From the Beechworth bunch: Paul

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Related interviews: John • Charlie • Ross • Peter

 

The bike: “It’s a light roadster which means basically that it’s a racing bike and not for the track because it has a brake on the front. It was made by one of the best builders from the time, Thomas Humber. He was one of the five largest bicycle builders in the world at the turn of the century. This bike is from 1897 and I bought it at the Bendigo swap meet about 12 years ago. This is one of the latest bikes I own; I have a collection that goes back to wooden-wheeled models from the 1850s. When I got this, I took one look at the handlebars and I knew that it was something special. It’s a beautiful bike.

“It’s close in style to the bike ridden by Charles Terront, the winner of the first Paris-Brest, a 1,200km race, in 1891. He was on a Humber which was a popular bike from the time; Thomas’ work was always a little bit ahead of his competitors’.

“By 1900, the design was getting a little closer to what we know racing bikes to be these days.

“Just holding the handlebars puts your elbows in right by your side. It’s akin to the position that Graeme Obree used in 1993. It’s not a great position for long distances.

“The L’Eroica was the first time I rode the Humber. With anything of this age, you cannot know what state the metal is in — there could be rust in the fork and you’ll never know — and there must be a degree of trepidation before using it.

“It’s like riding a dragster. The rake and the curl in the fork help make the steering very light because there’s virtually no weight over the front wheel.”

 

The groupset: “It has a block chain which, on this bike, is more than half-an-inch wide. It looks seriously over engineered. It has an unusual chainwheel that is threaded to the inner part of the spider and it can be moved inwards for two reasons: to straighten the chainline and to put the load immediately over the ball bearings. That’s of no significance to modern builders but, if you examine this machine, you’ll see that the chainwheel is cupped and then there’s the threaded section that allows for movement left to right. This was one of Thomas Humber’s personal ideas; according to him, the chainwheel must be over the ball bearings which were taking the load. It’s a nice piece of mechanism.

“It’s a fixed wheel and I brake mainly through the pedals because using the front brake damages the tyre.”

 

Kilometre count: “I ride under 200km a week, just commuting and shopping and the mandatory weekend warrior stint which is done on a tandem (with Charlie, his wife).

“I ride a Moulthen GT to work. I do have a Trek road bike which is carbon-fibre but it doesn’t get much action.”

 

Good points: “It feels rock solid to ride. I was happy riding, even over very rough roads.”

 

Bad Points: [Long pause] “I love my old bikes for what they are. In 100 years, everything has changed about the bike. I can’t think of anything wrong with this bike.

“I celebrate the bicycle, anything that’s got two wheels and pedals beats walking any day of the week!”

 

Miscellaneous: “My wife and I love bicycles. We love riding, our lives are centred around cycling. When I realised I would ride until the day I die, I wanted an old bike to celebrate these wonderful machines. I went out looking for one… and I found more than one. That’s why I started my collection.”

Author: rob@ride

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