Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Pashley Guv'nor

I've only been building vintage bikes for a couple of years and in the back of my mind I've always had a soft spot for the Pashley Guv'nor.

I knew it existed, I knew I wanted one, I knew it looked great, but initially I couldn't justify the expense. At first I tried and tried to resist the temptation.....until eventually.....I gave in and bought a Guv'nor 3 speed!

The Guv'nor appeals to me on many levels, but mainly because it captures the essence and charm of old world cycling and incorporates the three things I love about vintage bikes......steel, rubber, and leather.

The Guv'nor has a traditional steel frame design (made from Reynolds 531 tubing) with classical Westwood rims, and runs on Sturmey Archer hubs and gears. I love Sturmey Archer equipment, it's always reliable, stylish, and easy to maintain.

The white Schwalbe tyres capture the essence of a "1930's path racer" and the addition of a Brooks saddle is a great finishing touch. I mention the "1930's path racer" because it is marketed by Pashley in this form and truely is a good reflection of a bicycle from that period.

At this stage I must say that this is a great bike that rides beautifully. The design and thought that has gone into the model is grand and the price point, in my opinion, is really good value for money....great job Pashley!!  

I got my new Guv'nor and rode it for about 100kms or so through the streets of Perth, Western Australia. Comfortable, cruisy, and always turns a few heads. 

Every time I hopped on it, however, I couldn't help but wonder about the stem and handlebar setup. The stem is a Japanese made Nitto Technomic stem......great bit of kit but with a 1990's look, and the handlebars were an inverted North Road style (moustache) handlebar that, although reminiscent of the period, was not a true "path racer" handlebar.

This setup works, is functional, and nice to look at, but I don't think it gives the bike the true style and beauty that it deserves.

I did a bit of research and discovered the "Lauterwasser" path racer handlebar from the 1930's. A good looking steel bar, more racey than the relaxed moustache style bar, that offered more hand placement options when riding.

These bars were named after Jack "Lauterwasser" who was an English long distance racing cyclist and cycling engineer, who won a bronze and silver medal at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. I was keen to get a set and try it on the bike - "google" his name if you must.

1947 Humber with "Lauterwasser" handlebars.
I trawled eBay for some original Lauterwasser handlebars and every time I bid on a some bars I was pipped at the post (as is usually the case).....then I discovered that Soma were manufacturing a copy of the original "Lauterwasser" style handlebars, great work Soma! You can see them at

I must say that the "Lauterwasser" handlabars have  only been recently produced by Soma and that they were not available to Pashley when Guv'nors were first introduced to the market in 2008. 

I got a set of steel Soma "Lauterwasser" handlebars through - who were a great help and happy to ship to Perth, Western Australia, at a reasonable cost - it's always hard to find good service but there are exceptions!

I also located a Reynolds branded alloy stem and gave it a good polish with marine grade aluminium paste. A "Reynolds" branded stem was a good addition here; Pashley had gone to a lot of trouble sourcing Reynolds 531 tubing for their Guv'nors, and the two were made for each other!

Reynolds stem, 25.4mm clamp, 22.2mm quill, 80mm length.

Soma "Lauterwasser" bars and the Reynolds stem.

Here is an image of the bars partially was really hard to take the beloved Guv'nor apart, not physically hard, but heart wrenching. It was like tearing a limb off one of my children.... and I hope I never have to do it again!!

.....and other images of the new handlebars and stem fitted on the bike.

Polished Reynolds alloy stem.
Lauterwasser markings on the bars...nice touch Soma!

I retained all of the standard Guv'nor fittings and accessories to keep the bike as close to the original as possible. Here are some more images of the result...

...there's the city of Perth in the background, a great place to live all year 'round!

..probably the best image of the bars, just wonderful!

The bars offer more hand positions than the original inverted North Road bars.

These bars won't suit every Guv'nor owner..... but they may be an option for a Guv'nor owner who just wants something a little different. The original specced Guv'nor really is triumphant, but if you're going to tour a little more on your Guv'nor and would like more hand placement options, then these bars might be for you. The beauty of them is that they are in keeping with the period that the Guv'nor has captured, and in my opinion, they look just great!

Soma do make an aluminium version of the "Lauterwasser" handlebars as well, although the steel option is stiffer and is a correct material for the period.

If you are thinking about getting some of these bars you'll certainly need a shorter stem. The Nitto stem that comes on the bike is quite long but you need this length to accomodate the flatter inverted North Road bars. The "Lauterwasser" has a longer reach and this should be offest by a shorter stem.

Perhaps the next Guv'nor model will have the option of having these bars fitted when ordering.....keep cycling and be safe. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My 1950's Speedwell

My 1950's Speedwell
In about October 2009 a bicycle building friend of mine named George, handed me an old Speedwell men's frame that had been sitting in his backyard for years. The frame had been exposed to the elements and was covered with a thin film of rust, although I could tell that the original colour was a ghastly green. Unfortunately there was no serial number on the frame, so dating the bike by this method was not an option. 

Luckily, the previous owner had painted the cranks and bottom bracket with a thick grey paint that provided them with some protection. The headset was rusty but restorable, however the rest of the parts were beyond restoration hope. The rims had rusted out and the hubs had rusted badly with severe corrosion. The mistake I made at this point was not photographing the rusted old frame, an image of which would have been handy for this article.

Anyway I stripped the bike and retained the frame, cranks, bottom bracket, and headset, and pretty much disposed of the rest.  I did note that the original rims measured 28 x 1 3/8 inches and that they were spoked 32 front and 40 rear, and the original rear hub was a reversable fixed / free 18T setup.

I had the frame painted (a similar ghastly green) and fitted some old Speedwell decals, although the decals were not original they did the job of identifying the brand of bike....and I had the cranks and headset re-chromed. Surprisingly, the bottom bracket (marked T.D.C. Made in England) polished up very well after I removed the layers of old grey paint and grease. 

Below are some images of the finished frame that is fitted with the T.D.C bottom bracket and newly chromed headset. 

1950's Speedwell frame, painted with decals.

T.D.C. bottom bracket and oiler port.


Newly chromed headset circa 1950's.

When I received the Williams branded cranks back after re-chroming I could see that there was a manufacturers mark on the inside of the chainwheel pictured below..... 

Williams sword trade mark....with "46" and "AW".

After a bit of internet research I learnt that the "46" referred to the number of teeth on the chainwheel (which was right) and that the "AW" referred to the component's date of manufacture.

I located the manufacturer's dating codes at Interesting reading (if you're into vintage bikes I guess) and learnt that the dating code of "AW" indicated that the Williams crank had been manufactured in 1956. the crank was made in 1956 and perhaps fitted to the bike soon an assembly date in the mid to late 50's was reasonable to assume and consistent with the other fittings on the bike which were period correct.

At this point I made a few additions to the build and added  a few newer components to improve the ride. I located a set of 32/40 Endrick 28 x 1 3/8 rims (powder coated) and a period correct Bayliss Wiley 32H front hub, and I also got hold of  a 1964 dated Sturmey Archer 3 speed 40H AW hub for the rear wheel.

George laced them in, both hubs had very good chrome and the front hub had an old oiling hole with cover. I also located an old 3 speed Sturmey Archer trigger control and decided to run the gear cable through to the rear hub across the top tube and down the rear seat stay via a Sturmey Archer pulley wheel. This gear cabling method is correct for the period and would compliment the style of the bike. 

Sturmey Archer 3 Speed AW 40 hole hub

SA 3 speed trigger

Sturmey Archer gear cable pulley wheel

My next problem was that of braking, although I had considered braking options early in the planning stage. There was no hole drilled in the front forks so a front brake was not an option. The only reasonable (and effective) braking option was a new caliper brake on the rear wheel. I had considered the period correct rear caliper centre pull brakes, although they are not very effective and look so awkward and bulky, so I discounted this option.

George supplied me with a new retro styled caliper brake that worked reasonably well.....and because this was the only brake on the bike it had to work with some sense of confidence. After locating a 1950's new old stock brake lever I had George fit the brakes, very functional and they didn't look too bad either!!  

Next came the hunt for 28 x 1 3/8 tyres, a new Brooks B72 saddle, a chromed period stem, grips, and a few other bits and pieces and the enjoyment of fitting it all together as below...

Brooks B72 saddle...a work of art!!

Inverted North Road bars for the relaxed look.

Original Malvern Star bell.

Williams cranks and period pedals.

Speedwell decals and a chrome pump fitted behind seat tube.
So there's the finished item, and I must say she rides really well. The 3 speed gearing is the key to this bike, the gears making it a pleasure  to ride in all terrain, and it handles so well with the inverted North Road bars....and since discovering what a pleasure this setup is to ride I'm keen to explore the Pashley Guv'nor a bit further......I think I'll make arrangements to test ride a Guv'nor tomorrow!!