“Ok, gang. This is the interactive portion of our show, where folks chime in to share their knowledge on a specific topic.
Today, our discussion focuses on Sovereign bicycles of England. We’ll be discussing their history, their legacy and anything else we can glean from the you, the general public.”
So, seriously if you know anything about the brand please chime in. I’ll post updates as info comes in.
In the meantime, here a Sovereign. It looks to be a mid-1970’s bike and is sitting with its original Shimano components and a mix of other period-correct bits. It was built with Reynolds 531 tubing so I’m fairly confident it wasn’t just some production job that some company slapped their name on. Hell, it says “hand made” on the head tube decal so there’s more to this story than I can currently find.
I received the bike from a gentleman named John Peterson here in Reno. It was hanging in his garage above a Citroen 2CV, which I didn’t get. At the time I didn’t take any notes or even ask any questions because A: As per usual, I was excited about the score, B: The 2CV had me all discombobulated with its beautiful 2CV-ness, and C: I honestly thought I’d be able to come home and read all about Sovereign bikes on the intergalacticweb. Uhh, wrong. (bad bicycle collector,,, baaadd!)
There is info about the Sovereign model made by Free Spirit (blecch!) and more than a few hits for a more modern edition made by Pashley. No Sovereign as a brand or manufacturer, though. Not that I could find.
I’m pretty darned good at online research which likely means I’m experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect and that I’m simply awful at it so, again, I’m reaching out to you, my loyal readers. If either of you knows anything, here’s your chance to shine.
And now, without further ado, the Sovereign.
Spring has sprung here, nestled against the Eastern Sierra, and with its return out come the winter projects to show their lovely selves.
To be fair, this Colnago “Export” wasn’t much of a project as Mike, its previous owner, did a magnificent job caring for it. All I had to do was hunt down the correct pedals and seatpost and it was off and running.
Speaking of component bits, the Export has a mix of Campy Nuovo Record and Gran Sport which I believe is how it was spec’ed originally. …And though it’s a step down from the Colnago “Super” it still has that stunning Colnago candy red paint which simply lights up in the sun.
I’d once heard that the majority of Italian racing bikes made during this period were sold in America. If that’s true, weren’t most Colnagos exports? Just wondering.
One last note: As I was perusing the intergalaticweb I ran across this website.
That Colnago sure looks a lot like this Colnago, like as in, the same one.
<Queue music from Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride. >
A huge and grateful thank you to Mike Savage for giving (yes, giving!) me this wonderful ride.
This pristine old Fat Chance was made specifically for Jim Patterson, longtime owner of Stewart-Hunt Cycles. When Jim dropped it off here to have me sell it I have to say that initially I wasn’t all that impressed with it. It had a thick coat of sawdust on it which made it look pretty haggard (another fuzzy bunny, as it were). Within the first few minutes of wiping it down I was to change my tune.
I also began to see that it wasn’t a single color, but a fantastic green fade. I’ve seen my fair share of fade paint jobs over the years, but nothing even comes close to this Fat Chance. It is the smoothest transition, and also the most delicate. Some fade paint schemes suffer from really abrupt transitions, but this one nearly encompasses the whole bike. It’s also consistent from side to side, top to bottom, a very hard thing to do. Whoever painted this bike was a true artist.
Well, that was even harder than I’d expected. In the end, it took Jake Barrett and me 30+ hours to get the first Thai pedicab together. 25% of the time was spent researching just what it was supposed to look like when done so we could properly assemble it. Since all three of the White Horse pedicabs were NOS many parts had never been fitted or assembled. We had to determine the proper configuration of all those non-bike looking piece, drill holes in the appropriate places and then hope we were on the right track.
While we were fussing over the mechanical components I also addressed the seat cushions. Over the years they’d morphed from comfortable and pliable to hard and crumbling so our local upholsterer rebuilt them. He was able to save the covers which was a Godsend because there was no way to reproduce them accurately.
So, one down, three to go. We should cut the assembly time quite on the two remaining White Horses, but the Neelam will again be a learning process all over again since it was built in India and is thus a completely different beast.
While we’re on the topic of bicycles from the East, here’s an interesting example of a vintage Japanese-made commuter. At first glance I thought it was Chinese-made based on the rod brakes, enclosed chaincase, hairpin saddle and black paint, all standard issue for bikes in China. Upon closer inspection it is indeed Japanese, with plenty of badges indicating its origin. It even has old Araya rims, something that many more modern Japanese road bikes used. An internet search produced nothing on Undes, Hayashiya or Best bicycles, all names that are present on it. I know that bicycles from the orient often have multiple names on them, any of which can refer to the manufacturer, distributor, model etc., but was hoping one of them would provide a starting point for research. Alas, nothing. So, if you know something about these please share. Also, if you know how to read Japanese and can decipher any of the markings I’d be very appreciate.
I’d known about this bicycle since 1988 (or so) after seeing it hung in the corner of my friend Leo’s garage. Leo was a horder extrordinaire, meaning the garage was packed to the rafters with all manner of stuff. The bicycle was of course stowed in the very back corner of the garage, effectively walled in by a mountain of old toasters, boxes of newspapers, vintage toys, broken light fixtures, tin cans full of straight nails, old car parts and pretty much anything else you could think of (and some you’d could never imagine). I didn’t know until many years later than under all that junk there were actually three cars, a 1927 Buick, a Maxwell (I forget which year), and a 1909 Sears. All runners, all beautiful, but all filled, then stacked on until you couldn’t see so much as a headlight, a tire tread, anything.
Leo passed away in 2012 and the family began the monumental task of de-hoarding, no small feat, even for the five siblings. By July of 2019 there was some semblance of a goat trail towards the back of the garage. Not all the way, mind you, but for a bicycle junkie, it was enough.
It took some low-level mountaineering skills to reach the bikes, and then 4 people and a bucket-brigade effort to cut the twine holding them to their nails and finally shine some daylight on them. I don’t think the family was thrilled that I had to stand in the Maxwell, and at one point, on the Sears, but again, bike junkie.
I can see where Leo would have acquired the other two bikes, a balloon-tire Schwinn and an old Brit racing bike; those probably turned up in town, at a yard sale perhaps. But the Undes? I’m pretty sure the brand was only sold in Japan, never meant for the American market. We already had tons of bicycles that more than filled the market niche that the Undes would have served. With one gear and weighing nearly 50 pounds it certainly didn’t surpass the standard American iron of the period. Maybe a serviceman brought it back, or it could have possibly been shipped here as a novelty after someone visited Japan. It’s all guessing at this point. For the sake of the bicycle’s history, or at least to quell my curiosity, hopefully someone out there will be able to offer some insight. Fire away with your thoughts, opinions or whatever.
The sum total of knowledge I possess of pedicabs could easily fit on the head of a pin. I’ve ridden in a couple, mainly along the waterfront in San Francisco. I’ve never pedals one, and being more than a little agoraphobic, have never laid eyes on one outside the U.S.
It looks like I’ll be getting a crash course in them, as 4 are now here. Three are marked “White Horse” and are supposedly from Thailand. The last is a Neelam made in India. None are assembled so that’s where my education will begin. Along with the larger frame pieces are buckets and boxes and plastic tubs of smaller bits, many of which little resemble bike parts. Who knows, maybe I got the makings of some pedicabs filled in with old swing set parts. Side note: When I was in my twenties I actually harbored visions of collecting swing sets.
Obviously this will be continuing story so check back if you’d like to see how this all goes.
Thanks to Robbie (shown) for hooking me up with his fine pedicabs. I’ll post the story of how he ended up with them in one of my updates.
I thought I was doing great this year. I got so many bikes done during the winter that I kinda slacked off. The problem is, things kept coming in. Good things too, like old Masi’s, some pretty Raleigh 3-speeds and a ton of older mt. bikes. With only 5 days left I’m now way behind. Better put on my rally cap and get down to business.