In my last post I finished up my bars and stuck some cabling onto my Peugeot. I also put a lovely Brooks saddle on there to finish the look off, and I must say I’m particularly happy with it. For me, it’s not quite done yet, but you can take it out on the road now, and I did! Just to the top of my road and back, similar to when I first got it, though now I could get it to stop, of course.
It’s comfortable and handles well, and though I’m now equipped with some stopping power it’s still not a great deal of it. This is down to two things: Old, original mafac brake pads, and a missing straddle cable on the rear brake.
Mafac brakes in the style I’m using requires a pretty specific kind of straddle cable described as double ball-ended which isn’t really used any more. Normally a diligent search online will help you find stuff like this, but I’ve had no results whatsoever with this one. I gave some more common barrel-ended cables a try but they’re just too big to fit, and filing them down at home didn’t seem viable. There were quite a few straddle cables available in the USA, but with ludicrous postage costs associated with them it was all a little silly. At least I had the one straddle cable for the bike though, which meant my front brake could slow things down.
Things changed when I put my name down for a group ride with a particularly vintage feel to it. I left a message on the group saying that though I hoped to come I was struggling to find this tiny little cable, and if anyone could point me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated. It just so happened that the meet point for this ride was going to be a bike cafe that specialised in refurbishing/upcycling old bikes for resale, and so would likely be able to help me out one way or another.
Oh, and did I mention this was going to be a tweed ride?!
The tweed run is quite a large organised event in London, but there are local tweed ride groups dotted all over the UK; I came across the Liverpolitan Tweed Run completely by accident when leafing through facebook events and vintage bike pages. It wasn’t easy to determine when the next ride was going to be arranged, there’d been quite a gap since the last one due to a lot of railway closures between Liverpool and Birkenhead, and at one point I did think the rides had simply stopped altogether. Not wanting to give up, I sneaked a look at the page every now and then, just to keep an eye on it, and sure enough there was a ride planned a week on Sunday! This was just the target I needed to get the cabling and shellacking done, even if it was a tight schedule.
Before we get to the ride itself I should probably go into a little detail about the nature of tweed runs. Where retro sportives, such as Eroica, are a protest at the modern image and ethos of cycling but still quite sport-driven, tweed runs are more a social event and a cheery throwback to retro cycling. That’s not to disparage sportives, however, they’re simply catering for a different style of event and audience, much in the same way a kickabout in the park and a 5-a-side league do so with football. There are no restrictions on what kinds of bike you can use – vintage bikes are appreciated but not mandatory – and you don’t have to wear tweed, it’s more that any vintage-y style of clothing is encouraged (and really, why would you want to go to something like this if you didn’t want to dress up?) Encourage is very much the word of the day with tweed runs, they’re taken at a very easy pace and the social nature of the event means everyone looks after one another.
Our ride meets this time at MeCycle, a bike cafe in Ainsdale that, judging by the number of clubs stopping there when I arrive, isn’t doing too badly. Unsurprisingly it’s very easy to find the tweedsters among the lycra-laden club rides and on spotting my own tweed jacket and cap they give me a warm welcome and bring me over to their table for coffee. It’s clear I’m not the only person who found it easy to spot the group, as plenty of other cyclists-in-passing pop over to ask us more about what we’re doing and get a little disheartened when they discover we’re not part of their group ride.
After my obligatory americano, I go and find the shop’s mechanic and tell him about my braking predicament. He comes outside with me and gives my Peugeot the once-over, then hurries away, telling me that he’ll find me when he’s done. Soon enough he comes back to show me that he’s hand-filing some barrel-ended straddle cables into the ball shape the Mafac needs! The guy is vocally passionate about old bikes like mine and we get into a long conversation about the advantages of retro-styled bikes, but sadly the filed cable doesn’t quite do the job. Instead of calling it a day, he rushes back into his garage, comes out with a spare Mafac brake that he has the right cabling for, and fits that quickly, routing it up with the brake levers and putting my original brake in a bag for me. The whole thing costs £10. Ten pounds! You’d struggle to get your brakes serviced for £10, never mind replaced! I really can’t rate this place highly enough, the staff were exceptional.
And with that, away we go! The leisurely pace of these rides is certainly not an understatement, cruising alongside the coastal roads at a relaxed 10mph or so, a blessing in disguise considering how much wool the group is wearing. It’s a double blessing as we ride along, as I quickly discover that the cabling for my gears may be a little on the slack side – something I’m often guilty up when I replace gear cables – but it doesn’t make any real impact on the ride. It’s also quickly apparent that my seatpost is very much on the low side for me. I’d dropped it a little to make mounting and dismounting in trousers less daunting, but it’s only as I struggle to put any power through the drivetrain when going uphill that I realise I may have overdone it.
The ride is punctuated with stops for drinks and snacks, both at pubs and at a nice picnicking spot in Ainsdale woods. I hadn’t thought to bring lunch with me, expecting to get a pub lunch of the way, but the first stop is a picnic stop with champagne (a Liverpolitan tweed tradition!) and multiple people were kind enough to offer me drinks and things to eat. I’ll have to remember to bring extras next time as a thank you.
Unfortunately I had to cut my ride a little short. Getting my bike ready the night before included refitting the cranks, and it seems I didn’t quite tighten the non-drive crank enough, so much so that after passing through Formby woods my left leg is feeling very treacherous as I pedal. I do a quick assessment at a pub stop and realise it needs the one spanner I hadn’t brought with me – I’d just brought tools for adjusting the brakes and not much for anything else. A few other people in the group see if they have anything that’ll do the job but to no avail, and as it’s getting quite late by this point I call it a day and push the Peugeot to the train station to get home. What a fun day out, I’ll have to keep my eye out for further rides in the future!
Special mention to Rowan at the Velocipedium for allowing me to use some of his photos here alongside mine. Thanks again!