Monday, January 14, 2008

A Pair of Rex “Classique” Three-Speeds

While searching the internet for the correct new/old stock replacements for the damaged Rudge parts, I stumbled on an intriguing ad on my local craigslist: 20 Rex Three-Speed bicycles, NOS from 1971, and still in their packing boxes. What caught my attention was the frame and wheel sizes: 23”, and 25” frames built with 27” wheels. Most English three-speeds “back in the day” were built for 26” wheels with the largest commonly available frame size being 23”.
At $40 each, these were too good a deal to pass up. I bought two over the telephone- one 25” bike for myself, and a 23” model for my wife.

The seller, Jim Langley, describes himself as a bicycle aficionado, and is a well known bicycle writer. By the time I could made the all day drive to Santa Cruz and back to collect the two bikes- about a week later- every one of the 20 bikes had been spoken for!
My visit with Jim was well worth the long drive, as he proved to be friendly and well-versed in the idiosyncrasies of vintage British bicycles.

The Rex marque is a total mystery. Jim Langley thinks they may have been made in Raleigh’s Nottingham factory, and the many Whitworth fasteners used on these bikes seems to support his theory. By the early ‘70’s, Raleigh was hurting- the bike boom was in full swing, and every kid on the block wanted a “ten speed.” I believe that Raleigh ended production of the once popular three-speed “Sports” model in 1976. Several of the Rex bicycles in Jim’s lot were fitted with drop handlebars in an apparent attempt to grab some of the bike boom market share.

The story of how Jim Langley came into possession of the bicycles is an interesting one in its own right. Seems a man from New York moved his family and the inventory of his bicycle shop to California sometime in the early ‘70’s, intending to re-establish a bicycle business in the South Bay. Eventually, he retired, and then died, leaving a good part of the assets of the New York business stashed in the garage of his widow. She, in turn, sat on the stash for years before deciding to tidy up her garage. Her daughter mentioned the remaining inventory to Jim’s wife, who mentioned that Jim was an expert on vintage bicycles, and the introduction was made. Jim made a commitment to getting this lot of rare bicycles into the hands of those that would use and appreciate them at no profit to him- a gentleman indeed.

After 35 years in the box, these two bicycles were in pristine condition save for the congealed grease in all of the bearings. I took the first to the LBS that I most wanted to like for the job of repacking the bearings. They weren’t too enthusiastic about the project, so I took the second one to a newly opened bicycle shop near my office- Sonoma Bicycle Company. There I met Adam Long, bicycle mechanic extraordinaire. Though just out of high school, Adam knows vintage Raleigh three-speeds inside and out, and he quickly had both of the Rexes on top tune.

There are more pictures of this pair of Rex “Classiques” here.

Here are the tech specs:

Frame: Steel, lugged construction

Model: Classique

Seat Tube, C-C: 63cm

Top Tube, C-C: 58cm

Chainstays, C-C: 45cm

Stand-over Height: 87.75cm

Rear Dropout Width: 112mm

Front Dropout Width: 95mm

Bottom Bracket: “Made in England”

Dropouts: Stamped steel

Rear Hub: Sturmey Archer AW, 3-speed

Front Hub: Steel shell, “Made in England”

Shifter: Sturmey Archer w/ clear plastic cover

Cable Routers: Sturmey Archer fulcrum stop, gray plastic pulley

Crankset: Steel, cottered

Pedals: Phillips w/ 4” rubber blocks

Rims: Sturmey Archer, 27 x 1 ¼, chrome-plated steel

Tires: Michelin “High Speed” whitewalls, 27 x 1 ¼ , “Made in England”

Brake Calipers: Steel side-pull, unmarked

Brake Levers: Steel, 2 bolt clamp, unmarked

Cable Housing: white, ribbed

Headset: Steel, unmarked

Handlebars: Steel “North Road”

Grips: White plastic

Stem: Steel, unmarked

Saddle: Wrights, black leather, sprung

Seat Pin: Steel, unmarked

Fenders: Steel, painted

Pump: White plastic, unmarked

Chain Guard: Hockey stick, steel, painted white, clamp-on

Kick Stand: Esge/ Pletscher

Saddle Bag: Carradice, black waxed canvas

No comments: