I have decided that the resolution of a certain legal matter will induce a celebratory ride through the streets of Coventry a’la Godiva but astride a Ti framed minimalist fixer. The last episode of such wanton exhibitionism occurred one warm summer evening in 1994…Ah yes, the unofficial (not to mention naked) four stroke 250cc motorcycle championships held through North East London’s notorious back streets...Honda CB250RS, blue towel… Ahem and now for some pre winter fettling.
Aside from the obligatory Waxoyling, control cable and chain replacement the Univega has undergone a series of unexpected component substitutions. The first being the linear pulls in favour of Dia Compe’s cheap but extremely cheerful 988 cantilevers. However, these rely on a system of aluminium spacers that chattered relentlessly over rougher surfaces, bringing me close to brink in the first twenty-five miles. One light bulb moment and rummage through the spares bin later saw them replaced with soft compound handlebar end plugs trimmed to size. Cantilevers may lack the outright power of Vs or cable operated discs but I prefer the sharper feel and the 988 seem more than sufficient for stopping 70kilo rider and moderately laden trailer to my satisfaction.
Other ingenuity hasn’t proven quite so long lived. My once retired under saddle bottle caddy reborn as a mounting plate for RSP’s mighty tour light LED caused the untimely demise of the Univega’s alloy rack, the top plate snapping clean off along a swooping back road in the wee small hours. Ever resourceful, I effected temporary using cable ties and continued the last fifteen miles home without further incident.
As luck would have it, a powder coated 4130expedition model (with the perfect drillings) was plucked from storage and is a marked improvement in every sense. It didn’t stop here, bars and brake lever positioning were also tweaked a fraction and I toyed with upgrading the seatpost but discounted this on two grounds.
First and foremost, the relatively shapely Kalloy is perfectly functional and finding an upgrade is tricky given as hailing from the mid nineties, the seat tube diameter is 26.0. Recent years have seen manufacturers standardise-namely 25.4, 27.2 and thirty-something.
By and large I wouldn’t hesitate to shave point two from an alloy model but anything more invasive is an absolute no-no, especially on a relatively small mtb frameset with plenty of exposed post wearing a tag-along hitch. It will come as little surprise to discover the Univega is eight speed and an eclectic mix of Ultegra, LX, STX and Alivio. Others in the fleet sport nine and ten (The Teenage Dream vintage six speed Victory) but on a daily basis I regard eight the optimum for a derailleur system. Decent consumerables (chains and cassettes at least) are relatively plentiful, slotting straight aboard nine-speed freehubs while being less inclined toward clogging when the going gets gloopy- something of a boon in competitive cross/ rough stuff.
Continuing the retro theme for a moment, I was down at Maldon Shot Blasting & Powder Coating the other Monday. In amongst the neat rows of TIG welded go-cart chassis and motorcycle frames fresh from the walk-in blast cabinet emerged a touring frameset from the 70s. Now, the seventies have been seemingly en vogue for a long while (largely amongst those bright young things who hadn’t sprung from the womb until the early 80s) but in our family the decade heralded our late father’s strange house parties that comprised something of a class divide- cold, conceited academics with their student mistresses in one room and a much warmer collective gaggle of skilled artisans and their worried wives in the other.
Such memories flashed before me as I cast an eye over the Campagnolo ends, fairly ornate lugwork, cable guides etc. it looked to be an RSP Carlton, Dawes maybe even a Coventry Eagle. Corrosion had munched holes in the seat tube but Graham skilfully plug welded these with a MIG unit on the lowest setting before grinding them flat and without trace. From here, threads were masked, chromate, primer and deliciously thick gloss black powder topcoat followed. Wish I’d made note of the frame number, if only to satisfy my curiosity…
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)