The Sovereign of England

“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.


1977 Colnago “Export” (yes, that’s actually its name)

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.

https://www.steel-vintage.com/colnago-export-classic-road-bike-1970s-detail

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.


2002 Della Santa ★Corsa Speciale

This DS was commissioned by its original owner in 2002 and found its way here in 2014 where it joined the semi-official Della Santa museum. I say “semi-official” because Roland doesn’t have much use for bikes that just sit around. He builds them to be ridden and scoffs at bikes that are mere garage queens. You can thus imagine how he feels about a gaggle of them.

He also doesn’t consider his bikes art in any sense and tends to go off on people who nerd out over his framebuilding. You know, people like me. Knowing him for 34 years and living within a mile of each other, he’s had many opportunities to make his opinion clear, but that doesn’t make me like him or his bikes any less. Probably more, in fact. Thus, the semi-official museum that exists without his blessing.

…And now that this particular bike is out and sitting here with me, maybe I’ll honor him by taking it out for a ride this afternoon. It’ll no-doubt be like riding rolling art, after all.


1964 Carlton Catalina- Before

This nice old Carlton showed up last week. Already pretty clean, the “Before and After” transition won’t be as dramatic as some, but that’s not to say it’s ready to go. It’s missing tires and most of its decals, the grease in the bearings is petrified, and the original Brooks B15 saddle has lost most of its color and suppleness. In other words, it’ll still be in the work stand for 8-10 hours.

Based on workflow I’m guessing it won’t be ready for it’s “After” shots for about a month. If you like Carltons it should be worth checking back, though.

 

 

 


1970’s Mercier- French OK-ness

I’m usually not very excited when the average 1970’s French bike rolls in the door. Plastic Simplex components, heavy frames, hard plastic saddles, narrow steel bars… And French threading. Yechh.

This Mercier caught my attention though, not because it was any great shakes quality-wise, but Lord, those decals. It was also pretty much new and very intact, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough. A couple of pretty Peugeots and a fine little Gitane Tourister came in about the same time and none of them joined the ranks of the Buzz Bomb collection.  Lord, those decals.

 

 


Della Santa as “Fuzzy Kitten”

We all take breaks from riding. And when we do our trusty steeds sit there patiently gathering dust. If it sits long enough the bike will start to collect grime. We humans tend to like oil in everything from lawn mowers to shrimp scampis and some of that invariably becomes airborne, eventually to alite on “Ol’ Paint”. It can takes years, or you can throw one good Bagna Cauda party and the deed will be done in one evening.

Once everything is good and tacky, simply add pet hair, your hair, lint, another helping of dust in the form of bunnies, etc. and you’ll have what is known in Buzz Bomb nomenclature as a “Fuzzy Kitten”.

As “Kittens” go, this Della Santa is about as good an example as one could hope to find. Note the uniform coating of oily felt on all bits, the wisps of fluff draped from the spokes. It’s nothing short of feline art. Part of me wants to hose it down with Simple Green, while another part wants to hide it away and let it continue on its current path. In another couple decades it could be the bike equivalent of a purple bottle, aged into unexpected beauty. Since the bike has to be prepped for sale it will almost certainly get the hosing treatment, but you get my point.

By the by, the stamping on the bottom of this DS is “GL”, but no,  I don’t think Greg LeMond ever owned a Fuzzy Kitten, let alone a 61cm.

(Thanks to G. Lanstyak for allowing me to poke fun of his bike and my apologies if didn’t want me to.)

 

 


1962 Frejus with lots of gears

Fellow Reno Rambler Jake Barrett had this frame hanging around his garage/shop for years. At one point he’d updated it, making it a townie bike of sorts. When I first saw it the bike was back to a frameset, more or less. Thankfully, Jake knew to keep the original parts around. After hinting and making pleading faces for half a year he graciously agreed to part with it.

One of my favorite parts of the bike (besides the paint color and the aluminum seat bag, of course) is the drivetrain. I can’t recall seeing very many early 60’s road bikes with triple chainrings. Rear derailleurs had a hard time managing 10 speed back then, so 15 was quite a stretch for short-cage derailleurs. Nevertheless, count ’em up and you’ll notice the Frejus has three steel rings up front. It must be pointed out that the Campagnolo Sportsman rear derailleur tries valiantly, but even so, it can barely throw around all that chain. At best I’d consider this bike a 13 speed, as the small-to-small and large-to-large ring/cog combinations are pretty much out of the question.