutique manufacturers of that era.  Sachs internal hub gears are considered on par with Sturmey Archer, and I will say that is true, based on my experience with riding this Jack Taylor. The hub has been totally reliable.

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This early 90’s Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub has 36 holes, so it could work with a number of possible rims.  It needs a bit of lubrication to bring it back to full glory, and if I end up needing to rebuild it, John Allen and Sheldon Brown will come the rescue.

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.

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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.

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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).

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Soubitez dynamo headlight is working!

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

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Inelegant wire routing. Oh well.

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

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Frame touch up – sanded and painted.

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Very tight clearance due to low tread Stronglight 99 crankset.

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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.

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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.

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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!