Saturday, May 8, 2010

George Sutherland, seen here posing in 1898 with the 75 Guinea Royal Enfield Challenge Cup, was quite the lad.

He was a  "cashie", a racing cyclist who raced under the rules of the  League of New Zealand Wheelmen's "cash amateur" rules.

The rules allowed for cash prizes, but not financial sponsorship. Cash Amateur riders weren't supposed to give up their day jobs.

As you might guess from his Sterling emblazoned jersey, George didn't follow those rules to the letter. Some say he was New Zealand's first domestic professional cyclist.

In this photo George must be about 20 years old and was already a dominant force in New Zealand cycling. The previous year, he won the 50 Sovereign New Zealand Wheel Race, a 2 mile handicap styled on the Melbourne Bicycle Club's famous Austral Wheel Race.

In 1898, "The features of the [NZLW] meeting were the success of single pacing in the long distance events, and the magnificent riding of G. Sutherland, of Christchurch, who defeated all-comers in the One-mile Championship, the Five-mile Championship, and the Royal Enfield Challenge Cup Race". (Christchurch Star, 28 March 1898, Page 2).

In 1900, George was set to represent the NZLW at the Paris World Champs when he finally fell foul of anti-professionalism rules. A letter was produced which proved that he had demanded appearance money from a race promoter. George was summarily banned from racing when more evidence was produced to show that "Ted" Reynolds, the Auckland "crack" who was to have replaced Sutherland in Paris, had received expenses whilst racing in New Zealand. Pragmatism ruled and both cyclists headed for Europe. In the end, only George raced at the worlds, simultaneously signing the League up with the newly-formed Union Cycliste Internationale, which had just won the stoush for control of international cycle racing.

George admitted that in Paris he was hopelessly outclassed in the tactical "continental" racing, for which antipodean handicap races were poor preparation.

As Well as signing NZ up with the UCI, George's influence on New Zealand cycle racing was long felt. In the 1920s, he managed the highly successful English Park Stadium cycling track in Christchurch, which experienced its own jazz age revival of bicycle racing as a glamour sport.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Melbourne Bicycle Culture

Every time I visit Melbourne, I'm struck by the vibrant bike culture in Australasia's self-concious style capital. Of course, in 2009, the hipster fixter was very much in evidence,  but the Melbournean bike cult has much deeper roots.
In 2007, I snapped this Ladies' bike parked on Spencer St. It's obviously locally made, probably a Malvern Star, and uses 28" x 1 3/8" wheels, which are almost unheard of outside Australasia. In NZ, they weren't used much post-WWII, but across the Tasman they survived into the early '70s.

The battered leather saddle is a classic in its own right - though I'd rather photograph it than sit on it.

The city has spent up large on infrastructure, including these Moulton-friendly bike racks outside the Museum.

Spotted in oh-so-hip Brunswick Street, this wee gem has to be the most imaginative agglomeration of parts, er, imaginable. As a piece de extreme silliness it sure makes a refreshing change from yet another powder-coated fixie.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Ruby

I got the Ruby as a tatty, rusty frameset, bought for 20 dollars from a son charged with clearing out his dad's garage. I was pleased to get hold of the Ruby on several levels. First and foremost, it was built in my 1st LBS - The Ruby Cycle Works in Rangiora.

The original owner had lived in the nearby village of Oxford - before WWII he used to regularly ride it over 30 miles of gravel roads to Christchurch, the provincial capital.

Built of Accles and Pollock tubes  The Ruby is a typical New Zealand bike from the first decades of the 20th century - its long wheelbase and high bottom bracket made it ideal for bombing along gravel roads.

The primary red paint with burgundy lugs and gold highlights was perhaps not my finest hour as an arbiter of good taste, but it sure stands out from the crowd.

I finished the build with a bunch of parts from under the bench. The bits which happened to be in good nick - hubs, wing nuts, seat pin, 'bars and NOS lamp bracket - also happened to be chromed, so I finished the tattier parts in chrome rather than nickel. Is it period correct? I'll have to check the local archives when I'm next in Rangiora to find out when The Ruby Cycle Works was founded. Its founding owner was still alive in the 1980s, so I think that chrome will be OK.  

The beautifully made BSA track ends with cam chain-adjusters are ubiquitous on pre-war New Zealand bikes. The bolt on A&P "pencil" seatstays contrast startlingly with those massive D section chainstays.

Major Taylor stems were de rigeur on gents bikes in Australasia. The head clip is NOS and it is nickelled. I couldn't bear to chrome over it.
The bike suffered a front end crash sometime in its long life. I was about to use the time honoured straightening method (a steel bar slipped through the head tube and held in a 6" vice) when my boss informed me he'd bought a fancy Park frame straightener. I was sceptical, but gave it a try. Same principle as a bar through the head tube but more controllable. Kudos to Park Tools.

I need to find wine in good old corked bottles (good excuse) to get some material to plug those 'bars.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Er Shi Ba

The Chinese 二十八 (er shi ba - literally, twenty-eight) in gas bottle delivery mode. This has all the classic er shi ba features - heavy duty 4 strut rear carrier, rickety basket, pink rubber inner-tube bungees, industrial-quality stand and general air of neglect. Technical highlights include out of phase cranks (courtesy of a worn cotter pin, no doubt) and rod brakes adjusted by the time honoured kink-the-rod-with-an-adjustable-spanner technique.

I wish that I could show you a photo of my shiny, brand new  永久 (Forever) er shi ba, but some bugger stole it - an absolutely guaranteed experience for new bike owners in China. Still, before the nefarious denizens of the Nanchang underworld got away with my pride and joy, I managed to take part in a daily ritual of twentieth century Chinese life - riding through a balmy subtropical evening with my wife-to-be sitting side saddle on the carrier of my er shi ba. Good memories to get me through the day back here in my car-is-king homeland.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More 2 Star

Here's a shot of the business end of the 2 Star - kind of busy! You can see the 2 star head badges and cast lugs quite clearly in this one. The frame was given to me buy a guy who collected Raleigh Bermudas - the last gasp of the Morrison-built sports models. Quite why he'd rather have a Bermuda than this lovely frame, I don't know. But I'm happy that he didn't want it.

The stem is a cheap steel item that I cut and extended (forward) years ago. Heavy but serviceable. Hmm, & looking at this picture I remember now that I re-spoked the front wheel with a Wolber Gentleman 81 rim and, I think, a Suzue or Normandy front hub. The bike is still stored in my shed in the S.I., while we've relocated to Masterton. Looking forward to being reunited sometime!
Posted by Picasa

2 Star on a favourite road

The 2 Star is, I think, an early-postwar New Zealand made frame. I've seen a few of these and own two. It's not a Jones Special and it's not a Cycleworth (Austral Star) frame - both of which also used stars as head badges. Austral Stars used pressed lugs, and these are cast. Pre-war Joneses used clip type 7/8" headsets. I'm also pretty sure it's not an Australian-made Malvern Star. The number of stars on the front of a Malvern Star denoted quality. A "2 Star"was well down the pecking order, but this frame is almost identical to another I have, which features five stars on the head tube. Provenance remains a mystery.

The frame is nicely made and painted flamboyant green with elaborate pinstripes and blocking. It has Cyclo dropouts rather than the older, BSA fork ends which were popular in NZ before the War.

I set the 2 Star up as a classic English club bike - Sturmey FC four speed hub, 27 x 1 3/8 wheels, GB brakes. The front wheel is an old 36 spoke Weinmann rim laced to a Japanese "Chair" brand hub and a set of dodgy aluminium wingnuts.

Tied to the B17 is my trusty Tika (made in Christchurch, NZ) saddlebag. Made tough from Birkmeyer 12oz canvas, it has lasted me 25 years and counting. The saddle looks awful tilted up like that, but for some reason, it's comfortable that way.

I cobbled the guards together from leftovers. They are old Taiwanese alloy guards fitted with Bluemels stays scavenged from busted up Lightweights. That massive mudflap is a beauty. Available from Cycle Trading Co in Christchurch, these truck-dimension flaps really do the work.

The photo is taken on a wee gravel road in Loburn, north of Christchurch. I've been riding that road since I was a kid.

Posted by Picasa