Introducing another £2 bicycle. Well… the frame at least.
This was another bike included in the haul I got last year. So far you’ve seen the Kerry’s (which I built into a single speed), the Rudge “Ulster Sports” and now you’ll get the chance to see the start of the oh so average BSA Wayfarer.
I’ll be honest, this bike had me searching around for ages until I found a post that revealed the identity. I knew the bike was a 70’s BSA from the head badge at first look but seeing the serial number etched into the side of the seat tube threw me. I’ve come to expect that on earlier bikes, around the 50’s, not late into the 70’s. By this time Raleigh had their dirty little mitts into BSA and so the bike should have really had the serial number stamped neatly behind the seat tube.
There are no model references left on the bike. The paint is now almost completely flat with only the faint BSA transfer on the seat tube remaining. However if you look closely you can see the glistening remains of some gold pin striping. To me, that’s a nice detail but something I can’t replicate. I just don’t have the skills to do anything that detailed.
So how did I come to discover the bike was branded a Wayfarer? Well, it should have been so obvious! I actually have a Raleigh Wayfarer that is nearing completion and combing the exact match paint and age wise with the knowledge Raleigh shared models with BSA should have led me to guessing the model. It didn’t. I was nowhere near that train of thinking. Instead I took to the Veterans Cycle Club library and searched the archives. Unfortunately there are no BSA catalogues from the 70s and even the Raleigh catalogues have no mention of the Wayfarer that I can find.
Instead Google was my saviour. Searching for a simple “BSA Ladies Bike” I went through all the pictures until I found one that matched and reading more in to the post I found out it was a Wayfarer. That knowledge unlocks a mass of Wayfarer posts all around the interwebs. It’s far from a rare bike but I wasn’t expecting that. It’s a bike people rode casually back in the day and buy now for those memories or to simply to use as a project (some being better than others…)
For me, it’s just another back burner project that will get rebuilt as and when. I’ll try and rebuild it using a 70’s Sturmey Archer 3 speed (probably taken from my Raleigh Wayfarer) and find some old parts to fill in all the blank spaces. I’m not even going to attempt the pin striping but it will get the original transfers back as I know I can source them.
Now speaking of the Wayfarer… I better go and finish the Raleigh.
The last update post for this bike was, all in all, positive. I’d done the work and had taken it down to show my Grandpa to get his approval. He’d relived a few memories and confirmed my thought that I’d chose the wrong rim size. As soon as I got home, I searched eBay and found a set of 26 x 1 1/4″ Dunlop Light Alloy rims, haggled a bit and bought them. They were pricey but the condition was great and the front had a hub that matched the original rear hub I was set to build into a wheel.
I took delivery of them not long after I placed the order. Condition wise they looked as good as they did in the pictures but they had even more potential. Being alloy they have been saved from the dreaded rust and a good polish would get them shining again so I started work with my Dremel polishing them up. I soon found the cordless Dremel I had (and the Dremel polishing compound) wouldn’t really cut it so I went out and bought a wired Dremel, some Silverline polishing compound bars and a lot more polishing attachments! Over a weekend, sitting for hours, I managed to polish both rims up to a near mirror shine.
The wheel was ready to be built but I needed to work out the spoke length. This seems to be a hit or miss subject so I took all the necessary measurements and used various online calculators to get a rough size. Each calculator seems to vary slightly, and from my minimal experience, I’d say they seem to overestimate the length. I ordered one or two mm shorter than the average and waited for the delivery.
After building the wheels for the Viscount, this wheel build seemed a lot more natural. I could remember the pattern and quickly laced the wheel. The truing it always a bit harder. I don’t have the professional rigs and jigs but I do have a well made homemade jig which gives me a rough idea to the left / right and up / down movement. It takes time. Now my complete job isn’t perfect, there is slight variation but I don’t think I quite have the skills yet to get a perfect build. The wheel was ready to be fitted.
*Actually, before fitting the wheels I fitted some cloth rim tape and some new Raleigh “Sport” tyres.
The new wheels looked great. I was excited to get out and about and see how much speed I’d picked up with the new gearing and thinner tyres. Unfortunately the new chain was not happy with the original cassette that my Grandpa was using. Under slight load it the chain simply skipped over the teeth and I couldn’t get any drive. The old and new just didn’t want to mate. Fortunately, being the clever guy he was, my Grandpa had sent me the old chain in a box of bits that came with the bike. I’ve cleaned it up, fitted it and it works a treat.
I’ve been out, taken some pictures, shot some video and enjoyed a quick ride. The ride is smooth and fast and the shifting seems to be very precise with the adjustments I’ve made. I’m happy with it. One or two bits to change now (chrome) and I’ll be ready to show it off at L’Eroica Britannia next year.
I should not be allowed on eBay. Someone should ban me from it until I’ve cleared the back log of bikes I have. Sometimes the urge to put in a “cheeky” bid to test the water gets the better of me and I end up winning. Oops
Back in 1976, BSA, owned by Raleigh, produced this entry level sports bike. Whether the name represented a “Tour De France” achievement or not, I don’t know, but from what I’ve read people have mixed opinions of the bike. Some seem to fondly remember wanting to own one and others loving the ride however there are those that look down on this “basic” bike and shun it. At the time this bike was first purchased it would have cost the buyer £96.95, which is apparently worth roughly £727.26 in today’s money! That seems a crazy amount! I paid a whole £12.50 for this bike and it came with two spare handlebars!
Ok so it’s not in the best condition and it is missing a couple of small parts but really I don’t think it’s going to take that much work to put right. The paintwork is clearly the worst part of the bike. A strange shade of faded red / orange with a fair helping of stone chips and what looks like a burn on the down tube. The top tube has taken a good knock at some point, leaving a good sized dent, but structurally it looks straight. I’m not really worried about the paint though. Seventies paint can easily be stripped and it won’t be hard to respray in a deep red and fit new decals.
I chose to take a chance on this bike mainly because the chrome looked to be in good condition. There worst component is the front derailleur and I think with a bit of work with the Dremel and polish I can polish it up nicely. If worse comes to worst, I can replace it with the front derailleur I have left over from my fixed gear build. Raleigh really seem to have put their name on this bike with the components, only leaving their branding off the Brooks saddle and the Weinmann / Union hubs. Hopefully I can save the Brooks saddle. It’s definitely seen better days, however with some treatments I’m hoping it with supple up and not tear apart on the first ride.
The plan of attack is going to be something along the lines of:
Strip the bike and sandblast the frame (checking for any defects)
Clean and polish all components, replacing any that aren’t deemed useable.
Respray the frame in a deep red and replace decals.
Find a replacement top tube pump, rear caliper, brake levers and seat post pin.
Possibly replace the rims with 700C
Buy all cables and consumables.
Build and sell.
It’ll be a nice bike when finished I think. It’ll fit nicely into next years L’Eroica Britannia!
If you’ve followed this blog and caught the previous posts about the France Sport you’ll probably know what I mean by unveiling. If you haven’t, don’t worry, I’ll explain now. This bike was given to me by my Grandpa early last year. It had been sat in his loft for years and he’d chosen to give it to me to use as I see fit. The only history I knew at the time was he had bought the bike post WW2 and had owned it ever since. Despite it’s age, it was still in fairly good condition, probably down to the careful dry storage in the loft. I started work on it at Christmas, stripping it all down, powder coating the frame and once everything was cleaned, I rebuilt it. The bike was unfortunately missing its wheels so I used what I could and build some 26 x 1 3/8″ wheels up with a three speed freewheel and the bike was “finished”.
In the process of building the bike I’d done my research and dated the bike to around 1935. The “Super Champion” chain tensioner/guide clearly had showed a better date for the bike. Looking into the company drew up a lot of blanks. There was very little information around and I haven’t been able to find another France Sport branded bike since. It’s a bit of a shame that I can’t find the company history I’d like but I take pride in saying I have an extremely rare bike.
Here’s the unveiling then. Yesterday I drove down to Somerset to visit my Grandparents and reveal the “finished” bike. I wanted to do a little video about it however once I got there and saw how fragile they both looked I thought it wasn’t in the best taste. We (I traveled with my sister and niece) got settled, caught up and went out for lunch with my aunt before heading back to the house and unveiling the bike.
I really wanted the approval of my Grandpa, after all it was his bike and I wanted to meet his standards. When I rolled it in, smiles appeared on both their faces. It was brilliant. He looked over the bike from his chair and the memories seemed to come flooding back. He began to tell me about his experience with this strange type of gearing and the reasons why it failed to catch on before carefully making his way into the spare room to fetch a photo album to show me.
In it were photos from the 40’s, neatly taped down and labelled, showing his motorcycles, his travels by sea and one of the bike itself. It was 1948 and it showed a smiling teenager riding a possibly newly acquired bike. I was given the album to look through (without the white gloves my Grandma commented – smiling) and my Grandpa told me a bit more about it’s history. I was told how, after buying the bike, he’d added the lights and bell (dated 1939) because the person he’d bought it off wasn’t one for following the rules…or safety. He also told me how around 30 years ago he’d thought about giving the bike away to the National Cycling Museum (I’m sure he said in Essex, but Google tells me it’s in Wales), and despite talks with the Museum and a lot of interest he just didn’t end up going through with it.
I explained how I’d took a guess at the wheel size and how I thought it was the wrong size and he confirmed. The bike originally came with 26 x 1 1/4″ wheels which unfortunately now are very rare! My Trent Sports has them and I’ve kept my eye out for more but they very rarely appear in good condition, or at all. That being said, on the subject of wheels, while looking in his garage I made a bit of a discovery. I found the original rear hub. It was just sitting there on one of his workbenches. I couldn’t believe it. After finding it I promised him I’d get the wheels rebuilt with the right sized rims and the original hubs to get closer to my 100% finished bike.
When I got home, I found a pair of Dunlop LA (Light Alloys) rims in the right size from the 40s/50s. They were in great condition and the front wheel was already built with a hub matching the rear one I have. The price was high at £150 but if I could confirm the rear rim was 40 holes I decided I’d pay it. An email was sent to the buyer and, without mentioning the spoke number I needed, they confirmed the rear to be 40 holes. A few offers went back and forth and we eventually agreed on £125. I’ll need new tyres and tubes but it will take the bike one step closer to the finish.
You may have also noticed three small additions I gave the bike before heading down. I refitted the Apex pump, the saddle bag support (with the Carradice saddle bag I’d bought previously) and fitted the refurbished rear lamp. It was in a bit of a state when it came off the bike but it cleaned up pretty well. I cleaned off all the old paint, discovered the Ever Ready stamp and resprayed the main body. Originally the whole light was black but after discovering the cap was alloy I decided to simply polish that up. Once it was all dry I bought a D battery and fitted it but the light wouldn’t work. I was a little stumped as the bulb looked fine but nothing I tried got it working. The internet came to my rescue though with this blog post. As it happens, old batteries were insulated on the top, so a new battery needed the same insulation. I wrapped the top in tape, popped the battery back in and the light fired up. It’s brilliant.
So there’s my story about the unveiling. I’m still not finished with the bike but I’m so glad my Grandpa approves of it, even in it’s current 80% state. Seeing how their health has deteriorated since my last visit was a little unsettling but I’m glad the visit, and the bike fired up some old memories and brought out the smiles.
Fully built. Fully working. I love it.
The finishing touches:
Wheels & tyres: The front wheel was already built after coming from one of the bikes I’ve had lying around. The rim, spokes and hub polished up nicely. The rear was a complete build. I took the rim from the same bike as I took the front wheel, the hub from one of the 27″ wheel sets I had, bought new spokes and built the wheel up myself. It was a bit of a learning curve. The spoke length calculator I used suggested two spoke sizes with the longer being on the cassette side but after building the wheel I found I needed shorter spokes on that side as the spokes just wouldn’t tighten. With the shorter spokes in the wheel pulled into shape and tightened up nicely.
I fitted a 3 speed Atom freewheel to the rear hub and a set of Michelin World Tour tyres before fitting the wheel to the bike. They’re a bit fatter than the bike originally came with (in theory) but they do fit in both the drop outs and mudguards so I will be able to use them.
Chain: The 3 speed freewheel required the “fatter” 1/8″ chain so I bought another Izumi chain, sized it to the largest sprocket (plus a bit of movement) and fitted it to the bike. That was a nice easy part but working out the correct chain tension seemed a bit tougher. I’d fitted the chain tensioner so that it did supply tension but was still easy to move by hand. I thought that would have been sufficient but after fitting all the gear cables and going for a test ride I found out it wasn’t enough and the chain skipped.
It also didn’t help that the chain tensioner, which is fixed to the shifter, actually removes tension from the chain as you shift up (onto the smaller sprockets). This puzzled me. it should be working in the opposite direction so to work around that I set the tension arm in the highest gear, meaning when I ride in the lowest gear the cable is loose. It works. I also moved the tension arm to the next position in its mount and managed to fight it back into place. Those couple of tweaks worked and the bike rode well and changed gears without too much issue.
There is a slight rattle from the chain hitting the derailleur however I can’t seem to remove that without throwing the shifting out.
Brakes: Well I couldn’t go anywhere without the brakes being adjusted. The cables have all been correctly tensioned and the bike stops. I also bought some new cables guides to fit to the frame so I didn’t have cable ties on the finished product.
The badge: It turns out I should have refitted the badge before reassembling the bike. The badge pins that need to be hammered in require you to shave them down from the inside after and with everything being fitted… well I couldn’t do that. Araldite has come to the rescue though. That super strong glue is holding the badge in place with the holes exposed so I can fit the pins if I ever take the bike apart again.
That’s it. The bike is done. I took it out for a ride earlier to grab some photos.
And to think, this is how I got it…
Building my own wheels is not something I really thought about before this France Sport build. Wheels have always been readily available for me to buy and use. This build threw up some problems with that idea though. There are no three speed wheels available, finding a three speed freewheel is rare and the size of rim I need is long gone. It’s forced me to patch together parts from other bikes to make up a wheel set that will work but there’s one thing I need first. Introducing my new wheel building / truing stand:
With the idea of building my own wheels set in my head I had a look around on eBay for some of these stands. The search threw up the usual Park stands along with other brands but they were all well over £100 for a substantial bit of kit. I found this gem hiding in among all the other adverts. It cost me £50 and it’s designed and built by the chap selling them. Every part is laser cut steel and it’s fully adjustable to fit a range of axle sizes and lengths. I think it’s a beautiful bit of kit and it’s coming in handy!
I started by trying out my truing “skills” on a few of the wheel sets I already have. It’s pretty simple to understand and get your head round. A little tighter here, a little looser there… I managed to pull a spare 26″ x 1 3/8″ wheel back to perfectly straight without much effort. The practice did however highlight the rear wheel in my “good” 27″ wheelset was beyond repair. I could true it and make it spin without any side to side wobble but looking from the side I found the rim had multiple flat spots. Nothing much I can do about that but fortunately my 3 speed freewheel fits on the hub so I’ve stripped that wheel down to pinch the hub for the France Sport.
That leaves me with a clean front wheel fitted with a new Continental World tour tyre, a shiny new chain and all the parts (minus the spokes) for a rear wheel build.
The 26″ x 1 3/8″ rims I’m going to be using probably aren’t the original size for the bike. Diameter wise they’re spot on but this size tended to be used on the “town” style bikes. After looking for some advice about sizing on a Facebook group it was suggested the bike probably had a slightly narrower 1 1/4″ rim but the possibility of finding an original replacement for that size is extremely low. The slightly wider rims will do for now!
The next step is to collect all the measurements to work out the ideal spoke length and shorten the OLD spacing slightly so I can build the final piece of the puzzle. Wish me luck.
I’m super stoked to bring you the progress with this bike. I really hope it makes my Granddad proud.
After the fiasco with the “cheap” powder coating company and another bike I decided to spend a bit more and go elsewhere. I’d been speaking to Paul from Central Wheel Components via email and after answering every question I had and checking out their previous work I took the bike over to them. This was Tuesday morning last week, and after initially being informed I’d have a 2-3 day wait I was really impressed when Wednesday morning I had voicemail saying the bike was done. At lunch I collected it and comparing it to the other company… well, there is no comparison. The quality is spot on, you can tell it’s been thoroughly cleaned and the vital parts protected. The colour is even and glossy; it’s beautiful. It cost £70 for the frame and forks, which is pricey but you pay for quality. I’d recommend them!
Picking up the frame was the kick in the ass I needed. I ordered all the replacement cables etc that evening and spent Thursday and Friday with a box of parts, polish and wire wool cleaning up everything that needed to go back on. The cleaning revealed a few things. For one, the parts are in a lot better condition than I thought and apart from the stem (which has a lot of chrome missing) they didn’t really need any re plating. The cleaning also brought out more information about the components.
The most obvious (and I don’t know how I missed this) was identifying the cranks and chain ring as BSA parts. The big B, S and A built into the chain ring was a big giveaway but I actually saw that second. Underneath all the old dirt I revealed two faint BSA logos and the tooth count (44). BSA stands for “Birmingham Small Arms Company” and as you can guess, they produced guns. They actually produced a lot of items from bikes and motorcycles to guns and buses.
The bottom bracket also cleaned up nicely to reveal Bayliss Wiley (15). There’s not much on Google about this company. They were a British company based in Birmingham founded in 1919 that built, from what I can see, bearings, hubs and bottom brackets.
Today I set about putting the bike together. I started by refitting the Stronglight headset with fresh grease and new bearings. Both this headset and the bottom bracket had two pin holes in them for a tool to tighten them. When I removed them I’d managed to clamp on some mole grips and unwind but I wasn’t sure if the same would work for assembly. It turns out my Granddad had thought ahead and when he’d given me the bike, he’d also sent me a box of spares. It had chains, random fittings and some old tools. One tool in particular had the exact pin layout I needed. Whether it’s something he’s made himself or a genuine tool I don’t know, but it worked!
The bottom bracket was next. I gave it a good clean out first to get rid of any grit but I still had problems with it. First was my own mistake of putting the axle in the wrong way around. It needed the longer side on the left so the pedal could clear the frame, it’s lucky I checked! After that, I’m not sure what happened but when I tried to refit the non drive side, the cup stopped turning half way in. It wouldn’t wind in any further and it wouldn’t undo. I tried cleaning out the pin holes for more grip but it was stuck. The mole grips came to the rescue again and after another clean I managed to get it all fitted properly. The crank arms and pedals went on straight after.
Handlebars and brake levers next. I aligned the levers so the tips sat level with the flat of the bars and then wrapped the bars with some Ritchey “Faux Leather” tape. Brown to match the Brooks saddle. It was fairly expensive tape but it was really nice to wrap with. It feels comfortable and had some stretch to it so I could get a good layer going. I loosened the levers a little to slot the tape underneath just to give a bit of a cleaner finish.
Brake wise; the calipers had a clean and grease, new cables were fitted and new brake pads were adapted. The calipers themselves went straight on, no messing there. The replacement pads were a slightly different design to the original so needed to be adapted slightly. The pads used are 40mm long and can be slipped out of the backing plate. I didn’t want to just swap them out for 35mm blocks so I ordered some replacement Shimano pads. They were more elliptical than oblong so I had to trim a small section from the end to square it up before fitting. Great fit though! In terms of the cables, I’d gone for the best my usual supplier offers, PTFE coated with the pear nipples. I bought some good quality outer cable and alloy end caps too. Cutting the cables to exactly the same size as the old ones, they went on with ease. I haven’t tensioned the cables yet due to not having wheels but they’re almost there. I also need another cable clamp for the top tube. For now I’ve taped the frame where I want the clamps (and to protect the paint) while I look for a pair. They’re super expensive for such a small part though!
What’s left… Saddle and pannier rack! I greased up the seat tube before fitting the seat post but that was still very tight. Not sure why it’s so tight after the thorough cleaning but the grease should stop it seizing again. The Brooks saddle looks amazing! After the saddle came the pannier rack. It’s just a small alloy one but I thought it might be useful to have. Again, I taped up the frame to stop the brackets damaging the paint and clamped it down for an initial alignment.
Gearing! This bike, as I think I’ve said before, has a three speed shifter. An indexed three speed shifter. I’d cleaned the shifter, derailleur and chain tensioner during the week and they came up really well. I absolutely love the copper chain tensioner. It’s beautiful. I still have the old cable on for the derailleur at the moment but don’t worry, there is a new one to go on. As for the wheel side of things I thought I’d got it right with a three speed freewheel. There were only two units on eBay that I could find so I’ve ordered one to try however after researching Bayliss Wiley I’m wondering if the bike used one of the setups I saw in a image of one of their hubs. It did look like it had three sprockets exactly the same size but I’m wondering if that was a technique used… Check it out here.
I think that was about the end of assembly for now. I had hoped one of the 27″ wheel sets I’d picked up would fit but they’re just too big. Fitting the 27″ wheels and looking at where the brake pads were originally aligned to I think it’s safe to say the bike had 26″ wheels originally. One more thing to look for.
So here it is. An almost fully assembled (circa 1940s) France Sport. I realise I still need to fit the head badge too… the rivets are on their way.