Every few months someone submits what some might consider an “over the top” restoration, but for other, it’s simply justification and inspiration for their own mid-grade, defunct, obscure, obsolete or otherwise arguably good (or not so good) use of time, money and resources. Such is the nature of any ‘project’—the beauty, sacrifice, and worthiness is purely in the heart, eye, mind and wallet of the originator.
As it should be.
Some (myself included) would rather spend, think and work a little more and in doing so, know that what’s their’s is their’s, and no one else’s.
1982 ROSS GRAN TOUR II
All right, I plead temporary insanity (at least I hope it’s temporary!). I went a tad overboard on this bike — but not without (good?) reason.
BACKSTORY: A few years ago, this bike got me back into cycling after a long hiatus. As a kind of celebration of my 50th birthday, a couple of my younger friends invited me to join them on a two-wheeled circumnavigation of Lake Okeechobee. Only one problem — no bike! So, I stopped by a local thrift shop and found this old US-made Ross for $25. It was in pretty rough shape, but seemed basically sound. With only a few days to go before the ride, I adjusted it the best I could, put new tires from Kmart on it, and squirted oil in various places. Then, off we went. 125 miles in two days. I made it (just barely). But my love of cycling, first kindled in the bike boom of the early ’70s, was reborn.
Subsequently, I have continued riding and have picked up and refurbished several nicer bikes off Craigslist, a couple of which have appeared in OTSG. They are great rides, but I felt this old steel steed deserved some special gratitude, so I decided to make a fun project out of restoring it. You can judge the results.
I completely stripped the bike down. Someone had previously sprayed it with a rattlecan, so I had the frame, forks, and chainguard sandblasted and powdercoated a glossy light green. I replaced the rusty steel wheels with a brand-new alloy wheelset. Everything else was cleaned, polished, and reassembled (thanks, Hugh, for inspiration and tips). Finally, I topped the whole thing off with VO hammered aluminum fenders and a vintage French saddle (bought on eBay from France). I was going for a classic touring look. It weighs almost 32 lbs., but rides smooth and steady. Good thing South Florida is flat!
The things you do for love . . .
ROSS GRAN TOUR II (1982 model) Chain Bike Corporation
Serial #1081297243 (From Internet: “[On Ross bicycles] there is a date code on the left rear stay. It should be a ten-digit number. The first four are the date [of manufacture].” Therefore, 1081 = October 1981)
Ross 1982 catalog scan available at http://www.velobase.com/Resource_Tools/CatalogScans.aspx
Frame label: “Tempered 1020 Steel Lug Frame, Allentown, PA, U.S.A.”
Remaining original components:
> Takagi crank, alloy crank arms, steel chainrings (52T/39T) > Shimano Eagle II steel rear derailer > Shimano FE steel front derailer > SunTour “Perfect” 5-speed freewheel (Maeda Industries) > Dia-Compe alloy center-pull brakes (dated 12/80 and 03/81) > Hatta “HIGH CUP” steel cup-and-cone bottom bracket, English thread > SR alloy stem > Wald steel drop handlebars
Added items, with sources:
> Lambert alloy brake levers, made in England (eBay – NOS) with new Cane Creek hoods (LBS) > Sachs Huret clamp-on downtube shifters, made in France (eBay – NOS) > Sun CR-18 alloy wheelset with double-butted DT Competition spokes and Quando QR sealed-bearing hubs (Harris Cyclery – New) > Cheng Shin Tire (CST) General Style gumwalls, 27″ x 1-1/4″ (LBS – New) > SR SP-155 alloy quill (parts box) > VO 45mm hammered polished aluminum fenders (Velo Orange – New) > Pyramid (Kalin) micro-adjust alloy seatpost, 25.0 x 350mm (LBS – New) > KMC X8 chain (PBK – New) > Custom orange ROSS frame decals (DecalZone.com) > Vintage French Lamplugh Paris leather saddle, age unknown (eBay)*
*A BIT OF SADDLE HISTORY – FOR VÉLO GEEKS ONLY: The leather saddle was found at a brocante (an open-air secondhand market with dealers) in SW France before I got it on eBay. It was hard as a bone and looked as if it had sat untouched in a dry barn or attic for many years. It did not look like it had been ridden much, if at all. The dealer said it had come from an auction. He did not know the age, just that it was old, which was obvious.
Lamplugh & Brown might be the oldest bicycle saddle manufacturer. It was an Anglo-American company located in Birmingham, England. L&B was an early competitor of Brooks (also located in Birmingham). Brooks was founded in 1866 and started making bicycle saddles in 1870. There are references to Lamplugh & Brown saddles in an interesting book** published in 1891. L&B appears to have also started in the late 1860’s as people became fascinated by the then-new velocipedes, which included the world’s first pedal-equipped bicycle. The first mass-produced velocipedes were made in 1867.
Eventually (early 1900s?), L&B’s English division merged with another well-known maker, Middlemore of Coventry, and it’s French division continued making saddles in France under the brand name Lamplugh (hence, Lamplugh Paris). I don’t know how long Lamplugh saddles were made in France or what ultimately became of the brand. I haven’t found any information on or examples of Lamplugh saddles after the 1950s. This makes me think production stopped long ago. Perhaps they are known better in France. I’d love to know the story and exact age of this saddle, but probably I never will. Anybody?
This saddle uses the same dimensions (6″x11″) first adopted in the 1920s for the Brooks B17 Narrow. (The famous B17 was originally launched in the mid-1890s, with a width of about 8-1/2″. In 1905, Brooks introduced the B17 Champion at 6-1/2″x11″ – almost identical to the modern Standard model.) The saddlebag loops are also similar to those of the B17 of that era. Until the late 1930s, the B17 used metal loops fitted within the leather at the rear of the saddle. The Lamplugh Paris saddle might have been copying this design (the saddlebag loops are aluminum grommets in the leather), and, if so, I wonder if it could date from that time. By 1948, the B17’s saddlebag loops had been changed to metal tabs that extended from the cantleplate below the seat leather, the design still in use.
**(Cycling by William Coutts Keppel Albemarle (Earl of), George Lacy Hillier, Joseph Pennell, London 1891, pp. 405-406, available in Google Books)