I recently acquired the bike pictured above. I hoped it could have some value since I was told it was probably from the 1940s. I didn’t pay anything for it. It was just among some blacksmiths tools and equipment that my son was given. He is an apprentice farrier (he shoes horses) and he was given the tools by a retired farrier who was having a clear out.
The bike didn’t have a saddle and the chain was very rusty. It had no name on the tubing and when I looked underneath it had no model or serial number. When I started to work on it I soon realised that the fasteners were metric. It looked like an old English bike but the fasteners suggested that it could be European.
The tyres led me in another direction. They were marked 26″ x 1.75″. English bikes would have the inches in fractions like 1 3/8″ and European bikes would likely use millimetres. Since a mountain bike tyre would fit I knew the bike must have been built post 1980 in the mountain bike era. “Made in Taiwan” on the matching tyres fitted ended my detective work. It is a bike made in Taiwan which mimics a traditional English bike.
I still needed to ride it, though, so I bought a new chain and some cotter pins to hold the pedal cranks on. The chain slipped and wouldn’t allow me to pedal the bike. After a bit of thought I concluded that the sprocket must be for a primitive and cheap non roller chain which some early chain driven bikes had. I bought a 42 tooth mountain bike chain ring and fitted it with bolts having sawn off the original massive chainring. I acquired a saddle and stem and found the seatpost was the correct diameter. I replaced the rear tyre because the original was cracked with age. I had some flat pedal which I fitted so it was time for a ride.
On the level it was good, with the correct gearing to maintain a reasonable speed. Down even a slight gradient the pedals could be spun ridiculously quickly and I couldn’t get any power in. My knees were hitting the handlebar ends, which curve backwards, when I turned a corner. On a modern bike you are much more stretched out rather than sitting upright. It was only when I tried to go up a hill that I found the justification for the handlebars. You can stand bolt upright, pulling yourself down onto the pedals to really get some torque in. It’s hard work but you can get up a reasonable gradient.
Having ridden it a few times near home I thought it was time to put it through its paces, which would put me through my paces! I chose an 8 mile circuit with no really steep hills. I spun the pedals on the flat, crunched the hard up hill and tucked like a racer on the descents. The result was an average speed of just less than 13 mph. I’m not sure I’d have been much quicker on my mountain bikes, though on a road bike I’d hope to be much quicker.
So how did my times compare to my mountain bikes on Strava segments?
On the final downhill section I beat my personal best! I had the lightly treaded tyres pumped up hard. The bike is heavy and I was wearing a tight T shirt. I was tucked tight so perhaps it isn’t too surprising that I was faster.
My son will take the bike home to ride into his local town. It’s not a big security concern, unlike a £2500 mountain bike.
I won’t be giving up a massive range of gears, disc brakes and lightweight, high tech materials any time soon.