Science Monster Home Movie Catalog

Home > Old 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 bike.

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 bike.

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.'

The 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 ever again!