Tuesday, December 29, 2009


After many hours of friggin around on this frame set, I have finally got the Bates to a stage where I thought it was ready for paint. The cantiflex tubes proved to be a real hassle to straighten.
Sorry about the quality of the photos, I will try and post some better ones soon.

I am pretty happy with the result, the off white, 50's green and dark red works well together I think.

This build up will have a nearly full British group set, so stay tuned and I will post some photos when finished.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


My brother has just turned up, back from his OE, to stay with us for a little while.
After the mandatory "what was such and such a country like" conversation was over, I got down to business, and asked the real question, "what sort of bike do you like to ride now".
Turns out he doesn't much like racing bikes, but does like something a bit grungy, but mostly a bike to just get around (he doesn't drive).

With the design brief in mind I got to work...
(this all happened within 12 hours of him turning up at our place)

I had just come back from Auckland, visiting my mate Chris from the Scroungers car club,
so was all inspired to build a bit of a beater bike.

Started with a Aussie Ken Evans frameset, which I had been given a while back, looking pretty much like it is now, paint half stripped by hand, surface rust etc.
Next we tried using some old "26 wheels with a Sturmey Archer three speed, but the rear didn't quite fit, which is a bummer, they looked real good.
I had a search of the leanto, out in the back yard, and found this ragged old set of wheels.
Campag low flange hubs on Fiamme "27 alloy rims, perfect.
Next I found a trashed set of campag cranks, with the alloy peeling, some cool old pedals and a half dead Cyclo freewheel, she was starting to take shape.

For bars, I used a set of GB alloys, for a little bit of flash, on a unnamed steel stem from a thirties racer.
Shimano 600 front brakes, with a BMX lever for a touch of the modern, or something.

Liam, about to test ride the bike, and nearly crash in to a parked cop (not wearing a helmet), when the brakes failed.Yeh it was pretty funny.

Looks cool, and goes good too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The Empire is finally finished. I have taken it out for a couple of short rides, and as usual there is a couple of small finishing touches needed.
However from the time I have ridden it, I can already see that I will be putting a few miles on this one, she is a real sweetie.
I will probably change the Brooks swallow for a B17, I love the look of the swallows, but they just don't suit my arse.

1953 Empire Super 531 frameset.
L.J. Simplex three speed rear derailleur with shifter
Durex block
Simplex front rod derailleur
Stronglite cranks
Simplex chainwheels
Phillips pedals
Brooks Swallow saddle
GB Super Hood brake levers
GB Coureur brake calipers
Cinelli steel stem
Coloral alloy water bottles
Fiamme red label rims
Harden high flange hubs..mmmm..my favorite.

GB Super Hood levers, without hoods, nice anodized adjusters though.

By the way, make sure you put your white cloth bar tape on AFTER you have the bike sorted!
At lest that way they might stay a little bit clean, well longer than about one hour, which is how long my stayed clean for.

Cyclo rear drop outs.
Four speed block, but Simplex can only handle three.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


My helpers and pizza eaters, thanks guys.

I took a little exhibit of NZ cycle racing history over to Taupo, for their Cycle Challenge weekend.
It was a bit boxed in, as you can see in the photos, but it didn't look to bad.
Better than in does in the photos anyway.
Took the family along, a had a great time. If you are ever in Taupo, go for a ride through the botanical gardens, it's well worth it.

The exhibit looking a little squashed in.

Some memorabilia.

Neil Geraghtys 1958 Australian 'Master Sports track bike.
Neil won the '58 Austral star wheel race ( Australia's biggest track race of the year) on this frame.
I will do a piece on the blog about this bike and the race shortly.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Well I have finally found the time to throw some paint about, if you have been following this blog you will know that these three frames have been the subject of a little informal look at frame preparation/painting.
After all the hard work of prep covered last time, we now move on to painting and masking.
As you can see below, I have already painted the Empire frames white bits, the lugs, seat tube and front, rear forks,and am in the middle of masking the lugs, ready for the main colour to go on.
When masking, I use a low tack masking tape, to help avoid the problem of pulling off paint when it comes time to remove tape.I have had this happen using normal masking tape, and it really sucks, so spend a little extra here and save yourself some heartache.
The top lug in the photo below has already been masked and trimmed, the lower lug ready for trimming.
I use an X actor scalpel, the blades are pretty cheap, so I always use a new one for every bike.
After masking, find an small, old blunt screw driver (or something similar), and press the tape into the lug edge, then carefully cut around lug with your blade, make sure you have cut through both layers, where there are any over laps in masking tape(avoid this where possible).
Then remove unwanted tape, repress tape into lug edge. This is important to help reduce paint bleed.

The Empire Superb, with its main colour now applied, and is nearly ready for clear coat. I use automotive base coat, and two pack, clear top coat. You can use spray cans just as well, if you do, I recommend getting your product from a professional auto paint shop, as lots of the spray cans from hardware shops are pretty dodgy I think, even some of the bigger brands don't work that well, and scratch off really easily.The best bet, is to use a lacquer spay paint, and a clear lacquer to finish, this way, the paint colour has at lest a bit of protection.
As you can see below, there is a little bleed, and an uneven line where the solder has pooled out at the top of the lug.
I will use a very fine modellers paint brush to fix this.
It is usually a good idea to thin the paint a little before doing this, and if you don't have a steady hand, leave for a few days, to allow paint to harden before attempting this, so you can wipe off mistakes, without rubbing off base paint, and making a real mess, done that to, and that sucks as well.

Lees tandem gets its first coat...so does the Bates.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


After chatting with a few mates about old bikes 'n' stuff, I realized that a lot of guys wouldn't mind a few pointers to help with their rebuilds.
Keep in mind that I am not proclaiming to be THE expert, but if you want a few proven steps that might be of some use read on.....
Above. Custom sanding block and bucket with wet'n'dry paper, learn to love it.

The most important tool is your shaped sanding block. I use a cork block, which I sand a curve into using an old piece of tubing with a piece of course 40 grit sand paper wrapped around it to get the right shape.
You will need to get your frame stripped either chemically or bead/sand blasted.
Remember that if you sand blast the frame you can't chrome it, as the resulting finish is to rough, and even painting afterwards , you will need to rub down with 240-320 sandpaper.

If your frame has any small dents or dings (most do)that you don't think will compromise the safety of the finished bike you can use automotive two pack filler to repair.
As you can see above, this Bates Bar needed quite a bit of filler.
If there is a ripple or any kind of irregularity on the under side of the top tube or down tube behind the front lugs, STOP.
This will tell you your bike has been in a frontal accident, if the dent is very minor you might be able to still use the bike, but before carrying on consult your trusted local bike shop mechanic and get their opinion.
The Austral Star I am rebuilding at the moment has such damage. As the bike is mainly for display use I have just straightened it myself.

Most frames that I have seen that are 30+ years old have some degree of metal decay,which generally shows up as shallow pitting, mostly very minor.
The tube above is from an at lest 70 yo tandem, and will need quite a bit of work.
In either case, I will use a good quality high build primer, two or three coats depending on the depth of pitting.
It is very important to use a good quality high build primer, as a lot of the cheap products tend to sink back over a period of time, which in short means that after about two or three months your beautiful machine will look like..well you know.
So find yourself a good auto paint supplier, and ask questions.
Frames all painted in high build primer, ready to be rubbed back.
A Bates top tube after sanding back with 240 grit wet and dry paper.
Note the way the high build primer has filled most of the smaller pits.

Paint with primer again, this time dust coat a darker colour over your primer, as in photo above.
This will help show up any high/low spots where you have used filler, or that you might of missed altogether.
This is known as a guide coat, you can use this term for a little credibility at the paint shop, I know I do.
Sand back with 240-320 wet'n'dry paper.
Notice the couple of low spots in photo below, clearly defined by the black guide coat.

After you have fixed your high/low spots, go over frame and use spot putty to fill any remaining little pitting marks, some bikes like the tandem below could need quite a bit, however time spent on these stages will result in a great finish.
Don't fill anything to deep with spot putty, as it tends to sink back, it is only for very shallow pitting.
Block back one more time using your shaped sanding block, this time use at lest 320 grit paper.
As you can see below, the spot putty is very effective.

Prime once more.
Using wet 'n' dry 600-800grit paper this time to gently rub back, be careful not to
rub back to the steel.
Your frame should be ready for paint, which I will go through real soon..it's the fun bit.


I have just got my '49 Bates Bar back from the repair shop.
I had taken some photos of the bike pre repairs, unfortunately I can't seem to find them at present.
I had been chasing after this frame for quite a while, so even though I was aware that the frame had been well and truly butchered by it's last custodian, I was of the mind that these are rare enough in New Zealand to warrant a full rebuild, and more importantly I have always wanted to ride one and see if those durant forks gave the bike a different feel.
And I also was looking for an excuse to put a bike together with a full British group set.
Firstly we had to get all the added braze on's and other assorted crap off....
1.Remove added shifter braze on's
2. Remove extra brake bridge, added to accommodate 700c wheels.
3. Replace original damaged brake bridge.
4.Repair several holes in the frame.
5. Remake and replace rear drop out's, which had been cut down, and modified to take a campagnolo derailleur.
Repair the multitude of dings and dents on all three main tubes.

Repaired hole where original pump bracket was, has been replaced with a new one, not as fine as the original, but needed to cover the rather large hole left by the previous bracket.
Also just noticeable is the repaired hole where the added braze on shifters where.

Newly fabricated rear drop outs and brake bridge.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


With Jonathan Kennett's new book, Dreams and Demons, The Tino Tabak story due for release early next month, I thought I would give you a little teaser.........
Above. One of the great New Zealand cycle racing photos Tabak in action in the Dulux Six Day Tour 1966. Film star looks combined with an aggressive will to win, which he did..often, made him the most recognized name in New Zealand cycle sport since Nick Carter and until Sarah Ulmer.
Man even I think he looks sexy.

Riding for Peter Posts newly formed TI Raleigh Pro team 1974

Above. Dwars-door-Belgie. Belgium 1975.

Tabak in very very good company Tour de France 1971.
He was regarded as one of the 'finds' of the Tour.

So go buy the book, it's got it all..you won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 12, 2009


This 1953 French Automoto belonged to Ted Redward, who brought this machine especially to ride in the first New Zealand Six Day Tour, the 1953 Wisemans. Ted rode this bike in all five Wisemans tours 1953-57. This great New Zealand race will be covered in my book Wolves of the Road.

The front brake is a CLB with a really nice little butterfly quick release.
Notice the clover leaf detail in the head lug this was Automoto's distinctive logo.

Automoto sponsored many professional teams. Their most successful period was in the 20's when Henri Pelisser won the Tour de France in 1923 and Ottavio Bottecchia continued the winning streak in 1924 and '25 both in the Hutchinson, Automoto team.

Huret lever operated front derailleur, Magistroni cranks and chainwheels, AD HOC pump, Phillips pedals and Strada toe clips...... these are a few of my favourite things.........

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Other projects on the go..1952 Empire Superb and Lee's Tandem

Ad from the back cover of a 1951 New Zealand Cycling Review magazine, good inspiration for my restoration.

This particular machine belonged to Lynn Wood of New Plymouth, pictured below.
He rode to victory in the 1962 100 mile Taranaki Round the Mountain classic on this frame.
Lynn was brought this frame in the early 1950's by his Dad, and rode it right through his cycle racing career until the 1970's.

1952 Empire Superb back to bare steel and all ready for the rebuild.
These frames were built and distributed exclusively for Hope Gibbons in the North Island and Eadie Bros in the South Island , built by whom I am not sure of at present but will do some research and see what info I can come with.
 Frame weight 1.94 kg, a very cleanly made machine, check out the front and rear tips, real 50's style...nothing looks better to me, on a vintage racing bike frame than these little touches.

My mate Lee's Royal Enfeild tandem that I am going to restore for him.
This bike has been in Lee's family for a very very long time, so it will be good to get to get it up and running in all it's former glory.
Check out the photo above when it had been set up with a steering wheel, these are a couple of Lee's Dad's mates in Old Blighty late 1960's
Lee is a good guy to talk to if you want some old decals retraced for a restoration, he did the work on the Avanti decals that are on my other blog http://theavantiproject.blogspot.com/
You can contact Lee at lee@blackrobinclothing.com for graphic or decal work for your restoration, he's the man.
Lee's Great Great Auntie and the Royal Enfeild when new, late 1920's early 30's England.