Going Retro

People who glance at my blog may have noticed that I’ve gone full on retro with my bikes. The oldest bike I own is from 2004, and that’s been dismantled for storage because I consider it too modern. 😛

To be honest, I’m a bit of a retro nut generally.. I’d much rather have a car from the 70s than my Honda Jazz (the wife’s not averse to this plan – we just can’t afford it). I have a small collection of VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) calculators from the late 70s/early 80s. I’ve still got an old Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a Commodore 64 in the loft. My main buying criteria for my phone was how well it’d adapt to playing emulated 80s computer games (slide out keyboard – pretty good!). My music taste is currently EBM, which is a genre that never really progressed since the 80s..

Other than just being old and funky, retro stuff also carries vague memories of the year of their construction. A 2010 bike is just a bike. A 1981 bike is a bike which carries 1981 with it!

So, today I’ve been looking up exactly what was going on in film and music when my bikes were constructed. I’m not going to list everything – I’m just going to list what’s interesting to me, because it’s my blog and I can do what I like! 🙂

1977 (Carlton Cobra)
I was 3 years old in 1977, so you might be able to forgive me for not remembering this year from my own memory. Presumably some of it must’ve filtered into my brain, affecting my tastes in later life.

Punk and disco were just starting to become popular in 77. I’ve never been a huge fan of punk, so I’ve chosen I Feel Love by Donna Summer, which was released that year. Bob Marley also released Exodus, and Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express.

1977 was the year of Star Wars, and I don’t think you can beat that. 🙂

1981 (Raleigh Twenty)
I was 7 in 1981. I had a vague taste in music, but not very well developed. My mum liked the new romantic stuff, however, and it definitely filtered in.  I think I was probably riding a Raleigh Striker at this point!

The New Romantic stuff was just starting to take off in 1981, with Vienna and Fade to Grey both being released that year. Depeche Mode released their first album, Speak & Spell (the only one with Vince Clarke), and Kraftwerk released one of the best albums of all time; Computer World! This was also the year that DAF released Der Musollini.

A really good year for films! Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, Escape from New York, Evil Dead, Mad Max 2..

1988 (Reflex ALX89)
I was 14 in 1988, and my musical taste was just starting to form properly, thanks to Cold Cut and Bomb the Bass. I remember one of my friends from school being heavily into hip hop, taking pride in owning lots of albums that were imported or having the ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers on them.

I wasn’t much into hip hop at this point, preferring the slightly more genteel sounds of Bomb the Bass, Stakker, and MARRS/Cold Cut. A super-special mention has to go to The Timelords (aka The KLF), who ripped off Cold Cut to make Doctorin’ The Tardis. This was also the year that the Pixies released Surfer Rosa, which is a phenomenal album.  Despite all that, I’m going to stick up a video of Eighty Eight by Public Relation, which was released that year, but has only recently come to my attention.  It is awesome.


1995 (Saracen Tufftrax)
Poor old Tufftrax.. it’s not been liking all the wet weather, and has been leaking orange water from the dropouts and headset. I really need to do something about that. Anyway, I was 21 in 1995, and I’d just started university. It was a year of heavy drinking and heavy partying, so I don’t really remember much about it. 😛 I do remember lots of nights of watching Chill Out Zone on MTV when I came home.

I was heavily into IDM at this point, and I was buying albums and singles by the shedload. Autechre, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Black Dog, Spooky, Scanner, Panasonic.. the list goes on and on! I reckon the best album was Vakio by Panasonic.

Some good ones this year.. Twelve Monkeys, Strange Days, The City of Lost Children, and.. er.. Judge Dredd! If you try to blot out the main characters, and concentrate on the scenery, it’s a pretty good film!


The bikes

I suppose I should set aside a post to share some info on the bikes that I’m abusing..

First up is my current steed; a Specialized Hardrock XC.


Suffering from new shoe syndrome! Hope they don’t stay pink.

I bought it new back in 2004, and it’s served me well over the years, despite my neglect.  Back down south, it was only really used for jaunts into the New Forest and around Dorset.  I never really took to cycle commuting, as I lived in Southampton, but worked 25 miles away, in Salisbury.  Too far for my liking, and taking bikes on trains was too hit and miss.

Up north, my commute is way more manageable, so it’s been getting much more use!  It felt a bit slow at times, so I bought the other two bikes to improve my commute times, and I intended to sell the Hardrock.  I didn’t really want to, though.. I bought it new!  It was mine!  Plus I might get the opportunity to go off-road again, someday..  maybe when my son is 6 or something..  So, when I realised that the racers weren’t too well suited to icy roads and snow, I had a good excuse to keep it!  Not just keep it.. I changed it to a singlespeed, as I’d found I really liked the feel of riding with just one gear.  It’s slower, but it’s more fun!

Next on the list is my Carlton Cobra.

Swanky.  🙂

I bought this in September this year, with the intention of modernizing the components, and then using it as a daily commute bike instead of the MTB.  The frame was entirely chrome, but it had seen better days, so I decided to get it powder coated.  That required taking all the bits off, and as I researched how to get bits off, and how to upgrade said bits, I started coming across talk of singlespeed bikes.

I’d heard of singlespeed before, and pretty much ignored it as the domain of people with more sunglasses than braincells.  But from what I was reading, normal people were using them too.  People were being converted, saying it’s something that has to be experienced.  I wanted to know what they meant!

And so, the plan changed, and I made it a singlespeed instead.  I managed quite a few commutes before the front wheel started making an awful noise (cheap wheels – bad idea!), and the singlespeeders were definitely onto something!

It’s off the road at the moment due to the aforementioned front wheel.  I should probably take it to the bike shop to get them to fix it, but then again, I could always try and do it myself……

Next up is the unknown Carlton.


Does the fork look bent in this photo?  :s

I’d bought a lot of components before the Cobra plan changed, and I still wanted to see how fast a geared road bike would go.  That seemed like a good enough excuse for buying another bike.  🙂

And so, I ended up with a Carlton with no name.  The only things I know about it are that it’s a 1974 Carlton, built in Worksop, with 531 tubes.  I’ve searched all over the place to find a frame that exactly matches it, but I’ve never found one.  There are many 531 Carltons of that era, but every one I’ve seen has a bridge for the rear centrepull brake cable.  Mine doesn’t.  It’s possible that it was a custom build, and it never had a name.  It’s kind’ve a shame, really.  Bikes should have names!

The bike is pretty much built, but I need to take it to a bike shop to get the seat tube measured.  In theory, it’s either 27mm or 27.2mm, as it’s 531 tubing, but I tried a 27.2mm post in it, and it looked like it was 4mm too large. That’s worrying, as the previous owner had cracked the tube slightly from tightening it too much, and I suspect he did it using a powertool.  What if he managed to bend the tube into an oval?  :s

So those are my bikes.  If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought bikes that were practically just frames.  Components are expensive, and I could’ve bought brand new bikes for the amount I spent!  They wouldn’t be as swanky, though.. if there’s one thing I hate about new bikes, it’s all the logos and silly technology that they’re splattered with.  And oval tubes.  And no lugs.  And deep V rims.

Money well spent, then!