MCL Micro(?) Tandem

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  • Not a massive CP, but keen to upgrade this in time if the size suits.

    The ladyfriend is only little at 5ft tall, and I’m 6ft, so during a search for a tandem to suit both our heights I came across this an hour and a half up the road. It was incredibly cheap so worth a punt for the novelty.

    MCL tandem by Peter Radnall.

    There was only one other photo that I could find online of one of this tandem, I doubt many were made - likely much less than the Micro Cycle folding bike that Radnall is known for.

    I contacted the shop in Cheltenham, the grandson of the guy that would have sold it said he’d ask his dad if there was anything he’d remember from back in the 70’s.

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  • I meant to just clean up the dirt, tighten everything up, and remove the rust. All of a sudden the frame was totally dismantled on the gravel in front of me.

    The stickers refused to come off easy even with a heatgun so I have lost them. I have photos of the ‘tandem’ sticker to try to recreate on the computer, but saved the damaged MCL and Williams stickers.

    The Sturmey hub was totally black with dirt.

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  • I accidentally went and rattle-canned the frame and it looks so much cleaner already. I would prefer to have some great colourway, but probably I’ll keep it white.

    The spraypaint job isn’t great, but it is mostly a stop-gap. One day maybe this will get a sandblast and ‘proper’ paintjob.

    Scrubbed down the cotterpin stuff, and already it’s looking a lot cleaner.

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  • The Sturmey’s from ‘76 but from what I read about the other MCL’s, these parts often predate the frame.

    Ideally I will invest in newer non-cotterpin drivetrain and different cockpit, but then this bike becomes a totally different beast. For the time being I’d like to keep it as original as possible even if I am spraypainting stuff willy-nilly.

    So far one of the seatposts was a bit bent so I’ve replaced it.

    I need a stoker stem so I can attach different stoker bars. Same again for the cockpit. The original is awfully narrow and feels like it was cut down.

    If anyone has a shopper length 1” stem and classic super high rise and wide shopper bars, I’m keen. It’s that or I’m buying some online and hoping there’s enough height for a comfortable ride.

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  • These restoration projects are so ruddy satisfying to watch. Looking forward to see the finished bike, lovely so far!

  • this is brilliantly weird!
    how about chopper bars on the front?!

  • @vp1337 thanks. It’s not a serious build or resto, just a tidy-up I guess! I could do with getting repro decals then I’d consider it a real restoration.

    @bigshape Yea I was thinking that, but it’s a really cramped setup - I fear that any backsweep on chopper bars I’m just smacking myself in the side, or knee.

    Really I’d like a tall folding/shopper bike stem with a bit of reach, and then big risers with no sweep, so it gives as much reach as possible.

    I had tried a bmx handlebar but the clamp area was too small for a spare stem and impossible to make secure.

    The chains have been soaking overnight, they’ll get a toothbrush on them shortly to free up the caked-on grime today or tomorrow. Maybe I’ll look for the plastic chain cleaner thing and use that to speed up the process

    The chainrings will get a scrub, and I’ll clean out the Sturmey gear chain hole that’s full of gunk. Then pour new oil into the oil hole and hope it doesn’t internally combust.

    Someone online had replaced their Microcycle rear hub for the type that you backpedal to change gears. Sounds great, but maybe it’ll cost a lot to find a good hub or get the wheel built. Probably that will wait until I have decided if the bike gets all new components. The current wheels must be original, and aren’t too shabby - Rigida with some Raleigh tyres. No Chinese Ebay parts in sight!

    I’d sprayed silver a couple components that were rusted awful, including the stoker bars and the stem. It is more as a test for aesthetics. If the silver looks awful then it’s easy to give them a quick sand down and spray original black again.

  • Great work so far, keep the pics coming!

  • I decided to future-proof myself. Rather than go spend more money on more rattle cans and be more annoyed at waste and poor finish, why not do it ‘properly’ ? Having got this far, just give the damn bike a dozen coats of the metal paint until it’s good and solid and consistent. Besides, a litre tin of paint was a fraction of the cost of two cans of spray.

    I’d wanted a ‘proper’ compressor for some time, and I had used an incredibly powerful incredibly old one at the ex’s dad’s in Italy. Unfortunately I chose the wrong week and neither Lidl, nor Aldi, nor the store that has Aldi deadstock, had a compressor or any air tools.

    Probably those little ones meant for pumping car tyres would have done this job as well, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave that last old one languishing in the local B&Q. It was clearance at less than any small tyre inflator anyway. Huge, well, 24L.

    Seems that the compressor fittings that I’d bought over a decade ago for an art project were no longer there. I’d thrown away all the useful bits. So, knackered after cycling everywhere I left the job to my parents, of going back to B&Q for the fittings. That meant waiting all afternoon and watching the sun go down.

    Anyway, a quick rush job to test everything worked and I didn’t bother to thin the paint. Big mistake. It was spluttering and the finish was bad. I decided at this point the worst I can do is sand it off or even paint strip it if I do horribly, so just get a feel of the gun and application.

    The top edges got used as that practice. Where the paint sat well and didn’t splutter actually has quite a good finish. If I can thin the paint a bit tomorrow and get the whole thing consistent, then by mid-week I should have a few coats on and a nice shiny white frame.

    Or maybe after the white coats I should consider a different colour. No. Keep it white.

    My excuse to myself for investing in the compressor was that the sheds need a coat of varnish, the wooden shoe lasts need varnish, the wood for lining the interior of the shed needs varnish, etc. There are a dozen jobs that this beast can make good for... and now I can achieve my goal of impulse-buying air tools from Aldi/Lidl as well.

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  • Rad. Looking forward to seeing this turn out.

  • Well, I’m learning all sorts the hard way, about thinning paint and using an air gun, and thickness and drying time and all the ways it can turn out badly! Most of all I’ve learnt how important prep is, and not being lazy or impatient.

    I’ve decided that the paint job will be bad on on this no matter what now. If I want it to look good then I need to strip it all off, sand down, and start afresh from as bare metal as possible. Right now that’s not a priority. Priority is getting it assembled and safe to ride for the weekend.

    It was a lot of impatience on my part, and way too many variables not least trying to airgun over a relatively cold weekend outdoors with frequent gusts of wind and no real consistency in conditions. So long as it looks okay from 6ft away, and the paint doesn’t chip off when locked up, then it will have to do.

    The stoker stem has proven to be impossible/expensive to replace. Who’s have thought? I suppose longterm i can always look into 25.4-1 1/8” shims and use a modern A-Head stem.

    New stem and handlebars for the front have been ordered from ebay, and unfortunately the bars are period correct but the stem isn’t. Trying to get a super super long with any reach proved difficult, so i had to get the Promax one.

    Chains are still soaking. I gave them a little scrub but they need longer to loosen all the caked- on grease. Might have to use a tough toothbrush for the chainrings as they haven’t been soaking.

    Went to the bearings shop and got some new headset bearings today as well.

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  • Subbed, obviously!

  • I'm really trying to hate on this just to keep up the berating but its crazy enough that I'm intrigued.
    I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole but I'm glad you are so I can watch without wasting money

  • What a cool little bike! The Sturmey Archer ought to wake up with a bit of oil inside it. 16" wheels or 20"? If 16" then redband Chopper front tyres plZ.

    Speaking of Choppers, would Chopper bars help with your stem/reach? I think they come in a number of heights.

  • The stoker stem has proven to be impossible/expensive to replace. Who’s have thought? I suppose longterm i can always look into 25.4-1 1/8” shims and use a modern A-Head stem

    Is it that you’re struggling to find any stoker stem or just in the length etc you need?

    If it’s a 25.4mm post, then that’s 1” so shimming a 1 1/8” stem will be dead easy.

    The tandems we have at work have legit stoker stems and 27.2 posts and need shins and the shim is always a bodge because it’s not a size that’s readily available.

    You should be able to find a 1” - 1 1/8” shim no bother. Or even a 1” ahead stem.

  • Riiiiiight. Long awaited update!


    First thing’s first... the paint I used turned terrible. Advertised as metal paint, and on test dried fine. But then on the frame it was awful so must have been my prep and application. It came on too thick, never set or dried properly and peeled like gluey white painty shit. The finish of the frame is awful. At least the rust is more or less gone, but it still looks absolute shit. I decided that after three days of torture trying to prep and sort out the bad paint, wait for it to dry etc, I’d just leave it to be utter teen stain and get on with reassembly and have it ready for bringing to London today.

    The headset bearings were either missing or disappeared as soon as I opened the headset, so half of one set were replaced. The others weren’t rusted, just dirty and dry, so i lubed up the races. There are maybe 20 or 30 tiny tiny bb’s each set rather than a more modern headset with a half dozen caged. They were something tiny like 1/16”.

    Replacing the jockey wheel, again it was a non-standard spacer-thing inside (to fit over the bolt) which was also cracked into three pieces, but I had to reuse it with the new jockey wheel off a spare rear mech as no spares in the box. Replaced the spring, tho.

    Cotter pins are hell, and I certainly wasted my time by removing all four cranks rather than just one side and removing the axle in-situ. All the same the front bb was dry as a dry thing, the rear was just a bit gammy. Wasted an hour putting them back because I’m an idiot and forgot which side was the drive side cup. Also, different length axle ends messed with my head. Mashed one or two of the cotter threads as I don’t have a press, but got there in the end both removal and reassembly.

    Wheels need truing a little and front still needs a hub service but that can wait. Rear hub was soaked with oil and gears shift relatively well. Well, as well as can be since the actual nubbin thing is missing from the 3 speed shifter. I made something to fit for the moment but it’s not great.

    Initially and with some success, I attached shims and tried bmx bars on the front, but only til the 100mm rise shopper bars arrived from bankrupt bike parts. Super long adjustable stem from Quattro too, so not very in-keeping with the 70’s thing but way more useful for tuning in the sketchy handling. Matches the black ITM ahead stem, with sprayed-silver scrapyard mtb risers. Need a proper shim in that stem but it is solid enough for now.

    Riding solo it worked fine once I got the chain tension. Initially the timing chain had no slack on the top so it was jumping teeth at the back. Sussed that and shitty brakes work enough to slow and stop. Definitely need a good set of touring long drop brakes.

    Next, I totally ballsed up days of trying to make a maaaaaassive padded custom bike bag. Rushing is not the way. Nor is massive 3ft panels of solid foam-backed ripstop. Struggled through and one of the attempts just about fits the bike with seats and stem removed (wheels left on, sod removing them).

    5 hours of travel later, bus across Swindon, on a coach to Victoria, through the Circle and Jubilee lines and then yet another bus across to the darkest depths of beyond Greenwich/Woolwich/etc. 15 minutes reassembly, quick dinner and bam!

    We tested it out for half an hour around the dead quiet suburban streets, and I was well jealous of a couple cool kids on their bmx’s doing manuals... and they seemed a bit jealous of us on the tandem!

    From now on it will be known as twitchy-bike, because if you drop the ball for even a split second, you don’t wanna...

    Gonna give it a proper whirl tomorrow on the Thames path, or at least as far as we can get. It is crazy tiring as captain. Maybe it’s easier on a normal size where you use less muscle to dampen the twitch.

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  • Seatpost wasn’t holding fast, it was slipping down a bit and the clamping bolt was bending, so by the time we got from Charlton to Deptford, time for a pit stop and an extra seat clamp.

    Bit of a when Harry met Sally moment in the garden...!

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  • Love this, great write-up too.

  • Cool bike
    I'd avoid putting any kind of pedal controlled anything on a tandem, wouldn't want that power in the stokers feet.

    I'd definitely make replacing the brakes a priority, maybe even try to find some sort of cheap third/drag brake option.

    It kinda reminds me of a KHS Sausage I built up recently.

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  • Yep. Totally agree regarding brakes and stuff. I was surprised how well they stopped, but it was a dry day with incredibly slow speed.

    Do you mean like the pedal controlled gear shifting hubs? After our maiden voyage yesterday, I think the current 3 speed hub is totally serviceable. Stoker didn’t notice the chain at all. Key problem was that we spent all the time on the lowest gear even on the flat, and never got enough speed to need the other two.

    With that in mind I had the thought that maybe replacing the freewheel with something larger (or chainring smaller) so the gearing is lower, and we can make use of the range - it would certainly aid getting uphill at the zero mph we appear to be using this at.

    Once or twice I forced us to go faster and it wasn’t too skittish. Definitely reminded me of the dodgy danger cargo bike; don’t look at the wheel, look straight ahead, drop the arms and relax, no death grip. That dampened out a lot of the minor wobbles and meant I had the strength left to rebalance every shift of the stoker’s weight whenever she fidgeted.

    Didn’t actually ride with carrier bag on the bars. Sod that.

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  • Do you mean like the pedal controlled gear shifting hubs?

    Yeah I think you mentioned something about them further up the thread. What size chainring is that on the rear?

    I reckon a front wheel with a few more spokes would be nice too. What size are the wheels?

  • Haven’t counted but it’s massive. At a guess it’s 50-something. Yea I did mention it but only as a ‘maybe’ in case the Sturmey chain was annoying, but it isn’t, fortunately.

    Wheels are Rigida 16” jobbies.

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  • Ah 16” is cool, you can use the 2” wide Chopper front tyres which are comfy-as and quite cheap.

    A bigger sprocket is probably a good idea. If it’s like the gearing on my RSW-16, I can get it up to about 30mph in 3rd, which is going to be way too tall for most riders.

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MCL Micro(?) Tandem

Posted by Avatar for pdlouche @pdlouche