Vintage, yesteryear and retro biking
25 posts • Page 1 of 1
I posted here a while back after chancing upon this 1958 Speedlite Special Frame. Thread here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=27455&hilit=speedlite+special#p394373
Sadly after being loved, cherished and ridden hard on a daily basis it lasted exactly 335 days before the vintage bicycle gods exacted revenge. Here is the story of those 335 days condensed into a few [briefer than this one] posts which I will spread out over the coming days - feel free to comment along the way.
So, the beginning....
While I wasn’t necessarily looking for a vintage frame at the time, I was keen to move on from the 1980’s Apollo IV that I was riding and racing – firstly because it was too small (it was 56cm and I’m 6 foot 1 –so there was a lot of seatpost and the handling was...ummm, exciting!), and secondly my father bought it from new and it was getting scruffier the more I commuted, trained and raced on it.
The Speedlite was listed on that popular auction site with a few small low-res shots and with a description of “needing minor repairs”. I could see some fancy lugs and it was a 59cm and “most likely Reynolds 531”. It was local so there would be no postage so I slapped down a max bid of $100 and won it for the princely sum of ......wait for it...... $36!
Remarkably the seller was 2 streets away so the next day it was delivered. The first thing I noticed was how relatively light it was and as I said in my original thread, was complete with original paint including box lining and pinstriping, a curved brake bridge, a twin plate fork crown, simplex dropouts and a magnificent “vibe” – chrome, rust and a very dirty shade of gold, olive and brown replete with riders name on the top tube.
The angles were slack (by modern standards) and the repairs required appeared to be a left hand fork tip.
I originally thought of turning it into a tweed bike, and to continue the search for a trainer/commuter but I gotta say, it really grew on me. I mocked it up with a few modern bits and pieces from the parts bin and crunched a few numbers and realised that with not a lot of expense I could build a one of a kind commuter/trainer/audaxer under 9kg.
As it was bought as a frame only with no real idea on its provenance or original running gear, I felt less guilty about going down this path however I did give myself some strict caveats which were:
• Original paint and patina to be retained
• Nothing to be rubbed back or ground off
• Must be able to be returned to original 1950’s guise in case L’Eroica calls”
So... first purchase was a Stronglight A9 headset – simply the lightest 1 inch headset I could find at 88 grams with an added bonus of having a vintage feel. Next it was a visit to the highly regarded Wayne Kotzur for the required repairs and modifications:
• trim 4mm off the top of head-tube and face
• recut lower race to 26.4mm and inserted headset and tightened
• Heated and re-bent front LH tip and filed to a better interior shape
• aligned front fork blades and pulled out 4mm each side and realigned tips to suit.
• brazed on rear English hanger after realigning rear triangle before widening to 130 mm and aligning tips
While the repairs were underway, I patiently went about procuring the desired bits.
These bits can be neatly categorised into the following 4 categories:
- The silver bits
- The brown bits
- The “oh-no, don’t do that” bits, and
- Some nice accoutrements
Firstly the silver bits:
Cranks: Dura Ace 7700
BB: Dura Ace 7700 [new]
Chain: Dura Ace [new]
Front Mech: Dura Ace 7700
Rear Mech: Dura Ace 7700
Pedals: Dura Ace 7900 [new]
Stem: Cinelli Grammo Titanium (90mm)
Brifters: Shimano 105 (Parts Bin)
Brakes: Tektro long reach 538’s [new]
Seatpost: Kalloy 26.8 (Parts bin)
Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium Elites
Bottles: Kleen Kanteen from VeloOrange
Bottle Cage: Velo Orange Clamp on
Cable Guides: Shimano
I decided on lightly used 9-speed because parts are plentiful and pretty good value. In order to get it to shift I used 3 cable guides - 1 at the down-tube and 2 on the seat-tube. I always liked the look of the Ksyriums with the bladed spokes so was happy to score a used set for $200.
The brown bits:
Bartape: Fizik Microtech [Honey] - a good match to the saddle but a bit slippery with bare sweaty hands
Saddle: Origin 8 - ol' faithful - has been on my past two bikes and is a perfect fit for my sit bones
Tyres: Panaracer Pasela Gumwall 23's - extremely impressed with these. Relatively fast and very durable
Cables: Gold Jagwire (not shown) - not enthused with these. They shift and brake fine but the gold outers fade in the sun.
Yes, would love to spend a week or so looking over Wayne's shoulder - top bloke.
Here are the “Oh-no, don’t do that” bits:
Bars - Easton EA90 Carbon - These too are my ol' faithfuls with the added bonus of being featherlite. Very non-retro but I figured that having them wrapped in brown bar tape would make them slightly less offensive.
Training wheel - Cycleops Powertap Elite laced into a 24 hole Kinlin XR300 rim
Head Unit - Garmin 310XT
The reason for the power wheel is that my love of vintage steel bikes is only just eclipsed by my love of triathlon. The Ksyriums were used for commuting while the Powertap was used while on bunch rides, hill training, and many many hours on the windtrainer.
The nice accoutrements:
Shoes: Lace up Dromatis in Tan with Shimano SPD cleats
Gloves: Altura Vintage [stumbled across these on the Evans Cycles website]
Jersey: Altura Retro
...and yes, that's the assembled bike in the background. Full pics tomorrow.
I think so - a few more posts and I'll reveal what happened and then it's over to the collective wisdom of the group for a prognosis.
A few of the guys over on retrobike.co.uk have done the "post-a-day" thing with their completed bike builds - I always enjoyed them. I only have one more self-indulgent post after this one before I show you what happened... otherwise I'm happy to fast forward to day 335 if the novelty has worn off.
In the meantime, here 'tis:
Final weight was 9kg which was 2 lighter than the Apollo IV. As such it felt like the fastest bike in the world so was ridden hard both on the daily commute and on the 2 weekly bunch rides. Super light steering with the light bars and stem and the silky smooth headset.
Sorry Retro man – my boy turned 5 and it turned into a week-long celebration.
OK…. the first half of the Speedlite’s re-incarnated life was the lead-up to Ironman Cairns so once assembled it had a seriously tough life either strapped to the windtrainer, being used to get to and from work or hammering around with some of the more “willing” bunches here in Canberra.
The two standout memories will firstly be how fast it was, and secondly how many positive comments it got. If you ever want to attract attention, ride towards the front of a bunch on a rusty brown and chrome bike with gumwalls!
The second half of its re-incarnated life [post Ironman] was spent climbing hills after I entered in the annual Fitz’s Challenge Extreme event – 255km in a day with 4,700m of climbing. It was lots of hill repeats and big gear work on the windtrainer to prepare and I was delighted to place 23rd in a time of 11 hours 43 minutes. The Speedlite was once again magnificent although a 11-32 mountain bike cassette did flatten out some of the steeper pinches.
Piccies of Fitz's Challenge from the phone camera:
Cruising early in the day – 13.5 hour cut off so had to average 19kmh [Grammo top cap missing unfortunately, and the red thing is the flag we had to display from the bars]
Propped against Corin Dam wall – 170k’s in.
Birds eye view!
"Last post" tomorrow [Ummm, yes, pun intended!]
The first inkling I had that there was an issue was the night before – an innocuous commute home in the dark but couldn’t get the small chainring on the last little hill before home. Thinking it was just an adjustment issue I didn’t bother having a close look and forgot about it.
The following morning I rolled out to work like any other morning, coasted down the hill before grinding up the first short rise. While grinding I heard a “pop”, and alas looked down and was horrified to see the seat tube swinging from side to side. A closer inspection revealed this:
And so ended 335 fantastic days with the coolest, fastest bike I’ve ever owned. The timing of the failure was bad as my second Ironman was looming and I needed another training bike ASAP. So after a short grieving process it was stripped back to a frame and retired to the shed roof.
I’ve yet to contact Wayne Kotzur who I’m sure could weave some magic but the thought of a replacement seat tube or some sort of fillet braze just doesn’t appeal at the moment. In terms of what caused it, if you look closely it does appear that the tube was already compromised, but I’m sure that being strapped to a windtrainer and being flogged up hills with 87kg on board was not good for it.
I’d be happy to hear from the collective wisdom about “what you would do” as I would love to get it going again and be more sympathetic to how it may have been originally, as per WyvernRH’s beautiful example but I might leave it for a “when the kids are grown up” project.
In the meantime this arrived at my front door about 4 weeks later:
Thread here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=53781
That is a complete bugger. Lovely bike and great build up by your good self. Have never broken a bike myself, but I used to have a great condition apollo IV that a mate crashed and demolished. Very shattering.
Tragic. We're used to seeing pics of that sort of failure to crabon frames. 1958, let's see, that makes it 54 years old!
Love the pics you shot by that giant grass sculpture - Cycle Exif worthy.
I'm sure I won't be alone in watching to see what can or can't be done to resurrect the aged crone
Just from the photos this isn't as disastrous as it looks. It seems to be a failure of the brazed joint due to lack of braze penetration (and possibly joint preparation) and then the tube tore. The b'bracket lug seems to be all OK. The tube remains can be sweated out and a new seat tube fitted. Wayne will do a far better job than the original builder!
This sort of failure seems to happen with older mass=produced Australian frames, mainly in my experience Malvern Stars. I have fixed several of these where the seat tube has failed or pulled out at the B'Bracket junction due to bad brazing, lack of tube insertion into the lug or crappy pinning practice where the pin used to hold the tube while welding has been inserted carelessly or in a dumb place and so weakened the lug/tubing joint.
Sadly the guys building these things were not always the master craftsmen we like to think they were and were normally on piece work, so the more they built, the more they got paid, leading to corner cutting to save time.
Mind you, it has lasted 50 years or so....
A good story, a sorry ending, and a great bike. I've had a steel frame pull apart in very similar fashion, and endorse everything Richard says, lack of braze into the joint is the main issue here.
One of the photos seems to shows extra cracking around the chainstay and possibly the downtube... ? In any case they'd have been pretty badly stressed by recent events. By all means seek expert advice, but it appears to me that frame may have had it's day. Glad you found a worthy replacement.
25 posts • Page 1 of 1
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