*typical evil genius laugh* It lives. IT LIVESSSSSS!!
Doesn’t she look nice! It hasn’t been an easy ride, and it’s probably cost me around £300 for everything but I would stand by this build and say it’s better quality than a brand new £300 bike! From a battered, patched up and seized bike (minus the wheels) to a wet weather / winter ride using quality parts. I’m pleased!
I left the last post explaining how I’d made a mistake with the forks. I’d forgot to check the length of the threaded portion and when I went to install them I quickly discovered the problem. My freshly powder coated Reynolds forks were virtually no use. I contacted Mercian but their response wasn’t too promising. Instead of adding mroe thread with a die they were suggesting a process of removing the old steerer tube, welding/brazing in a new tube of the correct length and then repainting the forks – sounds pricey! I started looking about for dies so I could attempt the cutting myself and found one in China but before I clicked the submit order button I decided to try someone else. The fabrication company that we use at work were my next port of call. I popped down for a chat, explained what I wanted and I was offered a few alternatives. They could use a die to cut more thread in, but there wasn’t a guarantee it would work because they had no way of telling if the tube had been hardened. Alternatively they suggested using a lathe but the layout of the forks made that a logistical nightmare. The last option was to bore out the threads on the upper bearing race. It made sense but I wasn’t quite convinced it would fit well enough.
Luckily eBay came to my rescue and I found a pair of beautiful yellow Columbus forks in exactly the right size – for only £15! Cheap, but there was a reason for that… they had a stem (cut off) seized into the steerer tube. I fancied my chances so bought them. My plan of attack was simple:
– Penetration spray
– Filing flats into the exposed stem to grip with an adjustable spanner
– A little “persuasion” from both side with my trusty hammer
– Fire and ice cycles
The plan may have been simple but reality wasn’t. Days passed as I tried each method daily but the stem wouldn’t move! My last resort was the selection of drill bits at work. A stem made of an aluminium alloy should be fairly easy to drill through so it should be a quick process, right? Well yeh, it was. I initially drilled down the centre with a 17mm drill bit which ultimately created a lot of heat but the stem was still stuck. I followed that through VERY carefully with a 21mm bit. The tube itself has a diameter of 22.2mm so I was really looking out for the side walls, trying not to damage then. Millimeter by millimeter I at the stem away until I thought I was hallucinating. As I looked into the tube I could have sworn part of the old stem had been on the right as I’d started drilling, now, at this point, it was on the right. I tried to drill again and this time the portion ended up at the top. IT WAS FREE! A light tap from the underside and it dropped right out. No damage to the forks at all!
That evening I rushed home and got the rest of the bike put together. I swapped out the crown race on the forks and fitted them first (I need to get a couple of silver spacers to match the headset) and then fitted the NOS replacement 3TTT stem and the original bars. On went the brake levers and I adjusted everything to my riding position before fitting the new brake cables and taping them in place on the bars. I’ve chosen to use some yellow cloth bar tape for a more “vintage” look but I’ve double wrapped the bars for more comfort. The only thing I want to change now is the grubby white brake hoods…
Everything is now tightened down and adjusted. She’s ready for her maiden voyage. I’m looking forward to it (I’ve also treated myself to some Shimano R260 Carbon Shoes 😉 )
Circa 1990 British Eagle
Reynolds CR-MO Frame
Shimano 600 (Ultegra) Groupset
Shimano Exage Brake Levers
Campagnolo Khamsin 700C Wheelset
Michelin Krylion Carbon Tyres
3TTT Record 84 Stem & Forma Bars
Look “Delta” type pedals (unsure of exact model)
Soffatti Leather Saddle
I am so happy with the potential outcome for this bike. Considering the state I got it in, giving up on it because everything was seized and almost throwing it away, I think it’s turned into a beautiful bit of kit.
So what’s changed? Well the colour for a start! I decided to ditch the old metalic blue and go for a classy black number. It might not be the right choice of colour for a winter bike but style sometimes comes at a cost… I found some new Reynolds forks in the same style and set about stripping the paint… only… I couldn’t. The original paint was so tough that a good few coats of Nitromors barely even touched the surface. Sanding was an option but being impatient I decided to take a trip to the powdercoaters and get it sand blasted. My aim was to spray the bike. It would be cheap and easy but would it last? No. It had to be powdercoated. Black was still on my mind however something else caught my eye….
MOD Green! The finish, the colour, just wow. I love it.
Digging through my drawers I managed to find some of the original parts for the bike. I still had the old handlebars, bottle cage and brake levers so I was going to need a lot more components to complete the build.
Groupset: Shimano 600 (Ultegra) I set about searching eBay for parts, mainly looking for a modern STi groupset but also keeping my eye out for older sets. I really don’t like downtube friction shifters and I really did have my heart set on a shiney new set however at £70, I couldn’t turn down this set. It looks almost brand new! Nearly all the decals remain and the only imperfection is the shiny scuff on the drive side crank arm. What’s even better is the downtube shifters are indexed for the rear derailleur so there shouldn’t be any more guess work in shifting. Everything fits the frame perfectly.
Handlebars & Stem: I decided to look back over the old photos for this one. I wanted something close to the original in terms of the stem but back then, I really didn’t know much about parts. As soon as I glanced at one photo I recognised a badge. Zooming in, I was certain. The stem I’d snapped off was a 3TTT stem! Doh! I ran a Google image search which brought up some early 90’s catalogues which confirmed my thoughts but also revealed the identity to the weird shaped bars. The stem I needed was a 3TTT “Record” and the bars I have are 3TTT “Forma” bars. I looked through eBay and found a few high priced stems but at £80 a pop I was put off, until fortunately, I found a NOS “Record” stem at just £25.
Pedals: I’ve given the old Look pedals a good clean and they seem to work still despite the paint flaking off. I’m going to give them a go and if they don’t work out I’ll buy some Shimano SPDs.
Seat & Seatpost: What I really want is another Brooks saddle! The reality is I’m spending too much money so for now I’ve settled for the old mountain bike saddle I had on the fixie. The seatpost I went for, one of the cheaper used items on eBay (£15), is also an old mountain bike model. It was in a right state when I got it. The alloy was scratched, dull and embedded with dirt but hours of polishing with the Dremel has brought the shine back. It fits perfectly into the seat tube now with a brand new stainless clamp bolt.
Wheels: Well I already said I had the Mavic wheelset, and I did buy a spare hub to rebuild the rear hub and a new set of Shimano skewers but what I’ve actually ended up fitting is a Campagnolo wheelset. One of the sellers I follow, who is fairly local, and often has nice bike parts listed from house clearances, just happened to list a few 700C wheelsets. I ended up winning the Campagnolo set for just over £20 and also a “back up” Alexrims set for £10. Both wheel sets are in great condition but the Campag are the nicer of the two. They’ve been wrapped in some Michelin Krylion Carbon tyres, which again, were a pretty good buy at £25 for a pair!
Headset: I actually still have the old headset but it seems to be missing some parts. After having a look around I went for a Tange headset. It was reasonably priced (at £15) and looks to be a good quality bit of kit. It was easy to fit but here’s were I’ve run into a problem. Numpty here didn’t bother to check the thread length on the forks when buying them and they’re 10mm or so too short! I was all set to get the bike on the road last weekend but this has really thrown a spanner in the works. I’m currently looking for somewhere to add some more thread (I’ve tried Mercian but they haven’t replied yet…) but if worst comes to worst, I’ve found the correct size die on eBay and I’ll attempt to do it myself. I’m kicking myself at this rookie error.
Everything else is ready to go! I don’t know when I’ll get this finished off but looking at what I’ve achieved – I will see it through. From a £10 scrapper to a beautiful commuter. For what I’ve spent I could have just bought a brand new bike (all be it a cheap one) but where’s the fun in that?!
Keep an eye out for the finished bike. Hopefully it won’t be a long wait.
I was getting all ready to write out a nice post about my plans to change the design of my fixie. It’s coming close to the 1000 mile mark so I thought it’s only right to spruce the old girl up a bit. In the first few hundred miles the bike got beat up quite a bit, trying to fine tune the chain tension etc. A respray is long overdue but I also wanted to change the style of all the components.
I wanted to flip things around. The light frame would go dark and the dark components would go light. Essentially I was going for a black and chrome look. It would look a little more “period” than it does currently. This, of course, meant buying a Brooks saddle and a chrome seat post to start with. I opted for a B17 model in black. I got it for a good price and it’s in pretty good condition. I rode with it on Friday and I can safely say it’s just as comfy and supportive as all the other Brooks saddles I’ve ridden.
The next buys were a new set of bars and a new stem. I didn’t want flat bars anymore and I didn’t want the tradition drop bar, although I would have gone for the sleek sloping style that are on the France Sport if I could have afforded a pair… Instead I went for a set of “North” bars (or at least that’s what I’ve seen them called). I think they’re meant to be used as riser bars for town bikes but instead I’m mounting them upside down so there is a very slight drop. They’ll be wrapped in a black cloth tape and fitted with a matching period brake lever. Stem wise, I wanted to go back to chrome or polished alloy. I still have the original SR stem from the bike but it only has a 60mm reach and I feel comfortable with a bit more. My searches on eBay threw up lot of choices, too many choices, but I found myself leaning towards the alloy stems with a “sleek” design. On my watch list was a renovated “Biba” stem which was beautifully polished, however as £40 it was quite pricey. I kept looking and to my surprise another “Biba” stem popped up under the title “Unusual British Made Stem”. The seller had noted the two cyclists in the logo but hadn’t seen they also spelt “biba”. It was only £10 so I bought it without waiting. It’s needs a slight polish but it’s exactly what I was looking for.
As for the next steps I’m hoping to get my hands on a “Rudge” crank set because I love the hand design and possibly some new pedals. The frame will be stripped and repainted a gloss black and the bike will be good for another 1000 miles.
Well… actually that’s all just a “wish” at the moment. I had a slight accident on Friday riding to work. While trying to flip my non drive side pedal, without hitting any form of pot hole, my chain jumped off the sprocket, wrapped itself around the hub, locking and pulling the rear wheel out of alignment in the drop outs. This was at around 20mph, possibly more and was quite a violent motion. I skidded to a stop, realigned the wheel and tensioned the chain and rode on. Something didn’t feel right though. When I got to work I checked the bike over and noticed something that concerned me. Looking at the bike from the rear, aligning my sight down the seat tube and head tube, shows the rear wheel has a lean to the non drive side and it also seems the rear triangle is now bent slightly too.
The chain has slipped off and locked up before but never this violently. I asked my work mates to have a look too and they said the same thing. The rear triangle looks bent… I’m going to try and find a frame alignment tool and check it out so fingers crossed. It would be great if I could just bend it back but the more I bend the steel, the more it stresses and eventually the more likely it is to fail…
N+1. Always N+1. I have saved searches on eBay that I check daily when it comes to bikes and bike parts, always on the look out for a bargain. Last week I checked my search for “frame” and this bike popped up at a whopping 99p. It had a brief listing stating it was possibly from the 40’s or 50’s and it was lightweight but apart from that I only had the pictures to go off. I was won over by the lugs so it went on my watch list.
The auction ended yesterday. When I woke up I checked the listing and it had no bids still so threw on a 99p bid so that I could be notified when bidding started. Amazingly the listing didn’t really attract any bidders and in the last few seconds I threw on a bid to win the bike for £15. After contacting the seller it was decided I’d pick the bike up first thing this morning. A two hour round trip and the bike was mine. The seller himself wasn’t at home but he’d left the bike with his mother. She had the frame ready but to my surprise she also gave me the original saddle and seat post. If I’m lucky I’ll get a call in a few days saying she’s found the crank and pedals. All this extra for free. Brilliant!
The bike itself is in pretty bad shape. The paint is peeling, there are lots of rust spots and the alloy parts are showing signs of corrosion (hopefully they’re not seized!). The only markings I have to go by are the Norman transfers but with a little direction and research I managed to find out the exact model. What I actually have is a Norman “Rapide” as found in the 1946-1950 catalogue.
It’s a great find. An amazing find.
I’m missing a lot of components but what I can tell you is the bike has Reynolds 531 tubing and is very light. It comes with Maes Stratalite bars and a GB “Spear point” alloy stem, a Statalite seat post and a Brooks B17 saddle. I’ll probably replace the saddle as it’s a bit worn and torn but the rest is good to use. As for sourcing the rest of the parts I have a few options. The standard bike seems to come with a freewheel or fixed cog but there are also 3/4 speed Sturmey Archer options and a 5 speed derailleur option. Five speed will probably be the way to go for me.
Looking into who Norman were, they seem to be a British company founded just after World War 1 but didn’t start producing their own complete bicycles until the 1920’s. However the name Norman wasn’t used until 1935 when they moved in to their new factory in Ashford. It’s said in their peak they could produce 5000 bicycles a week but in around 1950 the company was purchased by Tube Investments which preferred the Raleigh brand for their bikes. The Ashford factory went on to close in 1961 and the Norman brand eventually disappeared from sales literature by 1963.
The bike has got quite a lot of interest on Facebook and looking into a few forum posts it seems people hold the older Norman bikes in higher regard than Raleigh. It also looks like this bike is a very rare find. Searching through Google I’ve only managed to find two other examples. Granted not everyone posts their bikes on the interwebs but the only rarer bike I have is Grandpa’s France Sport.
Hopefully this will be ready (along with the Blue Streak) for L’Eroica Britannia next year. I’d like to showcase some of my finds!
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…