Machines > 1951 Rudge Aero Clubman
My trusty 1945
Rudge is a 50+ pound tank. I'm an old fat man.
The train is about
16 inches high, and that's just the first step. There are three more
after that one, and there's always a line of uptight, spandex-clad
wankers with 10 pound bikes perched delicately on their shoulders
waiting to see if I am going to take a train ride or an ambulance
ride with my bike.
I needed a train
I had been agonizing
about what to do about that. I already had a 1951 Sports updated with
aluminum wheels and an 8-speed hub for to take hilly rides with, but
that was still a bit heavy and I really don't like the modern Shimano
Hub I had used on it. I feel dirty when I used it. It's just too new.
I had read
about Clubman bikes - real touring bikes from back in the day,
built with 531 tubing, that weighed considerably less than Sports
- but figured I'd have to settle for a 70s
Imagine my surprise
when one popped up on Craigslist. I don't think anyone knew what it
was - I bet most assumed it was a 70s bike some heretic slapped an
AW hub on.
I ran over to Oakland
then and there and got it before anyone else could.
As with a lot of
Clubmans, the paint job hasn't held up well. Besides all the scratches
and blemishes, it rubs off really easy. Something definitely went
wrong at the plant, because this was nothing like the high quality
paint of all the Sports I've had.
The decals weren't
in too bad of shape. Some doofus had hacksawed the lower pump bracket
off. I have a Cyclo bolt-on replacement for it. The brakes were incorrect
- Mafacs. The rear rim had been replaced with a french one. It was
missing the fenders, the grips, and the pump - but the seat was still
there, as well as the handlebars, stem, front wheel, and seatpost.
I've slowly been
re-equiping the bike. As with all my bikes, I've upgraded the AW
- I lucked-out and found a 1951 AG on eBay. I like lights on 24/7.
I found GB Hiduminium brakes, cool Britannia fenders, Sturmey-Archer
toeclips with cool branded leather straps. I took the grips off
a 50s BSA. Not really sure what's supposed to be on there, but these
look and feel good.
I've since removed
the aluminum cup holder on the handlebars. I think the headlight
looks correct - it's been gutted and upgraded with 20 superbright
LEDs to blind anyone who gets in my way.
I found a period-correct
Cyclo Benelux 3-speed derailler, shifter, and three speed cog -
but I grew bored of that real fast. I'm back to just three gears
and a 16 tooth spocket in back. I walk up hills. I'll replace it
at some point with a 15 tooth - I've found that 63 and 84 gear
inches are best for around town, and 15T/46T gets me that with
the 27 1/4 wheels. I always have 3rd for when I want to go fast.
I can also change out the other '51 rear wheel that has the stock
AW and lighten the bike considerably.
I took an old
Winnemann brake handle and improvised a 'cyclo' brake up where cheaters
are usually placed on 70s bikes. It works really well, and cut this
old guy's reaction time down from 'two blocks after I crash,' to
'just a bit too late to not crash.'
bike weighs just under 29 pounds as pictured, and feels light as a
feather, especially compared to a Sports. It feels much more flimsy
than a Sports, surprisingly so. A much different ride.
I had thought that
I couldn't ride a bike like this because of back problems, but after
several weeks of agonizing pain, I found an amazing Sheldon
Brown page that cured me forever!
I only ride this
bike when I know I going to go on the train, and it works great for
that. I'd ride it more, but as fun as this is to ride, it still doesn't
compare to a Sports. But at least now I have a train bike that is
old enough for me to like, and light enough for me to carry. And as
long as I never reach all the way down to those grips, I'll never
have to worry about whether I'm taking the train or the ambulance