Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Elswick Bicycles : Serial number - v - Year of manufacture

Elswick catalogue published in 1949

I love things with serial numbers, especially old bicycles, where the serial number stamped into the frame can identify the year of manufacture, the factory of production, or even the model and/or type of bicycle.

In years gone by Raleigh were particularly good at this, as were Sturmey Archer, where a simple number readily located on the item can help you determine its age.

Here we have a Sturmey Archer ASC model 3 speed hub manufactured in 1950.

This dating system can add alot of sentimental value to an item, especially when the item was manufactured on a date close to your heart.

The manufacture date could be your year of birth, your father's or mother's year of birth.......or maybe the item was manufactured just prior to WWII in the late 1930's, or during the Queens Coronation in 1953, anyway you get my drift - an item manufactured on a date significant to you for whatever reason, can add alot of sentimental value to it! 

During a recent bicycle restoration I spent many hours trawling the net looking for information to help me identify the year of manufacture of the Elswick bicycle I was restoring.

My wife couldn't see the point.... "It's an old bike, it's rusty, why bother wasting your time when there's  plenty of jobs around the house that need doing!" I'd like a dollar for every time she......!!! 

So in the face of much resistance I kept trawling and sure enough, my toil was finally rewarded at - the online vintage bike museum.

I spent hours on this site, it contains alot of detailed information and great images, and there on the 1951 Elswick Hopper 'Model W' Butcher's Bike page I located the below chart referring to Elswick bicycle serial number dating. 

In my experience, the Elswick bicycle frames I have located here in Australia contain a five digit number followed by a single letter, the letter being the identifying feature that indicates the year of manufacture of the frame.

I can't confirm the accuracy of the above chart, but when I apply the information to the Elswick frame serial numbers I have seen here, the dating is consistent with the styling and period of the accessories fitted to the I assume its accurate. 

As time passes and frames are left to rust, of course, the stamped serial number often deteriorates and can become difficult to read, so at times its easy to mistake a number for a letter, or vice versa.....sometimes you may have to apply a little bit of guess work.

So if you are attempting to date your old Elswick please consider the information contained in the above chart to date your cycle. Good luck!

Front and rear covers of Elswick catalogue published in 1948.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Western Australian Historical Cycle Club

These guys are full of historical cycling information and meet at 7.00pm on the third (3rd) Monday of each month at 6 Hickey Street, Ardross. Members are always happy to assist you with any vintage bicycle restoration questions and issues you may have.

Member Peter Wells edits and publishes the newsletter 'Not the... Spoke'n Word' each month which covers interesting aspects of vintage cycling in Western Australia. The magazine is always informative and gives the reader access to vintages bikes and parts that are offered for sale by club members. I love getting the magazine every never know what the guys are offering for sale!


Subs are $25.00 per annum, which entitles members to attend meetings, receive the monthly newsletter in the mail, allows access to the vintage bicycle magazine and book library, and invites you to participate in monthly club rides and activities. At each meeting one of the members throws him or herself on the sword and delivers a presentation on differing aspects of cycling history. Topics presented range from wheel building, to bottom bracket types, to Malvern Star history....and everything in between.

Members from the club arrange vintage bicycle displays around the state at various times of the year. The club is in need of active members so interested people are always welcome.

For me, attending the meetings is like being thrown into the past.....where I imagine life was less complex, and riding a bike on the weekends was so easy and enjoyable.

So if you live in the Perth area and would like to become a member, attend the meeting place at the above time each month and become a part of the group. Alternatively phone the current Club President, Merv Thompson, on (08) 9450 2579 for further details.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

1949 Elswick utility bicycle

I joined the Western Australian Historical Cycle Club last year and went along to a couple of their informative meetings to get a feel for the club. A great bunch of  bicycle fanatics (of the more mature variety) with loads of knowledge on bicycle history and restoration.

Whilst there I met a guy named Peter who had been collecting and restoring bicycles for (many, many) years. His interest was mainly in Australian built machines, particularly those that were built in the Perth area between the 1920's to the 1960's. I went and had a look at his collection a few days later and was blown away with the fantastic bicycles he had restored, amazing beautifully kept machines from the past....restored and cared for perfectly!!

I inquired with Peter as to what he had that I could take up for my next restoration project and he wheeled out the old rusty Elswick pictured below.

Elswick chainwheel.

I was particularly drawn to the bike because of the old rusty chainwheel that had "Elswick" lettering contained within the ring (above centre). I did some research and located a website where I was able to date the bike using the serial number on the frame, and determined that the frame had been bulit in England in 1949 (by Elswick-Hopper).

After photographing the bike and stripping it down I had the frame powdercoated black. The metal tubing had a fair bit of surface pitting, but rather than fill the pitting in I though I'd just powder coat over the whole frame 'as was' to retain the old feel of the bike. I photographed what remained of the decals so I knew what to look for when searching for replacements.

I re-chromed the metal parts that I couldn't replace, including the "Elswick" chainwheel that came up a treat (pictured below). Some restorers prefer to polish older parts, which does look good and is probably more authentic........but quality re-chroming looks great (although expensive!!).

I found some new chromed 26 x 1 3/8 Westrick rims (a set of 32/40 spoked - hard to come by) and had George (my bike man) lace them up to new hubs as per the original specs of the bike. I also located an original NOS Sturmey Archer 18T freewheel for the rear flip flop hub - and chromed an 18T sprocket for the fixed side of the hub - as per original.

The mudguards for this bike were fantastic - all aluminium, which was quite advanced for its day. Aluminuim had been developed and refined for the war effort in the early 40's, so after the war had finished the cycle industry started to use aluminium (and similarly Hiduminium) when manufacturing their cycling components. These mudguards were in excellent condition and polished up really well.

I assembled the bike, although I opted for a touring handlebar instead of the drop bars that were originally on the bike. I planned to eventually give the restored bike to my dad and felt that the touring bars were a better option for him.

I initially re-fitted the "Elswick" chainwheel, however, the inside of the crank arms where the cotter pins sat were well worn and couldn't be easily fixed - a pity really because the re-chromed chainwheel looked great and I was looking forward to using it. I hunted around and found a nice 46T Raleigh chainwheel from the 60's that fitted well and ran smoothly.

And so the finished build........

Fixed / free 40 spoke rear hub.
Dare grips.

........and of course it would not have been complete without a new Brooks (B67) saddle with chrome springs (although not original) that I had laying around - the bike looked great and rode very smoothly.

Gotta love those Brooks saddles!!

I hunted around, mainly on the internet, for replacement Elswick decals, but I had no luck with locating copies of the original styled decals. I contacted and located some Elswick decals, although they certainly weren't as appealing as the originals. Lloyds were very helpful, I would recommend them to anyone chasing down old replacement English bicycle decals.

So the bike was done.....and on fathers day 2010 I handed it to my dad as a father's day gift. He's been proudly riding the shiny beast around his retirement village in Perth, and often receives pleasant comments about the bike from interested onlookers.

Dad and his new?? bike.

My work was done was time I started looking for my next project!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

1975 Raleigh Sport

In January 2009 my brother-in-law from Bunbury, who knew I liked old bicycles, asked me if I was interested in restoring his old Raleigh bicycle. It had been in his shed for years, it was old and pretty rusty, and I thought it would be an interesting challenge. I succumbed to the pressure and  bought it home (somewhat confused as to why I had said yes!) and contemplated my next move.

After getting advice from my bike man (George) I photographed it and stripped it down, grouping all the pieces together for varied treatments. After viewing the Raleigh catalogues on-line and establishing what colour I should paint the frame, I had the frame powder coated a standard catalogue colour. I then had some parts re-chromed and polished. The parts that I couldn't restore off the old bike were replaced after hours of trawling on eBay.

At the time of restoration I couldn't get hold of any Westric profile 26 x 1 3/8 rims so I had to opt for the good old Endrick profile rim of the same size.

Prior to re-assembling the bike , I located a guy over east who carries a large range of vintage bicycle decals (Greg at "Cyclomondo") and purchased a set of decals that were identical to the old ones - fantastic - and really good quality too!

After many hours of toil re-assembling the bike I fell in love with it and didn't really want to return it to its owner.....unfortunately, he knew where I lived!  

Here's a couple of interesting images to compare..... 

                    ....and after.
...and an overall pic complete with new Brooks B66 saddle, and the bicycle registration plate that the owner had me fit to the top tube....and to make things even better, it rode like a dream - with a silky smooth Sturmey Archer 3 speed.

1975 Raleigh Sport

So this was my first attempt at such a project, and as you can see, even with very limited experience and knowledge you can come up with something reasonably good (thanks George!).


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Where it started for me....

As a boy I grew up in country Western Australia in the late 70’s. I owned a red Malvern Star 10 speed racing bicycle that I rode to school each day.

I loved that bike!

On weekends it allowed me to explore the country side with a mate of mine who also shared the love of riding bikes. We often left home early in the mornings with a couple of paper dollars in our pockets and rode our beloved bikes for hours, far and wide, during all seasons.

Here is an image of my beloved Malvern Star Superstar SL 10 speed (1980 model), this photo was taken on the front lawn at our house in West Busselton in March 1980. What a fantastic bike and what great memories.....

1980 Malvern Star Superstar SL 10 speed

The bike I had was very good, but a standard model, and when I saw other bikes on the road that were equipped with better components I could not afford (generally English 3-speeds and better 10 speeds) I was very envious.

I’m now in my forties and have rediscovered the joys of cycling, but recently I’ve also discovered the joys of building bicycles……...the joys of building bicycles that I once saw on the road and was envious of in the 70’s. At least now I can afford to buy the bits and pieces needed to build the bikes, and I also enjoy trawling through garage sales and web sites to find the gear needed to complete a build.

I’ve built a few bicycles now (with the help and guidance of others – of course) and would like to share the experience by posting info and photos of recent builds..….and perhaps I’ll eventually include images from other backyard bicycle builders to extend the general interest of this site.