One of the most gratifying things about organising the Retro Ride is the bikes that have been brought out of retirement to bring along.
Richard Oddy, Chief Spoke of Pedaltours and the only person I know with a helmet exemption certificate, got this Ron Cooper out of the basement for the first Retro Ride back in late 2002. I was immediately smitten with lust, only partially requited by finding my own Cooper-built Gillott last year.
At the Okoroire Ride I took a few photos, and subsequently interrogated Richard by email:
DB: Why a Ron Cooper? Were there other builders that you considered?
RO: At that time, and at least until the mid ‘70’s, if you were English then you would only consider an English frame – very few people in those days rode Continental frames.
There were many builders then, one man businesses in addition to the slightly larger ones such as Holdsworth, Jack Taylor, Bob Jackson etc.
It was usual to buy from a local builder. I lived in High Wyecombe at the time – Ron Cooper was not strictly local but he was ‘Southern’ vs say Harry Quinn. (There was and still is, a certain rivalry between the North and South of England).
Ron Cooper had a good reputation and someone else in my club already had one.
DB: How did Ron Cooper design the frame?
Did he take your measurements, or measure your existing bike?
How much input did you have?
Did you specify the lugs or other frame fittings?
RO: I phoned, then visited, said I wanted a general purpose road and TT bike, therefore no lugs for mudguards, (mudguards were usual then when training) and clearance for tubulars, not hp (clinchers) which were then only available in large section.
I looked at the bikes he had in stock and he measured my leg, torso, arm length.
I wanted plain, not fancy, lugs and said I would build it up all Campag
DB:How long did it take from order to delivery?
RO: 6 weeks
DB: How much did the frame cost?
RO: ₤37-1/2 with a Campag seatpost – I supplied the Campag headset – which was considered a lot of money then.
DB: Incidentally, the average wage in 1969 was ₤24.16s.5d, according to this highly reliable source
DB: Did you initially build it up 'tutto Campagnolo'?
RO: Yes, including the brakes, which at 27 guineas (1 guinea =₤1-1s) was a real extravagance.
Not too many people then had an all Campag bike.
I had two pairs of wheels, 36’s for road racing and training, although most training was on my hack bike, a Bob Jackson, and a pair of 28’s for TT’s
It was 5 speed, 13 – 17, later converted to six. Rings, 44 / 54
DB: Have any braze-ons been added subsequently?
RO: The bottle cages and also the top tube cable guides.
Fashions come and go re brazeons. In those days it was not done.
DB: What bike were you riding previously?
RO: A Bob Jackson.
My first real bike was a Chris Brasher (Walthamstow, London).
Another London builder was Frank Lipscombe – he had a better shop.
DB: What type of racing were you mostly doing?
RO: Mostly time trials. I was better at 10 miles. I once did a 20min 40 10 mile in ’69.
I also rode tandem place to place records. Cardiff to London, 165 miles, and briefly the 25 mi tandem record on a Mercian 5 speed, with a 57 ring, which I still have.
All good fun.
Stephen Sheffield's Ron Cooper site
A Nervex lugged Cooper recently on ebay