Paul’s retro obsession.

with 2 Comments

Having taken part in the 9-11 speed, aluminium to Carbon Fibre progression, in 2014 I thought what am I doing? I am 16 stone 57 year old who is never going to win any races and whilst the Pinarello Dogma I rode was a thing of beauty I found it just too harsh to ride.

I had messed about with an old Peugeot steel frame which was way to big for me but there was something about it that endeared it to me. It had soul and I loved riding it. Because of its size I sold it to some giant of a man called Geoff.

A chance visit to a cycle mechanic who worked in a shed on the Rye Harbour Road and I spotted this hanging from the ceiling. He said it was a friends Fathers bike and he wanted to get rid of it. He had no idea of what make it was but it was probably from the 1940’s.

How much? £40. Got to be worth a punt I thought and money was exchanged. It was in a bit of a state, faded paintwork, blistered chrome painted over in black and obviously later period components fitted.

I got her home and started washing her down and whilst still a bit shabby under all the dirt appeared a name “Claud Butler “. I had seen modern Claud Butlers and hadn’t been that impressed, I thought I had bought a pup.

Scrubbed up nice but still had no idea what I had.

A bit of googling soon let me know I had something special, Claud Butler was very successful British racing cyclist who has gone on to open a chain of shops selling his own bikes.

I sent the frame off to Vaz Cycle finishes in London to spray the bike as near original as we could work out from the faded paintwork that was there. Whilst I waited for the paint to be done I continued to investigate the bike. The bike had a serial number on the underside of the bottom bracket and a matching number on the steerer tube. Searching on various retro forums the serial number gave me a date of manufacture of May 1939. Searching through catalogs of the time I managed to identify it as a Claud Butler Super Arrow.

When I got the frame back I was smitten and the rebuild began.

When I got the frame back I tried to involve a couple of local bike shops in the rebuild, one being a Claud Butler dealer. Progress was slow and I wasn’t happy with the way it was going so I paid them off and completed the rebuild myself. I don’t blame them they were better off working on new bikes but I was running out of time to enter a retro event in France.
Using a dealer in old parts I managed the finished work in time for the event. It looked good and rode well it wasn’t right.

As I finished it Mk1.

Whilst I liked it it wasn’t right, the bars wheels and gears weren’t right. I looked at the catalogue of the time and noted that some of the options included; 4 speed Sturmey Archer gears and 26” wheels. After a bit more tinkering I found some wheels fitted with a 1940 4 speed Sturmey Archer hub on 700c rims ( a wee bit larger than 26”), handle bars nearer what would have been fitted and some old style brake levers.

Much happier with the look. Mk2.

The bike continues to be work in progress, still looking for some brake callipers and a few other more contemporary part it’s a lovely bike to ride. Gears are limited but she keeps up well on flatter rides. As well as the enjoyment of the build itself it’s the knowledge you gain in the history of the Marque.

I now own 13 old bikes and have rebuilt probably 3 times that number for other people, every one has been a joy and researching them fascinating, if you haven’t got an old bike in your collection you should.

Paul Simpson

2 Responses

  1. Rich Stevenson
    | Reply

    That is properly lush Paul, Chapeau.

    • Paul Simpson
      | Reply

      Thanks Richard, if there’s any interest I will post more bikes.

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