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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.


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:: [   THE CYCLING BUDS OF MAY -  2020  ] ::


In view of the ban on public meetings, the Coronavirus has put paid to the normal range of Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society outside and inside gatherings. We have therefore encouraged all our members to take photographs instead of any of their allowable distancing machinery and share them on our website. Many of our Members are of the 'elderly variety' so were hankered deep down thinking of survival rather than escape,  but some have been 'socially cycling' and have sent photos to us.    PHOTOS WELCOME !!

Our Membership Secretary Chas Moody apart from being keen on vintage cars is also a very keen 'two-wheels man' and is not particularly choosy if he falls off a motorcycle or a bicycle. Just as the Coronavirus lock-down was about to happen, he had taken his 1914 Triumph TT Roadster Motorcycle on the " Virtual 81st Pioneer Motorcycle Run - 2020 "  of which some photos are on our website,

Chas is also a regular 'modern' sports biker, and he has a much broken leg to prove it, - he is also a collector of old bicycles. One of the oldest he had was a "Penny Farthing" which we could control relatively expertly,  except for the time he turned into the Dog & Duck Car park bit sharpish at one of our Sunday lunchtime meetings and took out the side of our then Chairman's newly restored Jaguar XK120. 

Chas is also a convert to photography and has now dent some lovely photos to prove it. The first is of his visit to nearby Lingfield Village and the famous 'Cage'. The Lingfield Cage is a very small single room building next to the village pond and was built in 1773 by the good folk of Lingfield to house their local drunks, petty thieves, rustlers and ruffians. These buildings were normally built from stone, had a stone roof, a small stone built chimney, a single door and a slit window. Mostly they were square in shape but some were round and some had domed roofs. They were known as the 'village lock-up', the 'cage', the 'tower', the 'watch house' or the 'round house'. Many were built adjacent to the village pond and were provided with adjacent stocks. They were normally looked after by the local constable and his staff, and were also used as holding cells for villains prior to them going in front of the local magistrates in the nearest bigger town. They were replaced in 1839 by local police stations having their own holding facilities. The Cage is next to the village pond called the "Gun Pond" or 'Gun Pit Pond'. The pond area is now much modernised and brick surrounded.

 The cycle is a 1977 Viscount 'Aerospace Sport', purchased to provide transport to work which was an eight-mile journey and paid for itself in saved train fares in about six months. The bikes were manufactured by The Trusty Cycle Company Ltd. which perhaps was more familiar for its children's cycles and whilst being mass produced, the Aerosport range possessed many features found on more expensive hand-built machines. The frames were apparently made from aerospace quality lightweight steel tube, fillet brazed without lugs and good quality accessories were used. At £88.00 basic price, the bikes were extremely good value for a cycle of this specification. Innovative features included cartridge bearing bottom bracket assemblies and sealed ball race wheel bearings.

The second of Chas Moody's visits was to Westerham and the statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the village green. This statue is of some interest to the SVVS Chairman Bozi Mohacek who is of Yugoslav/Croatian origin. The bronze statue of Churchill was unveiled in 1969 having been sculpted by Oscar Nemon. It stands on a base of Yugoslav granite which had been donated by the then President of Yugoslavia Marshal Josip Broz Tito as a symbol of Yugoslav soil, in homage to "Churchillís leadership in the Second World War".  It should be noted that Westerham is the nearest town to Churchill's wartime home, the Chartwell Estate. What may not be so well known is that Churchill's connections with Tito went very much deeper. Churchill's son Randolph had, with Winston Churchill's approval, been parachuted into the impenetrable Yugoslav mountains during the later states of Word War Two to liaise with Tito, this when the Brits decided Tito was probably on the winning side. Tito was at that time very close to being captured by the Germans but managed to escape. Randolph subsequently also flew to the remote off-coast Adriatic island of Vis which had become Tito's stronghold. The airplane apparently crashed and Randolph was injured. He was flown to Italy and later returned to take charge of the military mission in Croatia. By this time Randolph was a bit of an embarrassment and "drunk most days",  and less than the perfect English gentleman.  - So the connection between the Churchills and Tito, and with Yugoslavia, were actually much closer than may at first sight be suggested. 


The machine that Chas went to Westerham on was a 1953 Thanet 'Silverlight'. Hand-built in Bristol, these machines of unconventional design were the idea of proprietor Les Cassell. Unusual features were the use of 1" diameter tube for the three main frame tubes, normal frames having larger size tube for the front down tube and seat tube. The bottom bracket was cradled by the frame tubes instead of the tubes being directly connected to it and the seat stays were roughly parallel with the down tube, being connected to both the seat tube and top tube to form a triangulated structure. Silver solder was used to join the tubes to the frame lugs instead of brass which was normally used in frame manufacture. Approximately 583 cycles were produced of this design of which about 100 are known to survive.

Not to be undone on the ancient bicycle front, the SVVS Chairman Bozi Mohacek rummaged through the cowshed milking-parlour in amongst the resting agricultural machinery because he remembered seeing an old dusty much-unused bicycle there. Sure enough, propped up against an old rusty  paraffin dispensing drum was real proper nurse's bike with wicker basket. Enquiries with Mrs Chairman advised that the bike had belonged to her elder sister while she was training to be a nurse at Guys Hospital in London in 1950s. She apparently used it as her main means of transport. It then came to the Farm and had occasionally been used by mother-in-law to go shopping on to the local village. 

My specific memory of the bike was a couple of decades ago being asked by the in-laws to get it mobile again because it was needed to be used in a theatre production of, I think, 'The importance of being Earnest' where it was to wheeled on and off the stage by Miss Prism. To my surprise the front wheel turned and the tyres were flabby but did contain adequate air to confirm that they were partially pumped up. Much liberal use of wire brush and oil got the chain mobile, which then proved that the rear wheel can be turned freely. The wheel was fitted with a Surmey Archer three speed hub which likewise was in need of many squirts of oil. Additional oil was needed to the steering head, and quantities of penetrating oil to the saddle adjusting bolt to make the saddle adjustable. The bike duly made it debut on the stage and behaved implacably. So much so, it was called on for another theatre production a year or so later. 

It then returned to the milking parlor where it continued to rest gently for a decade or so until I took it out yesterday to investigate it more in order to write this item about it. To my great surprise the machine was very much as I had left it except that the tyres were a grungy mess of sticky decaying rubber much misshapen. So I was greatly relived I would not be able to be persuaded to take up cycling into the countryside. Instead, I decided to do a bit more research into what exactly it was. To my great surprise it turned out to be a RUDGE. To me a Rudge was an Ulster TT winning racing motorcycle not a rusty old pushbike!

Seems however that the Rudge bicycle was made by Rudge-Whitworth Cycles formed by amalgamation of Whitworth Cycle Co and Rudge Cycle Co in 1894. No apparent connection with the famous Whitworth. The company was successful and were producing 25,000 cycles a year by 1897, and by 1934 it had become Coventry's largest cycle manufacturer. Quite impressive considering the cycling boom was largely on the decline. For that very reason, Rudge-Whitworth Cycles had been diversifying since 1912 into detachable wheels (in competition to Riley) and had started in motorcycle manufacture. They were very successful in making winning Grand Prix and TT racing motorcycles through the 1920s and 1930s.They even went into the car market by launching in 1912 the Rudge Cyclecar powered by 750 cc single and using the Rudge multi-speed transmission, with belt drive.

As already mentioned, they were in 1934 Coventry's largest cycle manufacturer but, due to the great depression, they encountered financial difficulties. The company was restructured under the same name. They ceased motorcycles in 1939 but carried on with bicycles. In 1943 the company was bought by Raleigh and the name continued to be used on bicycles up to 1961.

Our bike, after much scraping off of dirt and rust, and guessing at worn out transfers, seemed to be a Rudge Whitworth Pathfinder. The Rudge red hand logo comes from the original Whitworth company. Our bike is a 'step-over' or 'lady's standard bicycle' which had been manufactured  in various variants since 1904 and remained so for many years with a curved upper downtube and frequently with a fully enveloping chain-guard. The bike with parallel downtubes like on ours were made from the early 1930s and remained visually unchanged into the 1950s. There was a change from rod brakes to cable brakes and introduction of Sturmey-Archer three speed hub. A range of types of handlebars was available from sit-up-and-beg to drop-down sports. Our one has the Sturmey-Archer three speed hub and, short of researching the part numbers, ours would seem to be of cca 1951/2 vintage. Now safely returned to the milking-parlour for a further decade or two of rest, by when it may be 'discovered' by my kids, - or theirs?

Another of our Members who apart from being keen on vintage cars, is also a very keen 'two-wheels man',  is our French contributor Michel Gossett. Michel cycles the lanes of Surrey and has occasionally come across Chas Moody doing the same.  Being French Michel is naturally an owner of two Citroens, a 1924 5CV and 1956 2CV, but does have a couple of British Jags (albeit with the steering wheels on the wrong side), a Moggy and has a Triumph police twin  motorcycles. He was also the owner of the Connaught Formula One single seater as raced by Bernie Ecclestone, and a Bond tree-wheeler which refused to rot away in the garden because it was made of fiberglass. I wanted it but Mrs Chairman threatened divorce.

Michel sent us this picture with the comment: This is a photo of my bike which I bought at the local Boy Scout jumble sale; as you can see it is not a "sports" version ; it must be four times heavier than the bikes encountered on my daily run. Sometimes I think that it should be nice to run a very light bike but, after all, the purpose is to do some physical exercise, so there would be not much point !"  We do however note from the photograph that Michel needs in these cold northern climates quite a paraphernalia of warm gear to go cycling. We note a thick jacket, scarves, gloves and thick socks. I wonder what he needs on the coldest day of the year?

The bike is a Dawes Street Life 'step-over' or 'lady's bicycle', sometimes referred to as a Dutch bicycle, made in the early 1970s. Dawes is a British bicycle manufacturer in the Midlands who started making motorcycles and bicycles in Birmingham in 1906 as Humphries & Dawes. The company split in 1926 with Dawes Cycles Co primarily promoting itself as a racing cycle manufacturer. They manufactured most of the components of the bike themselves, like mudguards, brakes, pedals etc, thereby keeping control of quality. The company grew through the 1950s and 1960s and were making over 1,000 bicycle a week during the 1970s. They diversified into "unisex"  and small wheel "shopping" bikes, available as either fixed frame or foldable. Between 1978 and 2001 the company was sold five times ending up with production in Asia. The head office remains in Birmingham and is still developing new models.

Michel also supplied a photo demonstrating his cycling prowess of a few months ago.  He says " I was at the beginning of the run from my home on our very steep downhill lane (10% incline which gets snow/ice bound in mid winter). For some reason , I needed to adjust the cover on my saddle so I stood a bit on the pedals in order to adjust the saddle with one hand, while the other hand was steering the bike and applying the front brake. I then realised that the bike needed to slow down lots more .. so I applied more brake ... a bit too much. The result was similar to the photo : for half a second everything was still ; beautifully balanced on the front wheel, - in perfect equilibrium.  Unfortunately this did not last long and I got some very sore knees !

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