The Hard Stuff

blot new stuff lurking below! (July 2012)

During '68 or thereabouts George, Terry and a couple of other club members discovered the Sander Brothers, a pair of 60-something bachelor brothers who spent their whole lives in brown dust coats in a bike shop near the Bowling Alley on Brighton Grove in Newcastle's west end. It was called Sanders Cycle Corner. It was on a corner, see? Inside that shop it was like a cross between Doctor Who's Tardis and Aladdin's Cave on steroids. And this was before steroids were invented. They had absolutely everything you could fit on a bike. So we did, almost every Saturday. We spent hours in there browsing and chatting to the old blokes, who were never short of suggestions for possible new experimental kit. Pennies in the bank to leave to their favourite charity.

me and my bikes...

I had two bikes, and on one of them I had chrome front fork stays clamped around the headset running down to the front wheel spindle. These had been very popular in the Fifties but had died out. See previous pic of Jim Smith and his bike, and this recently discovered one showing me on the thing at the old original black ash Eastfield track in 1968:


George became the first to have proper Canadian Bend handlebars with a bracing rod across them. I tried the impossible combination of a one-piece 24 tooth front chainring from a bicycle polo bike, together with a stainless steel double sprocket rear freehub with a pair of swappable sprockets, fixed-wheel type, screwed on half an inch apart, something never seen outside of a circus before now and carrying 16 and 18 tooth cogs. The then-current version of the NACSA rules did allow for double sprockets but assumed they'd be on either side of a double-sided hub (threaded) wheel - heh, heh. If you're familiar with our method for working out gear ratios, you'll know that this equated to me running either 4 under or, ridiculously, SIX UNDER! I left the 18 tooth on just for show, you couldn't pedal the thing.

Sander's (the ORIGINAL Bros!) also had some super corrugated brown rubber hose (that's pipe, not socks) that we squeezed onto our handlebars for extra grip. It was used on old wartime gas masks. Loads more whacky stuff the Brothers dug out of their massive stock for us and we were always willing to give something new a blast.

photo of the old shop below courtesy of Google Maps (a take-away now!). No, no, the old SHOP is a takeaway, not Google Maps.


westwood wheel

This shop was also the only one in Newcastle where you could lay your hands on all of our required TDC (that's T D Cross & Sons, Birmingham - the manufacturers) freewheels - from 16 to 26 teeth - and reasonably priced TA (French company SPECIALITES T.A.)

and Stronglight chainsets (also by a French company!) with much superior square taper bottom brackets which we'd finally move on to having created jobs for thousands of workers at Consett Ironworks by getting through a million cotter pins every season. Each. How I miss the constant sound of hammer blows ringing out from the pits, only ever calmed by the Ref temporarily during each race.


stronglight hs1

Speaking of the dreaded cotter pin, before we crossed over to the new square taper cranks, Sanders provided us with stunning, dull black, rock hard steel cotters that were a million times stronger than the absolute rubbish chrome plated things we'd used for years. The silver Raleigh ones were more like sticks of liquorice in comparison and we got through a lot every meeting, sometimes one per race!

I also managed to lay my hands on a super pair of Westwood and Endrick stainless steel rims, although they both went on the front of my bikes with the regular Raleigh chromed steel ones on the back. It didn't take me long to get the wheelbuilding bug in my late teens, as it was so easy to destroy the things in this wonderful "non-contact" sport of ours!

200px Bicycle rim diagrams 01  Westrick SS Rim

The standard wear at that time was chrome plated steel made principally by Raleigh who produced just about every bike part in the Universe then. Unfortunately, the merest tap against an opponent's bike could render these things almost useless, they were so soft and pliable. I did find the Club's first alloy rims at Sanders and started using them in 1969 - they were much easier to straighten. However, 1968 or maybe '69 was memorable for one other thing as far as wheels go - I witnessed one of the Blackley lads at Carrswood (I think it may have been Graham "Josh" Gleave) belting a wheel against the ground after it turned figure eight, as they normally did on impact with a fellow competitor. Amazingly he got it almost straight using nothing but the ground! From then on I used this method myself extremely successfully, once you've developed the knack it works fine. I still use it even now to straighten rogue mountain bike wheels, much to the amazement and disbelief of onlookers, although they are all now double wall and very hard to get straight again without a spoke key.

I've got an inkling after writing the above junk that those responsible for uncovering this mine of bike toys at Sander Brother's Cycle Corner were indeed Ritchie Dummler and Ant Arrowsmith, who both appeared on the CS scene as juniors around this time and lived just down the road from our newly found hardware paradise at the far end of Brighton Grove. Or it may have been Ashie Patterson?

Terry's Radical Side

I've always been a bit of a tinkerer and fond of the alternative way. Never one to follow the herd, preferring to find my own way through life. The result? The miserable, anti-social freak you see here today.

Be that as it may, it led me to become a multi-skilled engineer after school, trained in a vast array of electrical and mechanical environments, thanks to a good old fashioned apprenticeship with the biggest company in the UK. Always only too willing to get my hands dirty and try tackling any manual job. Bikes, of course, got into my blood very early, see elsewhere on here. So logically, I mucked around with them a lot. It wasn't so easy way back, the North East of England wasn't like the USA where every kid had a full set of garage tools and gas and arc welders at their disposal, and a nice shed to use them in. But we made do.

While the other kids around my neighbourhood shared the same love of cycling, it was me they all came to for fixes, not many having "hands-on" dads to help them out.

I suppose my first "radical" device emerged in the fifth form at Grammar School around 1965/66, when I obtained a pair of 1960s style speedway bike handlebars. My old man was Track Manager for Newcastle Speedway at Brough Park and he knew all the local riders very well, hence me being presented with the bars from some generous (or unknowing) donor.

To this day I remember thinking they weighed as much as the rest of the bike I had then, but on they went and I used it for school, These things were so wide I could hardly reach the ends, and I became something of a nuisance in the school bike sheds, taking up three spaces. The bike also caused chaos on the roads as I rode the three miles to and from school, overtaking parked cars in particular meant me filling the road and suffering the early beginnings of road rage. That particular vehicle was in fact a 16 inch frame with 24 inch wheels, making the handlebars as long as the whole thing!


That was all before I got introduced to Cycle Speedway - defintely Radical Two!

Once ensconced as a fully-fledged Newcastle CSC and/or South Shields CSC rider I'd already started playing with different gears, not so unusual except that I used completely different kit to the other lads, knocking chainsets up from ancient adult or kids bikes, even to the extent of carving chainrings to fit different bolt circle diameters.

Two of my favourites were 28-16 with a front ring from a 5-6 year old's minibike and 24-24 with the "big" rusty, plain iron ring and cranks coming from a polo bike. Obviously at one-to-one this was completely useless but I had it on my second bike for a few weeks trying to decide what to use it for. Definitely radical although totally impractical!

Although I wasn't the first to use cotterless cranks (not sure if that was Mike Dobson, Ray Turner or my best pal George Taylor) I was definitely first to use an Endrick stainless rim and also first to use an aluminium one (front only). Radical for us up in the Frozen North!

When Ashie Patterson woke me from my exile in 1978 I had no bike and a very short time to cobble one together. And so it came about that my girlfriend Janet's bike became a sacrifical lamb, and yes it was a girl's frame. For the local scrap matches we were having at the time on the old Eastfield track in Walker, I bent a piece of half inch copper pipe around the head tube just under the handlebar stem and wrapped the other end around the top of the seat tube just beneath the saddle. Radical!

This made it look ridiculous in the raw, but my cunning plan wasn't finished yet! Before it went on public display for the first time, I covered the copper tube with a length of black rubber pipe insulation and told everyone it was to protect my male credentials, as I was indeed still in the habit, even after a layoff of 8 years, of snapping chains at the gate with obvious painful consequences.

For the away trip to race Edinburgh at Redbraes in late 1978 I decided to make it real, and welded a chunk of 1 inch electrical conduit in place of the copper pipe - voila!

Thus emerged another "rad" TK experimental machine - the bike with THREE triangles (and 28-16)!


It's 2012 and things have moved on.
I was always a bit apprehensive about trying for a great gate, and justifiably so as I was prone to snapping something and landing on the crossbar painfully. Anyway, as I said elsewhere on here I tried stuff but suffered from it. I'm still not prepared to use 3/32nd inch chains so for our rebirth I've opted for a BMX 1/2" by 1/8" chain.

However, I'm still not at ease, just in case any of that superhuman strength returns to my left leg (OK, I jest) so I've just about put all my faith in these chains now but have come up with a fix that really does calm my nerves and will hopefully allow me to concentrate on the start properly as everyone should.

So what's my solution? This- borrowed from the Mountain Bike World with which I'm now much more familiar than I am with Cycle Speedway's current trends:


It's what we call a bashguard in MTB terminology, and was designed to prevent your biggest chainring clouting logs or rocks as you climb over them. If you're lucky it should also stop your chain slipping off to the outside. So, that can't happen now and I feel a bit more secure.

However, there's also a second, black alloy guard fitted here that you can just see between the chainring teeth and the Pink Panther. That was originally fitted to the front (outside) of this Truvativ chainset as sold by Cycle Speedway supplier Archie Wilkinson at a very reasonable price. So what I have now is the chain running in a sandwich, and if I do put all may faith in BMX chains this should be a total cure for my phobia, as the thing can't possibly jump off the rear sprocket. He says.


The pink bashguard is maybe a bit extreme and it's designed for a 38 tooth ring where I'm using a 33 but you could use two of the originals or even make some up from aluminium or polycarbonate sheet and fit them with spacer washers either side of the chainring. You'll most likely need longer chainring bolts though, and these are best sourced from a road bike dealer if you fancy trying this.

Next up, bearing in mind we haven't turned a wheel in anger yet and I've already built FOUR bikes since Christmas, is something of a peculiarity. It's a Mountain Bike. A Specialized RockHopper, to be more accurate. Nothing particularly unusual in this now, many folk are using MTB frames, it seems the Poles are well into them. If it's good enough for the new Kings of Cycle Speedway, it has to be good enough for an old Geordie veteran aswell, no?

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Here it's just been stripped of all those unnecessary items like cable guides and brake bosses. Looks like any old frame until you get it side-by-side with a real one, then it looks like this:

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You may notice a few unusual objects lurking around on both bikes, oparticularly around their bottom brackets. Ever since I became a decent gater, which didn't take me long somehow, I quickly got into the habit of snapping chains, pedals and even crank arms at the start of races. Now that was bad enough but the real downside was having your personal property suddenly descending onto your top tube, extremely painful and it also cost you points. Following many years of being a really keen Mountain Biker now (2012 as I write) I figured I'd like to put an end to this carry on, just in case I get some gating speed back in my twilight years! (you never know).

Here's an update of my Rockhopper in it's final guise. Just had the rear triangle altered by lowering the top of the seatstays where they jopin the seat tube. As you can see by comparing with the photo above they are now about 70mm below their original position, level with the back of the top tube (or "crossbar", as we Old Timers used to called it). The effect of this move is two-fold: first, it lifts the bottom bracket the best part of an inch to give it the ground clearance it desperately needed. It is now the same as the Trakstar bike which is bog standard CS pattern and I shouldn't bash the inside pedal coming out of the turns any more. And secondly, it also pulls back the lower end of the front forks to match the Rocky's originally lazy fork angle with the Trakstar. In other words, the wheel positions, bottom bracket position and fork angle are now as per Trackstar design. That means it's a Cycle Speedway bike! Not just any old CS bike though, as it could be the lightest in the world with those featherweight Mavic wheels slung on it. Shame it doesn't have a rider worthy of riding it! I'll be testing it rigorously in about four weeks from now (Thursday 14th June 2012) when the plaster comes off the thumb I broke in our second round Grand Prix at Cramlington on Saturday!

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So - my saviours come in the form of MTB bashguards, as we call them. Primarily aimed at Downhill racers, these devices are designed to prevent you grinding your chainwheel teeth away on rocks as you "bash" into - or preferably over - them. However, a side effect is that they help keep your chain where it should be - on your cogs. Of course the DH lads and many ordinary Cross Country riders these days also use chain retention devices. These usually consist of some sort of sprung roller that keeps the chain tensioned much like a rear derailleur on a multi-geared bike.

Your Nomadic Nutty Professor's bright idea to conserve whatever may be left at his abdominal extremity is to completely sandwich the chain between TWO of these bashguards. They are high enough either side and close enough to the chain to make it impossible (touches head) for it to leap off the chainwheel. He says. It must work, and even if it doesn't it sure has increased my peace of mind. When I was actively racing back in the early 1990s I always had it in the back of my mind when I lined up at the gate, to just ease off the force a fraction and prevent any such mishap. Doesn't take a genius to work out that I could have been quicker without this nagging doubt in my head.

(I have a strange feeling I've repeated myself again - old age, mateys!).

In case you're wondering, yes I know the chain could conceiveably come off the rear sprocket, but all my past experience (a wee bit) tells me it won't. And I have a future plan for that anyway. The other factor is of course the chain itself, and for years I used a very heavy Moped chain, 1/2" by 3/8", big enough to lay a ship's anchor and I hadn't realised just how much power they sapped from my weedy little spindles. However, I always snapped the lighter variety sooner or later, even heavy duty 1/2" by 3/16" tandem chain. These days, 1/2" by 1/8" BMX chain is very strong by comparison and I'm happy using that, especially since I know I have the thing trapped at just the right tension with my home brewed driveside chain tensioner. Aah, peace at last...

And finally (well, maybe) ready for Gavin to test ride:

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And below, finally! (well, almost...)

Rocky with new handlebars and stem and a tubeless rear tyre the same size as the front and that crazy centreline but too-high handlebar stem gone, ready to rip when TK's plaster cast comes off on Friday 13th June! Bike is well on it's way to becoming a Specialized Sub Seven (under 7kg)! It tips the scales today at 7.27kg but I can lop off enough to duck under that magic 7 if I ditch the heavy seatpost, chainset and bashguard!

*It rode pretty well, tested by Gavin Parr at decent speed and tk at a crawl with his busted thumb. It's extremely light on the front end and just wants to jump up off the deck while you're pedalling hard. Like a rocket from the gate but needs a slightly higher gearing than the current 32-18 to compensate for the smaller diameter rear wheel, so 32-17 for Tuesday night's practice, 17th July, and another update coming here soon.

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Here's a real gem, courtesy of Ashie Patterson, that he found on eBay recently (Feb 2012):

phillips speedtrack innerpages 600

As you may have gathered I'm right into the mechanics of our Sport, always have been, and there is another reason for my wanting to show you this image, because it wasn't just riders in the 50s who rode these - take a look below!


Oh yes! This is me sat on my own Phillips Speedtrack when we were just re-emerging in the late 1970s - this was a Challenge match we raced at Davisdon's Mains, Edinburgh in 1978 or 79. Both bikes were mine, I always liked to have a pair of them, just in case, and I'd got rid of my converted girl's bike well before this meeting. Always liked to have a selection of mounts available in the early days to make it easier to tinker with small changes and try to improve my performance. The Phillips would have come from a second hand shop or a skip, as most of our bikes did those days.

Latest stuff - It's late October 2012 and everyone in the Club who rides regularly has either a great bike or a new one except for Keith D who can probably be excused!

Here's my latest additions to the 2012 Archie Wilkinson frame after I'd finished the build with new hubs and spokes after finding the wheels on eBay:



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