Saturday, 8 August 2009


I picked up my R. T. Shayler for the princely sum of £10 at the local tip. The frame was chromed but rusty, the fancy lugs, wraparound seat stays and the cast dropouts caught my eye. I also spotted the wrong diameter seatpost and some shims bodged to make up the difference. It had cottered Milremo cranks, steel rims (700c), flattish bars and was pretty much the worse for wear.

I gutted the bike and kept only the frame and forks, both were stamped with matching numbers 621. There was swarf in the bottom bracket, I'm guessing from when a seat post was machined out - but I don't know. The 21" bare frame weighed about 4lbs 8oz and had seams so I guess it's 501 and some of that weight is the plating. The seat post diameter is 27mm.

The seat post bodge had caused damage to the top of the seat tube. I machined a 27 mm diameter slug of steel about 8" long with tapers at each end and tapped it into the tube. To move it back up, I drilled a 10mm hole in the bottom bracket and used a long drift. I also used the steel for support as I attempted to tap the tube circular again. If you hadn't read this and didn't look too hard you wouldn't notice it on the seat tube. But you have now and I can see it. Functionally there is no problem.

The wheels are the originals from my Dawes Galaxy, which were still fine. The rear dropout width on the Shayler was 123mm whilst the Galaxy rear was originally 126 so I machined some aluminium spacers and did some redishing which solved the problem. Hunting through my box of screw-on freewheels, I found a five-speed block. The largest sprocket was standard but because I like a very low bottom gear, I disassembled the 5-speed block and a 7-speed block and replaced the largest sprocket on the 5-speed with a 34-tooth sprocket from the 7-speed. Because the 7-speed was hyper glide, there were slight differences in the splines which I removed with a disc cutter.

I cleaned the frame of oil and grease and thoroughly masked it, screwing in sacrificial bottom bracket cups (with a machined internal spacer), sacrificial head set, stem sleeve and nut and 5mm screws in appropriate places (but they are 2BA! I now know), and then took it to Birmingham and had it blasted and powder coated in satin black.

Putting it on the road, the wheels were done already. One complication was that the bike was built as a five-speed, with a braze-on on the right of the downtube for the rear derailleur.

Initially I had a home-made suicide shifter for the 50/34 double you can see in the first photograph, I had to reach down and operate the shifter by hand. Since then I have changed the front chainring twice, first with a triple and lately (17/07/10) with a 42/28 Stronglight Impact double. It's whatever I have in the garage at the time. To make shifting slightly safer I now use a spoke to pull and push directly onto the derailleur. There is no return spring and its position is maintained by friction (from the cable tie). It is kept in place with a guide I made from various bits.

Who is R. T. Shayler? I had never heard of him but some searching turned up this link:

This is the only reference to bicycles produced by him that I can find. There is a Dick Shayler Trophy given by the Leamington C & A C.

The bike was given to a good friend Jason as a present in April 2011.
Its state at the time is shown in photo below. 32 mm tyres - there is loads of room for them with mudguard clearance and still there is no need for forming (indenting) the tubes to clear either the tyres or the chainset. Why can't you get frames like this today? Talking of chainsets there is a Stronglight 80 BCD double 48 / 32 with another version of a suicide shifter using a steel rod and some aerolastic. It works a treat! Also fitted a very light rack off a Bob Jackson tandem I owned briefly, and a plastic bottle cage.

(Carl Scheele discovered oxygen and I noted that his name has the same pronunciation. Perhaps the name Shayler has Swedish roots?

05/07/14 Another RTS came up on ebay last week. It fetched a reasonable sum with a lot of interest which suggests some afficionados are out there.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


The distinction between refurbishment and restoration was made clearly by the late great Sheldon Brown.

I do not restore bicycles for a number of reasons, there are some nitpicking bike snobs who manage to find fault with any bike they look at; it may be the finish, decals, incorrect diameter spokes or some imagined anchronism - and by doing what I do I create bikes which they consider beneath contempt.  I really don't care, people who know everything cannot learn anything.

I refurbish bicycles to create bikes that I want to ride, the sort of bikes the shops don't sell.  This hobby costs me money, I have yet to make a profit on anything.  It is something I do for fun.  Originality is an illusion; and soundbites have no depth.

The materials I work with are stuff that is cheap, currently out of fashion, second-hand, free or surplus to someone else's requirements. I have a lathe and a mill so sometimes I will make an item.

It is necessary to be brutal.  If I take a bike down to the tip, I probably rescued it from there in the first place.  It got some attention, TLC and miles.  Bikes are not alive but I give them life, perform transplants and sometimes find a caring home.  I can't afford to muck around with top-flight machines and so far no-one has been offended enough to say anything to me about what I have done.  Mostly people assume because I ride an old (dirty) bicycle that I am poor and the quality of some machines is utterly lost on them, because if it isn't shiny or new it's no good.  I don't tell the story of every bike I have owned.

I am under no obligation to restore lovingly to factory standard any bicycle I have.  Period-correct parts do not interest me, function is my watchword.  I reserve the right to give up on any project if I lose interest.  Now that ebay is charging 10% on postage more of my stuff will end up down the tip and Royal Mail will lose business to cheaper parcel delivery companies.

I also go back, edit and update entries.  If you have read an entry before it may have changed if ever you return to this blog.