From the Beechworth bunch: John

JohnHennessey

 

Related interviews: Paul • Charlie • Ross • Peter

 

The Bike: “The brand’s Viceroy and it was made in Geelong in the old days. It’s a bike from the 1930s. It’s a flip-flop hub at the rear with a Bayliss Wilie chainset, 38 tooth chainring and you have a 13 fixed-gear cog with an 18 freewheel. That gives you gears of about 55 and 81 inches.

“I did change gears during the L’Eroica ride. You’ve only got to hop off, undo the wing-nuts, take the wheel out and flip it around, put the wheel back in and tension the chain… then you’re off riding again. It only takes about 30 seconds. And because the freewheel is the 18, you can climb to the top and freewheel down the other side. When you get to the bottom, you do the change all over again.

“It’s a genuine steel frame with one front brake which is a VEW — Velox Engineering Works — which was the company of the Bazzano family that now owns Shimano Australia. They made all sorts of components but this is an aluminium calliper, the only bit of alloy on the whole bike.

“There are anonymous steel rims with 32 spokes on the front and 40 on the rear. And I use a genuine 1930 Brooks B17 saddle which is super comfortable.

“I do have a contemporary aluminium bike but this only helps me realise how super comfortable the Viceroy is.”

 

The Groupset: “This pre-dates the time of bicycles with groupsets… so, alas, I can’t offer any information.”

 

Kilometre count: “Let’s talk about my weekly tally: that would be 80-100km these days. In my prime, I was doing about 350km… but that was back in the 1970s.

“I always ride with the same group of guys, apart from when there are gatherings of vintage bike riders. My group, based in Beechworth, is called LFZ – Lycra Free Zone – but we do have a rule that states that lycra knicks are acceptable but only because woollen ones are so bloody uncomfortable. Perhaps LFZ should stand for Look Flash Zone.”

 

Good points: “There is a certain charm in riding well-made old bicycles. This sort of bike was the end of an evolutionary period and, because roads were unsealed and generically rougher, the bikes had to be inherently more comfortable. A common complaint is that aluminium frames are too stiff and this is the antithesis of that.”

 

Bad Points: “The weight. This bike is about 9.5kg which, to be honest, isn’t too bad. Other bad points include the obvious: it’s got no gears, no rear brake, no biddon cages, no cycle computer… but remember, the lack of these luxury items also helps to reduce the weight a little!”

 

Miscellaneous: “In a sense, the L’Eroica takes us back to the riding that we used to do as kids. A lot of people just don’t know how to ride road bikes on dirt. The only way to learn, however, is to do it. I have an interest in what I would call ‘real’ bicycles which, in my mind, are made from steel. Philosophically, I like the simplicity of more traditional bikes. I think it’s a hankering after bicycles that are made by craftsmen rather than in an anonymous factory.

“The bikes for L’Eroica were made by real people. I read about this sort of ride a few years ago — there’s an equivalent which is in its ninth year in Italy — it’s part of a big Gran Fondo movement that is really strong at the moment. They are good challenges for the everyday cyclist.”

Author: rob@ride

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