I have no idea where to start with this one. The French giant of Peugeot is somewhat of a mystery to me. I’m looking through website after website trying to track down and translate brochures and literature to find the exact model of this bike. From the small amounts of research I have done, the one thing I can say is it’s not going to be easy. Peugeot seem to have used their own specific sizing for threading and tubes and duplicated very similar transfer patterns between models. I’ve found many a page showing frustration at trying to track down the correct seat post or bottom bracket. Wonderful.
Anywho. Here it is.
The price I paid? 99p. I saw it listed on eBay and expected it to go for much more but on the morning of the auction ending it still had no bids. I took a chance and won it. The seller had described how the fixed cup was, well, fixed but apart from that it was ok. It looked in good condition and I’d spotted the Simplex dropouts so I figured it was worth the money.
Date wise I expected it to be a 1970’s model and after trawling through a few web pages I’ve managed to narrow it down to between ’75 and ’79. That’s all down to the head badge. The original listing stated the seller had removed the badge to sell separately. He did actually offer me the badge when I went to pick up the frame but I turned it down, only to buy it off him a week later after seeing it on a listing. It’s a nice two piece design. Luckily this is one of the things that actually helped out with the research as this is the only raised head badge Peugeot seems to have used.
The frame didn’t come with the handlebars or stem. Those, again, were additional buys off the same gent I got the frame off. It was only after I started researching that I realised the French frames used odd sizes. Off the top of my head, they use a 22mm stem instead of the British 22.2mm. You’d think the .2mm wouldn’t make much of a difference but it does! When I saw the listing for the Atax stem and bars from the same seller (stating they were from the Peugeout) I thought it would be best to buy them! That’s £12.50 into the bike so far.
This is where I started to look into the models a bit more. One of my Instagram followers saw my post and suggested it could be a PX10, the rare and pricey top model. I’m not so sure and think it could be a slightly lower PR10 but with the amount of cross contamination between model lines it’s quite difficult to pinpoint. I think this catalogue HERE shows the differences the best (and why I think it is the PR10). The frame only has chrome dipped forks, rather than the chrome dipped forks AND rear dropouts of the PX10. It has Reynolds tubing but the badge doesn’t seem to quite match the Reynolds badges in the catalogues I have found. The higher spec’d models also seem to have been given the wrap around vertical banding on the tubes, over the horizontal lines.
That being said, if it is the PR10, and I’m 95% sure it is I have found the specific component list I need.
Brakes: Mafac S Centre Pull w/ Mafac Levers
Crankset: Stronglight TS 52/42 – 170mm – Cotterless
Derailleurs & Shifters: Simplex LJA302 / SX810T
Pedals: Lyotard 136 Race w/ Reflectors & Christophe Straps
Freewheel: Maillard 14/17/19/21/24
Hubs: Normandy High Flange Q/R W/Simplex skewers
Rims: Mavic Module E tubular.
To me, that seems like a rather expensive list. Fortunately I’ve found most of the parts already and it seems like buying direct from France is the best bet! Unfortunately I’m slightly out of cash at the moment so those specific parts will have to wait. In the mean time I did find this bargain. I saw them listed as “Vintage Mavic Monthlery Route Wheels”. Looking closer I saw they were tubular and had a set of Normandy high flange hubs. They seemed perfect for this build so I stuck them on my watch list and expected them to shoot up in price. In fact, they didn’t move in price at all and I got them for £25. I might need to replace the spokes and the rims definitely need a good polish but I couldn’t be more happy with them.
Total build spend so far £37.50
More to come soon hopefully.
I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this before but the 80’s Raleigh frame that I used on the first fixed gear is now “dead”. What happened? Well I’m not quite sure. It’s viewable in one of my Cyclist POV videos, where you can see I’m riding along and all of a sudden the rear wheel locks up and I come to a stop. It’s happened before but never that violently and never just riding along. I realigned the wheel and rode on, but after getting to my destination I realised the wheel no longer looked straight… The rear triangle looked bent. A few second opinions later and I had concluded it must be the end of that frame.
Note: At no point have I actually checked the frame alignment with the available tools.
A few weeks have gone by and now I have version 2 up and running. Version 2 was found on eBay for the small sum of £15. Naturally the colours caught my attention and I had to have it. As luck would have it, nobody else was interested in it and I won the auction for the starting bid. I have to say the seller of this frame has been an absolute pleasure to deal with – possibly the best seller I’ve dealt with. He emailed me as soon as the auction ended and asked if I wanted some further postage quotes and after looking around found one for £4 cheaper than quoted. Unfortunately he hadn’t checked the PayPal transaction and booked the delivery for the wrong address. Nevermind, he got straight onto the courier and had it changed. The courier didn’t even come and collect it and instead it had to be dropped off at the post office and sent from there. I was updated on the whole process and never left out. I wish all sellers were like that!
Anyway, the new build! The frame is a two tone, pink and purple, MBK trainer. I haven’t been able to accurately date it however I’m leaning towards an early 90’s date. Lugless, oval tubing and CRMO – I really like the frame. It has its fair signs of wear and it the colour apparently disgusts come people but I love it. It’s just my size and it’s so light.
Straight away I removed the headset from the old build and fitted that to the MBK frame. The old Halo wheelset went in perfectly, as did my old black stem. This is where things change. Instead of the flat bars I wanted to fit a set of drop bars in black with some all black brakes. I’m only running one brake, yet still decided to fit two levers. Why? Because I like the riding position! Finding the all black bars took a lot of searching on eBay as most 25.4mm clamping bars are for silver in colour for old road bikes! It was worth it though, the black bars and brakes make the pink stand out even more.
When it came to the bottom bracket and crank I had to get something new. The Raleigh uses 26tpi thread and a cottered axle, where as the MBK frame uses a standard 24tpi thread. I have a few spare cartridge bottom brackets that I could have used but something new was more appealing. I decided to head to VeloSolo and take a look at their collection. I opted for the 107mm Stronglight bottom bracket and crank set. It looks amazing and threaded straight into the frame. The Raleigh used a 42 tooth chain ring (I believe) where as the Stronglight uses a 48 tooth. Combined with the 14 tooth sprocket I’ll be getting more top end but hill starts will become a bit tougher. I’ll see how I get on with it and if it’s too tough I’ll swap out the sprocket to a 16 or 18.
The tyre clearances are close but I’m going to swap those out for some Michelin Krylion Carbon when I get some spare cash! (Those tyres are brilliant – I’m using them on the British Eagle in the wet). Apart from that I’m 100% happy with the outcome. The bike feels like a perfect fit and everytime I look at it I find a massive grin creeps across my face. It’s definitely not everyones style. What do you think?
I know I shouldn’t… I know it, but I’m weak. I see a nice part and I buy it. It’s going to really get me in trouble… The story behind this buy is:
A couple of weeks ago a new hit popped up on my Raleigh Blue Streak search on eBay. I have 95% of the parts I need and nothing I actually needed was listed. However, the results that came up showed a crank set in better condition than the one I already have and the price wasn’t too bad either so I waited, bid and won. After checking out the sellers other items I ended up with a few more parts and one of them being this frame set. At first I thought I’d just add it to my watch list. It sat there for a bit and then I decided to ask the seller how much he’d accept for the frame and for a hub I wanted for another build. I thought it was a fair price so I agreed to buy it.
I picked it up on Sunday morning. The chap I bought it off seems to have exactly the same addiction as me. In the kitchen was his freshly built 30’s path racer and outside in the garden and in the sheds were multiple bikes and bike parts… I’m pretty sure he also said there were some in the loft. We spoke for a bit about the bikes and apart from getting this nice frame I’ve always made a new contact for parts… missing out the eBay middle man.
So the frame. It hails from the beginning of World War 2. The Sports Model preceeds the start of war but in those earlier catalogues the bike is clearly shown with a coloured head tube. Despite the name “Raleigh Sports Model”, the frame carries a lot of weight! Thick, heavy tubing with no fancy lugs. Climbing hills will be fun. The frame still has all the original paint/enamel on it and despite a few rust patches it’s in really good condition, so much so that I’m thinking of just polishing the frame and applying a clear coat to preserve the originality.
As with most old Raleigh’s the “standard” gearing was a fixed / freewheel hub with optional Sturmey Archer. It seems the bike did indeed get the Sturmey Archer treatment but I’m going for the fixed / singlespeed option. I already have a Baylis-Wiley front hub which fits perfectly along with a set of peroid Raleigh wing nuts. I also have a British Hub Company rear hub that suits both the frame and the fixed / freewheel standards. Digging through my boxes I’ve found a set of fixed cogs that I can fit and a nice Phillips freewheel.
You’ll notice the Brooks saddle too. That’s come from my “old” fixed gear (it’s been relegated after bending the frame). It’s not period correct but it suits the bike. As for the other parts, I think I have a set of brakes that will fit, along with the crankset and handlebars. The rims are going to be the hardest thing to find! 26 x 1 1/4″ are rare, so very rare and finding ones in good condition for a reasonable price is even harder. I do have other options but I’d like to stick with the original wheel size if possible.
I’m in no rush to get this bike built. This is another one for my own collection so it will be on the back burner for a while. Still, what do you think? A part of British cycling history.
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.
*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
She is a beauty!
I’m over the moon with how this build has turned out. My only criticisms are the lack of chrome rims and the lack of decals. The first was a genuine mistake when ordering new rims (and a semi misleading picture) and the second is purely down to nobody produces the exact Viscount decals. I have found some, but when I ask a question and the seller ignores me I don’t find that too promising for a potential sale.
Anyway, the finishing touches. Starting with the wheels I replaced the old rusted spokes and the badly painted rusted rims with a brand new set of alloy rims and stainless spokes. I’ve built the wheels myself and trued them to the best of my ability with my jig. They seem straight and true, and the white wall tyres finish the bike off perfectly. Building the wheels wasn’t actually too hard. I’ve built one wheel before and this time the whole process seemed ten times easier. I feel like I could lace another set from memory any time now.
After using white wall tyres I had to use white cables; clean and crisp. They’re held down with a series of brand new cable clamps which the bike lacked in its original state. The Sturmey Archer hub has taken a bit of tweaking to find that sweet spot for “2nd” gear but I think we’re there now. I took her out for a quick test ride and all seemed well.
I’d love to get £250 back for the bike and maybe make a small profit; we’ll see. A lot of money and time has gone into this build but I’ve tried to focus on quality. It’s lasted 40 years already, I’m sure it will last another 40! (My Carrera Vulcan cost more and barely made 2 years without a complete rebuild!)
What do you make of the finished bike?
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.
Everyone loves yellow right?! I know I do.
The last post was really just an introduction to the Viscount. I wasn’t really in bad shape; the stickers and frame had scuffs and there were spots of rust on the frame but the main issue were the rims. The old rims had been painted to hide the rust and pitting ,a cheap and nasty fix, so I decided to strip the wheels down and buy new rims. I’m yet to build the wheels up so here’s what’s new.
I decided to bite the bullet and get the whole frameset powder coated the gorgeous Signal Yellow. It’s a risky choice, in terms of profit, but when it comes to quality vs a rattle can spray job it’s a million times better. The components were all dropped off on Monday morning and I picked them up on Wednesday, along with another build…
The finish is beautiful. Smooth and solid all over. In fact, the only imperfection is my attempt at knocking out the dent on the rear mudguard.
I’ve cracked on with reassembling the frame this weekend and it’s looking good. The bottom bracket and crankset went on first. I don’t think there’s a spot of rust on them now and after cleaning out the remnants of the sand blasting the bearings are spinning smoothly. The cranks are stamped Nicklin, which brings me to something I found interesting. Nicklin, are the company that bought Williams, which would make sense seeing as this chain ring closely resembles a Williams model. This makes me think Viscount chose some good quality parts for their bikes.
The headset is another good quality item, made by TDC and after clearing out all the old dirt and grease I found it was almost perfect. New bearings and new grease and the bike was ready for it’s bars. After looking over the original bars I decided to swap them out for a spare set I had which had better chrome. I borrowed a set of brake levers from my spares pile too as the original ones were mismatched and with the finish so far, everything needs to be top quality.
I stripped the calipers down and polished up each part before assembling and fitting the mudguards. My Dremel really came in useful here, so much so, I’ve ordered more polishing compounds to use it on my other projects. It seemed a shame to put the old rusted bolts back on the bike so I’ve used some brand new stainless bolts – I hope whoever buys the finished item appreciates these little details!
Refitting the seat post and seat is about as much as I can do at the moment. I’m waiting on a few more parts to arrive before fitting all the cables and building the wheels. How’s it looking so far?
It’s time for an update.
With all the trips I’ve been doing to the powder coaters this week I thought I’d drop the Wayfarer off to be stripped. This bike was most definitely used and abused by the previous owner. Parts have been seized and others covered in rust. The rust had got to the rims so much that I had to cut through the spokes to free the hubs and ended up chucking the rims after finding holes on the bead seat. I wasn’t too concerned about the frame but I feared the mudguards would have the same fate as the rims. The underside of the guards were caked in mud and the tips were covered in rust and flaking paint. It didn’t look good.
I dropped the frame, forks and mudguards off to be stripped on Thursday and picked the components up this morning. Packaged in clear bags they all looked really nice. The guys over at Central Wheel Components had also taken the time to remove the head badge and fork crown caps. At first glance, it all looks good.
The forks are by far the best part of the bike (condition wise). They don’t shown any signs of pitting and there are no dents are far as I can see. The brazing is fairly messy but I think this one part is ready for paint.
The frame didn’t fair quite as well as the forks but it’s still in a good, useable condition. The downtube has a couple of dents on either side that will need to be filled and the chain stays have a small amount of pitting on the underside. That’s one thing I hadn’t noticed before handing the bike over. The blasting is super fine and has really cleaned up all the lugs nicely. It shouldn’t take much more work to get a “nice” frame from this.
If anything was going to cause some problems it was going to be the mudguards. As expected the stripping has brought out a lot of pitting. The tips and tails are the worst affected but the side walls also have a fair share. In places there are some fine holes letting light through, showing that the rust has definitely taken hold but I think the guards could be saved. A good rust treatment and some high build primer should… should, sort the pitting. I would like to save them – I hate throwing parts away.
If you’ve noticed the one missing “body” part, have a cookie, if not, the missing part is the chain guard. I’ve decided not to spec the Wayfarer with the original 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub and instead use the Huret 5 speed gear set that I picked up in that bargain job lot, thus, the chain guard won’t work. I’m hoping it make the bike more user friendly and attractive to potential buyers. That being said, the derailleur needs a lot of cleaning before going anywhere near the bike. The jockey wheels are so caked in old dirt and grease that they’re locked in place. They may not have even been cleaned since ’76 – at least it’s period correct!
So that’s the plan with the Wayfarer. Fix a dent or two in the frame, treat any pitting and cover with high build primer before spraying in the original blue and fitting new transfers. A 5 speed conversion to finish off and it’ll be done.
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.