'51 Maclean Featherweight

sherlylock

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A few weeks ago I had a message from a friend with a link to a fb marketplace advert for a MacLean Featherweight "Barn Find" that happened to be fairly local to me. I love it and hate it when this happens in equal measure......as I usually love the bikes that I get sent links to but it usually it ends up in another bike purchase. And this is no exception. As soon as I saw the ad I knew I had to have it......it ticks so many boxes!

Sent a couple of "Is this available" messages to the seller, only to be ignored, and then to see it pop up on eBay. Had a bid on it and got outbid in the last few seconds. Thought that was the last I'd see of it until a few weeks later it popped up again on eBay "relisted due to timewaster". Sceptically I put in another last minute bid......and won! Trying to nail the guy down for a collection time was tricky but eventually we met up and I collected it. Turns out the seller was a property developer/builder and the bike came out of the garage at the house he is currently renovating.

Dating it from the frame number/classiclightweights website and the cranks I believe its from 1951, although I have no idea which model. Proper filthy and a level of corrosion on the chromed stuff it's generally in good order for a 70 year old bike. The paint and decals are fantastic......it's quite a bland paint scheme, no lining or boxing and no chrome aside from the crown. It was clearly someones pride and joy until they could no longer cycle any more.

Some pics:

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Resilion cantilever brakes
Williams C1200 cranks
Dunlop Special lightweight rims
4 spd Sturmey Archer rear hub
BH Airlite low flange front hub
Dawes Concorde bars and GB spearpoint stem
Reynolds seat post
Wrights saddle
Blumels mudguards

The 4spd hub is dated 1960 so presumably was a later addition but the list of parts is quite a nice "who's who" of 1950s British cycling manufacture.
 

sherlylock

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Found a few hours free last week so started reworking the MacLean to a less touring type spec. Replaced the wheels with a set of aluminium rims that I have - airlite large flange rear flip-flop hub and a campagnolo small flange front hub. Carefully removed the Blumels mudguards and stored them away, removed the sturmey archer lighting and the Wrights saddle and replaced with a large rivet Brooks Professional. Haven't got the kahunas to ride it in fixed wheel format yet so I've fitted a 16t freewheel that I've recently renovated. Bottom bracket and headset both felt super smooth so I decided to just ride it to work in sunshine.........and it rides so well! Can't help but to ride it fast.......everywhere.

Needs a complete strip down, clean and service before really using it properly - that'll be the plan next time I get a day free.

Would love an airlite large flange front hub too to finish it off.

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torqueless

Senior Retro Guru
About forty-five years ago, on my way to my paper round, I used to cross paths with an old geezer getting on a bike just like that, same colour, same size, more or less similar components, most mornings at about six o'clock, even in the depths of Winter. He was one of about three people in that suburban housing estate I considered to be 'normal', in the sense that they weren't conforming to the weird routines and rituals of continual acquisition, consumption and display that seemed to preoccupy everyone else in suburbia, and more or less define it. I could tell he was riding a quality machine- a handbuilt lightweight from years back- which he'd obviously kept functional for donkey's years- probably without ever even considering a respray or a component 'upgrade'. I used to try to imagine him twenty years earlier, this old geezer with a flat cap, thick-rimmed spectacles and cycle-clips. Nothing on his bike was neglected, but neither was anything on his bike shiny.
It was a paradoxically refreshing sight to behold.
 

Jonny69

Senior Retro Guru
^ Good story, you just don't see that any more.

This is just a perfect bike for an oily rag resto. I really like it. Put some clips on it and it'll fly with a fixed gear.
 

sherlylock

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About forty-five years ago, on my way to my paper round, I used to cross paths with an old geezer getting on a bike just like that, same colour, same size, more or less similar components, most mornings at about six o'clock, even in the depths of Winter. He was one of about three people in that suburban housing estate I considered to be 'normal', in the sense that they weren't conforming to the weird routines and rituals of continual acquisition, consumption and display that seemed to preoccupy everyone else in suburbia, and more or less define it. I could tell he was riding a quality machine- a handbuilt lightweight from years back- which he'd obviously kept functional for donkey's years- probably without ever even considering a respray or a component 'upgrade'. I used to try to imagine him twenty years earlier, this old geezer with a flat cap, thick-rimmed spectacles and cycle-clips. Nothing on his bike was neglected, but neither was anything on his bike shiny.
It was a paradoxically refreshing sight to behold.
Love this. Was it in Benfleet, Essex? 😂 I love the idea that someone had cherished this bike right up until the day he could no longer ride it. It's certainly not been neglected and is in good order - although after stripping it down last night to give it a good clean and service it's possible that it's been refinished at some point - originally a burgundy colour. I must admit I hate the replace instead of repair culture and the fact that consumer items seem to be designed with built in obsolescence - to fail in a way that makes them more expensive to repair than to replace (washing machines!). I have an old iPhone that until very recently was fine for what I needed it for until Apple stopped supporting it. Now apps don't work on it and it uses 7/8th of it's memory just being a phone. It's now a throw away item.

Stripped the bike down to bare frame last night to give it a good clean and service. Found the frame number stamped on the steerer - and it matches the frame which s good. Interestingly it's made from Accles and Pollock tubing too - found an oval A&P stamp near the crown. I assume there's a way to decode the various letters and numbers stamped within the oval - not that they're very clear.

As mentioned - I found evidence of a dark red/burgundy colour under the green in places. Not sure if this is undercoat/primer or whether its the previous colour. The other thing that makes me think its been refinished is the drive side bb cup is painted in place. Doesn't feel like the sort of thing that a good quality frame builder would do (I know Raleigh used to paint over the bb cup in the 70's on the Raleigh Twenty/RSW/Shopper etc). Also some evidence that maybe the fork ends were chromed too (where the green has flaked).

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dan73uk

Retro Guru
Found a few hours free last week so started reworking the MacLean to a less touring type spec. Replaced the wheels with a set of aluminium rims that I have - airlite large flange rear flip-flop hub and a campagnolo small flange front hub. Carefully removed the Blumels mudguards and stored them away, removed the sturmey archer lighting and the Wrights saddle and replaced with a large rivet Brooks Professional. Haven't got the kahunas to ride it in fixed wheel format yet so I've fitted a 16t freewheel that I've recently renovated. Bottom bracket and headset both felt super smooth so I decided to just ride it to work in sunshine.........and it rides so well! Can't help but to ride it fast.......everywhere.

Needs a complete strip down, clean and service before really using it properly - that'll be the plan next time I get a day free.

Would love an airlite large flange front hub too to finish it off.

3roJNXEl.jpg


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Very nice.
 

sherlylock

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So with the bike stripped down to the bare frame (including removing the drive side BB cup) I decided to weigh both frame and forks as a record.....

Frame is a comparable weight to my 1950 Claud Butler Avant Courier - and that is 531 butted tubing. Not a bad weight for a reasonably large 70 year old steel frame!

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nickyburnell

Dirt Disciple
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My dad came home with one of these "from a bloke at work" when I was 12 or 13, 1973 or so.
He didn't bring the wooden rims (!) I found out later. It was Simplex 4 speed IIRC? Also had all the Simplex catalogs.
I was told the frame, "whipped" to help with speed, goodness knows but you could bend it considerably sideways with foot on downward crank pushing sideways. I sadly cannot remember where it ended up as I progressed (or not) to Carlton, Claud Butler and Bob Jackson.
There is a stunning one on Argos site, link below

 

torqueless

Senior Retro Guru
Was it in Benfleet, Essex?
It seems to be shaping up that all my replies on this thread might be destined to begin with the words: "About forty-five", so, if I hadn't said that, I could've said: "About forty-five miles West of that location, and a little bit North of it too." :)
 
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