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Saturday, May 31, 2008

THE GYPSY LIFE


It's time to put the old horse between the shafts (figuratively speaking) and trot off with the caravan again. (Although I guess that a real horse might be a lot more economical than a car with the way fuel prices are going).

A couple of weeks way down West are planned. First to our beloved and nostalgic Cornwall. We return to a little farm site just south of Launceston most years. It is centrally located for the coast and the moors.

Then stopping over for a week in Dorset on the way back (near Cerne Abbas, with its ancient, priapic hill figure).

The weather forecast is not too good (my neighbour says he always knows when wet weather is going to set in - it is when we go on holiday!) Still - we take it as it comes.

Catch y'all later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

RUDGE "SUPERBE"



In 1961 John Head wanted a bicycle to cycle across London to his job at the Bank of England. In view of the prestige of his employment he decided that it must be a "gentlemanly" machine in keeping with his dignity. Accordingly, he did his research and decided that the "Rudge Superbe" fitted the bill. Rudge cycles were by now part of the Raleigh cycle empire. He bought the deep red bicycle from a little south west London cycle agent:
Over the years the cycle carried him to and from work. He had children, joined the Cyclists' Touring Club and, eventually the Veteran-Cycle Club (having acquired a variety of machines over the years). But the Rudge was always his favourite bicycle and even though it was a "gentlemanly machine" he used it at cycle camps and rallies.

We now fast-forward to 2008. John is now 82. He always vowed to keep on riding his Rudge, but has reached the stage where he can no longer lift his leg over the cross-bar. To keep on riding (he has my respect) he bought a modern, open-framed bike. The Rudge was oiled up and stored, but he felt it a shame that it was no longer used and (reluctantly) advertised it for sale in the Veteran-Cycle Club's magazine for £100 (a satisfactory mark-up as it cost £28 in 1961).

This is where I come in. I saw the advert, then forgot it. 3 weeks later I re-read it, thought I would give him a ring, although I guessed it would have been sold. But no, he "had been mucked about" and it was still there. So I made the trip to West London and spent a morning with John and his wife (his reminiscenses were worth £50 alone!) and paid the full price for his beautiful, original and much loved machine. Here he proudly displays it on the day of sale:

Having taken it home and introduced it to my own bicycles, you see it here in detail

The saddle is a magnificently comfortable Brooks "B66" with large insulating springs

The chaincase protects the drive and means that one can ride it without resorting to trouser clips, or tucking them in your socks to avoid oil stains

Lighting is provided by the still working Sturmey-Archer hub dynamo set in stainless steel wheel rims and the magnificently chromed head lamp. Gearing (very low) is by Sturmey-Archer 3 speed in the rear hub.

The bell gives out a sonorous "ding-dong", befitting the bicycle's dignity, whilst the stand enables it to stand alone (nothing so common as leaning it against a wall!)

Fortunately your average bicycle thief would not give the bike a second glance (they only seem to pinch mountain bikes) - however the Rudge comes with a built in fork lock (John even supplied the two original keys)
The Rudge is a nice ride. Unlike my "head down, arse up" drop handlebarred bikes, it will not be hurried. As befits a "gentleman's bicycle" one sits high in the saddle, looking over the scenery whilst cruising serenely along. On the flat it will allow itself to run at about 12 mph. Middle gear takes care of head winds and slight rises, whilst I am astounded how the low bottom gear allows one to ride up almost any hill. One almost feels that a collar and tie should be worn when riding it!
I use it frequently to do the 3 miles into town and it will get its first run out (under my ownership) with the Veteran-Cycle Club in July. Appropriately it will be a local ride - "A Marsh Meander" over Romney Marsh, ending up for fish and chips at a cafe in the ancient town of Rye.