Modern bikes have their place, but a vintage bike has a personality all of it’s own.
James is our 1930s tandem, partially restored when Tim and I bought him a few years ago, and now roadworthy after substantial adjustments and additions.
Tim’s engineering background came in very handy as vintage bike parts are not generally readily available - a much needed replacement headset had to be machined to fit. The wheels have been rebuilt, the paintwork spruced up, and the saddles and handlebars replaced with something more fitting.
The wheels in particular had been a big concern after our initial test-ride, when spokes were pinging off in all directions. Those wheels now take us safely down the tow path to the pub on sunny evenings.
And once all that was sorted, the finishing touches were a genuine working calcium carbide lamp, bespoke skirt guard, leather saddles and handlebar grips, and an enormous hooter - always useful on those towpath journeys.
James is a little bit special in that he has a convertible rear cross-bar. The ‘stoker', (me) has the choice of gents style bar - for occasions requiring a sturdy pair of trousers, britches or khaki shorts, or a ‘lady-back’, so I can cycle in a tea dress while still preserving my modesty.
Cycling has always been a part of our household, but we came to vintage cycling about 10 years ago at an event in France, and discovered there was a growing vintage cycling movement in the UK and elsewhere. So every so often we swap lycra and carbon fibre for tweed and steel, and head off for a ride with a bunch of friendly fellow cyclists for some polite chat about tea, sprockets and how to stop our hats flying off.
A mechanical ( or ‘ running adjustment’) on a vintage ride will bring other riders and passers by to your aid, whether it’s a puncture, something metallic falling off or the retrieval of a picnic blanket or bunch of flowers which might fall out of a basket. And while sorting things out there will always be a friendly chat about our respective bikes and cycling experiences.
If the mood suits, we have solo 1930s bikes as well, a Raleigh called Molly and a Hercules called Hesketh. each with their own quirks.
These much loved bikes may be heavy and cranky, with the need for lots of care and more running repairs than a sleek modern bike, but they have charm and character, history and heritage, and always seem to make people smile.
Jill Osborne, Roight Lush Rider, 2020