Nice Try

The other day a friend rang who had scored a Bickerton Portable MkII on the net and wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Which should have made me think twice. However, being a fan of all bikes British, I went and bought it for a very moderate sum indeed. Which should have made me think twice over.

So, what about a Bickerton Portable? Checking things up on the net does not yield very substantial information, even the Wikipedia article is more than skinny. Made from alloy mostly. 10 kilos weight. Not bad.

Also, there´s a clip on youtube which shows Mr Bickerton himself arriving at a train station on one of his bikes at the same time as his train, he folds his bike down in a jiffy, and vanishes in the station, bike in hand, in time to catch his train. Great.

In the real world I had this heap lying in front of my garage and started to wonder.

Like that perhaps?

 

And where is this going to go?

I have seen long saddle posts in my time, being 6″6´tall, but the Bickerton one beats them all.

Just a few hours later: This is what I think it must be like.

And what does it ride like? After pumping up the age old brittle tires as hard as I dared, I took my fate into my hands. Here´s what the cockpit looks like when in flight:

Exactly my thoughts.

The bike is definitively not for fast, spirited riding. Just look at those handlebars, the unbelievable seat pin – it all adds up to a feeling which can only be described as impossibly wobbly. You´re good when the bike takes you within about 10 or 20 degrees of where you point it. Still more unbelievably, the machine sports two different wheel sizes,

the smaller one being in front and not exactly adding to anything even remotely reminding of a stable ride.

But I doubt anyone in the seventies (the Bickerton was launched in 1971 according to some sources) would have noted. Those days were the low point of the bicycle as such, the only category cycles would be classed in was price point, hardly any good bikes were to be had anyway, and the car reigned supreme. The Bickerton was expressly made as a supplement to the car (or the train), so I suppose it wasn´t seen as the insult to serious cyclists that it must be perceived as being today.

El Cheapo

And cheap it is, truth be told. Look at this dropout end. Squashed tubing, no strengthening inside, full stop.

Much was made in advertising from the fact that Mr Bickerton was an aircraft engineer – whatever that was supposed to mean. I guess I know now why I have an aversion to flying.

Chromed steel rims, cheap plated and plasic covered q/r levers everywhere, but a min insert marking as a saving grace.

Never heard of Ursuss with the double “S” – are they the Italian manufacturer of bike components who may have lost an S over the years?

Cheapest German brand of pedals, too, plus a front hub (and front dropout) in the same vein.

Also the chainset is the cheapest available given the large chainwheel size.

The funny axle nut is there to catch the rear dropout end when the bike is folded, I think. In the manual it´s not described very in-depth – there´s mention of pushing the folded down handlebars until the catch frees the wheels.

Also the construction as such is so very quirky, and definitively not made for prolonged serious use. Look at that brake bridge. Luckily my bike has a coaster brake, but just imagine a brake caliper hanging from it, and what it would do to the two small bolts attaching the bridge to the stays. Flexing is an understatement really.

Or look at this cable clip. It moves when you look at it.

Lastly the saddle, which according to some illustrations on the net could well be original.

The wrench ingeniously suspended from it was put there by the former owner who obviously hadn´t understood the folding mech and undid all the nuts everytime.

So how does it fold?

You have this funny lever which has a flat surface into which a hook hooks. The hook is attached to one half of the central square tube, the lever to the other.

You turn the lever to the left, the flat gives the hook a little play…

… which allows it to be swung out…

.. and the Bickerton becomes a folding bike. It has a hinge…

by the shape of which the bike can be indentified as a Mk II, BTW, and which is fixed to the tube by bolts, as is everything else. Bickerton prided himself by saying that he didn´t use a single weld on his bike.

The tube doesn´t just consist of two empty halves, but the screwheads in the two faces of the folded frame insert themselves into the oposite face´s holes, giving at least some little strength to the construction.

But the quirkiness goes on.

One of the pedals must be removed in transit, so in order to facilitate removal it can be blocked with the help of a small plate, showing clearly that the pedals must be original:

Now it´s free…

… and now it´s blocked and can be unsrewed. When the bike is in transit, the pedal lives in the hole in the square main tube behind the seat tube, where, BTW, it sits very losely and to my mind is lost easily.

It says in the manual not to forget to un-block the pedal when the bike is assembled, else the pedal is unscrewed when in use, but I´m not sure if the whole contraption would make today´s health and safety people happy. Also it says in the manual that the pedal doesn´t need to be screwed in the crank eye very tightly – I think that is so tell-tale with regards to what sort of use the Bickerton was meant for.

One more major headache is the complicated system of catches, safety tubes and springs which makes up the extension. (Note how the headset is plastic…)

So once you have progressed this far, the handlebars must be folded down. Mr. Bickerton did invent a device that made folding during a ride impossible, but it´s also quite impossibly complicated to use when operating the folding mechanism.

Got it? No?

See?

Let´s turn it round

Now the Bickerton from below.

I really hope that the small bolt isn´t the only thing holding the b/b shell, but I wouldn´t be surprised if it were. Anyway the big hole is where the seat tube is attached.

This nice little plate sits on the underside of the square main tube right behind the steering head. Could anyone please explain how this bike came to be made in Australia? No mention of it I could find on the net. There´s another, different Australian plate on bickertonbicyclespares dot co dot UK (which site I am very much indebted to for much info in this blogpost), but no explanation is given as to where Bickertons were really built.

What else?

I´m quite certain that mine was made for the German market, what with the dynamo lighting and the Shimano 3CC coaster hub,

yes, the one with the cranked mech for which others just used a toggle chain,

because people here love their coaster brakes. But then, all of these items could have been retrofitted, of course.

When getting the bike a few days ago, I also was attracted to it because the whole drive train on my bike is like new, chain, sprocket, alloy chainwheel – what does that tell us?

Yes, you´re right. Think twice. But then again, every cyclist who owns bespoke or other great bikes should have a Bickerton just to remind him or her every now and then of how lucky they are.

Not getting rid of mine in a hurry.

Advertisements

6 Comments

  1. Bruce
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    it is said that the Bickerton was used as a source of inspiration when the Brompton was designed. It occurs to me that had the Bickerton been a really good bike, maybe the Brompton wouldn’t exist; no point in making something that is only as good as the competition. No accident then that the Brompton ended up being both heavier and a lot more rigid… Bickertons were usually built with shimano 3s hubs but for the UK market they didn’t have coaster brakes fitted.

    Recently the brand name has been sold/resurrected and you can now buy what is essentially a rebadged bike (a Tern I think) as a Bickerton. For good or ill the design does not obviously hark back to the original.

    On a different topic I am seeking a replacement rubber insert for a plunger brake as fitted to a Miele which I assume is of 1950s vintage. Any ideas where I could get such a thing? If push comes to shove I plan to make one.

    thanks in advance

    Bruce

    • Posted September 30, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Bruce,
      thank you for your long and interesting comment.
      Plunger brake linings can be had at Heinz Fingerhut, velo-classic dot de.

      • Bruce
        Posted September 30, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        many thanks for the link to velo-classic, I shall pursue that.

        Thank you for an interesting blog!

      • Posted October 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        … and thank you for reading it.

  2. Colin Irving
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    HI,I enjoyed your article about The Bickerton.I used to have a ‘Mk 1’ version, the frame hinge on that was just a steel cupboard type hinge made from sheet steel, mine broke and

    dumped me on the ground, luckily at low speed.I think there was a third version of the hinge but I could be wrong.I found the fold was easy as long as you didn’t start laughing at

    it’s complication half way through the sequence.You are correct about the silly clip holding the Sturmey cable, that causes problems.The little QR gizmo used to slip down and undo

    the pedal, the rivet didn’t hold it tight enough.The next most dangerous Thing in my opinion was the method of fixing the fork legs by rolled steel pins at the top,eventually they

    wear the holes in the fork legs oval making braking /going down hill ‘ interesting’. I think the head bearings are just nylon bushes which doesn’t help.

    Funnily enough I was quite fond of it ,it was quite a relaxing ride once you were used to the spaghetti like handling, I went to Le Tour one year on mine with my luggage in the bag

    between the bars.I think the later bars had a cross-brace by the way

    I found a link explaining where it was made, Codicote- a village in Hertfordshire( incuding later Australian production) and a link to an Australian site showing lots of people on a

    ride in Melbourne Australia.

    You still see lots of these for sale on e-bay here in the UK, I’m quite tempted to get one to leave in my car for the odd occasion , that’s their best use really.

    I did think about getting some ‘ali’ rims for mine to reduce the weight even further, ( it ended up on the scrap heap due to the fork problem).They were quite quick due to the low

    weight

    Happy Trails, Colin ( Still enjoying your blog ).

    http://www.bickertonportables.co.uk/wp-content/themes/twentytenfive/images/bickerton-story.pdf

    http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?t=75179

    • Posted September 30, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Colin,
      thank you for your enjoyable and enlightening comment. Also I´m glad that you enjoy the blog – even if I just don´t have time & energy now for more that one post a month. I hope to be able to blog more in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s