Wednesday, July 12, 2006

1969 Ron Cooper-built Gillott

This bike was advertised on the Classic Rendezvous website in early 2005.
I emailed the vendor for photos (above), hoping that it would be truly awful and that my temptation would be ended there & then, but it was not to be.
Somehow, the the fleur-de-lys lugwork and the curve of the forkblades eclipsed the dents and manky chrome. When the Grand High Lama of Gillott Mark Stevens told me that he would buy it if I didn't, I could resist no longer.
Mark confirmed that the frame was built by Ron Cooper in 1969, after he had left Gillotts to work for himself.
The Titan bar & stem and Universal centrepull brakes suggest that original owner had retrograde tastes for the time, perhaps an older clubman rather than a fashionable young racer.
He was probably a well-moneyed gent- with fancy lugs and chrome plating, I expect it cost a fair bit more than the exorbitant ₤37 Richard Oddy paid for his '69 Ron Cooper.

Unfortunately. the bike was in Brisbane, Australia, about 1500 miles of water away .
A complex strategy evolved using up many favours, to get the bike sent to Sydney where friend Gaz would collect it on his next business trip. This took a couple of months, giving me time to redish a nice pair of plausible-looking tubular wheels, and amass a box of sound components in anticipation of the Gillott's original hardware being worse for wear.

When the bike arrived, I didn't even need to stay up late to get it rideable (left) for the next day's Breakfast Ride, though I still had a couple of worrying moments.
The headset tightened as I turned the fork, suggesting a bent steerer, but the problem was cured by facing the headtube & fork crown with the appropriate Campag tools.
About an hour later, I discovered that the rear Universal 61 caliper was too short to reach the tubular rim. Sliding the wheel to the back of the dropout provided a short term solution, and an appeal to the CR list brought a long reach mod.61 caliper from Scott Davis, who had already provided a fresh set of Universal brake hoods.

Overnight, the Gillott became my favourite bike.
The first time I took my hands off the bars, it ran straight unlike most of my vintage junkers.
The seat tube angle is shallow enough to let me put a Brooks Pro in my accustomed wayback position.

Since it’s obviously not a racing bike, it is the ideal recipient for the Berthoud stainless mudguards that were looking out of place on my Cecil Walker.

The Titan bar & stem, respectively too narrow and too short, had to go. I replaced them with a Cinelli 1a stem and 66/44 bar.

The sweeping fork rake, one of the initial visual hooks, results in only about 25mm of trail. This does not affect straightline stability, but the steering is light and almost feedback-free, especially with 25mm tyres. Fitting 700 x 28 Rivendell Ruffy-Tuffies seems to have made a difference.

to be continued...

Stephen Sheffield's Ron Cooper site
Classic Rendezvous Gillott page
More Photos

Headset________________Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Bottom bracket__________Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Crankset_______________Campagnolo Nuovo Record 175 mm 41/52
Brakes_________________Universal mod.61
Brake levers____________Universal
Shift levers_____________Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Front derailler___________Campagnolo Nuovo Record with cable stop
Rear derailler____________Campagnolo Nuovo Record PATENT, no date
Hubs__________________Campagnolo Nuovo Record 32/40
Freewheel______________Suntour Winner Ultra 6 14-24
Rims__________________Mavic MA2
Saddle_________________Brooks Swallow restored by Tony Colegrave
Seatpost_______________Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Stem__________________Cinelli 1a
Handlebars_____________Cinelli 66/44 (now 64/42)

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