A.G.Duckett (1920's)

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  • Here is a project, but it's not really the bike. It is to ride to Oxford and back on this machine, in late December, carrying luggage.

    Pah! you will say - Oxford is an easy trip, and it even sounds as though he's going to take two days over it.

    Well, I'd like you to take into account that the combined age of the rider and bike is something like 170 years, and the only gear change available is to turn the back wheel.

    Here's the bike as it is this evening. It's just a question of finding all the bits and fettling it for the trip.

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  • combined age of the rider and bike is something like 170 years


    Respect, madman clubman

  • It's got rather a nice head badge.

    You may detect a mixed braking system. The Resilion on the back is my addition, and it's modified to use a normal cable with a Mafac style straddle cable. I have a separate pic. of this if anyone's interested.

    The Handlebars and stem are original, but the bars were intended to face the other way. This makes the bike unrideable for me, because I bang my knees on the bars if I ride out of the saddle.

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  • Thanks, Hippy.

  • Bike now back on the road. I did 30 plus moderately hilly miles on it today (Stevenage to Allingham and return) and the bike and I seemed to go reasonably well.

    As shown in the photo, it weighs about 25 lbs. and it's better than one might expect for climbing, although obviously it's harder than a modern fixed bike. It feels so different from my relatively modern road bike that there's no danger of forgetting which bike I'm on and trying to freewheel.
    It is noticeably more stable on descents than a more modern steeper frame.

    Just needs a few minor adjustments and a luggage rack and we'll be off!

    P.S. There wasn't really enough light for the photo - I'll do some more in daylight.

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  • That’s really nice. Those wooden(?) bar ends? What’re they like to use?

  • The handlebar grips are not wooden, they're rubber. These 'Shockstop' grips were quite widely used in the past, and as you may be able to see from the picture they were a good quality product. This pair are not very old - I can't perfectly remember the story, but I think Doug Pinkerton had some made and these came from him.

    The other pic shows the Resilion brake conversion. These brakes do have their problems, and the cables are a real nuisance. They can be made up, but it's expensive and the new cables are usually not quite as good as the originals. This conversion overcomes the problem and can be done with stock parts. The other end of the straddle cable is held with a solderless nipple, so all you need are two standard pear nipple inner cables, a bit of outer, a centre pull hanger, the solderless nipple and a couple of springs - I used Campag rear fork end adjuster springs.

    The front roadster style brake does work, but you would need courage to rely on this alone.

    Originally I imagined I was the first person to think of this, but it turns out this was quite a well known bodge in the past.

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  • Confession

    I chickened out of doing my Oxford ride on the Duckett.

    The re-assembly went well and I got it into a condition that made it reasonably good to ride, but after doing quite a few miles on it, I came to the conclusion that, with the addition of twenty pounds of luggage, it just wouldn't be much fun to do the ride on it. I'm confident I could have managed to get there and back, but I owe a duty to my hosts not to arrive speechless through exhaustion. Also I had in mind my clubmate Martyn Roach's comment that " a racing man's greatest asset is his enthusiasm". As you know, I no longer claim to be a racing man, but I want to nurse the enthusiasm I still have, so struggling back through the western suburbs could easily have been a damaging experience.

    So I took the (relatively) easy option and used my Sunbeam (see pic below). This unlikely looking machine has proved to be a surprisingly efficient mile eater over the past few years. It's a long way from perfect and it has no pretensions to speed, but you can just put your leg over it and go.
    The only preparation I did, apart from a general check, was to change the wheel with the Sturmey AM for one with an AW to give a bottom gear of 48" as opposed to 57" with the AM.

    Originally I had thought that I could cope with the climbs on fixed (carrying luggage remember), by walking where necessary and blaming my age. Possibly this wasn't a great strategy since walking isn't much fun whatever age you are, but I found that in practice it would not have been all that practicable, because there is no provision for it. After West Wycombe on the climb up towards Stokenchurch (which is a category one climb for me!), there is nowhere to walk except in the road - walkers are directed to take to the old road, which is much steeper and obviously unsuitable for tired old blokes pushing laden bikes. I didn't particularly notice what provision there was on the other climbs, but I don't suppose it's any better.

    So, originally the combined rider/bike age was going to be 170, if we can be permitted to take the age of the Sunbeam from the age of the frame (not really correct in view of the kit) we still can boast of a combined age of about 150 years.

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  • I chickened out of doing my Oxford ride on the Duckett.

    Nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, like you say, it’s more important to be realistic!

  • Hi Clubman, I remember you riding the Sunbeam on Hounslow Wheeler Club rides. I had just spent a lot of money on a trendy Ribble frame. You dropped me on every climb! I learn't my lesson, it's not the bike, it's the person riding it!
    I stopped wasting money on the latest trends after that experience. Happy memories!

  • Thankyou Greytyke,

    Your post made me smile - not so much because it is rather flattering to my modest abilities as a rider, but because you have put my philosophy in a nutshell.

    I seem to remember some one, some time saying: 'It's not about the bike'. I don't know what aspect he was referring to - possibly a medical programme - but I think that the more cyclesport is about the bike rather than the rider, the less interesting it is.

    So, that's one thing that Henri Desgrange and I have in common !

    Going back to your post, I hope we waited for you. HDW clubruns are not supposed to be about dropping anyone - although, as mentioned elsewhere today, training runs were another matter.
    Anyway, if you've kept up your riding since the time you mention, I suspect our positions might well be reversed now.

  • Not so sure about that. You were about 4 stone lighter than me!

  • " I'm confident I could have managed to get there and back"

    I got near to proving this last week when I rode the Duckett nearly as far as Oxford: Radlett, Ivinghoe, Radlett (just under fifty miles). Of course, it's much easier in the summer and without luggage, but I think this route probably involved more climbing.

    The Bike

    I have improved this a bit since last year. The steering was too heavy - I traced this to the crown race which was slightly too tall and was fouling on the cup of the bottom lug of the head tube - not a problem I've come across before, but a slightly different (smaller) crown race cured the problem.

    The front brake was also unsatisfactory in that it caused juddering. The cause was an imperfect rim which was slightly dented - that is, not perfectly round. This has always been a defect with rod brakes - they are sensitive to defects which would barely be noticeable with calliper brakes. I've now found a better wheel and braking is much improved, but although I'd like to remove the back brake (which would make turning the back wheel round to change the gear easier) I really don't fancy relying on this ancient method of stopping.

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  • Gasped around 10 miles today on a triple bike at least 3x younger, and me at least 2/3rds your age
    Just amazed really

  • Here's an advert I've just come across by chance. I happened to be reading Cycling for 27th June 1924 (as you do) and I found this:

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  • £9 and 9?
    Absolute scandal over pricing ;)

  • That's £9 and 9 shillings, 9 Guineas or £9.45p.

    I think that was fairly expensive by the standards of 1924.

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A.G.Duckett (1920's)

Posted by Avatar for clubman @clubman