Last year I bought a restored A.S. Gillott frame from a dealer in South London. It has one or two very minor marks from where it was packed for delivery, but it’s pretty near perfect. A 1948 model, it may well have been built by Ron Cooper, who worked for Gillott, and I know that Ron was involved in its restoration, replacing one of the drop-outs.
What I didn’t realise until the frame arrived was that the dropouts were designed for an Oscar Egg “Osgear” set up. It’s not possible to fit a conventional derailleur freewheel or cassette. I decided to make it a single-speed bike and found a nice pair of Charge track wheels, the rear one of which had a flip-flop hub, so I was able to build up the bike to be ridden either as a fixie or with a single-speed freewheel.
I decided that this was going to be my prettiest bike, so matched the brake and gear cables to the red of the decals and even bought a red and black saddle to complete the work of art. Looks lovely….rides like a shed on wheels!
I think the problem is partly the razor sharp saddle (back to a Brooks B17 any day now) but also the geometry of the bike. I haven’t measured it but the top tube seems particularly long. I feel like I’m stretching over the bike, even to ride on the tops of the Cinelli drop bars. And my feet feel as though they’re too far forward, wherever I position the saddle. It’s time to try a new set up – one that will make the bike as good to ride as it is to look at.
Having appreciated the joys of Sturmey Archer hub gears last year, when I road my Thanet Silverlight with a 1949 4-speed hub from Barcelona to Bristol without a hitch, and inspired by the sight of the restored Bob Jackson bike mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve decided to rebuild the Gillott frame. Even though you have to stop pedalling for a second to change ratios with internal hub gears, each change is precise, silent and perfect – not like the rather crude process of dragging a chain across a bunch of sprockets to end up with yet another imperfect chainline. So the frame will be fitted with a Sturmey Archer S-RF5(W) 5-speed hub in the rear wheel (with a downtube shifter as a nod towards vintage styling), a B17 saddle and either a Mary bar or Mungo bar from On-One. The bars are on offer at the moment and are so cheap I decided to buy both and try them out. The Sturmey Archer was chosen because Shimano hubs and others aren’t suitable for the relatively narrow dropout spacing of vintage bikes (125mm OLD). This combination should give me a lot more flexibility in setting up the bike for greater comfort, and make it practical for commuting. I’ve bought a couple of 27 x 1 1/4 wheels, which is the size the frame was originally designed to accomodate, and I’ll rebuild the back one with the new hub – that was a cheaper option that buying a pair of rims, a front hub and all new spokes.
The bike in 5-speed form will appear here soon….if all goes well.
Gorgeous. It appears from the photo that the seat tube leans back more than usual, making your saddle to be positioned further to the back. I am guessing that your impression of your feet position and the longer reach to the handlebar is partly due to the seat tube angle, as well as the top tube being a bit longer relative to the height of the frame. The Mungo bar resembles the moustache bar that I have on my Motobécane. Depending on where you place your brake levers, that is, where you want your default position to be, I find that it can increase rather than decrease the reach. Have you looked into stem alternatives? A shorter stem with a longer quill could be part of your solution even though finding a period-correct piece may be difficult; a contemporary solution would be the Nitto Technomic (http://www.hubjub.co.uk/store/index.php/stems/nitto-technomic-stem-detail) or Technomic Deluxe (http://www.hubjub.co.uk/store/index.php/stems/nitto-technomic-deluxe-stem-detail). As for your feet position, you might need to look for an old L shaped seat pin, or perhaps you can get away with turning the existing seat pin 180° so it is facing backwards, bringing your saddle further to the front. Fun and games…
Thanks for the introduction to HubJub – I’d never heard of them and generally used Velosolo for that kind of stuff. I’m really hoping that the Mary Bar will be the answer. It should give a more upright right to make up for the very relaxed seat tube angle and I’ll see how far forward I can push the Brooks saddle. The problem with very short stems is that they can make the steering very twitchy. In fact, on the Thanet I need longer stem to stop it going into a wild shimmy when coasting downhill. Your L’Erocia post reminded me about the washboard surface in some places, so perhaps the Thanet is not such a great choice for that ride! By the way, what did you ride for L’Eroica?
Yes, you are right about the twitchiness, depending on the head tube angle, fork rake and other factors. It could end up being really twitchy. I have one Technomic 50 mm which made one bike very twitchy but is fine on another one although I expected to be the other way round…
Last year I rode a bike I built for my wife using an all chrome frame of unknown make and weighs a tonne. The only hint is the M on the seatstays. Various shots of the bike can be found here: http://chikashimiyamoto.wordpress.com/2012/08/. The year before I rode my late 60s Motobécane, not one of their top end models. My wife rode it last year on the 38k, but I plan to get back on it next time. It is fitted with a moustache bar, which I think is much more suited to the gravel roads than a drop bar, cf., http://chikashimiyamoto.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/bibendum-on-the-left-bibendum-on-the-right/. The moustache in combination with its long wheelbase and clearance for wide tyres make it a near ideal bike. The only headache is the 120 mm rear dropouts, so I can only fit either a 4 or 5 speed freewheel. This was my first rebuild project and got an intensive course on parts compatibility, or lack thereof: French headset, Swiss BB, French threaded rear hub, French threaded shift lever boss, etc. But it’s still my favourite bike!
I look forward to seeing how you progress with the Gillott project.