In this second post for the Norman I’m beginning the hunt for parts as well as stripping down the frame to get a better idea of the condition. The stripping came first and knowing the trouble the alloy / steel mix can cause I thought I was going to have a fight on my hands. Fortunately the bike gods were looking down on me and the stem came out with ease – a bit of penetration spray and a tap on the stem bolt shifted the wedge and I was able to twist the stem free.
After removing the bottom bracket, I think I can safely say at some point in the past someone has removed one cup (and possibly the axle), lost a few bearings and left the bike exposed. There was practically no grease in and around the axle or the remaining bearings and I even tipped out some dried leaves and the crumbling carcass of a wasp – nice. The bottom bracket cups are made by T.D.C and could really do with being replated and the axle is a Bayliss Wiley #15 item, which needs a good clean.
The headset, thankfully, has been left untouched and in each cup was a good layer of thick, dirty grease. It’s protected the bearing surfaces and left them in brilliant condition. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the outer surfaces exposed to the elements – these will need to be send to be replated in chrome. I’m not sure of the brand on the headset but nearly every part is stamped with “Made in England”.
Once everything was stripped I soaked the chrome forks in Oxalic Acid to see if they would clean up and rubbed the frame down with some WD40. The original blue on the frame is beautiful. After the dirt was rubbed away a deep blue shone through and colour was seen in some of the transfers. The forks cleaned up about as well as the frame but both will need to be completely re-done. One discovery on the forks was some red detailing around the crown.
The search for 100% original parts for this bike is not going to be easy. I only have the one brochure shot to go by and although some parts are listed, most fall into the break in the page where unfortunately it looks like two or three words are missing.
There’s absolutely no mention of a brand for the chain ring but what I can see is a pattern. To me, the brochure looked to show a single chain ring with a 3 arm spindle, flowing into a chainring with intersecting lines creating a flat topped triangle. It’s very vague and a good few cranksets match. I was scrolling through eBay, following different searches when I found this one particular set. It looked to have the right design, but it also had the red detailing on the cranks, much like the forks. I bought it, just in case. Continuing to look, I’ve found Williams do a similar design but it appears to be a very rare design. I’ve test fitted the crankset I have on the axle and the non drive side looks to line up nicely but the drive side has something obstructing it. I think there’s a slight lip around the cotter pin hole that’s stopping it so I’ll have to investigate that. There’s no branding on this crankset as far as I can tell.
The only mention of the brakes in the brochure is cut off by the page join so all I can read is “Continental P…*missing words*…t alloy. Silver cables”. It’s not much help so I’ve gone with the safe bet by buying a pair of GB Superhood brake levers and GB Sport calipers. I really can’t pinpoint a specific design or brand with the details I have so hopefully this choice will be ok.
Lastly I’ve looked into the gearing and I had some choices with this. The standard gear for the bike seems to be “light alloy front and rear (hubs) with track nuts. Fixed or freewheel”. However there are additional options underneath listing “Continental derailleur gear. Mondial or Simplex, Sturmey Archer 3 or 4 Speed with tr…*missing words*…olite, Airlite, or Duralite special light alloy hubs.”. I already have a fixed gear, well, two if you count the option I have on the France Sport and I already have a nice Sturmey Archer 3 Speed in the Trent Sports so I decided to look for the derailleur option. Having looked through the Veterans Cycle Club Library at the few Simplex brochures and looking around at for sale adverts I decided to go for the set up pictured below. The derailleur is in excellent condition and looks to have already been refurbished. I believe it’s a 5 speed however I’ll have to double check that.
That’s where I am right now. I missed out on a set of Phillips pedals that I believe the bike came with but I’m keeping my eye out for more. I’m also watching a few sets of Airlite hubs which are pretty pricey! I’ve got till next summer to get this bike done though so there’s no rush!
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!