Holdsworth 531 “not so” Special “now” Special again

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.




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