Monday, 7 November 2011

John Fern 653

I bought this on eBay, I think I got it for a good price (£65) it was one of those listings that I came across by accident and it seemed to have been overlooked by others judging by the low page views. I bought it first on the basis of the photo and then looked for more information. I found this on cyclechat from Feb 2010 in response to an enquiry:
"Sadly no, John took is own life three or four years ago and the shop has gone. I have a couple of his bikes in my collection. John ran his shop alone so I'm not aware of anyone you could contact. Both my bikes are 70's custom builds for people in the local area who have passed them on to on to me for my Leicestershire built bikes collection. Both are 531 Reynolds frames and forks. However, I'm not sure how much frame building John did, they could have been made locally by Barry Bond who retired from the cycling business years ago but I still see occasionally. An elderly chap we know just called in for a cup of tea and I found out the following. John didn't make any frames but bought most of his from Melor Clarke - a long since gone cycle wholesaler in Leicester. They had all their frames made by various factories in Birmingham. My two bikes, being one off specials, had hand made frames by Barry Bond."

It is partly chromed, which I don't like (a hydrogen embrittlement risk I read) and there is some rust on both frame and forks since chrome plating is porous. I have also found as the result of using electrolysis to remove rust from old steel items that you must not use this method to remove chrome plating as it produces hexavalent chrome in the electrolyte. To remove the chrome plating use sulphuric acid, or hydrochloric acid.
The frame and forks are a close fit for 700C (obviously being a competition bike but looking at my pile of bits I find that the MTB wheels from my rusty bike (now down the tip) will fit nicely, coupled with some BMX brakes and I have an alternative hybrid!*
I have discovered that a wire wheel on a 1200W angle grinder removes paint, rust and leaves behind frame tubes.  I have finished the front forks with Smoothrite.  More later 31/11/2012
uploaded a photo or two 15/07/2012 See here.

30/06/2016 *Fear not, I have abandoned the 26" MTB wheels idea for this bike, I tried them out on the Orbit which I finished first and didn't like them.  They are now on an unbranded Reynolds 525 frame and forks, the Orbit will have 700C and so will this John Fern, I have decided to brush paint the frame black and then flat it with Scotchbrite, I got the idea from Build or Bust.  I hope more progress n 2016.

30/12/2016 Domestic tasks distracted me this year, I started but didn't finish. Watch out for progress in 2017!

25/09/2017 Things are not looking good for free time. I will update in 2018.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


or not.. I bought the frame and forks on ebay and discovered why there were only two bids. I couldn't get the frame numbers to match the numbering system online. The lugs were not at all fancy, it weighed in at six pounds, had machine-formed ends internal to the tubes, and old Raleigh bottom bracket and steering head threads at 26 TPI.  I couldn't even put it on the road, (I had a matching Raleigh frame which lacks bottom bracket bearings). To make it worse the rear chainstay dropout had somehow been spread and the stamping (no cast lugs here) had broken and been repaired at an earlier time. The purchase price and postage costs were wasted as the frame and forks are now down the tip. I will try and sell the head badge on ebay.

"The cracks started to show when some less than deserving frames came in for part-exchange and Harry saw them re-appear from the enamellers with Gillott badges and transfers on them."  I found the A S Gillot name on the frame under a coat of paint and until I read the above, this was the one bit I couldn't explain.

I have learned a lesson and from now on will thin out the pile of stuff I have collected over the years. The most frustrating thing about all of this is that I was seduced by a name. It had a high starting price which suggested some intrinsic value. The description was all about the memories of the bike which he said was a present. However it was neither an A S Gillot nor was it a lightweight. Worse things have happened but I am still annoyed with myself for falling for this.

I found some photos which I have posted in the Trouble With Raleighs album in Flickr.  By the way, the headbadge sold for £24 plus postage.  There is something wrong with the world, my problem was caused by Gillot's standards dropping and me ending up with a rebadged raleigh.  Others remove headbadges to collect which end up for sale on eBay.  People buy headbadges on eBay to restore their Gillot which had its headbadge removed.  So yes, I am part of the problem, perhaps I should have destroyed it like so much ivory but I didn't. Sorry.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


This bike ended up being ridden the most last year (2010). I bought it as a frame and forks only from ebay for a small sum, local pickup in Northampton (yes, we have one in the UK too). Unusually, I didn't immediately rip it to bits, have it blasted and build it into a new one.

more later 22/01/2011

this photograph is the state of it after riding through the winter.

07/11/2011 Doesn't time fly, I've had a really busy year and not done much cycling. I stripped the REW part way and made it serviceable, replacing the front derailleur which failed to fit the R T Shayler, rubbing back the induced rust to bare metal and touching up with Smoothrite, fitting some bottle cages, a saddlebag, a new seatpost (it's 26.4 diameter) and cleaning off the crud. It looks functional now and is ready for my massive daily commute of 4 x 0.9 miles (I come home for lunch). I have to say that it is not 531, because of the seat tube diameter (and it being hand built there is probably some chrome and molybdenum in the steel). As a kid, a guy at work went to see Mr Reynolds and was measured up for a bike there. I read an article in the A5 Rangers' newsletter about a tandem modification using Mr Reynolds' old brazing jig, also the life president of the A5 Rangers and his wife have REW Reynolds touring bicycles - which is where I first heard of him and why I bought the frame and forks on eBay for the princely sum of £5. I am a big fan of 531 which this is not and the forks give quite a harsh ride but it protects a nicer bike from the winter crud. I have a set of forks which would fit, they would improve the ride but then the conflicts of originality vs function act on my guilt. We will see.  Some photos here.

That said the lugs are fairly decorative and I have had worse, heavier, harsher bikes in the past so I know when not to complain too much. Interestingly I am getting quite a few hits on this site with people searching for info on REW Reynolds.

I will add more in future, perhaps adding what history I can find.

Latest news, since buying my latest Marin Muirwoods I have no need for this bike.  I also bought a Richmond frame and forks from ebay with exactly the same geometry and am currently transferring components from the REW to the Richmond.  Considering the poor ride quality (harsh), the weight (frame 5lbs or 2265g forks 828g these are really the problem) and the lack of space (I'm a cycleholic) it has to go.  In my defence there are quite a few REWs out there and the ones that survive are the good ones and if you don't want to hate me, think of me as a wolf and this frame and forks as a weak caribou.  Perhaps it's high caribou steel?  Anyway taking it to bits to recover components for the Richmond, I found stones in the bottom bracket compartment (the bb itself was protected by a plastic sleeve but the stones came from my young son dropping them in through the seat tube; he can be seen in one of the photos).

FYI the number on both frame and forks is 1791.