1949 'Raceweight' Restoration

"Good Fun and Bad Lassies"My father, John, used a fixed gear Hobbs of Barbican in his early 20s and, out of nostalgia, I had a hankering to pick up a similar 1940s machine. Dad bought his at a bike shop in Dundee, Scotland, called West End Cycles and owned by the brothers Davis.

In those far off times, few working class people had enough cash to walk into a shop and come away with a bike or frame so my dad's £10 Hobbs frame was paid up each week at 2/6 until it was finally his and he was able to start building it up using second hand parts. The completed bike, he told me, weighed about 22lbs.

I found my 1949 Hobbs frame, later identified by former Veteran Cycle Club marque enthusiast Mervyn Cook as a Raceweight, at the home of a collector in St Andrews and swapped a 1930s bike for it. The frame had been repainted by brush but a previous owner had left the old transfers on and simply painted round them!

Needless to say, it wasn't looking its best. I believe it's better to retain as much of the original finish as possible but that was out of the question in this case. A repaint was needed and I chose to have the frame done in the same yellowish-orange that was the colour of my dad's bike and a popular choice in the 1940s.

Dad's recollection of the type of equipment he had on his bike is hazy to say the least (i.e. he has no recollection!) so I decided to build the bike up using the best period equipment I could find. The frame was entrusted to a chap in Dundee who sprays cars for a living. The two-pack paint finish he applied to the frame is superb.

I had to make the head and seat tube transfers myself, copying the originals on the frame as closely as possible in Photoshop on the PC. The script name on the downtube came from H. Lloyds.

Period Equipment
A Hobbs Lytaloy headset was installed along with a Bayliss Wiley bottom bracket assembly. The bars are modern moustache bars made by Japanese firm, Nitto. Apart from the brake blocks, handlebar tape, tyres and cables, they're the only concession to modernity.

I've never felt completely safe, for no logical reason at all, on a fixed gear bike with drop handlebars and the moustache bars look the part on a 1949 bike when compared with the straight bar alternative. The stem is a GB spearpoint which were made in the post-war period from 1945. The saddle is a Brooks from the late 1940s/early 1950s on a Reynolds seatpost. Braking is provided by GB Coureur callipers and Super Hood levers.

This combination didn't come out until the early 1950s but it's close enough. I had a nice, period Chater Lea chainset that was rechromed and attached to that a pair of Lyotard Marcel Berthet Model 23 pedals which also began a long production life in the 1930s.

The wheels consist of Conloy Asp rims mated to Airlite Continental large flange hubs. In truth, this combination was probably outwith my dad's means: some of the parts, such as the chainset and wheels, were amongst the most expensive in their range at the time. The bike is lovely to use, however. The parts have all seen plenty of miles by various owners over the years but they still work smoothly and efficiently some 50 years on.

Spit and Polish
There were no great problems encountered in the restoration. Lightly rusted chrome polishes up well using some chrome polish rubbed in with scrunched up aluminium foil.

There' s a chemical explanation for the reaction that takes place between the rust and aluminium which I used to know but all I remember now is that it works!

Oxidised aluminium parts clean up with a suitable metal polish. Very fine OOO grade steel wool can be used on heavily oxidised components and then buffed up with T-cut before polishing. The aluminium soon oxidises again, though, so if you don't have a fetish about shiny alloy parts, you're just as well giving everything a good cleaning and oiling.

The bike is my pride and joy and is used sparingly, usually on a 35-mile run to Stanley in Perthshire to where my dad, in his youth, used to cycle in pursuit of a good time chasing " bad lassies" at a home for wayward kids! He never found any, he maintains…

* I never got round to taking any pics of the completed bike. It was actually too big for me, something I didn't fully realise at the time as I was just getting into old bikes. Anyway, I sold it on and resolved to find something more my size.

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