Rider Daniel shares his passion for building vintage bikes
Little known fact about the people behind Portland Pedal Power: we have a deep passion for bikes! Daniel Erle, one of our longtime Brand Ambassador Riders, recently shared with us some fascinating details about his devotion to building and procuring vintage bikes. These bikes are pieces of bicycle history!
It is always interesting to hear about the latest bike project he has been working on, and witness the final result. Below, Daniel Goes into serious detail about his process and passion.
Seven years ago I was browsing bikes on eBay and I stumbled across a very expensive, fully restored 1940s Bianchi with a Campagnolo Cambio Corsa derailleur. I had never seen one like it and was fascinated. A few years later I came across a late 1940s Fabrica Imola frame with Cambio Corsa derailleur and matching hub set on eBay. It was my size and for sale in my home town, 3,000 miles away, so I took that as a sign and purchased it. After that, I spent almost two years collecting parts, mostly from Italy, to complete the bike. I sourced as many period correct Italian parts as I could find and had the hubs laced to modern, vintage style rims.
Late 1940s Fabrica Imola with Cambio Corsa derailleur
When the bike was finally built up I rode it through the summer and it’s a blast; the ride has a very vintage feel to it but it’s fast and surprisingly light at just over 24lbs. The Cambio Corsa derailleur takes a bit of courage to get used to but is a lot of fun to use. The dropouts on the rear of the frame are longer than normal and have teeth cut into their tops. These mesh with teeth in the rear axle which keeps the wheel straight when it’s in the frame. To shift you stop pedaling and reach back to open the extended quick release on the rear wheel. You then pedal backwards and use the second lever to move the chain on to your desired gear. You can then close the quick release and continue pedaling forward. An interesting part of the Cambio Corsa system is that since you are shifting with the rear wheel unhooked, the wheel travels forward and backward in the frame as you shift. That bike now hangs on my wall waiting for nicer weather and a replacement rear axel.
My 1959 Phillips was given to me by a friend; it had sat untouched in his yard for several years so I stripped it to the frame and gave it a full overhaul. I put fresh grease and grade 25 bearings in the headset, bottom bracket, and wheel hubs. I also cleaned and polished all the chrome. The bike was originally a deep burgundy but has mostly faded to flat brown. An uncommon feature of this bike is that the brakes use rods, rather than cables, to pull the brakes against the inside of the rims, rather than squeezing them from the sides. It has a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub dated December 1958. Almost every other part on the bike, aside from the Dunlop rims, is stamped ‘Phillips Made in England’. In 1960 Phillips brand was sold to Raleigh.
1983 Ross Mt. Whitney
I’ve only recently become interested in vintage mountain bikes. I found my 1983 Ross Mt. Whitney locally on craigslist. When I purchased it, it was set up as a touring bike with drop bars and vintage French fenders. It had the original wheels, cranks, pedals, and front derailleur. I stripped it to the frame and began collecting all the original parts.
The bike is a blast to ride, and it has been my savior this uncommonly snowy winter. At some point Ross began making primarily cheap department store bikes but they were pioneers in the early mountain bike market. In 1983 they had the first professional factory sponsored mountain bike team, the Ross Indians.
My current project (pictured below) is the gold frame 1950s Dutrion Super Luxe. I purchased this frame from France on eBay for $50 and had it shipped to the US for significantly more. The frame is made from rather heavy low end steel but it is in excellent condition and has mounts for fenders, front and rear racks, cantilever brakes, frame pump, and generator lights. It even still has the small loops under the down tube for routing wiring, which had a propensity to break off. I am building this bike with high end period correct French parts, with the intention of taking it touring and bike camping. I have a long way to go with this build but I have already collected a few interesting parts, such as a chainstay mounted Simplex Grand Prix Dural rear derailleur and the wheels, which are 1950s normandy hubs laced to 1950s Mavic 650b rims. This bike will also wear the vintage French aluminum fenders and Mafac cantilever brakes that were on my Ross when I purchased it.
Works in progress: 1950s Dutrion Super Luxe (gold frame) and 1947 Paris Professional.
The other frame pictured above is a 1947 Paris Professional which, despite the name, was made in England by Harry Rensch. The frame is bronze brazed (or bronze welded as Harry Rensch called it) Reynolds 531 butted tubing with Cyclo dropouts. I had the frame sandblasted and clear powder coated to show off the brazing. This also shows the pitting in the surface of the steel that arose from years of rust and neglect, but perhaps scars add character. I have been slowly collecting parts for this bike for almost two years, doing my best to not cut corners and keep everything close to period correct. Some of the interesting parts I’ve accumulated for this build include 1940s Chater Lea pedals and cranks and 1950s GB brakes. The wheels will be Constrictor Conloy rims laced to Bayliss Wiley hubs with 15-17 gauge double butted spokes. The rear hub was purchased as new old stock from England in its original box. It is a 1940s Bayliss Wiley ‘freewheel hub unit’ which is interesting in that it does not accept a freewheel, but rather it is a freehub that accepts three fixed gear cogs of various sizes to make a geared three speed. I consider it very much ahead of its time.
We hope you all enjoyed the massive amount of detail and love that Daniel has put into his bikes! For more questions about his work, email Dan directly at email@example.com.