Unipivot tonearm madness

So I thought I would build a unipivot tonearm ,




In the pic immediately above you can see the pivot point , it is actually a sapphire ball 1.5mm diameter, this locates on the end of an m8 x 80mm stainless steel set screw . The sapphire locates into a 1.6mm hemispherical recess in a Teflon thrust pad ( actually a stack of 2mm Teflon discs) which are a light interference fit in the large sphere .

The headshell is a rough and ready test item to get geometry correct , the finished item will be heavier and much thicker as the test item has the arm mass at under 10g and I prefer around 11-13g with the option to add to this for low compliance denon dl103 and the like .

The arm will have adjustable viscous damping without the need to change oil weight , this simple idea was inspired by John Bicht and his wonderfully simple mission 774 arm .

The spheres are just gear knobs from eBay, the larger one is 50mm aluminium and the smaller counterweight is stainless steel m6 thread hole wound onto an m6 set screw which acts as the weight stub .

The armtube is 12mm aluminium but I will be swapping it for titanium lined with a secret damping medium just like the alphason arms , its not foam , I may divulge the secret sauce as the arm progresses.

Lots more to come on this poject

Update ,

Titanium armtube fitted , damping trough fitted , SME style chrome plate brass sliding base fitted .

The arm base is available from eBay at a very reasonable price of £42 shipped and allows fore and aft adjustment of the whole arm , this saved me from needing slotted cart mounting holes in the headshell.

The damping trough is just an oil tank cap from eBay, 45mm id . Damping Oil is 800cst silicone damper fluid for radio control racing car’s and is readily available, as a rule of thumb the lower the cartridge compliance the slower or heavier the silicone , however this should be considered on the end arm mass as high compliance carts in high arm mass will also benefit from heavier oil ( to control any wayward arm movement around system resonance)

The titanium is 12mm OD and 10mm ID 6al/4v seamless which is very stiff , I chose it as the unipivot bearing system I have made has inherent compliance in the teflon thrust pad . I have still to line it with the secret sauce and am hesitating on this as the construction of the headshell clamp appears to be providing all the damping it needs .

All in all this arm is proving to be a scary device , for less than the price of a clean used rega rb250 its performance is up there and in some ways betters the alphason hr100s.

More as I clean up the cosmetics and try different headshell materials .


Vintage bikes, restore renovate or preserve?

The question is ,to the vintage bike enthusiast a difficult one to find the correct response to . From where I sit the answer is simple enough , if its condition is such that it cannot be ridden on a daily basis without issue it must be restored to at least some extent ,, a beautiful old bicycle that was once the pride of its previous owner should not be left in disrepair as a misguided attempt to pay homage to its later in life neglect . The exception to that rule is when the bike is of genuine historical interest ,, ie if the bike is wearing the dirt from winning a grand tour or spring classic . I know of no person who would look on from an afterlife and say ” oh I am so touched that my beloved old bike has been kept in the broken down state it ended up in” .

Broken joints ,bad paint , corrosion and worn out parts do absolutely nothing for the beauty and once held pride and joy the machine once had .

Renovation is another ball game all together , I personally only renovate if the bike is of unknown lineage ,, such as the vindec decaled bike I have just renovated , its origins are unknown , with my renovations it has a new lease of life and a new chapter has been added to t’s history , a history I have stashed in the seat tube in a plastic bag for its next custodian for when I pop off this mortal coil. My work on the vindec is all sympathetic to the bikes age and style and are all improvements which add to its beauty and character.

If I had left the old vindec as was it would by now be nothing more than a bit of old scrap metal heading for the recycling chain. Instead I have a wonderful old machine that functions near perfectly and is used almost daily. The greenest product are those that never need to be recycled , just a bit of love every couple of decades and she will keep rolling along doing what she was intended to do , bring joy through use .

Those who acquire these wonderful old machines then give up because of a few points of damage are copping out when they say they want to preserve in its broken state ,, the original owner would be utterly dismayed at such actions  I’m sure.

the auld alliance


in these times of endless propaganda and outright tyranny , we can only try to use the democratic process . futile and utterly impotent as it is , its all we have .

those who sit in camps or sides of the current Brexit all have reasons to sit in place of choice . I am all for an exit , as I was for an independent Scotland .

ease up and read on to understand that statement and also its place in a blog site about vintage bicycles .

way back before the second world war there was a wee cycle shop in Glasgow ran by a Frenchman called Davie Rattray  . he embraced Scotland as Scotland embraced him . here is a page dedicated to what he and the Scottish locals built , rattrays  .

we simply dont need more government to allow us to work together and trade together , in fact we need less , far less , we need to get out of the huge bureaucratic nightmare that the EU central government had become in the same way scotland needs to get away from westminster . Note i wrote westminster not england , i have no desire to be a nationalist muppet or a unionist muppet for that matter . you see i am a human being of planet earth who has a scottish identity . i expect you to also be a person of planet earth with your own national identity . we can disagree about stuff while accepting that disagreement should never be enough to induce a hatred for anyone who happens to be of the same national identity as those we disagree with .

to offer a simpler more colloquial rendition , there are assholes and good guys of all walks of life , its the endemic assholes that cause all the problems .

Bicycles had national identities too  , french , italian , british , dutch , german ,, they were all very distinct and oozed character and , yes, even a national identity , now we live in an indestict and dull hotchpotch . back before the EU we could get a bike from abroad and it would be deliberately taxed to the extent it would become bad value ,however it would still be distinctly Italian or French. this taxation was for one purpose , to keep money in nations by forcing you to buy from your own while subliminally being somehow brainwashed into believing only ours was best and all else is in some way undesirable purely because of its home origins identity  . this was a ludicrous way of operating so the EU trade system looked pretty great , at last you could get a real italian bike at a price at least some could aspire to .

the only people holding back trade was those who impose the tax , the crown corporation , a filthy greedy outfit of leaches and parasites which imposes its theft with the justification that it can control the standard and quality of goods coming in and going out . its actually just a gang that holds your goods to ransom   .

there is no reason for any import export taxation other than extortion . free global trade is whats needed , it would eliminate any country having a better deal than another , the product its maker and the consumer will decide what sells and what wont . at this time we have stuff that is brought in or exported not through demand , its forced in, despite it being of lower quality . the EU has systematically killed off all its member states independent industry including the cycle industries,,  effectively removing the grass roots, revealing baron dirt which, without the dense carpet of small independent makers of quality’ production soon becomes fallow and the endless rain of importation soon leaches out all ability to grow . Understand, it wasnt far eastern manufacture that simply stole our industry , they just picked up the slack to fill a void of the burgioning consumer demand and did it cheaper to an acceptable standard . 

take it back , start miniscule garden shed manufacturing , be proud of your nationality while loving the other nations , celebrate difference and tolerance for it , it makes the world far more interesting , turn your anger and frustration on the ones who keep fucking it all up , the politicians and banksters who benefit most from manipulating social structures , they are all assholes .

veloflex master 25c tyres

” something in rubber ‘ for madam ”

tyres , they are kind of essential for bicycles .  i have tried many and found quite a few of those to be ‘wanting’ in one way or another,  for some its puncture resistance , other s its grip, ride feel (suppleness) ,rolling resistance and weight . very few clincher or open type tyres i have ever tried can truly pull off the old tubular feel .

the veloflex master 25 is one such tyre . i am 12 stone , around 77 kg , running 95 psi in the rear and 90psi front they are a very comfortable tyre for less than perfect roads , they roll a lot faster than a continental grand prix . i tested this with a friend , we rolled down a 100 yard 4% gradient having shots each of both bikes and the veloflex tyre reached the bottom 8 seconds faster . thats a big difference for a tyre change alone and over  a long ride will bring a real advantage .

they are very high quality , are they worth the full rrp ? im not sure , i bought them on sale as they looked really nice on my higgins but it was the ride feel that really took me by surprise . 

while fitting them was a real handful , and care should be taken as the manufacturer specifies no tyre levers should be used, ,  they do give if you keep working them , wear snug fitting full finger cycling gloves , as i said it states not to use tyre levers so the gloves allow you to roll the bead on a little at a time with minimal hand shredding and, eventially they will pop on. this is easier second time you fit the tyre after a puncture for instance as the bead will stretch .

i have yet to get a puncture (touches wood ) but did remove them to fit lightweight tubes . no gloves needed this time . the tyre construction is extremely fine , the bead bonding is the neatest i have ever seen and the carcass and tread really do look like they were lifted straight from a very fine tubular .

they run extremely true and no settling time or extra seating was needed . double check you rim tape is the correct width and thickness for the rim , it really is important on some rims as the bead hook recess can be quite shallow and if the rim strip is to wide or thick the tyre can blow off as they are inflated because the bead is effectively rendered too big to lock in .

issues . none apart from sizes , these tyres made in a 27″ x 1″ or 27″ x 1 1/8″ would be spectacular on all those old British hand made light weights ,  like wise 650b or 26″ x 1 1/2″ old french standard would be a top seller in the randonneur  market . i havent been caught in the rain yet but have read reports that they are prone to punctures in such weather due to small glass and flint debris being held to the tread by the water surface tension so some flint catchers are advised . i will detail how to make them real easily from a couple of old spokes and some 1.5mm bore pvc hose . sort of like these tiresavers88

you can see lots of variations  HERE too .

The vindictive Vindec.

It was mid summer in 2004 , i was riding a 1964 carlton catalina that was resurected at much effort after its last owner wrote it off following a frame crushing accident .


On my way home after a long 13 hours in the workshop i was turning right on a quiet junction , a driver who was sat at the junction waited to pull out , i had a super bright front light and reflective riding jacket so was lit up like Tron .

The woman clearly distracted by the kid in the back seat decided to pull out right into me effectively side swiping me at low enough speed i had time to jump up from the flat pedals above bonnet height of the car so she only made contact with my beloved old bike , the woman must have panicked as she momentarily floored it before hitting the brakes . She got out rather annoyed and tried to have a go at me , I quickly told her she pulled out from a stop point into traffic with right of way and she just earned lots of points on her license , she could either shut up and give me her details or i would call the police claiming injury ! Her choice ? She shut up and did the former .

This led to me hunting out a new frame , i came across an old heap , badly painted but with skinny dual taper chain and seat stays , nervex lugs and no visible rust . Upon picking the frame up i was flummoxed by the weight , or lack thereof. I really do mean light , i have a 22″ hobbs streamweight that is a very lightweight frame by any measure , the new frame is 4 oz less . This really puts it in the featherweight class . The tubing is of very thin wall type with generous butted sections .


Just barely visible were some vindec cycles decals that were all waterslide types and they are the only vindec decals of this type i have seen . The downtube decal is similar to the vindec moped chainguard decal but the headtube decal seems to be a one off .


I bought it and started assembly to see how it rides . When fitting the headset i noticed a tiny crack in the head lugs top and bottom . A little heat , some flux and brazing rod later and she was all good to go . Only one gear lever boss so so i mounted the front shifter with a band mounted to the top of the seat tube .

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after the repair .

As you can see I ran filler in through a couple of small holes in the lugs and drew it round inside the lug until I saw flow at the opposite side , this was repeated at all lugs and the bb , I am surprised it was still in one piece. I also ran small fillets around the outside of where I drilled the lugs .
The ride , oh man the ride . Quite unlike any other bike i had owned . My old flying scot continental is similar in that it has its own very distinctive feel but the vindec just feels so planted and sure footed . Comfy but stiff under duress , it rode like a french randonneur machine i once worked on as a 19 year old mechanic , the customer wouldnt tell me what it cost but if i say the name on the downtube was Rene Herse you will get the picture .

I am not saying the vindec is a Herse machine but its in that league for ‘rightness’ , it is , to me ,, perfect .

This has induced a long term mission to make it into the bike i would have made for me . Mafac racer centerpull brakes mounted with braze ons , a quick release saddlebag rack like the george Elrick type , downtube gear lever bosses and cable stops for the front mech were needed . Back to the torch and bit of silver bronze and all those issues were attended to .

I still cant decide on a colour so its blue-ish white for now while seek out the colour but she is at this moment hanging in the shed while the colour coat drys before applying the clear coat tomorrow. Its just a rough paint job as i am desperate to get back on this bike so the proper paintjob can be done over the winter .

Rapid paint job . At last i can ride it again

Below is a pic of the home made saddlebag support , it is of the quick release type as was used by George Elrick and a few other builders of the time .

Picked up a new (to me) vintage bar bag . Cant find a makers mark in it though . Still , too cute , very lightweight and the perfect size .

Lightweight , nimble and smooth .

You can see just how blue it is in the twilight , it helps car drivers see me at this awkward time of the evening where the light can make everything blur together .

Been doing a little lug lining to experiment with colours . To be honest ,i am rather taken with the pale blue lined with mtalic pearl orange . Zoom in to see how poor the paintwork ( especially the lining ) is . The lining is just acrylic which can be wiped off with isopropyl alcohol.

Mudguard’s painted to match the frame , stem and bell are being prepped for paint to match.

Not sure if I should put Vindec decals on it 🤔

don’t try to roll the stone again , someone has already done that

hardly a cycling related post , but on this sunday I feel like sharing my view on the bewildering need for some folks to worship false idols .

easter ,, the great day of chocolate consumption and gathering of like ‘minds’  to petition the grand architect of all we behold .

Christianity has shown itself to be one of the greatest proponents of hatred and separation I have experienced , just a few months ago I watched a guy on his way into a Christian church scream abuse at a transgender woman across the street . how wonderfully hypocritical of him , I bet that poor trans woman felt great as one of jesus followers filled her with anger and fear , such is the state of the conqueror’s religion  .

I would wager that most of the middle east is really grateful for all those bombs that are sanctioned by a Christian god . all those gay people in Russia will be loving the stomp of boot and whack of club to the head  , after all it comes with the love of god , right ?

you see we all have the potential to be god like and devil like , forget your silly books of righteousness and contradiction the were written by men to divide mankind into sect’s . they serve only the devil in us all as it induces an ego driven sense that only ‘your group’ has the architect on their side , the universe is a binary place that is trying to find balance and we are that force personified . all the tales of religion are there only to influence and manipulate your behaviour , when you live by the tales are you really free to see any others point of existence with true empathy ?? of course not . its nothing more than a state of bondage to another pyramid scheme ,, yes its a con job , all of it !!!

have faith but place it in mankind and your own consciousness as that was given by the universal architect , not some oddball in a posh frock that talks ‘down’ to you from a pulpit in a building that casts a fortune to run while people starve .

its time to pull the foundation stones from the pyramid of lies and extortion that is religion .

Moving the bosses

Around a year ago i had to do some renovation work on the Vindec . I use the vindec name only because of the story that came with the bike . It was said that this frame along with a few more were bespoke made by Hobbs of barbican for a team that Brown Bros assembled to race on Vindec branded ( vindec was a brown bros brand) bikes in the post war UK races of the time such as the tour of Britain.  I cannot find any trace of this on the web or via the older chaps that were around at the time in the early 50s .

I have some pics of the frame as i got it and the decals were one off vindec decals including a fancy headtube transfer . All vindecs of the period had metal head badges!

So ,  it could well be true.

It was cracked at both headlugs but not irreparably so . I use a simple mapp powered turbo torch and good old bronze rod to sort the head joints ,  while i was at it i literally chucked some dia compe bosses on it to see what it would be like . I have heard much about the effects on the mafac racer when braze on mounted . Even with the bad alignment it was revelatory , , then added a cable bridge ,then made an Elrick saddlebag support.

I am about to prep the old flyweight ( it is unfathomably light weight ) for paint so seized the opertunity to move and correct the boss position .

They have been dropped 12mm and realigned them . Still a good bit of clean up to do.

More on this whole renovation on another post soon

a wee cycle from edinburgh to loch leven

in this blog i will occasionally post the odd ride route , in this episode i will be heading north a couple a miles from Edinburgh west to Loch Leven in Fife ,

the route on google maps , ,  the route

i have done , roughly’  this route before , although it was on a fly weight race bike so only took an hour and a half , this time i will be using my 1949 machine ( if i can get the paint done over the weekend )  and stopping to take pics of anything of interest or great beauty so i am budgeting around 3 hours each way plus a couple of hours at kinross so making a day of it .

i will be heading for Jocks bar at the Green Hotel https://www.green-hotel.com/  , to consume some delicious munchables , then if i feel like it a wee lap of the loch heritage trail which is purpose built cycle and walk way around the loch itself . http://www.lochlevenheritagetrail.co.uk/   .

i am aiming to do it monday 17th april if i get the time , but will update this post as soon as i can .

chain lube of distinction , and its old school

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sedis gold that has done more than 400 miles on and off road in all weathers since last soup dip


bike chains ,

vitally important and need care to work well . I know there are belt drives that get past the issue of lubrication but the pitfalls are to most folks , too big a trade off .

chains invariable get lubed with oil , synthetic or organically derived ,there are endless choices , you can even get them for specific conditions . the chain will invariably get filthy , the heavier the lubricant the more dirt is collected , its the catch 22 . look at any cyclist that arrives at destination with oily fingers and you can bet your life that the chain needed sorting in some way during the journey .

You may think that by now there should be a perfect chain lubricant that works perfectly in all conditions and never attracts dirt . I have been looking for over 30 years now and it doesn’t exist for sale at any bike shop in my vicinity . But,, there is another way , I have been using it on and off for that 30 years , only stopping using it to try another new miracle lube only to be let down and then return to the old school .

paraffin wax has been used for decades by what I refer to as ( say it in a Yorkshire accent ) PROPER CYCLISTS ,, the idea is simply that molten wax can get right into the links and pins but ,once set’ cannot push back out easily  , buy some paraffin wax , candle making supply shops have it , whack around half a kilo in an old metal sweetie or biscuit tin and warm it slowly over the stove , once fully molten , take your fully degreased and cleaned chain , and pop it in the wax , I use a chop stick to stir it around to make sure the wax gets into every link pin , after a few minutes of stirring I take the tin outside and lift out the chain and hang it to cool  . this needs redoing every 1000 miles or so in my experience or , as soon as you hear a squeak from the chain . the best bit is how clean and smooth your bike will stay .

the modern additive

yes we can improve on the wax method , ptfe powder or Teflon powder added to the wax , I used 20% ptfe or 1 part ptfe to 5 paraffin wax which is quite a rich mix , 10% is fine . I found it difficult and expensive to obtain the ptfe powder as the only industry i could find that uses it is the piano repair business . it works well , it works really well !

to be honest I never thought PTFE was available in powder form , but after reading about it I had to try it and I am glad I did .

some will say that its all too much hassle , I beg to differ , once in the tin the wax is already in a storage vessel and once cooled is spill proof and easily stored , with the advent of the quick link ,chain removal is literally a 10 second job , once waxed the chain will never attract dirt , no marks on trouser legs , no stains on your favourite beige chinos , everything lasts longer , much longer !! even when mud and dirt is sprayed onto the chain by the wheel most of it drops back off , even the residual just falls off with a blast of water . if your chain drops off on a ride your hands will be spotless after remounting . its super cheap over the long run despite the initial cost of around £30 to make a 20%  700gram batch , enough to last years .

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a very cheap kmc z8 that’s done around 200 miles since its last bath , still with lots of flakes of wax .


if you might like to try it , I recommend you grab a new chain , degrease it to remove the packing lube , I use citrus degreaser for this , followed by dish washing up liquid then clean water . dry it with whatever method then , as detailed earlier , pop it in the hot wax and PTFE soup  and stir  . clean the chainrings and sprockets thoroughly ( no point in fitting a stay clean chain to filthy oily parts !) . When it comes time to refit the chain it will be all stiff and bound up but will go on , during this process put an old dust sheet down under the bike to catch all the flakes of wax , lots will fall onto the sprockets and this is good , once connected pedal the bike and work it through the gears , it will not shift well at all for a moment but will improve  after a moment or two , now take the bike out and pedal it in the street or drive working through the gears . you will be struck by how smooth and quiet the bike is . to maintain it just get an old paint brush and use it to brush off any dust that may accumulate , redo it if the chain gets noisy or squeaks . One on mine , a old sedis black on the higgins ultralite , has now done over a 1000 miles since last treatment and its all still clean but is getting noisy so bath time soon , no need to repeat the degreasing and cleaning process though , just brush it off and straight into the wax soup .

if you are going on longer tours you can make up a small amount of wax soup in a small tin then knock it out once cooled and take enough to half fill a soup can , when the chain sounds like it needs dip just watch out for an old can at the roadside and use the camp stove or a fire to melt some wax in it .



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