Friday, February 18, 2011

Cycling in Spain and England, a cycle jumble and three old derailleurs

I've spent the last couple of months in Girona, Spain which has given me a chance to avoid the Toronto winter weather and get a few miles in on the bike. The weather has been generally great for riding, quite cool in the mornings but warming to 15 to 20 degrees in the afternoon. Most days there is barely a cloud in the sky. In the two months there has been about three days with rain. Not bad compared with a normal winter in Canada.

During the time here I did go up to London for ten days. That is one of the benefits of living in Europe, one can take a trip to another country and another culture very easily and inexpensively. My return fare to London from Girona was twenty euros, about thirty dollars, via Ryanair.

While in London I visited many old friends, some of which I hadn't seen for almost fifty years. One of these was Mick Ayliffe who I last saw at Easter 1964 when I rode the Isle of Wight Three Day, my last race before emigrating to Canada. Mick and I had driven down to the race in his Morris Minor van, pure luxury in those days.

A 1970 Morris Minor Van, similar but perhaps a little fancier than Mick's 1960 version.

It rained all three days of the race and we were staying at a bed and breakfast with no heat except for a gas heater in our room which had to be fed with a two shilling coin every 15 minutes. Cold, wet cyclists' ingenuity enabled us to undo the bottom of the coin box which allowed us to recycle our one two shilling coin. Each evening was spent huddled around the heater with our wet woollen race clothes drying on the backs of chairs.
The highlight of the race for me was a death defying descent to the finish on the last day when I won the bunch sprint for third place. There were no closed roads for the race and the descent was through a busy town centre mixing it with buses and cars. I could descend quite well in those days I couldn't do it now.

Frequently in England there are cycle jumble sales. It seems that there at least one a month around the London area. Fortunately there was one scheduled at a village hall in Essex not far from where I was staying. It was a great event. The place was packed, the car park overflowing. The hall was filled with vendors tables each piled with all sorts of bike bits for sale, everything from old used bottom bracket axles to new carbon parts and complete bikes. Most of those browsing didn't really seem too interested in buying anything. Most were using it as a social occasion, a time to chat with mates and have a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. I met a good few old friends and racing colleagues from the fifties and sixties.

I had wanted to get there early as I'd heard that some notorious ebay dealers get there as soon as the place opens and scoop up any collectables. I was on the look out for any old derailleurs that I could add to my collection. I managed to find three interesting ones. The first was a 1949 British Hercules Herailleur in used but good condition. The Herailleur is an indexed three speed . The control, which I didn't get, was a trigger mounted on the handlebar. Quite advanced thinking in 1949.

A 1949 Hercules Herailleur.

Next I found a c1938 British Trivelox. It is in unused condition but again there was no control with it. This unit was interesting to me as most Trivelox derailleurs are unusual in that the sprockets move laterally rather than the derailleur mechanism. I have one of those but I knew that Trivelox had introduced a less expensive conventional model but I hadn't seen one. This was a good addition to my collection.

The Trivelox.

The "Standard" Trivelox , where the sprockets move laterally and the derailleur stays put.

The third derailleur that I found was a "no name". I am sure that it is French and that it is probably a Super Champion but I am not sure. If anyone knows what it is please leave a note in the comment box. I would guess that it is from the fifties

The unknown make French touring derailleur.

Another item that I found at the jumble was this Gian Robert shift lever. The Italian Gian Robert Company is not too well known but has produced some nicely constructed and aesthetically pleasing derailleurs. What were they thinking when they produced this? It is good to see that they patented it.

The cycling scene is flourishing in Britain, certainly around the London area anyway. The congestion charges on motorists entering central London have really decreased motor traffic and there are bikes everywhere. New shops are springing up, it seems, on every corner. Outside of London many of the country lanes are still practically free of motor traffic but the main roads are far too dangerous for me to even think about riding on. If one is willing to use a map or GPS and avoid main roads I think riding in Britain can be as pleasuarable as it was when I left forty seven years ago.


Unknown said...

Hi, I was just referred to your 'blog. I'm writing an article on the history of cyclo-cross tires for Cyclocross Magazine in the US. Could I interview you for the magazine? Thanks. Danwerleatgmaildotcom.

fred said...

Mike: An excellent read as always. I'm intrigued as much about your return to 'Blighty' socially as the actual cycling aspect, which in itself is fascinating.

You write:
[If one is willing to use a map or GPS and avoid main roads I think riding in Britain can be as pleasuarable as it was when I left forty seven years ago. ]

Oddly, some of the cycling clubs there use the 'A roads' as part of their daily route circuit. Given the choice, I avoid them like the plague. It's like riding Hwy #2 here, except worse.

I was astounded at how 'average people' have forgotten the 'back lanes'.

Many times, when asking for directions to out of the way places, I'd get an answer starting with the preface: "Well you go up to the main road....". I'd break in to say: "Oh, I want to take the back roads" only to be told: "Well then you can't get there from here...".

Also, asking about compass bearings is a fruitless endeavour for most.

Get a compass, get a good OS map, and explore those back lanes. It's heaven! It is *very* rare that you can't get through on an old RoW, even if parts have now become "tracks". Unless it's pissing rain, it's almost guaranteed adventure, and you can come across many pubs and communities off the main road.

Oh man, you've got me checking my passport again......

fred said...

Mike writes:
[The cycling scene is flourishing in Britain, certainly around the London area anyway. The congestion charges on motorists entering central London have really decreased motor traffic and there are bikes everywhere. New shops are springing up, it seems, on every corner.]

Indeed, and only a few weeks back, the UK was hailing the figures. I've lost most of my references, but this will do:
[The UK Government's tax-break bicycle buying scheme has had wide ranging benefits, according to a new study. More than 400,000 people have now purchased bikes via Cycle to Work, and it's proved a boon for health, the environment and bike shops.

The Cycle to Work Alliance, made up of four providers of the scheme (Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans and Halfords), asked their customers – both employers and employees – to fill in questionnaires about their experiences. In total, nearly 17 percent of all those participating in Cycle to Work took part.

Findngs in the resulting report include: ][...]

Anonymous said...
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Bookings Costa Brava said...

Have you tried to new Green ways we call them Vies verdes in Girona. If you are interested in visiting Spain and in particular Girona and the Costa Brava, we recommend you to visit where you will get useful information about green routes to cycle. The Catalan government is adapting old rail routes for cycling only. It’s a beautiful experience , only nature and no cars whatsoever.

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