• 29/09/2019 18:47 | Anonymous member

    I am relatively new to Regular/Club cycling as I only cycled to school when I was a teenager and I didn’t really take to it as none of my school friends were cyclists. It was a means to an end rather than for enjoyment. Once I started work, it was how quickly could I buy a car, so I didn’t cycle again for a few years. I then got a job close to home and was offered a second hand Holdsworth to use for travel. Again it was a means to an end and once I moved jobs again the bike was placed into the garage where it stayed for the next 25 years gathering dust and rust.

    Once I hit the big 50, I realised that I needed to do something to get fit and lose some weight and I remembered I had a bike in the garage. But I didn’t realise that it probably could have done with some maintenance over the years as it looked worse for wear.



    I had to buy a new bike to get fit, and made the decision to take the bike to the dump as I thought at the time it was beyond repair and looked old fashioned. (Yes I know, - what was I thinking?!) Luckily I didn’t as I am a collector/hoarder and find it difficult to throw anything away.

    Once fitter I then signed up for a big charity ride and needed to up my game. So I Joined San Fairy Ann to help with my fitness and stamina. On these weekly club rides I started talking to a few club members about bikes etc. and we got onto the subject of my steel bike and my plans to scrap it. I was immediately reprimanded and told that they were worth saving and I should look into it. So with a flea in my ear I did.

    One those runs I got some great advice form a few members, Del Leslie, Phil Thorpe, Ralph Robinson, and Paul Grout who had all just been on that years Eroica and I saw a few photos of their fantastic looking bikes. I also got some advice from Eric Watts as well as he has many steel bikes.

    I then set myself a target for completion for the L'Eroica in 2 years as I was already signed up for the charity ride the next year and that was a priority.

    I did some research on the net about Holdsworth, my bike, and the best ways to restore it to allow me to make my decisions. Do I fully restore it or just clean it up, keep it the same colour or change the colour etc?

    Oh my God I thought,  - how many choices for what to do and how many differences of opinion on refurb/leave, some very heated. However it was my bike and my decision, so full refurb it was.

    When researching on line I found some great photos of the famous Holdsworth racing team from the 70s, you may recognise one or two of the riders in the photo below, definitely one leastways. So, that was the way to go then, - it must be Holdsworth racing colours for its new shiny coat.

    I took my frame number and the model (531 Special) and looked up as much as I could on line to make the decisions of what would be best for the bike. This frame number was in a batch of bikes built in 1983/84 and the Special was sold as Frame and Forks only.

    Holdsworth made the Special for 9 years from 1976 to 1985 and ceased making them just before they were taken over by Falcon cycles.

    Knowing this, it was a big help with the guilt of changing it from Red and scrapping the original parts. When it was bought originally it came as a blank canvas and the original owner built the bike up with a mixture of Weinmann, Suntour and Campag parts. Meaning I could do anything I wanted without ruining its authenticity and certainly making it better.

    First job was to find someone to clean it up and re-spray it. Google found a company in Dartford called Colour Tech, so I rang them up. After a 10 minutes conversation, I was convinced that I was doing the right thing in changing the colour as David from ColourTech was a big fan. He knows Geoff Wiles and many of the racing team from that time having worked on Holdsworth, and has been painting them for many years. In his shop he has all of the period decals and paint colours, and still paints Holdsworth for Planet X.

    The bike was stripped down and taken up to him for a look. It needed some cleaning up, and rubbing down, he added the bottle bosses for me and once painted it was fantastic looking, probably better than when it was painted in the 80s.


    Next Job was to find someone to help with the build as I am not a gifted as some of the club members with a wrench. One day when I was in Senacre Cycles talking to Paul while having my carbon bike serviced. I mentioned what I was planning. He immediately asked if he could do the build as he didn’t get many opportunities these days to work on a full rebuild of a steel bike now that carbon is the norm.

    We discussed what I needed to source based on what was salvageable from my box of parts. I must have spent hundreds of hours on EBAY looking for parts, bidding far more than I needed to, but in the end what I got what I wanted. I was set on making the bike full Campagnolo, but with a group set that would be easy to ride on the L'Eroica as it is pretty hilly. I also bought myself a Dremel to polish up the good parts myself.




    We had a few dramas during the build and I had to swap out some bits to make it work, but the final build has come out brilliantly and I am very happy with it, so to finish it off I treated myself to a brand new Brooks’s saddle.


    The complete bike from the shiny new paint to the polished chrome and alloy parts looks fantastic.


    Well, I set a 2 year build and I took 1 year and 362 days to complete it. I managed to get it back home fully completed just 3 days before the 2018 L'Eroica in Bakewell. I had a 10 mile test ride the night before we set off for Derbyshire and entered the punishing 60 mile sportive over grass, gravel, big hills, tunnels and rain a couple of days later.

    I made sure that I took time for a photo opportunity.




  • 23/09/2019 14:56 | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    • by “Steel Baroudeur” Ralph Robinson

      I caught the ‘classic steel bike’ bug following my first trip to the L’Eroica bike festival five years ago.

      One evening whilst trawling eBay’s classic bike section, for a possible restoration project of my own, a bright luminous orange bike leapt off the screen at me and warranted further investigation. Apparently it was a ‘Norman Hill’ road racing bike. I’d never heard of him or his bikes and not being an expert by any stretch of the imagination put in a quick call to Del Leslie thinking he might know and able to enlighten me. But no, Del had been looking at it too and was equally mystified.

      I decided to do some Googling of my own to see what I could unearth about the bike or even Norman Hill. Bingo, - I got three useful hits;

    • 1.    Norman Hill, born in Leeds, had been a six day sprint racer turning pro’ in 1966 to 1973. 
    • 2.    Another Norman Hill bike sold at Bonham’s auction house, London, for £925 in 2012 (serial No. 012).
    • 3.    Bike, serial No.001, was owned by an enthusiast on Vancouver Island, Canada.

    Intrigued by all this information I took a punt and bid £200. I got it, nobody else had bid, - result!

    When I duly unboxed my prize I was still unsure of what I had in my possession. A hideous bright orange bike of some age, scruffy and well used, with original Cinelli handle bars and Campagnolo brakes and down shift levers and a lovely Regal saddle. However the drive train was a later Shimano 600 series group set that didn’t sit right with rest of the bike. A serial number of 042 lead me to believe not many of these bikes had been made.

    Fortunately I was able to contact the owner of serial No.1, a Michael Burdge of Vancouver Island, as his email address was attached to the image I had previously found.  He informed me that the very same Mr. Norman Hill had recently bought it back off him for $220. Not only was Norman still around he lives in Richmond, Vancouver. Better still, I could have his email address. It just got better and better.

    Whilst this research was taking place I was eager to get on with the restoration. Having dismantled the bike to all its component parts and put aside all the modern bits I then inspected the paint and decals. The paint work appeared to be original but was a bit far gone in places also the decals were scuffed here and there. I had wanted to do as much of the restoration as I could myself. 

    First job was to trawl the internet for replacement decals but alas it proved fruitless but I did track down a chap in Melbourne (Greg Softley of Cyclomondo) who could reproduce the decals from AutoCad format. Having been an engineering draughtsman I set about fine measuring and spacing of lettering and images. That done, the frame and forks were media blasted back to metal, and with the help of a Maidstone based automotive paint supplier I managed to match that colour on a RAL chart, where a perfect match was found. 

    Armed with some aerosol cans of primer and top coat I set to work respraying the frame. As a test piece the forks were tackled first and I must say that I was impressed with the white primer coat. So on with the top coat. Oh dear, an unmitigated disaster. Not only was the colour incorrect it was strong in places and grinning through in others and in a desperate bid to improve the result tears not only ran down my face but down the paint as well. I had to admit defeat.

    Thankfully I have acquaintance, Dave, who is a high end automotive sprayer who also does some incredible jobs on motorbike frames as well. Following a call to him he said that he would undertake the task for me. For a few notes he had performed a minor miracle. Apparently it is an illuminescent colour which is notoriously difficult to spray, the paint container has to be constantly shaken to keep the mix even also the undercoat is dark brown not white. Well you live and learn!

    During this time the decals had arrived from Australia. These were given to Dave to add prior to the lacquer coat being applied. Hey presto nice new paint job.

    I finally emailed Norman with a list of questions about him and his bike. Thankfully, to my surprise he replied. There’s too much to add for this article but he was delighted to hear from me and gave me as much of the information he could remember. Would you believe it, he still has draw full of unused decals that I could of had. I shouldn’t have been so impatient. I managed to locate the Campagnolo drive train components from sources in America, who seem to have an endless supply and also Hillary Stone, in Wales, who is an excellent supplier of all vintage bikes and parts.

     When Norman retired, from racing, he went onto coach, first in the USA and finally in Canada. Eventually  he set up his own cycle manufacturing plant employing Derek Bailey from Geoffrey Buttler cycles to work with him in Vancouver. The salient points are that all the components used on his bikes were Campag’. The bike is called the ‘Bailey Fast Back’ (due to the unusual seat post clamping method, which was their design). Norman informed me that he had no end of trouble getting that paint colour right! He had only ever exported TWO bikes back to the UK. One sold at Bonhams and I’ve got the other one! Now that’s rare!

    So go on polish up those old steelies, and ride with the Baroudeurs, who knows what stories may be out there.

    Oh, and that colour orange is in tribute to his wife, who is Dutch. 

  • 23/09/2019 14:55 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the beginning of the week it was looking promising for potentially 7 hardy riders on the second Baroudeurs ride of the year. Weather was looking good as well for a sunny ride.

    However due to various commitments such as forgetting that your bike was in bits the night before, working and a dog walkers sudden sickness we were down to 3. (Myself, Del and Paul G)

    We were joined by Paul W and Miranda on their modern bikes to make us 5 who headed off to the Rare breeds centre in Ham street.


    We set off from the Hockey and Cricket club at 9.30 after we waited for to see if we had any stragglers turn up. This took us through Frittenden and  Biddenden arriving at the Rare breeds in good time. Breakfast was quick and to their usual good standards.


    Once fed we headed back through Bethersden and Headcorn to Marden allowing us to enjoy a pint of cabbage water at the club bar and watch some village cricket. It was mentioned that a gym would be good at the club, but not sure if that was for us to use or the fielder at silly point to use.

    43 miles,  Elevation 1,954ft, Ave speed 15.9mph, 5 riders, no punctures

  • 23/09/2019 14:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Well done to Ciaran Johnson for incorporating a ‘Steel Baroudeurs” ride in to his lead for AMICI SFA on Saturday 1stJune.

    Eight riders turned out including three from groups other than Amici. The ages of the bike ranged from Andy Mackays newly aquired late ‘40s, early ‘50s Holdsworth (soon to be the subject of a restoration), through to Rick Gambling’s modern steel steed with Di2.

    The weather could not have been better for riding an old steel classic with shiny spokes! The sun was out, the temperature was hot and the bikes glistened!

    To take into account the abilities of riders from differing groups (and the abilities of the older bikes) Ciaran had kept the route down to 40miles with minimal climbing and we made our way from Marden to our coffee stop at Suzy’s Kitchen in Tenterden.

    All in all a great day out and the type of classic ride which we hope to do more of during the summer months.

    If you want to be kept informed of any steel rides which we do in the future you can get in touch with me on 07736 518935 or 

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