Do you find drop outs interesting? The sort your bike wheel nestles in?
Well, so it seems, do quite a few people, including the owner of this old bike. Built when David was an engineering apprentice between 1945 and 1950, the machine has been saved form the garage and will be rejuvenated in the next few months. Rather swifter has been the impact on his memory. David suffers from dementia.
“I spoke to him about it and have been sitting up late as my Dad recalls his days racing and his life in Norwich,” says Steve, David’s son, “Just when I wanted an early night, he has told me more family history than ever before.” Without further encouragement, David is now searching his 70 litre box of photos for any pictures of the bike or of him racing.
What we have established so far;
David was measured for the bike by Bryant’s Cycles of Norwich sometime between 1945 and 1950.
He was advised that it would be best for him to get the frame and forks built elsewhere as supply of materials was unreliable. A “midlands frame builder” was suggested. So far we have not been able to identify which - and there were quite a few.
In the years that followed David added the components as and when they were affordable and available. Originally he had it set up as a single speed, but upgraded to a three speed and, eventually a five speed.
The interesting, some may say, drop outs are almost certainly by Bayliss Wiley. Accommodating a single speed or a geared wheel, they allowed a mix of uses and set-ups for racing.
The bottom bracket, also by Bayliss Wiley, has a nipple on the top of the shell, possibly for an oil bath of some kind.
The lugs are, I am told, by Chater Lea.
Real austerity was the order of the day when David set-out to assemble his bike, so having a machine for mixed use and easy to upgrade made sense. David was a keen racer and the late forties and early fifties were something of a golden age for cycle sport at the amateur level in the UK. Yes, we all know East Anglia is flat …. only it isn’t. True there are no major climbs, but there are enough to surprise the visitor turning up to race and expecting to ride on a pancake course.
So, what does the future hold? David and Steve are searching out photos and putting together memories - David's younger brother Keith is now involved, too. True the title of this blog is massively overblown, but we live in the twenty-first century. Chater Lea and Bayliss Wiley - very much names for the cycling past - and Bryant’s from the cycling present - seem to diminish dementia. Strangely enough, as Steve gave me the frame and attached components, we were talking about dementia. We were a bit cynical about those lovely stories where a tune is played on the piano and someone who is rarely lucid starts to sing the words. So much for us.
For the bike? Well, we want to find out more as we work towards restoring it. Very kindly, Peter Bird, from Bicycles by Design, in Coalport, Shropshire, has offered to help with a day for me and bike in the workshop. We will blast the frame and see if any repairs are needed … or possible …. At the same time we hope to reveal the name of the “midland frame-builder.” David was an engineer, a very good one. He added a bracket, presumably for a cable guide when adding a derailleur, to the underside of the bottom bracket. Smack in the middle of the maker’s name. Tidy welding and polishing will, Peter tells me, be removed, and the name will be revealed.
Then we can get down to a new paint job, a head badge, adding missing components. Think we’ll go for a single-speed …. but all that is in the future.