Most people who restore old bikes, do so for reasons of nostalgia. They either had that particular model in their youth, or maybe wanted one and never got it. Sometimes it was their dad's or grandad's bike. In the case of my Viking Severn Valley, it was the first. I was 16 and in the market for a new frame and for some time I'd had my eye on a red Cinelli hanging in Fred Williams' shop in Wolverhampton, the nearest large town to where I grew up.
After I had saved up the money, I cycled my old bike up to the shop and tried to part exchange it for the Cinelli. I had removed all the good components and substituted the worn-out old ones. Fred was not impressed with my bike so I declined his low offer and decided to make a cash deal for my Italian dream frame. Problem was, Fred didn't want to sell me the frame and put all of his sales skills into selling me a "nearly new" Viking Severn Valley he had in the back of the shop. The story was it had been built up for a show (the CTC York Rally), but never ridden. Fred had bought it off Viking after the show. The probable truth was that Fred had stripped it for parts and was now trying to dispose of the frame to this first mug that walked into the shop (me!). However the Severn Valley was undoubtedly a better frame than the Cinelli: Reynolds 531 double butted throughout with Nervex lugs and by the time the bike was built up I was very pleased with the bike. The sale of my old bike financed the purchase of some new parts for the SV.
I used it for everything: riding to school, racing, time trials, day rides and even a tour to North Wales, but I soon became more interested in girls than bikes and you can't carry your girlfriend on the back of a racing bike, so it was sold to finance the purchase of a Vespa!
Having resumed cycling a few years later after finishing Uni, I owned quite a few bikes over the years, but started hankering after another Severn Valley. After a couple of years, I found one on eBay, won the auction and just before I was going to collect it from Devon, the seller contacted me and let me know that his son had reversed his 4-wheel-drive over the frame in the garage! I managed to find a Viking Hosteller as a substitute and painted it up in the same colour scheme as my old Severn Valley. It was a great bike but was way too small for me and I couldn't get comfy on it, so I sold it on to a shorter friend of mine.
My search for a Severn Valley proved fruitless, until I bought some rims from a seller on the CTC forum and whilst I was talking to him about bikes in general, he revealed he had a Severn Valley frame in his loft and if I called back in a week or so he would get it down for me. The story was he got it off an 80 year old, who was planning to restore it to Viking team spec. The seller threw in a suitable frame for my son's fixie project and the deal was done. There was hardly any paint left on it, burnt off by brazing work - the often-flattened rear brake bridge had been replaced and bottle cage bosses had been fitted.
My rule, which has often served me well, is to build up and ride the bike, before any paintwork is done, in case any "engineering work" needs to be done and more importantly to find out whether I like the bike! This one was too bad to ride with no paint, so I threw it in with a batch of black powder coating I was getting done. Sprayed a white contrasting panel with an aerosol can and applied the correct transfers and a repro head badge given to me by the previous owner, the original having been lost (or flogged off!). It did look quite smart for very little outlay. I built the bike up with spare parts I had lying around and started to ride it regularly. I found my fond memories were correct and it was a lovely ride. I decided to build it up with the parts I would like to have had, but couldn't afford back in my teens. It took me a year and more than £800 to accumulate the Campagnolo hubs, derailleurs, crankset and bar end shifters, that were "top-end" back in the day. I used it for a circuit of the Isle of Wight and realised the racing gearing was too high for me.
But my aim when I bought it was to use it for a tour of the the Severn Valley (the race the frame was named after), so I sent it off for a respray in the Post Office red team colours of my original Severn Valley. I also asked for the buckled seat stays to be straightened. Either it had been in an accident at some time or someone was trying to create a curly Hetchins replica. I also got the rear end widened to 130mm in case I wanted to fit a later hub. The frame builder did a great job and also researched the correct colour scheme and transfers for the team bikes of the year of manufacturer. The problem was the repaint took much longer than anticipated and I had to use another bike for the Severn Valley tour, but Eroica Britannia beckoned.
Memories of the Isle of Wight urged my to change the gearing and the Campag 53/42 crankset was replaced by a period-looking Velo Orange TA Cyclotouriste replica
and the wheels were rebuilt with 700C Velo Orange Paris-Brest-Paris rims, which look just like the Fiamme sprint rims I had fitted back in the day. Grand Bois 26mm tyres completed the build. Brakes are long-reach Mafac Racers, made back in the times when we rode 27 x 1/1/4" wheels for training and 700C sprints and tubs for racing.
This time of year demand for mudguards goes through the roof! People who have been happily riding "fender-free" through the summer want more protection from the weather for themselves and their bike. We get lots of messages "will your mudguards fit such and such bike?" Well it depends.
A customer read the recent "fat tyre" articles in the press and decided to go up from 25mm to 35mm. His existing 35mm mudguards obviously won't cover them. but what can he choose? First he needs to measure..
1. With his new tyres mounted, the distance between the tyre and the brake bridge at the rear and fork crown at the front, he needs ideally 20mm, or 15mm minimum to fit ANY mudguards. Less makes it difficult or impossible. There needs to be a fixing point for mudguards at the fork crown and rear brake bridge. If there are none, P clips or even cable ties have been used.
2. The width between the fork blades at the top needs to me at least 5mm wider than the mudguards you choose, although they can be crimped in a little with some risk of the tyre rubbing. Ditto for distance between the seat stays at the rear brake bridge.
3. At the bottom bracket, between the chain stays, there needs to be an attachment point, ideally a bridge. The width between the stays here is not so important as the mudguard fan be squeezed in or trimmed. Again resourceful people have used P clips or cable ties.
4. Ideally there should be mudguard fixing eyes at the dropouts, but if there are none, Velo Orange Fender Stay mounts which mount to wheel axles or quick release are purpose made for the job. They work really well we supply a lot to one of London's finest frame builders.
I am advising you choose the mudguards first and then the tyres to fit if possible. Ideally the mudguard width needs to be 10mm wider than the tyre you are using, Measure the tyre yourself. Don't go by what is printed on the tyre.
It is quite straightforward to service these hubs or to change/swap the freehub. I have found with the latest batch of hubs, you can remove the the end-caps without using the trick I show you in the video. Just grip them firmly with a vice or mole wrench and they just pop off. If you don't want to mark them use the pedal vice I show in the video.
Well we got both the Lenton and the Severn Valley built in time and took them up to Derbyshire to Eroica Britannia. Friday night there was twilight ride to a pub led by the Pannier 15 kph club. I am sure many of the riders were doing a lot less than 15kph! We were asked to illuminate our bikes, but I forgot to pack the decorative lighting. Many of the bikes had fairy lights wrapped around the tubes and some riders had them sewn onto their clothing!
The ride was on the High Peaks trail and completely traffic free, apart from crossing the road to the pub. A lovely relaxing first evening.
Saturday was real scorcher, so we skipped the family ride and had a good look around the various stalls at the festival. Not quite so many traders as last year I think, but I have never seen so many old bikes for sale. It is perfectly feasible to turn up without a bike and buy one for the ride. There were several mechanic services there to fettle it for you and bike jumbles to buy any missing bits! The period clothing and accessories were also for sale.
Sunday was even hotter, so we opted for the short ride. The pace was very relaxed - the biggest challenge being to keep hydrated. Buxton Water were one of the sponsors, so it was "help yourself" to as many free bottles of water as you could carry.
While the vast majority of the bikes were "period" there is no scrutineering and I was following a modern mountain bike with disk brakes for some of the ride! A lot of kids were on their everyday bikes, but that is understandable. About half of the entry were in period costumes and quite a few in fancy dress. Including a few men in dresses. I was following this one "woman" and I thought here legs didn't look very feminine and would have benefitted from shaving, when I came past it was burly bloke with a beard!
The lunch stop provided a free lunch box, free beer and free water and a brass band to serenade us, just so you remembered this was "The North"! We had a very long lunch break to prepare us for the massive steep hill out of Monyash in the searing heat. This was one of the very few on-road sections of the ride. 90% of it being on "white roads" The High Peak Trail and the Tissington Trail. Some parts of the trail were in very poor condition with large stones instead of gravel, so I worried about my choice of Grandbois Cerf 700x26mm tyres, but they were fine. We did hear a couple of loud bangs and saw some repairs being made so not everyone was so lucky. Next time I would go for 32mm + width tyres or even 650 x 42B. Maybe the Calla next year then.
We got back at 2.15pm about 4 hours after we started and even including the 90 minute rest break it was a relaxed pace. Apart from Monyash no serious hills.
As for the bikes they did well. The Raleigh Lenton was faultless throughout the ride and the Severn Vally dropped the chain a couple of times changing down to small ring. I think I have fixed it now, but there may be too much slop in the 50 year old Nouvo Record front derailleur, so if it continues I will fit a SunXCD front mech, as the bike is such a joy to ride otherwise I don't want any disincentives to using it.
I was really pleased with my restoration of the Lenton and it became my favourite ride. Although I am still note sure it was "the right thing to do", when the SunXCD 120mm OLN rear cassette hub was introduced., I decided I could fit derailleurs without modifying the frame - and keep the original 4 speed hub gear wheel, so that I could go back to the "factory spec" in a hour or so.
The plus points are the much wider range of gears and choice of intermediate ratios and removing some of the back-heavy feel of a hub geared bike. The wheel was soon built with the SunXCD 120mm hub and 700C rim. I had already fitted a Stronglight 49D single crankset, so the upgrade to a double, using new TA Pro 5 Vis (Cyclotouriste) rings, was another quick and simple job. The longer bottom bracket was obviously needed. I used a Velo Orange Threadless cartridge bottom bracket, to preserve the original Raleigh 26 t.p.i. threading. A Sun Race 10 speed cassette, which has loose sprockets, was depopulated to 7 speed.
The choice of SunXCD derailleurs and 10 speed indexed shifters, mounted on the down tube was obvious.
The 48/32t chain rings and 31-32t cassette give a great range of ratios and I think the conversion looks pretty tidy and the bike is much more usable in hilly Dorset.
Readers may have noticed that my Lenton was featured in a recent blog post on the SunXCD 120mm cassette hub, but much more work was to be done on the Lenton before that project was even contemplated!
I had got involved with an amiable bunch of guys and gals who liked to tour on traditional hub geared bikes "Toggle Chain Tourers" they called themselves - now sadly disbanded and the "tours" have ceased. I did the first tour on my 1964 Moulton, but fancied a more traditional bike for this purpose, so over the winter I decided on a full restoration of the Lenton. Nothing drastic, just a respray and a handlebar change, to the drops originally specified for the Lenton Sports Road Model.
Choice of colour: I wanted something that looked 50's, but wasn't keen on the original green. I think the petrol-blue colour suits it well. It is 2 pot polyurethane to MOD spec and is tough as old boots. I got the correct transfers from Lloyds and borrowed a pin-striping machine to replicate the box lining.
I built the bike up pretty much as before, except I substituted some dropped handlebars, Brooks B17 leather saddle and an alloy cotterless chainset, which was the only non-period component used.
It now looked almost identical to the illustration at the top of this post taken from Peter Kohlers article in Retro Raleighs. An "invisible" change I had made was to acquire a 4 speed inner mechanism for the hub gear - an FW rather than an FM. The wide-range FW is more reliable than the FM and suits the hilly Dorset countryside better. I think it is a very clean build and instantly recognisable as a Lenton by those who remember them back in the day.
There are a couple of technical hitches with old Raleighs I should mention. Raleigh had their own threading standard for bottom brackets and headsets: 26 threads per inch rather than the now universal BSA 24 tpi. When you are the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world, you can do what you like! These parts are now rare, but they were so well made that we can strip down 60+ year old bikes and the bottom bracket cups are still fine. The headset wasn't a problem as I had bought a batch of NOS Raleigh headsets years ago and still had one or two left. You can still get 26tpi headsets and bottom bracket cups from India by the way as the copies of Raleigh roadsters they still make there still use 26tpi. They are not 60 year quality though! As I wanted to use a cotterless chainset (I hate cottered ones!), I had 3 choices:
1. Re-thread the bottom bracket shell to 24tpi and use a modern cartridge bottom bracket. This is what I usually do with old Raleighs.
2. Use the original cups and find a square taper spindle of the correct length
3. Use a threadless bottom bracket.
In this case I went for option 2, as I did not want to destroy the integrity of the frame and wanted to keep the original 26tpi in case i wanted to go back to the original cottered chainset.
The Lenton was then used for several Toggle Chain Tours and was used as my winter bike for some years, until the time came for the next "upgrade" (see Part 3). I did make some minor changes. The Toggle Chain Tourers like to do a bit of "rough stuff" now and again. On a tour of Rutland including a circuit or 2 of Rutland Water, I found that braking from the hoods inadequate on steep descents off road and braking from the drops somewhat terrifying, as it felt like I was going to be pitched over the 'bars! So I fitted some "cross tops" brake levers which are very convenient and powerful. The non period chainset was bugging me a little so when I came across a set of "period" Stronglight 49D cranks, they were fitted along with a TA "Cyclotouriste" Pro Vis 5 chain ring. So although it was thoroughly usable as a modern bike for everyday use and light touring, the Lenton was in a spec. that a clubman could have specified if he had a bit of spare cash to invest in upgrades to alloy rims, chainset, handlebars and stem.