Author Archives: starostneradost

Two Thirds, Two Years

I´m narrowing the scope of this blog to motorbikes for the time being as I´ve made a dream of mine come true, which I will report about not for the usual readership I guess, but for others who have asked me to write things down when they learnt I am back in motorbikes again. So here will be a live report of my adventure with an NSU Konsul restoration, for which I´m giving myself a two thirds chance of success in a timeframe of two years.

Starting a long time ago, more than 40 years ago actually.

When kids of about 14, and growing up in a rural area, a few pals and sometimes me went round the farms in our vicinity to see if the farmers had old motorbikes stashed away in their barns. I can remember finding 250cc DKW, 98cc Sachs engined marvels, the odd 125 Ilo or Sachs engined bike by for example Geier or other long and rightfully forgotten brands. We always dreamt of a big BMW or NSU, but it never came to that. Farmers had been poor in our area in the 30s and 50s, and were impervious to the fact that NSU were the largest motorbike factory in the world at the time, had won countless races, had put a 500cc compressor engine on wheels that pumped out 98 bhp and was good for 339 kph. I wasn´t, neither impervious, nor suitable for 339 kph.

When we had talked some bike out of some farmer (who could be mean and horrible to us boys), then we would try to get the machine running by the most primitive means and would ride it on small farm tracks, meadows, which the farmers didn’t like for fear of the cows being poisoned by the oil our bikes were losing, or harvested off fields. Ever so often a man from a neighboring city would come in a VW split screen panel van and buy our bikes for 20 or 50 Marks, keeping us in petrol for the next adventure, and laughing all the way to the bank. Also sometimes the local policeman would come and make us push our bikes home, no mean feat for a 15 year old encumbered by a, say, 250 DKW.

But no NSU, until I had an offer by a neighbour. It was an utterly and wholly run down 98cc four stroke NSU Fox made in 1950. It had been owned by about half a dozen owners in its day, and the last one had painted it bright red, but it was my first own bike, and one of the legendary brand I had lusted after. Then there was another neighbour who knew the answer to how to make it roadworthy again. He worked with a well talented mechanic who had had many NSU bikes in his day and could show me what to do, and so for about a year I spent many an afternoon with this man and built up the bike from scratch. The nastiest shock we got was when we found that someone had WELDED the directly driven flywheel magneto onto the crankshaft instead of bolting it on. My by then friend took a normal hacksaw and sawed the weld off, saving the crankshaft free hand. Amazing.

He then sent me off to buy rubber. So I went to the local tire company to buy tires, proudly naming the correct size, and they asked me if I didn´t need inner tubes too, so I narrowly escaped being shamed there and then, but shame followed close when I came back to my friend´s and he laughingly found that I hadn´t gotten any rim tape. Oh to be young again… But after a while, encompassing sandblasting, painting, shaking the tank filled with lead pearls about until all of me hurt, rivetting brake shoes, sourcing bits all over, wiring, reassembling, tearing down again and re-reassembling, in summer 1980 the machine passed its TÜV test first try.

Litte Fox on a long journey – longer than mine in any case

And I went to England on the 98cc with six brake horse power. Unbeknowns to me I returned from the trip the day after the Isle of Man TT had ended, and the Big Bad Biker that I was, was sent to the special bike only ferry that had been arranged for the TT crowd, where for the first time I found that bikers are nice people really. Far from being teased about my bike´s six hp, I was congratulated on the fact that I had taken it on a major trip.

Next bike was a 200cc NSU Superlux, two stroke, also in need of restoration, but as it had been painted black by its last owner just the mechanicals and the brakes were done, and I ran it for years when at uni. In between there was an array of other bikes, too, of course.

But: I had wanted a Konsul ever since a neighbour of my parents told me when I was a kid how dangerous it was and how he crashed one. He kept telling me that story later when I had bikes myself, and I just thought ´It can´t be that bad, I have to try eventually` but then life intervened, you know how it goes. Girlfriends being afraid of riding pillion, and what not.

NSU built two versions of my coveted bike, the Konsul 1 at 350cc rated 17.5 hp, and the Konsul 2 at 500cc at 22 hp, with none of them ever doing any racing of note. They were workhorses, sidecars were attached frequently, and so on. They were intended to give BMW a run for their money, but NSU failed quite miserably at that, BMW having the resources to design modern two cylinder engines soon after the war, whereas the Konsul was basically a pre-WWII design and less powerful into the bargain. Less costly too, by far actually, but still, only about 13.000 were made of both capacitiy engines together.

A certain Walter William Moore had been head hunted away from Norton by NSU in 1928, and all his engines for NSU looked like Nortons, excepting of course the wonderful competition specials he made, like the world record one mentioned above, but that will be next month´s story.

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La Perle Mixte

Sometimes you have chance encounters that are quite nice indeed, but then, that´s what you go cycling for, I´d say.

When on our Normandy holidays this year, I had the opportunity to go for a late cycleride one day and met a very nice young Lady who was on a mid-range, but quite well preserved La Perle mixte, and who had time enough to allow me to take some quick snaps.

The machine belongs to her Grandmother who is still living in the area and the cycle has recently been serviced for the family to use, carefully, round the place. Even the leather pouches that belong on the left and right sides of the rack have been removed for safeguarding, so it is easy to assume that this bicycle is appreciated and will be preserved well. It actually showcases a tire size now back in fashion:

The bike is kitted out with Simplex lighting, all original, LeFol Le Martelé guards, a Nervar chainset, and a cute little flag that is lost on 99.9 per cent of bikes today, so a pearl this bike is, no doubt.

The frame as is not top range in the way that there is no Nervex Professionnel or R531, but still it has nice touches. I would bet that all lugs, bridges and what not are from the Nervex catalogue, Série Légère lugs and all.

The very pretty lining is also still in place.

The original idea seems to have been to buy a frame equipped for Simplex derailleur gears which were to be fitted later, but looking at the lever braze on and the rear hanger, this plan never seems to have been put in practice. The paint on both looks untouched.

Brazing quality is mostly very nice and worthy of a big brand like La Perle.

Some typically French touches: rear brake and rack fixtures.

Build quality of the bike as a whole is reflected in the closeness of chainwheel to chainstay, also affording a low Q-factor.

So, what a nice surprise on an evening ride.

Rohloff Test Part Three – My Commute

No special meet or ride this month, but an update on how my Rohloff equipped bike is behaving. In all, it´s great, save the noise most Speedhubs make in the “lower case”. I have a belly feeling that in those lower seven speeds the resistance one feels also is greater than in the silent, top eight gears. The bottom bracket makes clunking noises now, and also the chain needs replacing soon, so I´ll try to change the ratios by getting a larger sprocket and a smaller chainwheel, thereby avoiding the lower case gears as much as possible. Also, I´ve not used gears 13 and 14 a lot, but 1 and 2 on every ride really, and by effecting the changes to the drive system that will be improved, I hope.

The next oil change is due too now, and the bike has deserved it as I´ve used it a lot this year. I don´t have an odometer, but a conservative estimate is at about 2.500 kms so far this calender year, and a lot more since the last oil change. Gear changes are still 100 per cent precise and instantaneous, there´s no play in any bearings and no oxidation on the shell or any other periphery parts, so the oil change will be all the attention the hub needs, I hope.

The bike as such needs a good clean, though, but all that oily dirt can be said to be a rust and theft inhibitor, meaning, I just don´t care 🙂 I see to it that the chain is lubed, the tires are inflated and the brakes are adjusted, and that´s about it. I do have to clean it soon though to check for any possible cracks in the frame, I know.

Major repairs: The front fork had to be replaced after a slight accident last year, and the Shimano 71 front hub gave up its ghost quite spectacularly in May, replaced with a SON now which runs appreciatively lighter, and that´s not a belly feeling. I bought a reduced price overstock wheel with the SON in it, so I have two different rims and spoke sets in the bike now, shiny and black, but again, I don´t care as long as it works and it does that perfectly.

My commute? It´s an about 32 kms long ride over four slight hills in the Teutoburger Wald area in Northern Germany. It takes me roughly 1:30 to 1:45 hours, which is not fast, I know, and while I´ve never been a fast rider, I´m still not fully back to even that form, after all the lack of time and the illnesses over the last 10 months or so, also the bike is really heavy and carries a lot of load too.

The route crosses no famous terrain at all, there´s no historical interest in that anyone famous was born in any of the villages and towns I cross, no battle has taken place, no famous buildings, nothing. At least, I´m not aware of anything, save maybe the part of the road that doubles as a hillclimb car race track once a year, explaining the heavy duty guard rails:

There´s loads of youtube videos on that race, it´s the Osnabrück or Holter Berg hillclimb, depending on how well the makers of the videos know the area 🙂

 

So for want of anything more interesting, one has to concentrate on making new friends on the way,

and on the few buildings that are nice.

Noted the colour red in some pics? Here we go for a sugar shock:

And no, the Schwalbe is not the company vehicle of the strawberry sellers´, it´s just in the colour its owner chose when doing up the moped.

Setting out early in the morning, there sometimes are spectacular sunrises, but they occur only when one has forgotten the camera at home. On the days the camera is at hand, one has to be content with simpler things like this:

Some 30 minutes later, the countryside begins to look familiar.

There´s more hillsand more decends

and some flats leading to more hills.

In all, I won´t say anything new in that when one cycles a route that one has partially driven so many times, there´s many things to be discovered, even tiny ones, which one is able to stop for and savour when on the bike.

So that´s the commute and the comment on the speedhub.

But why not more posts? I´ve been sidetracked by some issues with the heating in our house which didn´t render any sexy pics, by the car which did,

Photo courtesy Yannik

and a new love which rendered some spectacular snaps,

Photo courtesy Gideon

but which has put my affection to the test by taking up a lot of patience, even though I´m not new to the hobby of old motorbikes.

Also a lot of fleamarkets have been in the way of blogging.

Editing courtesy Nikki

Plus the century runs I usually do have been bedevilled this spring by adverse weather conditions, be it rain, thunderstorms or heat I couldn´t stand.

But I hope next month my post will be more interesting again.

 

Protected: Holten Ride – explanation see post below

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An Inspiring Ride: Retro Classic Holten

Quick trigger warning before I start: The post above, which is set on private, is by no means meant to exclude anyone, only it contains photos on which faces are visible and riders can be recognized. What with all the recent humdrum about new data protection regulations, and press coverage about bloggers possibly being fined for showing faces and not being in possession of written consent by everyone in those photos, I thought it wise not to make them public. The password for this post is obtainable from either me or the owner of the retrokoers website. I would like to say, though, that the private nature of the post means that only people who took part in the ride should write in for the password, sorry about that.

And what was that – the blog wasn´t visible at all for nearly a week – very sorry about an error I committed. When trying to set the photos mentioned above on private, I hit the wrong button, the whole blog vanished, and I didn´t notice at first as don´t read my own blog too often 🙂 When I did notice, internet illiterate me had no idea off hand how to make the mistake good again, so it took a few days.

But now, here we go.

 

Any ride must be great if you can lean your bike onto a bronze pig before the start

and if there´s another one to look on even.

As you don´t get that in too many places, Holten it was again, after a few years of not going to the great KNWU Toertochten that start in the area, see post of yore. This time it was to be a retro ride, of which the Netherlands and Belgium have had that many recently that you can lose oversight. The retrokoers website, which some years ago was still very quick to read now is a really long list of rides all over the Netherlands and Belgium. This is a great development, of course, but if it comes to travelling from the North West of Germany to the South of the Netherlands or even to Belgium, things quickly become difficult. If you then see a ride advertised which is only about 130 kms away from where you live, it´s relatively unavoidable that you go, right?

And it was a good decision, what with the weather being wonderful, attendance high, and the route well planned. We met in the middle of the town, in a place called Smidsbelt, at a café, where the organizers, the tourist office of the town, had erected two long racks onto which riders could hook their bikes for safe storage either with the handlebars or the saddles of their bikes.

Not too many riders came by car, but in any case parking space was ample, and as my son and I were very early, we had the prime parking space – if that matters. So we set about assembling the bikes (and hiding some marvellous vinyl records we had bought in a fleamarket on the way). We had brought my son´s 1952 Miele Sports bike, and my ca. 1982 RIH. We thought we´d be fine with that choice, and while I was, the RIH being a really great bicycle to ride, my son was hard pressed on his relatively heavy tourer when it came to the run over Holterberg with no holds barred and the group dissolved for a few miles. He coped admirably, though, and the great atmosphere of friendly rivalry saw to everybody being included in the spirit. On a personal note, I may add that my recent intensive training had led to me not being the slowest by far after basically 18 months of absence from riding, so that was good too. I battled it out with a group of riders among which there was one to ride a beautiful red Ko Zieleman, a real marvel of a bike.

Start was at 10.30 for the group which was led by Theo de Rooy, a former Pro and a very friendly man indeed. We had met before in some ride or other, and he remembered me and we were greeted with a handshake, which created a familiar atmosphere right away.

The first round of riding was about 35 slowish (25kph) kilometers, with lots of great conversations possible, and everybody in good mood. I talked to the only other RIH rider a lot, brushing up my Dutch, and finding out once more that the frame number of my bike doesn´t match with the usual numbering system employed in the day – four digits, starting with the expected two digit year code, but then one digit is missing.

While it has to be admitted that not every bicycle in use there was a prime museum piece, the group including also some low range cycles, they all were in very good nick technically, so only two punctures occurred, for the mending of which the group waited, making good use of the time by taking photographs, chatting even more, and looking at each other´s bikes. Here´s a quick photo bomb of the headbadges and -transfers I was able to catch, and as you can see, many bicyces were of fascinating provenance.

So, after about 90 minutes we were back for a round of coffee and cakes at the café. Again, bicycles were scrutinized, and some I found fascinating, some others shocking, like this 1920s machine which had obviously been involved in a bad crash some time in its long history. You could see that something was wrong with the angles from just looking at it, and this was the reason:

Ripples under the top tube, right behind the cable clip, and one big bulge under the down tube. Luckily, steel is forgiving, but it´s not nice in any case.

After the break at the café, or, for those who had brought their own sandwiches, on a round bench under a tree, on we went for the next round of riding, roughly the same distance again, but over Holterberg. The peloton again was moving forward at a moderate pace until we came to said hill, and we met again after it, so te group arrived back at Smidsbelt in more or less one batch. Riding in the group was pleasurable in all, discipline prevailed, no dangerous situation occurred, but all those colourful old jerseys made for a really bright outlook.

Two more interesting bicycles:

One, only represented here in details, a Peugeot randonneuse I have portrayed before, with some gold anodized Simplex accents and some nice transfers:

And the other Theo de Rooy´s bike, one he rode in the day when being a pro, and the only cross bike in the group. Great bike, really, but look at the rear dropout and the seat saty top – are those hairlines in the paintwork also cracks in the metal? Let´s hope not, but they look like it, don´t they?

Is this a cracked seat stay tube?

  After a few hours it was packing up again, and back home, but it was very much worth it. I´ll certainly be back next year.

Time Flies

On April 29, it was Stalen Ros time again, one more year over. So we went to Deurne again, second time already that the event hasn´t taken place in Neerkant anymore, and had a great time. Many visitors, much metal to see, a few bits to buy – as I said before, the quality of the items offered for sale in the numerous stalls isn´t exactly increasing.

Still, many visitors came.

The organisers had requested people who brought expo bikes to have a special focus on RIH, the Amsterdam builder and one of Holland´most famous ones, so there ways a huge number of unusual bikes by that brand to be seen.

Great stuff.

Bicloun from Paris had a really rather special bicycle for sale, a Dilecta showing most features of a good tourer, but equipped with a cheaper version of the Osgear Super Champion derailleur – very unusual also the top tube gear lever which has the cable exit at a 90 degree angle. Else, nice brazing everywhere, and a super original condition, even the alloy cap of the Osgear tension arm spring is still present. However, the little cage that circles the chain under the tension arm roller to keep the roller on the chain in rough riding is not.

Here´s a few uncommented photos to show the high quality of this mid-range bike. I´m lucky enough to own a four speed pro version of that derailleur, so I wasn´t tempted.

Two cars will also have to be mentioned here: One, my old Volvo who had a huge breakdown on the way back home (con rod failure at 3.500 rpm and 466.000 kms; going from super smooth sailing on the motorway to clanking horror in less that 20 seconds),

here parked next to a Dutch registered 940, and this beauty, a team car based on a Citroen CX 2nd series Break, just look at it. Dream car, I´d say.

So until next month hopefully. Coming to Holten on June 3, anyone?

Just a Few Photos This Month

This month´s post is about me. Having written about so many other people, bicycles, books and what have you, it´s my turn now.

You might remember posts about century rides, about rides to meets, and so on – no such luck today. Today, however, marks a special day as it was the first time in 18 months that I sat on a road bike, and literally. A spate of phases marked by utter work overload, an accident damaging my foot, infections (for instance the genuine flu) and other illnesses (among them a recent one leading to me losing 8 kgs of body weight in three weeks) has kept me off the bike for that long. Not nice.

Now that things seem to possibly look up again (touch wood) I´ve tried very slowly to get myself re-accustomed to cycling, which is bloody hard work. In the past weeks I went out on the bike whenever the opportunity opened itself, and I was out quite a bit.

Starting out from our small town

I cycled over hills, from the distance looking at a nearby ice cream cone factory (not joking here),

and also a few trees,

and old houses.

I rode over canal bridges

and even overtook a Harley on the way.

I first used my trusty, sturdy Rohloff equipped KFS.

Today I upgraded to one of the best road bikes I so far have had the pleasure to own, my NR equipped RIH:

But would you believe that I´m still walking hills I didn´t even notice were there two years ago? Or that I wasn´t half as tired two years ago after a day of 150+kms on a heavy, 1956 Miele roadster, resplendent with a three speed hub, than I was today after 45kms (taking nearly THREE hours) on the RIH?

Will I ever get back to the shape I was in two years ago, I wonder, or will the 56 year old fart that I am have to be content with walking shallow inclines? Looks like the latter right now.

Not My Kind of Bike, not My Kind of Ride

Weekend before last there was this bicycle and travel fair at a local VW dealership. The VW people cleared most of their vast exhibition hall and made room for dozens of stalls by regional tourist offices, cycles shops, big cycle makers and some charity stalls too.

Coach companies showed off their latest bicycle trailers.

Why did I go? Looking at it with hindsight – no idea. What did I expect? The manisfestation of the return to classic bike culture? Ha.

Take these, for instance:

Electric, superfat tires, superfat frame tubes, if you can call them that, hard if not impossible to service at home, defined life expectancy, and a price tag that made me swoon:

I´m not a fan of DIY superstore bicycles, and I´ve always tried to have more expensive bicycles than cars, but this is just over the top, sorry.

And things go on. Yes, there are a few steel frames bikes, two I think, but of course they need gimmicks to induce planned obsolescence, like Pinion bottom bracket gearboxes and so on. Nothing, BTW, I saw in that fair which was praised as the dernier cri did not have some sort of precursor as far as 110 years ago, not even the bamboo bicycle with its super cheap kit.

Useful as a strong carrier rack may be, but the Belgians learned that a brazed/welded on rack does have its disadvantages as far as servicability is concerned. Now these racks seem on their way back.

What with Germany always being a bit skeptical as far as useful bicycle developments are concerned, we actually are discovering the advantages of a Dutch bakfiets (box bike) now.

One of the few occasions in the fair I had a hearty laugh also was on the bakfiets:

I think I have to administer some antidote now before it´s too late. Gimme this

and this

and this

and framebuilding like this

anytime. Please.

A Little Ray of Sunshine

 

One major attraction at Marten´s December open day was the presence of a Marston Sunbeam in good original condition and with some great extras like the two speed chainwheel gear. I´m not very familiar with these bikes, so I took a couple of photographs and let them speak for themselves.

This is not a 1920s cruise control but a blocking mech that facilitates any operation in which a non-moving front fork is needed – like repair, storing, or carrying.

A special fitting for the chainstays. Amazing.

The way the two speed lever is attached to the top tube.

 

The attention to detail in this bike is amazing and should attract the artist´s eye as much as the craftman´s. It´s not for nothing that Sunbeams were regarded as a brand apart, and among the best bicycles available anywhere in the day.

Car Eat Countryside

Today nice weather coincided with a couple of hours of free time, so I decided to hop on the bike, and for want of a better idea where to go, I decided to repeat a short trip I had taken quite exactly four years ago to snap the changes that major roadworks have wrought upon the landscape near our small town.

About 40 years ago planning started for an intergalactic bypass. It seems that nothing was good or expensive enough, so plans were made for a road which legally is not a federal highway (Bundesautobahn) but a notch below that, a Bundesstraße. However in reality it will completely look like an Autobahn, save the yellow roadsigns in place of blue highway ones. This of course means a huge loss of contryside, a huge expenditure of money, and I as a cyclist can´t help feeling cheated.

The Osnabrück area isn´t exactly known for its cycle friendliness, only a few months ago I had a potentially dangerous accident damaging my cycle (see red replacement front fork) because of what I see as unbelievably bad planning of cyclepaths in the city, and the new bypass will be forbidden for cyclists – matter of fact, the cycle route to Osnabrück will be less easy to use after the roadworks will have been finished. No way anything really helpful is planned as far as cyclists are concerned – there is talk of a “Fahrradautobahn”, a cycle highway, more or less alongside the new bypass, but to my mind that´s just an alibi. Drastic measures that would be so necessary are not tackled at all. That´s why I´m feeling cheated when looking at the construction site.

Now for my short cyclerides, today and four years ago.

I approached the site from its Eastern end, and even from several hundred meters away the yellow sand on it was clearly visible in the sun, behind the trees.

 

The next two views are taken from the hill in the background of this pic, looking left, basically.

The new road really eats ito the conuntryside.

Thses are two of the bridges visible in the pics above.

Carrying on further, the site today looks like this:

Four years ago this was the view one had:

 

Even worse, this little copse

and this slope

were completely taken away, the level of the ground being lowered to this

and this.

Turning round 180 degrees, four years ago this was what one beheld:

And now it´s like this, at a slightly different angle:

The little copse of five pictures above was roughly alongside the bridge on the excavator side of it, only nearly ten meters above 2018 road level. That much hill has been taken away. The number of trees having been felled is amazing too.

All in all, I´m not impressed. Traffic planning is, to my mind, still riding on mid-20th century tracks, and in the wrong direction.