Tuesday, 11 March 2014


I bought the frame and forks on eBay, late 2013 for £75 including postage.  It was sold with a stuck seatpost, but this came out easily when held in the vice and the frame twisted off it.  The bottom bracket was very tricky, I have to clamp the frame to the vice using a bolt through the bottom bracket so the bearing doesn't jump out of the vice when it is held by the jaws; rotate the frame a quarter of a turn clockwise then slacken the clamp and repeat.

The dimensions, frame angles, wheelbase, brake drop were all identical to the REW Reynolds. And I had a new Tange Passage headset on the shelf, the sizes given on box 30.2 diameter 26.4 diameter and it fitted.  (I have had problems in the past which are best described elsewhere).  I transferred all the items from the REW and renewed the cables. I finished it on 9th March 2014 and took it for a test ride. Very nice, it wasn't my imagination about how harsh the REW ride was, this is lovely and lively with a great feel. (Interestingly two REW frames came up on eBay last week, quality examples of his work). Looking for Richmond online brings up the Raleigh Richmond, a bicycle shop that isn't related to this Richmond and one that may well be.

What's good and what's bad?  Well listing bad first - it takes 27 x 1 1/4 so that's another wheel size I have to buy tyres for, there is a bit of toe overlap (it's not fixed so I can get round that), the gear cables run above the bottom bracket so the lines aren't as clean as underneath, the standard frame spacing is 126 and it's a five-speed so there are bent rear axles to come in future, the brazing for the bottle mounts is angled to the left a good five degrees, the pip for the derailleur lever band was a bit big (I had to file it down) and it too is offset.  And the good bits: the chainstays are not formed at all either inside for tyres or outside for the front sprocket and there is loads of clearance, the frame gives a comfortable and lively ride, it's as light as a 531 frame should be, all the tubes make that beautiful ringing sound (this is 531 frame tubes, forks and stays).

Other things to note, that paint I used is metal paint from Aldi.  I imagine it is similar to Hammerite or Smoothrite, having an acidic base so it etches the metal and prevents corrosion.  These days powder coating is too expensive for me, it's also pretty final; once it is on it doesn't come off easily.  The rear derailleur is a lovely Suntour item with only 1 full side plate so it is breathtakingly easy and convenient to unravel the chain for maintenance.  The front sprockets are a 48 / 28 combination, by the time I need to change to the lower ring I am so tired that spinning in such a low gear is bliss. A double gives a low Q factor and if I'm going fast enough to spin out of 48 / 13 I can coast thank you very much.  The front and rear MAFAC centre-pull callipers match, including the cable hanger off the seat bolt.  I was cleaning the calipers and lost the plastic washers behind the springs but it turns out that milk bottle plastic is exactly the right thickness, drill an 8mm hole and spend some time with scissors and you are sorted.  Also the straddle wire is new, manufactured by turning brass rod (from an old ballcock arm) down to just under 6mm, drilling a 1.2mm hole through the centre, countersinking one side, pushing gear cable through and unravelling and spreading the strands into the countersink then using a lot of flux and a heavy duty heat gun and solder.  A trick I picked up from Malcolm in Vale Onslow's (Birmingham) back in the 70's. The second nipple is held in place at the right distance using a wooden jig with two 6mm holes at fixed spacing.  The saddle you see is a Brooks frame recovered with two thicknesses of leather from a welding apron from Aldi.  It feels a bit like a hammock.

It should be ideal for light touring with a saddle bag and handlebar bag.

More playing, 14/08/2014 I fitted a new chain.  The one from the REW was worn out and the Linklyfe I used created a world of pain when cleaning up for the new one.  I also ended up with the leather saddle from the Archie Wilkinson, (an Australian leather saddle bought from Spa Cycles).  It's pretty good.

Now I love it!  01/10/2014  After discovering the 4mm difference between 27" and 700C could be taken up by the slot in the front caliper, I fitted a 700C wheel in the front with a 32mm tyre already on there.  After a week with good handling, I fitted the matching rear and a new 7-speed cluster, 12 - 34 from the shelf.  Incredibly the brake blocks in the rear caliper didn't need changing.  I didn't bother setting the frame, it spread quite easily; I'll wait for Summer 2015 before doing that.  Two days later I changed the rear derailleur for one with a longer cage and I can get all the gears. It rides beautifully, the cushion from tyres at only 60 psi complementing the frame flex is a joy.  (This is what Grant at Rivendell is always banging on about).  I can get all the gears, I have a wider range and a larger selection.  I have retained the double up front as I think this will do everything I could ask.  The chain skipping has stopped, which makes me think the rear 5-speed was worn.  AND I get the strength of a freehub with its minimal bearing overhang.  I have uploaded more photos to Flickr.  Of course I like it so much now it's too good to be ruined by the winter crud.

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Saturday, 4 January 2014


OK, what am I doing writing about refurbishing such a new bike?  Well I just bought it on ebay for £500, my most expensive purchase ever, and it had tubeless tyres.  Cars and trucks drive on tubeless, that is a mature technology.  It is more recent for motorcycles, but even more recently the early adopters are using them on bicycles.

On delivery the tubeless tyres on the LATITUDE were flat.  I pumped them up and they went down; I pumped them up a lot and went around the block on a test ride.  They were deflating as I rode.  The next day they were flat.  I went on to youtube and watched some bloke who loved the things, spend a long time in a clean garage doing everything exactly right with all new equipment.  He went out for a ride the next day in a downhill stylie and then showed the camera where the air leaks had happened around the rim - but didn't think this was a problem.

The arguments for tubeless are weight saving, avoidance of snake bite flats and better performance at low pressures.  If you still puncture, the advice is to put a tube in.

I wasn't convinced and because they wouldn't stay up, I removed the tyres, peeled away 64g of damp latex from the inside of each tyre (disgusting - and the smell!) and discarded the tyre valve weighing 10g, totalling 74g (obviously) and fitted 172g of innertube.  A total weight gain of 100g per wheel.  And guess what?  A week later they are still hard.  When replacing tubeless tyres you have to remove and throw away latex or goop whereas an innertube which costs the same plus 100g is repairable with a patch or replaceable without worrying about what it will be like when it is removed from a tyre full of goop (which weighs extra).  In my years of cycling (my first bike was in 1965) I have had almost every puncture caused by something sharp rather than snakebite flats.  Until tubeless tyres are as easy to fit on bikes as they are on cars, for me it's not worth it.

The LATITUDE is a lovely bike but my other rant is MTB bars.  They are awful and seem designed to induce RSI symptoms in riders.  More than 100 years of development resulted in handlebars which kept the hands inline with the frame, placing no stress on the wrists, was abandoned back in the 80's.  With the invention of the mountain bike came the new look which was straight bars.  I think form should follow function not fashion.  But tribal thinking makes clever, rational people say that drop bars should only be fitted below saddle height and that if you want otherwise then you should fit straight bars. Why?  We all got used to sloping top tubes when we saw them enough.


I seem to remember in the old days a top-of-the-range mountain bike did indeed have drop bars but it's not in my NEW BICYCLE BOOK by Richard Ballantine but may be in a later version or in a similar book.  Anyway I fitted some bar-inners (rather than bar-ends) to allow me to protect my wrists during the road ride from my house to the trail.  Having finally taken it offroad on the red runs of Cannock Chase, they work well but slip under force, being plastic.  I will try and source some alloy ones for a better grip.  I recall cylocross in the days before the MTB was invented when they rode off-road with drop bars.  Perhaps full-tilt mountain biking doesn't suit, but the trickle-down effect means people riding mountain bikes on road wouldn't apply common sense to their choice of bars.  The benefits that may accrue are no wrist pain and, when set higher, the option to actually use the drop and get out of the wind.  You could use moustache bars or French Coureur bars or Dutch Grandmother-style bars for a comfortable wrist position, but that only gives one handlebar height position.  Why copy the racing cyclist and then be unable to use the drops because they are too low to reach without strain, because the majority of people aren't that fit or flexible.  And to do it because someone told you it looks right is basing your choices on their opinions instead of responding to twinges in your back or wrists.

I also seem to remember when they first came out that the first thing people bought after buying a mountain bike was a pair of bar-ends.  14/08/2014 Well, I bought some bar-ends via eBay.  Unfortunately the correspondent for eBay user name bankrupt_bike_parts suffers from bankrupt thinking:  "I am amazed to read your email , we have sold over 100 of these without any complaints and we have fitted them ourselves to 22.2mm handlebars, so maybe yours were slightly undersized but thats really unusaul [sic] as they are always made with the same tubing."  Maybe they failed to note that the packaging is in French, French bicycles use different diameter everything.  These bar-ends may fit French bicycles' 22.0 mm diameter handlebars but do not fit everyone else's 22.2 mm diameter handlebars.  So >100 non-complaints means they can't be wrong.  And mine are a black swan?  No I suggest it's far more likely that >100 people can't be arsed to complain, and put up with the fact they had to use a screwdriver to persuade the bar-ends on to the end of their bar.  How about some of the >100 people bought them and didn't get around to fitting them before discovering the problem?  How about the mechanics who fit the 22.0 bar ends on to 22.2 default standard handlebars at your establishment didn't know they should slide on easily and be held in place with the clamping force from the screw?  Why am I so annoyed?  Well, as noted above I don't want bar-ends, I want bar-inners and it's one thing to bodge some mis-sold thing on to the end of a bar and it's another to have to persuade the same item to slide the length of a handgrip along the bar: twice.

bankrupt_bike_parts go to the bottom of the class.

More latest news: the carbon seatpost is the wrong size!  The person that fitted it fitted a 27.0 one when the seat tube i.d. is 27.2.  I fitted an alloy post and transferred the Team Ritchey one to my Archie Wilkinson fixed gear. I was pleased that I managed to open the seat tube to accept the 27.2 by using a broom handle down it and since the fulcrum was down near the bottom bracket no seat tubes were harmed in the restoration of this diameter.