Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Four out of one hundred.

Of the approximately one hundred bikes that I have, I ride on a relatively frequent basis, just four. I do ride some of the others but very infrequently. I keep them because each has some interesting feature. The four that I do ride all serve different purposes.

Some of the one hundred in the collection

The Bianchi Treader.

The most used is the Bianchi ‘treader’, my commuter and hack bike.
I assembled it around 1991, so it is getting on for twenty years old now. My previous treader had been stolen so I built up this Bianchi frame that I had got in a ‘deal’. My intention had been to use the frame until I got around to building a suitable Mariposa but that day still hasn’t come.

It is a great bike. It handles really well. My only complaint is that the toe clips overlap the front mudguard, which can be a problem but I seem to have managed.

The frame is a Bianchi “Nuovo Alloro” from about 1988. It is made with Bianchi “Formula Two” tubing which I think is Columbus SL.It has a single freewheel of 46x19 which is all I really need around Toronto, although I have noticed that the hill out of the valley is getting a bit steeper these days and if that continues I may have to add another tooth to the freewheel.
The front hub is a Shimano Nexus generator, that works really well. There is a photoelectric switch which switches the front and rear lights on when needed and off when not. It is great. I never have to think about it. The only problem has been two rear bulbs replaced in about fifteen years. The ‘drag’ is insignificant.

The Sanyo headlight powered by the hub generator. The black box behind the fork crown is the photoelectric switch.

The bike gets very little maintenance. The chain receives a drop of oil once in a while and the bike gets a hose down with the high-pressure washer when it gets really grubby.

In the twenty years that I have had it I have replaced the saddle - it broke, replaced the headset - the lower frame race cracked, and replaced two rims – they split along the braking surface. I’ve replaced a few tires and had a few punctures but probably not more punctures than one a year. At the moment I have Vittoria 700x23 tires fitted. I find that these hold the road well even in the snow.

I use toe clips and straps fitted to TA pedals. I want to be able to ride this bike in street shoes and clips and straps work perfectly well for this.

The brakes are Tektro dual pivot. A few years ago I swapped the original Shimano 105 levers for Tektro. These are, I think, the best, most comfortable brake levers available. And they are cheap.

Mariposa "mountain bike". A bike built for the mountains.

My favorite bike is my “mountain bike". It was built for my second successful attempt at the Raid Pyrenean in 2003. I put it together with the idea of keeping the weight to a minimum while including the features that I feel are necessary for the Raid.
Honjo mudguards were fitted as it always rains in the mountains and I made a small and light rear carrier to which spare clothes or rain gear can be strapped.

The frame is made from light Columbus KL tubing that was intended for pursuit bikes but has stood up very well and is certainly stiff enough for me. There is a carbon fork to keep the weight down.

The wheels are Ambrosio Extralight rims with Campag. Record hubs, 32 butted spokes and alloy nipples. They are fitted with 700x25 Cadence Pro Pulsion Kevlar tires.

I have Campag Record derailleurs with a TA Alize triple crankset and Ergopower levers
Gears are 13-26, 10 speed with 52/42/30 on the front.

The brakes are long reach Tektro dual pivot that give clearance for the mudguards.
This is the only bike I have with a threadless headset made necessary by the alloy steerer in the carbon fork. I have yet to see an attractive commercial stem that would fit so I made this one. It is chromed steel, light and I think attractive. The ‘bars are ITM.

The Mariposa stem.

A Flite saddle is fitted to a Campag Ti post. The pedals are Dura Ace.

This is the lightest bike that I own and is a joy to ride. The weight complete with mudguards and carrier is 20 lbs. It is also the newest bike I have being only seven years old.

Alan Cyclo-Cross.

Cyclo-cross is one of my favorite forms of bike racing. I was instrumental in introducing cross to Canada in the sixties after having been an avid cyclo-cross rider in Britain. At Bicyclesport we formed a very successful team in the seventies and at that time I equipped myself with the “state of the art” cross bike of the period, an Alan

The Alans were the first aluminum racing bikes to be accepted by the pro peloton.. They were built with threaded tubes screwed into aluminum lugs and bonded with an adhesive. There had been aluminum bikes before but none were as well received as the Italian Alans. They were quite popular on the road but really made their name in cyclo-cross. Year after year the World Championship was won on Alan frames, very often with another manufacture’s decals fitted.

I got my Alan around 1976 and I am still riding it. Not too often these days, just for a bit of training “on the grass”.
Back in my racing days I used a single TA 46T chainwheel fitted with ‘cross guards’ and 14-28 six speed on the back. I had a Simplex derailleur with a bar end lever. Now I have 13-29 on the back and 42/50 on the front with Campag. Ergo power levers.
The Alan I have is one of their early cyclo-cross frames and does not have cantilever brake bosses. I have fitted Mafac centre-pull brakes which work perfectly well and I have never had them clog up with mud. I have Cinelli ‘bars and stem and a Turbo saddle fitted to a Campag ‘twin bolt’ post.

The original fork steering tube came ‘unbonded’ from the crown which although it didn’t come apart it didn’t allow me to steer in the direction I wished. Alan supplied me with a new fork.

The seat stays are bolted to the seat lug and one of the bolts did come out some years ago. It wasn’t until I looked at the photo of the seat lug taken recently that I realized that the screw is coming out again despite being stuck in with epoxy. It is easy to fix.

That right hand bolt looks a bit loose.

The Alan is now thirty six years old and still going strong, well relatively.

Mariposa Road Bike.

My road bike is now twenty seven years old and although not state of the art these days it still rides well and will probably outlast me. Although the frame is 27 years old it has had various groups of components fitted during that time.

It started out with French components, Simplex SLJ derailleurs, CLB brakes, Maillard hubs, Stronglight crankset and Ideale saddle. It did, however have Cinelli 'bars and stem.

When my son Michael grew into it he raced on it for a few years as a junior For a couple of seasons the team he was racing with was sponsered by Bridgestone and the bike was repainted and fitted with Bridgestone decals. The French components were exchanged for Shimano STI.

After that the bike was repainted into it's current finish, similar to the old Motorola Team colours. Michael had grown out of it and I fitted a Campagnolo 9 speed group with Ergo levers and that is the way it has remained.

It is a great bike to ride but is heavier than my "mountain bike'. I'm thinking of building up a pair of light tubular wheels to give myself a treat for next season.

All photos, except the photos of the stem and the collection were taken by Walter Lai.
The stem photo was taken by Larry Strung.
The collection photo by Mike Barry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Photos of bike parts

Walter Lai has just sent me these photos that he has taken of some of the parts in my collection.
What great photos they are, of some wonderful parts.

This is a CCM Prolight front hub from around 1935. The quality is excellent. It is nickel plated. That oiler is handy. One didn't use grease in those days, not if one wanted the most free running hubs

This is a Campagnolo large flange Gran Sport hub. Note that it is 'double sided' for fixed sprocket or for a multiple freewheel.

This is the matching front Campag GS hub. The pair is from around 1956 and are as smooth today as anything around.
The hubs have chrome steel barrels and aluminum flanges. They were made for Campagnolo by the Italian company FB.
The barrels are engraved with the Campagnolo trade mark and the flanges are engraved FB.
I think that these are just about the finest looking hubs ever.

Gnutti was another Italian company that produced fine bike parts in the fifties. These slender, chromed steel cranks were a bit on the heavy side but sure looked beautiful.

All photographs by Walter Lai.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Simplex Tour de France.

As many of you that have read my previous postings will know I have a keen interest in the history of derailleur gears and have accumulated a sizeable collection.

It has been suggested that I write a little about interesting models on a regular basis. This I will try to do in the hope that some of you will also find the subject interesting.

My first derailleur was an early French Simplex Tour de France model which I fitted to my Raleigh Lenton Sports in place of its original Sturmey Archer four speed hub gear. The Simplex was a three speed and had a much closer range of ratios than the Sturmey but it was a derailleur and that is what all the racing men used.

An early Simplex "Tour de France" model.

The Simplex Tour de France was the most popular racing derailleur in the period following the second World War. It was used by many of the top riders of the day including the Tour de France winners Robic in 1947, Coppi in 1949 and Kubler in 1950.

<Ferdi Kubler wins the 1950 Tour using a Simplex TdF derailleur.

A 1950 TdeF with it's wonderful presentation box.

An exploded view of the TdeF derailleur.

Like most derailleurs in the forties and fifties The Tour de France is a "push rod" design. The derailing cage with it's pulleys is attached to the end of a telescoping shaft. The cable is attached to the other end of the shaft by means of a toggle chain. Pulling the cable pulls the derailing cage to the next smaller sprocket. When the cable is released a large coil spring pushes the cage back. This central coil spring also applies tension to the chain.

The big advantage that the Simplex had over it's rivals was a second chain tensioning spring and pivot at the upper end of the main arm. This spring loaded pivot ensures that the upper pulley remains close to the sprockets irrespective of sprocket size. The close coupling of pulley and sprocket ensures crisp gear changes.

There is a nut at the end of the shaft that holds the whole mechanism together. It was not unknown for this nut to come off the shaft whereupon the spring shot a multitude of parts across the road much to the despair of the rider and the hilarity of his riding companions.

The patented "two sprung pivots" design was peculiar to Simplex from its introduction in 1946 TdeF model right through the Simplex range until the company's demise in the late eighties. Now all derailleurs use this design.

Fausto Coppi on his Simplex TdeF equipped Bianchi. 1949.

During their hey-day Simplex had factories in Italy and Germany. No doubt Coppi used Italian made Simplex which were somewhat better finished than those made in the parent factory in Dijon.

The Simplex Tour de France model was made in four types: three speed and four speed for 1/8" chain and four speed and five speed for 3/32" chain.

For it's time the Simplex Tour de France was a relatively reliable and efficient mechanism. The UK distributer described it in their advertisements as: "The gear with guts and glamour".

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watching the Tour

My wife, Clare and I spent two weeks in July following the Tour de France. Although I had been to the Tour many times before this occasion was definitely the most memorable as our son Michael was competing for the first time.

The first time that I saw the Tour was in 1956 when I rode to Paris from London with a ferry crossing of the Channel. There were four of us who were all good friends: Rhett, Frank, Brian and me. Our bikes were loaded with camping gear as we planned to camp in farmers’ fields along the way. The 350 kms. took us about four days and on arriving in St. Denis on the outskirts of Paris we managed to get permission to pitch our tents in just about the closest field to the City. The farmer and his wife made us very welcome, even providing us with more comfortable bedding and meals.

Rhett, Frank and Brian on the road to France, 1956.

A couple of days later we rode out to a hill on the Tour course and joined the crowds waiting the arrival of the race as it made its way to the Parc des Princes Velodrome in the centre of Paris. In those days the Tour always finished on the Parc des Princes and unlike today where the last stage is always a parade, then it was a hard fought race. The publicity caravan threw out souvenirs similar to those of today and we scrambled to collect them. When the race came through I managed to get a few photos--even a pretty good one of the yellow jersey Roger Walkoviak. We spotted many of our heroes that we had seen before only in the French sports magazines.

Roger Walkoviak on his way to winning the 1956 Tour de France.

As soon as the road was opened we jumped onto our bikes and followed the course to the Parc des Princes. When we arrived, the Tour presentations were finished but an international track meeting was in progress. There were no attendants on the gates so we parked our bikes, selected great seats in the stands and for the next couple of hours watched the best track riders in the World. A sprint competition with all the best sprinters of the day was won by my schoolboy hero, Englishman Reg Harris with fellow countryman Cyril Peacock taking second.

The finale of the meeting was a hard fought motor pace race behind the ‘big motors.' It was a thrilling display of speed and skill which was animated by the thundering noise. Verschueren of Belgium won the race, followed by Godeau of France and Timoner of Spain. The spectacle of those riders thrashing around the steep bankings of the Parc des Princes behind those big, noisy pacing motor bikes with flames coming out of the exhausts will always remain in my mind as possibly one of the most exciting sporting events that I have seen.
We hadn’t seen much of the Tour de France but we had had an exciting day, so I was determined to see more the next year.

In 1957 Rhett and I took the train from London to Pau in the Pyrenees. We were greeted with very low cloud and rain but we immediately set off to climb the Col du Tourmalet. When we arrived at the top we certainly knew we had been climbing but hadn't yet seen anything of the mountains as we had been in cloud all day. The restaurant was a welcome refuge from the weather and after a good meal we set off into the fog to make the descent.

Eventually we got below the cloud and could see a meadow at the side of the road. We decided to camp there for the night. There was an inn close by where we were served a wonderful warming meal. We went to sleep in our tent, tired from the ride but without having yet seen anything of the surrounding mountains, which had been shrouded in cloud all day.

I awoke to bright sun streaming into the tent. I put my head out and had my breath taken away by the surrounding beauty. Having grown up in London, these were the first real mountains I had ever seen. Even today I remember that sight as one of the most beautiful. The calm of the serene mountain environment, the sound of the breeze and the aroma of the pastures and trees was unique to a boy who had spent his youth often riding in the coal smog of London.

We spent the day hiking in the area before tucking into our tent for our second night of sleep. Again in the morning we awoke to bright sun but that morning there was a difference: the road which had been deserted the previous day was now just one stream of cars, buses, bikes, motor bikes and walkers moving up the mountain. The Tour was due through in about eight hours.

After a leisurely breakfast Rhett and I joined the crowd and made our way up the mountain on our bikes. We found a great vantage point and there we waited for the whole moving circus that is the Tour de France. We weren't disappointed. We collected souvenirs from the caravan and then watched and cheered the riders as they made their way up the mountain towards us. Prominent was the yellow jersey clad Jacques Anquetil riding towards his first of five Tour victories. After the race passed there was the previous years winner, Walkoviak, in the broom wagon. He had climbed in lower down the mountain.

That first experience of the Pyrenees formed my love for those mountains and I have been back many times since.

I’ve also been back to the Tour many times since. I have seen most of the greats of cycling over those years and seen the race from many different vantage points. This year however was the first time that I have followed it for more than a couple of days.

We hoped that Michael would be selected by his new team Sky to ride the Tour but it wasn’t until two weeks before the start that we got the call that he was on the team. Clare and I had just returned from a few weeks in Girona but we immediately decided to return to Europe and follow the Tour. A few days of searching the internet for flights, rental car and accommodation followed before we were set to go. We decided to meet the Tour at the end of the first week and follow it through the Alps and Pyrenees and on to Paris.

We flew to Geneva and met up with Clare’s brother Ralph and his daughter Laura who were to be with us for a few days. The next morning we went to the stage finish in Station des Rousses, a Ski resort in the Jura mountains. which was memorable by us getting caught in probably the heaviest rain storm that I have ever experienced. Fortunately it was after the stage finished and we had met up with Michael. He seemed well but was suffering from the injuries that he had sustained in a crash on stage two.

The next day we were in Morzine for the stage finish and then the rest day. We visited the Team Sky hotel and met up with the French family that Michael had lived with when he raced for an amateur team in nearby Annemasse. I’m sure that if it hadn’t been for their hospitality and help during those early years in France, Michael wouldn’t have been able follow his dream the way he has. Also in Morzine was Michael’s team director from those days Christian Rumeau. Rumeau is a great guy who directed Pro Teams for many years before ‘retiring’ and looking after the Velo Club Annemasse. He has a wealth of experience from directing Sean Kelly, Charley Mottet and many other top riders. Even today he takes an interest in Michael’s career and was very keen to get together with him on the rest day. Michael has been lucky to have his friendship and advice all these years.

The Team Sky staff really made us feel welcome and were very helpful in supplying us with passes to stage start and finish areas. They even arranged for me to take a trip in one of the Tour helicopters. That was quite an experience but not really the ideal way to see a bike race. We were too high to be able to pick out riders but what fantastic scenery.

The Tour from a helicopter. Not the best way to watch a bike race.

In Toulouse we were able to stay in the same hotel as Team Sky for a couple of days. Dede and the boys drove up from Girona to be with us and we were joined by a group of friends and Michael’s fans from England including my ex business partner from Bicyclesport days Mike Brown and his wife Jacqui. Jacqui had had some T-shirts made for us to wear.

Our English friends and Michael Barry supporters

The Team Sky staff made us very welcome. The mechanics even cleaned the boys bikes with their high pressure hoses much to Liam and Ashlin’s delight.

Ashlin's bike gets a cleaning from the Team Sky mechanic while team mate Liam admires his nice clean machine.

We stayed together with this group for the next few days while the Tour was in the Pyrenees. We had a wonderful time. Each day we drove from the hotel out to a vantage point to watch the race. Unfortunately we couldn’t get up on to the Tourmalet as the road had been closed two days before the Tour was to arrive due to the immense crowds camping up there.

A few of the campers at the top of the Col d'Aspin

We saw the race in a small village on the lower slopes and then found a bar with a small TV. We were about the first to arrive but soon after the bar was packed with bike racing fans shouting encouragement at the images of Contador and Schleck on the 14” screen. We were surprised to meet some Canadian fans of Michael’s amongst the crowd. The atmosphere in the bar was wonderful with the couple that owned the place giving out free treats to the crowd that responded by buying even more beer. I’m sure that it was the greatest number of people that they have ever packed into that bar.
Clare and I left our English friends before going on to see the time trial in Bordeaux. After watching the start and spending a very interesting time in the “Start Village” we walked along the course through the town to our hotel. The large flat screen TV in the lounge was excellent to watch the last chance for Schleck to beat Contador. Of course it wasn’t to happen but it was an exciting race nonetheless.

We had the lounge to ourselves other than for Liam a ten year old American bike race fan who was following the Tour with his father Bill Flanagan. They had ridden all the Pyrenean passes and Liam had the same enthusiasm for the sport that our son Michael had at that age. We told them about the Jeugdtour in Holland where Michael and the rest of our young group of riders had had many great experiences.

The Jeugdtour had always been held earlier in July so it was a surprise when a few days after returning to Canada we received an e-mail from Bill telling us that Liam was competing in the Jeugdtour in Assen. After we had said good bye to them in Bordeaux Bill had looked up the Jeugtour on the internet and found that they had a couple of days to get Liam an International USCF license and get to the start in Assen. Liam had a similar wonderful experience as Michael and the other Bicyclesport Club members had many years before.
Details of Liam’s experience in the Jeugtour can be seen on Bill’s web site:

After Bordeaux Clare and I took the TGV to Paris for the finish of the Tour. Again Team Sky really looked after us by getting us grandstand seats on the Champs Elysee. Michael’s wife Dede and their two young sons joined us. It was fun to see three year old Ashlin shouting “go Poppy” each time the peloton passed and it was an emotional moment to see Michael leading the whole field on the last lap.

The trip to the Tour had been a wonderful experience. Michael had made it to Paris and had ridden very well for the team despite having fractured ribs and suffered other injuries on day two, which had made the three weeks very uncomfortable. Meeting up with our friends from England and some of Clare’s family had been marvelous. Being so involved with the Tour over two weeks is a time we shall never forget.

The Tour is massive, undoubtedly the greatest annual sporting event in the World. The logistics of moving everything from one town to another every day, setting up miles of barriers, press centres with all the communication facilities, finish and start areas with massive TV screens and “VIP” seating just boggles the mind. The crowds are immense. For what other sport would fans wait for hours, in all weathers, by the side of the road and then see the action for only a few seconds, which is often the case when the peloton is all together.

This was my eleventh visit to the Tour in 54 years. Things have certainly changed. In 1956 the riders and the crowds were all Continental European. Now there are riders and fans from all over the World. It was great to see all the Canadian flags, at times outnumbering the US. There were many fans from New Zealand and Australia and many more this year from Britain supporting Team Sky. Being at the Tour is an experience that any bike race fan should not miss.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Photographs of bicycles

I built this Mariposa for Ken Smith in 1972 (See previous post, 20/4/2010)
Click on images to enlarge

My computer has hundreds, possibly thousands of photographs of bikes on it’s hard drive. In addition I have shoe boxes filled with photos from pre-computer times and dozens of bike books. There are photos that I have taken in museums, photographs taken of interesting bikes at the Cirque du Cyclisme, NAHBS and trade shows, photos of Mariposas that we have built and photos of bikes that I have seen on the street and want to record.

Bikes after all are beautiful objects. They are simple machines that have remained unchanged in basic design for more than one hundred years. The design has remained unchanged but the beauty is in the detail. Innumerable people have made attempts at improving the bike. Some attempts have been successful, most have not. However even the unsuccessful attempts make wonderful photographic records.

Bicycles and their parts are not easy to photograph well. Some of the finest bicycle photographs that I have seen are in Jan Heine’s two books, “The Competition Bicycle” and “The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles.” Both books are filled with marvelous photos taken by Jean Pierre Praderes.

I also have a collection of what I think are interesting bikes. I have bikes of all types and have often thought that it would be good to have a comprehensive photographic record of them all. Some years ago my good friend photographer, David Harris made a start on the project but now he no longer lives in Toronto and it is not convenient for him to continue.

Recently another good friend, Walter Lai, who has helped me with setting up my web site and this blog, suggested that we get back to photographing the collection with the idea of publishing a book.

Walter is not only a wiz-kid with computers but is a professional photographer who spends a lot of time photographing merchandise for brochures and catalogues. He is also very interested in bikes.

Last weekend he set up a studio in our shop and started on the project. A great deal of time was spent getting the lighting just right and we didn’t make a great dent in the number of bikes to be photographed but I think that the results are fantastic. They make my previous attempts look pretty pathetic. It is marvellous what a pro can do with the right equipment.

Here are a few samples of Walter's work.

The bike in the Torpado Project ( see previous post 23/1/2010)

My 1951 Cinelli (see previous post 24/2/2009)

Gios with Campagnolo 50th Anniversary group.

Close-up of Ken Smith's 1972 Mariposa.

Early fifties Bates track bike.

All photographs by Walter Lai.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ken Smith and Cycling in the Sixties

Over the many years that I have been involved in cycling there have been a few people that have stood out as being those that did all the work of organizing the sport. Usually they have been modest riders themselves but have a deep love of cycling and want the sport to flourish.

Recently Clare and I went to the 90th birthday party for Ken Smith. There were almost a hundred people there many of whom were bike riders who have the utmost respect for Ken and all the work he has done for the sport.

Soon after I arrived in Canada in 1964 I went to Ken and his wife Nancy’s apartment. Ken ran the Ontario Cycling Association from his kitchen table. I paid him $2.00 to be a member and another $1.00 for a years racing license. My introduction to Ken and Nancy was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that still exists today, 46 years later. Sadly Nancy is no longer with us.

During the sixties there was a large influx of European immigrants to Ontario. Those that arrived with their racing bikes usually found their way to Ken’s apartment to get a racing license. Especially if the new arrivals were from Britain Nancy took them under her wing and before long they were invited to dinner. I spent many good evenings there being fed good English meals including a couple of wonderful Christmas dinners.

A group of the ex-Brit bike riders at a Ken Smith promotion, the end of season "Gentleman's Race". Ken is in the centre in the light coloured jacket. There are a number of Olympians and an ex-pro in the group. Mike Barry is on the left with the bike that he rode that day.

Ken issued all the racing licenses, organized many of the races and was more often than not officiating at those that he hadn’t organized. He put out a monthly newsletter and did all the necessary communication with the national governing body; The Canadian Wheelmans’ Association in Ottawa. Remember that this was long before computers. Ken typed all the correspondence and the newsletter on his trusty Underwood typewriter and then printed the newsletter on an old, hand cranked Gestetner duplicator. All this work was completely voluntary and consumed almost every evening after a day’s work as an office manager for an instrument company.

Ken, Nancy and their very young daughter Cheryl immigrated to Canada from England in 1957. They had been keen members of the Balham Cycling Club in South London. Ken was a keen racer but he and Nancy also spent much time touring on their tandem even, for a couple of years, with Cheryl in a sidecar.

Ken and Nancy Smith enjoying the sun at Woodlands Beach, Ontario in the later sixties.
Ken looks as if he would prefer to be out on the bike.

On arrival in Canada it was not long before he was a member of the cycling community, which was small but very enthusiastic. Ken soon became involved as a race organizer and then as chairman of the Ontario Wheelman's Association.

One of the first races that I rode after arriving in Canada was the “Toronto to Owen Sound”. It was a terrific event, sponsored by Labbatt’s Brewery and organized by Ken Smith. It started on the outskirts of Toronto and went north for 110 miles (176 kms.). There were police motor cycle outriders conducting a rolling closure of the road for the whole route and the finish was before a good crowd of spectators on Owen Sound’s closed off main street. I thought that I had arrived in cycling heaven. It was better than almost anything that I had ridden in my ten years of racing in England.

After the finish and prize presentation all the riders were invited to a pool party at a downtown hotel where the sponsor made sure we enjoyed their product even though Owen Sound was a “dry town”. It was then announced that there was to be an evening criterium to be held on the local horse race track. After a good few Labbatts all the riders were keen to have a go and were not too put off by the fact that the track surface was fine loose red shale. Perhaps not a bad surface for horses but not ideal for narrow road bike tires. It was a very warm evening and after a few laps we were all sweating profusely. The shale dust coated us so that we were almost unrecognizable at the finish.

The Toronto-Owen Sound was the first of similar events that Ken organized including Toronto-London and Toronto-Brantford. He organized criteriums in shopping plazas, evening time trials and end of season socials. There seemed to be no end to his enthusiasm and energy.

All this did not go unnoticed by the National officials in Ottawa and in 1971 Ken was offered the job as executive director of the Canadian Cycling Association. He was now to be paid for what he had been doing free for years. He and Nancy moved to Ottawa. The Ontario Association lost and National Association gained.

After many years working for the Cycling Association, including the years in which Canada held the World Championships and the Olympics, Ken decided he needed a change and he became director of “non-resident sports”. This involved looking after the affairs of the sports that didn’t have enough participants to warrant an office and staff in the Sports Centre. This included sky diving, lawn bowling and cricket amongst others. He very much enjoyed his association with cricket as that game had been one of his passions in England.

During his time at the Sports Centre Ken commuted back and forth from his home in Manotick on his bike with a fixed gear. The distance is around fifty kilometers round trip which kept him in good shape. When he retired from the centre at age sixty five he rode a twelve hour marathon on rollers to raise money for charity. He was still riding his bike into his eighties but now, unfortunately, has had to give it up.

Upon retirement Ken wasn’t keen to stop working. He became secretary of the Canadian Commonwealth Games Committee, a position that took him all over the Commonwealth. His organizational skills were put to good use when the Commonwealth Games were held in Victoria, British Columbia.

Ken at his 90th birthday celebrations

After all his experiences in a life involved with the sport Ken remembers the time in Toronto in the sixties as being the most enjoyable.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Greg Curnoe and his Mariposas.

It was in 1974 that the celebrated artist from London, Ontario, Greg Curnoe came to our store, Bicyclesport in downtown Toronto. He was obviously very interested in cycling and very knowledgeable about bikes. Greg was also an avid nationalist and he was delighted to discover that we were building custom bike frames at our King Street store. For some time he had been looking for a Canadian built racing bike. Since the demise of CCM’s custom frame building shop where they had produced the Flyer model there had been no one else in Canada building custom frames. Greg immediately ordered a Mariposa.

Before coming to Bicyclesport Greg had owned a couple of racing bikes; a Spanish Zeus and a French Gitane. Both of these bikes are featured in his artwork. There are two paintings of the Zeus, both in acrylic on plywood with the bikes profile cut out. There is a head-on painting and a side view. Both paintings are designed to stand against a wall as one would lean a bike. Both are now in the Art gallery of Ontario,

The painting of the Gitane is a very carefully detailed watercolour with a full component list penciled in at the side. Greg was very interested in detail and his artwork often listed all the characteristics of his subject.

When his new Mariposa was finished he came to the shop with a folder full of Letraset, a form of letter decals. Before he even sat on the bike he printed on both sides of the top tube, in English on one side and French the other; “Close the 49th parallel etc”.

Greg's watercolour entitled 'Mariposa 10 speed.

Greg's sketch of the same bike

Greg claimed that he was in no way anti American but very pro Canadian. This sentiment was exemplified when he was commissioned to paint a mural at the Montreal Airport for Expo ’76. The mural contained depictions that many construed were anti American. Greg argued that they were just pro Canadian but the authorities disagreed and the complete mural was removed to prevent the possibility of offending American visitors.

Greg raced on his Mariposa for a couple of years before he was involved in an accident which bent the frame’s top and down tube. He returned it to us at Bicyclesport for repair and at the same time ordered another Mariposa, this time a dedicated time trial bike.

Greg's watercolour of his Mariposa TT.

A pen and ink sketch of the same bike

He was quite unlucky with his Mariposas. The second one was also damaged in an accident involving a car, again bending both top and down tubes. Fortunately this accident occurred after Greg had painted what has become his most famous bicycle painting, a full size watercolour titled “Mariposa T.T.” This painting was then printed as a limited edition on Plexiglas. The original watercolour is now in the Art gallery of Ontario and a Plexiglas print is in the National Gallery in Ottawa.

The Mariposa TT print image on Plexiglas.

The bike was again returned to us for repair. At that time, around 1981, low-profile time trial bikes were becoming popular. It was agreed that if we were changing the top and down tubes anyway we may as well convert the bike into a low profile style machine. The frame was altered and “cow-horn” handlebars were fitted. The new paint scheme was pink rather than the original bright green. Greg painted another watercolour of it titled “Mariposa Low Profile”.

Greg's watercolour of the Mariposa Low Profile.

The Mariposa Low Profile on display.

In 1992 Greg was riding in a London Centennial Wheelers club ride and was killed when a pickup truck drove into the back of the group. That morning we lost not only one of Canada’s most prominent artists but also one or the nicest, most cheerful persons one could meet. Greg it seems was always smiling and never more so than when he was riding his bike or doing his artwork.

For many years he had organized the Springbank Park race in London, Ontario. On the year of his death the race was run by other members of his beloved London club. My son, Michael Barry, won the race riding his Mariposa. Greg’s widow Sheila presented Michael with his prizes which included a print of the watercolour “Mariposa TT”. I’m sure Greg was looking down with a broad grin, very proud that his race had been won by a Canadian riding a Canadian Mariposa bike.

The above text was originally published in the Spring 2009 edition of Dandyhorse magazine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

J.B. (Jock) Wadley.

Last Saturday Clare and I attended the Randonneurs Ontario annual banquet and prize presentation. It was a great evening where we were able to get together with some old friends.
There are a good number of trophies that are presented each year but the premier award goes to the year’s “Most Outstanding Rider” who is presented with the J.B. Wadley Memorial Trophy. Few of the current members know who J.B. Wadley was and what his association is with Randonneurs Ontario.

Jock Wadley photographed the day after finishing Paris-Brest-Paris 1971

Few people have had such an influence on my life in cycling as Jock Wadley. My first recollection of his name was when I bought a copy of the first edition of his wonderful magazine Coureur in 1955. The Coureur was like a breath of fresh air. The only other English language cycling magazine available at that time was the weekly Cycling which was essential reading for anyone interested in the sport but tended to concentrate only on the British scene and to give very little coverage of racing on the Continent.

The first edition of Coureur, winter 1955.

I picked up my first copy of Coureur from Fred Dean’s bike shop in Wandsworth. Jock had just been there to drop off copies of his first edition. It was definitely his mag. He had written almost everything in it. He had published it himself (remember this was long before ‘self-publishing’ on computers) and then delivered it by bike to all the bike shops that he could reach. In those days there were hundreds of bike shops in London. It was forty pages devoted almost entirely to the Continental scene but with a photo spread on the 1955 Tour of Britain. There was absolutely no advertising in this premier edition.

I devoured every word in that magazine with its stories of Coppi, Anquetil the GP des Nations and many other articles of racing on the other side of the Channel.
At two shillings and six pence Coureur was five times the price of a copy of Cycling but for me it was well worth it.

A 1956 copy of Cycling.

Jock had started Coureur when another weekly magazine, The Bicycle, went out of business earlier in 1955. He had written for The Bicycle since 1936 and had been their foreign correspondent. Unlike Cycling, The Bicycle covered the continental as well as the British scene and Jock spent a lot of time in France where he became fluent in French.

Following the demise of The Bicycle Jock was offered a job with Cycling but turned it down as he didn’t feel that he would fit in with the editor’s very conservative views.

Coureur was originally a quarterly but it was so successful that by the spring of 1957 it became monthly with a change of name to Sporting Cyclist. It now had a full time staff and was published by the Charles Buchan organization with Jock as editor.

I didn’t meet Jock until 1967 when I managed to get a press pass to the finish of the Tour de France at the Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris. I was going to London the following day and Jock asked if I would drop off some films at the Sporting Cyclist office in Fleet Street. Of course I was happy to oblige. The film had shots that Jock had taken throughout the Tour including many shots of Tom Simpson before his tragic death on Mont Ventoux.

Following that initial meeting whenever I returned to London I would meet up with Jock for lunch or dinner or a bike ride in the Surrey lanes. He was such an interesting person to be with. He was full of stories of the cycling scene and seemed to be on personal terms with most of the World’s great riders.

In 1971 Jock came to Canada to cover the Tour de la Nouvelle France, a week long pro bike race in Quebec. Unfortunately he wasn’t covering the race for his own magazine, which was now International Cycle Sport. Due to some very unfortunate business transaction he was no longer involved with that magazine. He was now reporting for London’s Daily Telegraph.

After following the race in Quebec, Canadian cycling official and ex-Brit., Ken Smith persuaded him that he should see some more exciting racing in Canada before returning home. A Six Day race was due to take place in Delhi, Ontario the following week. Ken drove him from Quebec and they stayed with Clare and me in Toronto for a few days before going on to Delhi.

We arrived at the Delhi Hockey Arena to the sound of the pack of riders rumbling around the boards of the 118 metre steeply banked track. Jock was in heaven. He was so excited by everything that he saw; the super fast and competent bike handling, the excited and knowledgeable crowd and the wonderful track built by Delhi resident Albert Schelstraete.

The wonderful Delhi velodrome.

Jock had seen all the best bike racing in the World from the Tour de France to the Vel d’Hiv, from World Championships to Olympic games but he said that he had never seen more exciting bike racing than he saw that night at Delhi.

The story of the Tour de la Nouvelle France and the track at Delhi formed the basis of a book he then wrote, “Old Roads and New”. This book was also self-published and it included an account of Jock’s ride in the 1971 Paris-Brest-Paris. This article, entitled Brestward Ho! has since been attributed to the rise in popularity of long distance cycling in the English-speaking World.

However it wasn’t this article that got me into long distance cycling but another that Jock wrote where he mentions a ride across the length of the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean: the 720 km Raid Pyrenean.

Since my first visit to the Pyrenees in 1957, that marvelous country has always fascinated me. My business partner, Mike Brown and I were looking for a challenge and Jock’s article came to mind. A call to Jock put us in touch with the Raid organizer and we arranged to ride it in September 1981.

A few weeks before we went I was visiting London and contacted Jock only to find that he was desperately ill with stomach cancer. I visited him in hospital the day before he died and even though he was in a great deal of pain he wanted to know how are plans were going for the Raid. I said that I thought that Mike and I were reasonably fit and that we were looking forward to the challenge of the Tourmalet, Aubisque, Aspin, etc. He replied in a very weak voice “Don’t forget the Portet d’Aspet.”

On the route profile that we had the Portet d’Aspet didn’t seem too much of a problem compared to the other major climbs but when we got there it certainly was the toughest climb of them all. As I climbed it in the dark, in a raging wind and rainstorm I remembered Jock’s words and imagined him looking down on us and saying, “I told you so”.

After Mike and I finished the Raid we were looking for another long distance challenge and Jock’s account of Paris–Brest-Paris came to mind. However to ride P-B-P one has to qualify in sanctioned events and there were none close to Toronto. Mike and I decided to form the Toronto Randonneurs and organize the qualifying rides. This we did and now, twenty-eight years later the club is still very active although renamed Randonneurs Ontario.

The J. B. Wadley trophy that is presented every year to the Club’s “most outstanding rider’ is the trophy presented to Jock when he finished P-B-P back in 1971. Jock’s widow, Mary gave it to me, along with many of his other cycling mementos, soon after his death. The trophy’s plinth has grown over the years to accommodate all the plaques with the recipient’s names engraved. I’m sure Jock would be very proud.

This year’s recipient of the trophy is Henk Bouhuyzen. He rode five 1200 km randonnees in 2009. I would say that that is pretty “outstanding”. Jock would have been impressed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Torpado Project finished

Back in May 2008 I posted here a piece on a bike I had put together with some interesting components. My good friend John Palmer had got me going on it when he gave me a pair of Palladini hubs which had a wonderful history.

You can go to that post:

The Torpado was one of those many projects that get started but never quite finished. Now some twenty months later I'm happy to say that the Torpado is complete.

Mudguards and a front derailleur have been fitted. The mudguards are the same as those fitted to the Bianchi in the previous post. Again they were given a nice paint job by Noah at Velocolour.

It is such a nice looking bike. The stem is English and really shouldn't be on an Italian bike but it seemed to be just the right match.

Missing was a Lucchini front derailleur to match the rear. I couldn't track down any evidence that Lucchini ever made one. Steven Massland's very interesting Soncini has the only other Lucchini rear derailleur I have ever seen and that bike does have two chainwheels.

However there doesn't seem to be any method of moving the chain from one chainwheel to the other.
I could have fitted the Torpado with any one of numerous old front derailleurs that I have but none seemed quite appropriate. The only thing to do was to make one.

The result is a front derailleur that somewhat matches the rear and is as I think Signor Lucchini would have made it if he had just got around to doing it.

It works reasonably well, smartly moving the chain from the 47T to the 50T chainrings. Not exactly Ergopower but then neither is the rear

The Torpado is now ready for the road and I hope to have it out on the next No-Click Club ride in March.

If you are interested in seeing more of Steven's interesting Soncini go to: